by Staff Writer
Setting up a tent can seem a complex task for any first-time camper. Tents are an essential and useful piece of camping gear, for sure, but many frustrated campers have cursed their camping tent as they've tried to set it up in the dark without proper preparation. However, once you've set up a tent several times, it becomes a familiar routine that can easily be repeated even in the most difficult hiking and camping conditions, and once you've mastered setting up one kind of tent, it will then be easier to set up other kinds of tents, be they dome tents or family tents. Camping and hiking should be enjoyable, and they certainly can be if you know how to set up your camping and hiking equipment. Here are the steps that will help you set up tents for camping quickly and efficiently.
Practice setting up your tent before you go camping. Setting up your camping tent at least a couple times, directions in hand, before twilight on the evening of your camping trip is a good idea. While some camping tents have simple designs, like family tents, other tents have complex designs, like dome tents, which will not be easy to assemble when it's dark and you're in the woods.
Find an area that is flat and free of sharp objects. Clear the area of any large sticks, rocks or other debris which could cause a rip or puncture in your tent or that would be uncomfortable to sleep on.
Unpack the tent and all of its parts. Sort the parts of your camping tent into respective groups -- tent stakes, tent poles, rain fly and so on -- so you're not hunting for them as you set up the tent.
Unfold the tent and lay it in the respective area. Make sure it is facing the direction you desire. Point it towards the east if you want to open your tent door on the sunrise.
Stake down the corners of your tent. If your tent has a ground cloth or a footprint (a tent footprint is simply a ground cloth shaped specially for your tent), set that down first. Next, stake down your tent, making sure to pull the floor of the tent fairly taut as you do so. Big tents and family tents almost always have to be staked down, but some backpacking tents do not. This is a nice feature if you plan on camping where staking might be a problem, like on slick-rock in the American Southwest, but even free-standing tents should be staked down if possible. Most tents have to be staked before they'll stand up.
Connect your tent poles. Tent poles usually come in sections that you put together. To ensure that you don't put the wrong sections together, the tent poles may be color-coded. If not, read the directions for your tent to find out how to tell the difference between different poles.
Assemble the frame of the tent. Tents for camping come in a variety of different designs. Some tents are free-standing, like many dome tents, and use several poles that support each other, while other tents have simple two-pole designs and stand up only when the tent is staked down. However your tent works, actually erecting the frame of the tent will involve sliding the tent poles through sleeves on the outside of the tent or securing the ends of the poles in grommets at the base of the tent, and then attaching the body of the tent to the poles via clips.
Secure the rain-fly of the tent. Here's an interesting fact about tents: camping tents usually aren't waterproof. At least, the body of the tent itself is not waterproof. A few tents are (they're called single-wall tents), but they're usually expensive mountaineering tents that are uncomfortable for most normal situations. Most tents come with a waterproof cover called a rain-fly that secures over the top of the tent to protect it from the rain. If your tent has a rain-fly, secure it over the top of the tent. This usually involves fastening the corners of the rain-fly to cords that attach to the base of the tent, and may include additional clips or ties that attach to the tent poles.