What is the use of owning the best canopy tent on the market if it blows over once the strong breezes hits it? It embarrasses me to admit this, but I have fallen victim to a strong gust of wind before. More than once actually. The whole reason you deploy a canopy tent is to protect yourself and your necessities from the elements so it can be very frustrating when you have to fight the weather and salvage a flipped shelter. Fortunately, there are a couple different reliable options for protecting yourself from these circumstances. We have experimented with a wide variety of weights, sandbags, ropes, tent pegs, and a couple other products and have narrowed our recommendations down to three categories: Tie-downs, weights, and stakes.
The least expensive and arguably the most reliable product that you can use to secure your canopy tent and protect it from the wind is a simple rope and stake. The concept is pretty straightforward. A cord is attached to some place on each of the legs, pulled taught, and anchored to some place else on the ground. Most canopy tents come with a set of tie-down cords but it may be worth looking elsewhere if the tie downs that were included with your shelter are low quality. First look at the composition of the cord. Chances are they are braided nylon or some other synthetic material which is good. As I discussed in a previous blog post Man made canopy fabric... Is it worth it?, man made materials are strong and inexpensive. If the cord has a frayed end look at the "guts" of the cord to see if the it contains strands that run inside of the braided shell like the following image.
If the cord does contain these strands, then you are in good shape because your cord can probably support up to 550 lbs before it breaks. If it doesn’t have this filler, you still might be ok though. Unfilled nylon cord can often still support 200 lbs, but it might be worth it to invest in stronger cord if you think you might be in windy situations. Remember to take a lighter and melt the tips of the frayed cord to prevent the fray from progressing farther down the cord.
The types of cords that you want to be aware of are cords that are made with natural fibers like cotton or twine. When you squeeze the cord between your fingers and rub back and forth, if your cord feels “stringy” and you can feel the fibers moving and separating, you probably want to think about investing in a more reliable tie-down. We recommend parachute cord like the Titan Mil-Spec 550 Paracord
Tie downs are effective but their performance is reliant on the fastening points. The first anchor point that you should consider is where the cord will be attached to the canopy tent itself. We have come across two styles of tie down anchors. The first is where the tie-downs attach to somewhere on the shelter frame. This is the style that we prefer and see in many of our best canopy tents. In our opinion it only makes sense that you should attach an anchor point to the strongest part of the equipment, the frame. The other style that we have come across is where the anchor point is located somewhere on the canopy fabric. We have seen examples where a cord is looped through an eyehole on the canopy itself. We experimented by yanking on the cord over and over again, trying to simulate shock from a windy day, and the material around the eyehole started to fray and stretch fairly quickly. We have also seen examples of shelters that have canopy tie down anchors reinforced by heavy-duty nylon patches similar to the material used in ratchet straps. These reinforced nylon anchors passed our simulated wind tests well.
The problem is that tie downs will only be effective if you have something to tie the canopy tent down to. It doesn’t matter how strong the frame anchor is if you don’t have anything on the other side to act as the other anchor. This is where stakes can be valuable.
If your canopy tent comes with tie downs, it might come with stakes as well. Just like the tie-down cords, we have noticed that many companies get cheap with their stakes too. The skinny steel ones that we have come across bend as soon as they hit a rock in the ground, especially if they are being pounded into the ground with a mallet. If you can bend your stakes with your hands then they are not strong enough to be a reliable solution. If you do decide that you need stakes, whether it is because you don’t have any or because you need to replace your low quality ones, then make sure you consider the type of ground that you will be anchoring your shelter to. Different stakes are appropriate for different terrains.
For example, if you intend to use your canopy tent at the beach then a traditional tent stake won't be useful to you because it won’t stay rooted in the sand. Sandy environments require you to use a stake with a wider shaft. We have found that stakes that are threaded like screws are actually the most effective. Trial and error led us to a product called the Orange Screw that was best stake for a canopy tent that will be used in the sand.
If you are looking for a more affordable stake for a canopy tent that will be used in the sand, we found that the Bluecell Snow and Sand stakes also provided solid anchor points in loose terrain.
If you need to anchor your canopy tent at a soccer game, picnic, or any other grassy terrain, then you will probably be pounding stakes into dirt. In this situation sand stakes will not work for you. They are too wide and will be difficult to pound into the ground because wider stakes will get stuck on rocks under the ground and will also be held up by friction. If you plan on anchoring your canopy tent into dirt, then we recommend this set of 10.5" Heavy Duty Tent Pegs.
Stakes provide you with an alternative option that can be useful at times. Many canopy tent frames have holes in their feet. These holes exist so that you can put a stake directly through the feet and anchor your shelter to the ground without needing cord to tie down. Physics tells us that the wider that you can spread your anchor points, the stronger your anchors will be. This is because the force is pulling the stakes at an angle against the earth instead of up and out of the earth. By putting the stakes directly through the feet of your canopy tent, you loose some of the strength of a wide base. So you should only exercise this option when it is unfeasible to use cords and wide anchor points. We like the stakes above because their shaft is skinny enough that they can fit through most foot holes, but they are still strong enough that they won’t bend if you pound them into a rock.
We have covered different options for anchoring the shelter to the ground, but what happens when you are on surface that doesn’t allow you to pound a stake into it. For example, what if you are on asphalt, or gravel, or even indoors? Well, we saved the best for last. Weights are the most flexible of all of the options that we have experimented with because you don’t need to break any ground.
The concept of a canopy tent weight is simple. You anchor the feet of the shelter frame to the ground by attaching weights at the bottom. The weights hold down the feet of the canopy tent instead of a stake. Since you don’t need to pound anything into the ground, you have the option of using weights pretty much anywhere. Weights are also desirable because they are quick and easy to use. While we were testing stakes and tie downs we were averaging about 5 minutes in set up time to firmly secure the shelter. When we tested weights our average deployment time was less than 2 minutes.
There are two types of weights: bag weights and traditional weights. We like bag weights the best because they are portable if you need them to be. Bag weights require that you fill them with some substance like gravel or sand ahead of time to provide the weight. This can be a benefit because you can empty the bags if you need them to be lightweight for transportation. We saw encouraging results from pretty much all of the bag weights that we tested, so we recommend not wasting your money on anything too expensive. We like Ohuhu's Instant Canopy Weights because they were effective and affordable.
If you are looking for something less messy and a little easier to use then you might be more interested in traditional weights. Traditional weights are solid plastic plates like you would see at a gym. They have a section cut out of them so that you can slide them around the legs of your shelter. The drawback to traditional weights is that you can’t "empty" them so anytime you transport them you will need to transport them at their full weight. Traditional weights tend to be a little lighter than a full bag weight for this reason. Manufacturers are trying to balance portability with effectiveness. Despite the fact that bag weights usually weigh in heavier, at 40lbs, we didn’t notice any significant performance drawbacks with the 30 lb traditional weights. We recommend the Us Tailgater Weights as the best traditional weights to secure your canopy tent.
Whether you decide to go with one of our suggestions or have your own process for anchoring your tent, we strongly recommend you prepare for wind whenever you set up your canopy tent. An unsecured shelter will be ineffective and cause you more trouble if it blows over. We have seen it too many times. If you have any questions about any of the topics we covered in this post feel free to reach out to us with a message through our Contact Page.