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The Basics - What to Bring

How to set up a tent

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Setting up a tent is easy…once you’ve done it once or twice. To make it easier we’ve broken down the steps. You can watch the video or follow the instructions below. Before you know it, you’ll have your tent set up and ready to go!

These steps should help you in setting up your tent. Not all tents are the same but the process is similar in all cases.

1. Find a suitable area to set up your tent. Many of Parks Canada’s frontcountry campsites will have a tent pad which will pre-determine where your tent will go. If not, you will want to choose an area that is free of debris – roots, rocks, branches, and other things that would be uncomfortable to sleep on. Next, make sure that the area is flat and not on a slant. Remember that this area should also be far enough away from your fire pit so that there is no risk of embers landing on your tent.

2. Remove all of the contents of the tent bag. Now, unpack your tent bag and make sure you have everything you need including the tent body, a groundsheet (if included), the tent fly, the poles, the pegs and the guy lines. Place them nearby so that they are handy when you are ready to use them.

3. Place your tent (and groundsheet) flat on the ground. If you have a groundsheet, or footprint, place it on the ground where you want your tent to be. Next, roll out the tent over the area. Make sure to line up the door in the direction you wish to enter and exit your tent.

The tip of a tent pole End of a tent pole
© Parks Canada / S. Burroughs
Two sections of a tent pole Two sections of a tent pole
© Parks Canada / S. Burroughs

4. Place the poles into the tent. The first step here is to assemble the poles. Carefully insert each pole section into the next. Repeat for each pole. Tents usually have two different ways of securing the poles to the tent itself: Some tents will use tent poles sleeves, and others will have tent clips. Some tents have a combination of both.

Sleeves: Most tents with a sleeve design will have two sleeves crossing at the top of the tent. Start with one of the sleeves and slide the pole all of the way through. Next, slide the second pole through the other sleeve. Now, attach the end of the poles at one side of the tent to the actual tent body. This will be done differently depending on the type of tent. Many tents will simply have a grommet at the bottom where you will insert the end of the pole. The tip of the pole will keep the pole from popping out. Other tents will have metal pin and ring attached to the bottom of the tent which you will insert into the bottom of the tent pole.

Once you have secured the tent poles to the tent body on one side, walk to the other side of the tent. For larger sized tents, this next step is easier if performed with two people. Each person grabs a pole near the bottom and begins to push it so that the sleeves slide away, raising the tent body. Do this slowly and if you feel pressure stop to make sure there is not a snag. If there is a snag and you continue to push you can damage the pole or the tent. Once the bottom of the pole reaches the bottom of the tent, secure the tent poles in the same way as you did on the other side.

Clips: Tents with clips are slightly different than those with sleeves. Begin by fastening the poles on one side of the tent to the tent body. This will be done differently depending on the type of tent. Many tents will simply have a grommet at the bottom where you will insert the end of the pole. Other tents will have a metal pin and ring attached to the bottom of the tent which you will insert into the bottom of the tent pole.

Once you have secured the tent poles to the tent body on one side, walk to the other side of the tent. Bend the poles so that they arc in the middle and secure them to this side of tent the same way you did on the other side. Starting at the bottom of each pole, work your way up the pole attaching the pole to each clip. This will raise the tent body and secure it to the tent poles.

For tents with a combination of the two systems, start with the sleeves and then follow with the clips. For tents with more poles for the tent body, you usually begin with the two that will cross over the top of the tent, and then add remaining poles until the tent is up.

Grommet for adding the tent pegs Grommet for adding the tent pegs.
© Parks Canada / S. Burroughs

5. Peg the tent down. Now that your tent is up, you will want to secure it to the ground. Make any last adjustments to the placement of the tent before you begin. Most tents will have nylon webbing straps that loop or have a grommet at the end. Place a peg through each of these straps and pull the strap away from the tent so that the floor of the tent is taut. Now push the peg into the ground at a 45-degree angle. Do this until all of the straps are pegged down and your tent is secure. Pegs should not be pushed straight down as they may then pop back out of the ground if it is windy. In windy conditions, the wind pushes the tent applying pressure on the pegs. If they are in straight, there is no resistance to stop the peg from sliding back out of the dirt.

6. Put the fly on the tent. You will now want to attach the fly to your tent. Usually, the tent body is not waterproof. The tent fly keeps you dry in case of bad weather. Some tent flies will require poles to be attached. For many designs, it is easier to attach the poles first, but this may not be the case with all tent models. Begin by gently tossing the fly over the tent like a blanket. Make sure that the front of the fly lines up with the entrance of the tent. Most flies will attach to the poles of the tent body or to the bottom of the tent where the poles are attached. This will depend on the size of the tent fly and model of tent. Once the fly is attached, you are ready to move in your bedding and other gear!

Remember:

  • By keeping the zippers closed on your tent doors, you’ll keep the bugs outside – where they belong!
  • By removing your footwear before you get in the tent you’ll avoid tracking dirt inside.