How to Set Up a Tent | Essential Tips For Beginners

When reading on the tips passed on by camping veterans among themselves, the subject matter they talk about may seem to newbies to be somewhat esoteric. Maybe they will discuss how they can set up a smoker for their BBQ meat, or may debate the merits of various generators to power up their campsite appliances. But for newbies, even the basics can be a problem. One of these basic problems is how to set up a tent.

tips passed by camping veterans

A tent is one of those items you can’t do without if you’re planning on camping overnight. It can get very cold at night, and it may even rain. So it’s best if you know how to set how to put up a tent well before you reach your campsite.

You may even exert a bit of effort in find the easiest tent to set up. You need to know the various parts of a tent, and then you should also know where the best spot is for setting up a tent. 

Of course, learning how to put up a tent step by step will depend greatly on the kind of tent you got. These will all have different particular instructions, and you better read them well and understand them completely.

Still, some of the steps are the same regardless of what tent you picked for yourself. You’ll face the same problems, such as identifying the best spot to place your tent.

Finding the Right Spot

It’s easy enough to find the right spot for your camping tent when you’re in a national or state park. Often, these places designated areas for camping tents. Just make sure that you know the laws that apply to the area.

If there aren’t any designated areas, then you need a spot with enough room for your tent. It should also be a spot that’s open to the public, because it can get contentious if you camp on private property.

Pick a flat spot of land for your tent area, as that will make for a comfortable place to sleep in. remove the various debris there, like twigs and rocks that can really make your sleep miserable. If your campsite has pine trees, you may want to spread out a thin layer of pine needles for your tent area. These pine needles can act as a cushion so the ground is a bit softer.

it's easy enough to find the right spot for your camping tent

What you don’t want to do is to set up your tent that’s lower than the surrounding area. That’s because if it rains, the natural flow of the water will be downwards towards your sleeping tent. It doesn’t matter if you have a waterproof tent, because it may just end up floating in the water. So make sure your sleeping tent is on a raised area.

It’s also best if you pick a spot where the ground is soft enough. This isn’t just so you lie on more comfortable ground. It’s also because you will need to secure the tent with stakes, and you can’t push stakes through solid rock.

Now it’s time for you to determine how you position the tent. Where should the tent door face? Ideally, the side of the tent with the doors should be away from the direction of the wind. If you have your tent opening catching the wind, then your tent may balloon and be blown away. In addition, you’re putting more tension on your tent stakes too.

You also have to take into account the position of the sun. Where will the sun rise? You may want your tent away from the sun in the morning so you don’t wake up rudely and sweating profusely. In the summertime, this factor will be crucial as tents can work as ovens under the direct sunlight.

Finally, your tent location should be favorable in its overall campsite location. It should be far enough away from the cooking and toilet areas, and ideally it should be upwind of them. If you tend to have bonfires in your campsite, your tent shouldn’t be too near the fire as the sparks may cause your tent to catch fire. This is even more important in case you are using a tent attached to your SUV. The same goes for a jeep tent.

Once you’ve determine the prime location for your tent, it’s time to set up your tent.

Step 1: Tarp Under Tent

You should lay a tarp down on the ground before you put up your tent. This tarp works as a crucial barrier between the ground and the bottom of your tent, so that your tent is kept from gathering moisture.

Just fold the tarp into the same shape as the floor of the tent. However, it should be a bit smaller. You really don’t want any portion of the tarp to go beyond the boundaries of the tent, because the tarp will just end up collecting the water into your tent should it rain. So just fold up the longer parts of the tarp and then tuck them under the tent.

Step 2: Lay Out the Tent Components

lay out the tent compontents

Now we come to the particulars of your tent. Some of the more old-fashioned tents are similar to the traditional army tents. They have rather more complicated setups with their poles and cloth coverings.

On the other hand, most modern tents come with quick setup tent designs. You then should have a pop up tent for camping that most people can figure out easily. The components are generally the same, consisting of stakes, all-in-one poles, and cloth coverings made of lightweight nylon.

Step 3: Start with the Tent Bottom

Lay the bottom side of the tent onto your tarp. Make sure you’ve accounted for the positioning of the tent doors and windows in regards to the sun position and the wind direction. Lay out the tent bottom flat on the tarp.

Step 4: Now Assemble Your Tent Poles

The process for this will depend on your particular tent model. Sometimes the tent poles have numbers so you have to connect them in a particular sequence, while other setups have interchangeable poles. Your poles may be designed to interconnect easily, or you may have to use bungee ropes to secure them together.

Once you have them connected, lay them on the tent bottom before you processed to the next step.

Step 5: Inserting the Tent Poles

In most cases, you’ll need to slide the tent poles into their proper flaps in your tent. The basic design involves two long tent poles forming an X, which then folds to the ground to act as your basic tent frame.

Usually, you need to find the eyelets at the corners of the tent. Then you can slide your tent pole through. Just be careful, as you don’t want to end up tearing holes in your tent.

Step 6: Raising the Tent

raising the tent with the poles

With the poles inside the flaps of the tent cloth, the poles should automatically bend to form the tent frame. You can then raise the tent up, though to do this properly you need another pair of hands.

You can then straighten and adjust the tent into something that looks like a tent you can actually sleep in. It’s easy enough when you still don’t have it right, because it just looks “wrong”. If you’re lucky, you may have one of those easy tents to put up after just one try.

Others may be a bit more stubborn, so you may have to pull the corners apart so they’re square. You also need to check that the poles remain untangled and secure.

Some tents may require you to use plastic hooks. You’ll need to hook these on your tent pole frame in their designated locations after you’ve raised the tent. These hooks can help keep the frame standing upright.

Step 7: How to Stake a Tent

Ok, now you’ve finally raised your tent frame and it’s squarely on the tarp. The next step is to insert the tent stakes through the tent flaps near the ground. You then push the stakes deep into the ground.

Hopefully, you’ve picked a spot where it’s actually possible for you to push the stakes through the ground. If it’s a bit hard or rocky, you may need a hammer (or maybe even just a big rick) to hammer the stake into the ground. Just be careful when you do this, because some of the cheaper tents may have stakes that bend easily when you hit them the wrong way.

Step 8: Putting on the Rainfly

many tents include a rainfly setup

Many tents include a rainfly in the setup. This is the rain guard, an extra layer of material that protects the tent from the impact of the rain. Setting up the rainfly will depend on the particular tent model. So read the instructions in the manual and follow them closely.

In general, you’ll secure the rainfly over the top of the tent, and the process involves fastening the corners of the rainfly. You may do this with cords that attach to the tent base.

In some cases, you can secure the rainfly further with extra ties or clips attached to the tent poles.

Additional Tips

Here are other tips that can make the whole process easier:

  • If it’s your first time to pitch a particular tent, then it’s best if you practice doing it before you do it for real. Learning how to tent camp is like learning how to do anything else; you need practice. So do it in broad daylight in your backyard, and get someone to help you out. 
  • When you practice pitching the tent, practice in different weather conditions. It’s somewhat different when you put up a tent in the summer compared to when during the cold winter months. Also, you may want to later on practice setting up the tent at night using just a lamp, just so you can also do this at night in your campsite.
  • Try to do some basic research on the weather conditions of your campsite. That’s so you can figure out what kind of tent to get and you can come up with campsite setup ideas that’s appropriate to the weather conditions.
  • Ideally, you can have trees block the sunlight from your tent especially when you’re camping in the summer. However, you may want to avoid directly pitching a tent right under a tree. The twigs that fall from the tree branches can get annoying. 

Final Words

Once you’re done camping, it’s often difficult (or even downright impossible) to fit all the tent components back into the bag they were originally paced in. So don’t even try. Instead, just roll up each component individually and then pack them separately. You may need to get a somewhat bigger sack for the tent components, but that’s better than trying to put them all back into the original bag.

buying easy set up tents for camping helps to make your camping experience a lot more enjoyable

You may want to avoid folding your tent, and you especially don’t want to fold then the same way each time. You’ll end up with creases, and these can lead to weak spots in the tent fabric.

In between camping trips, take out your tent and air it out in your backyard. This is to make sure you get rid of any moisture that can ruin the fabric. It’s also an effective way to check if a family of mice has made your tent bag their home.

You really don’t have to set the tent up, though you can always take the opportunity to practice setting up your tent. You can just take the cloth out and shake it out before you roll it up and put it back in.

All in all, setting up campsite shouldn’t be all that difficult. It is best if you make it easy on yourself by getting an easy assemble tent. Choose among the pop up camping tents, as an easy pop up camping tent may not even require you to get another person to help even if it's a big tent.

Buying easy set up tents for camping really helps to make your camping experience a lot more enjoyable. Some tents can be rather frustrating to put up, but learning how to put up a pop up tent is surely a lot easier!

Reading Time: 8 minutes