Novice campers are attention-detailed rookies and will follow everything in the book. In a first attempt at setting up a tent in the yard or living room (so practicing before the actual camping), you will be learning how to set everything together.
Nearly at the end of your picture-perfect tent, you read through the manual and see the following: “attach guy line loop on right side of the tent”, and you realize that you never heard of this before.
Knowing how tight the guy lines should be and how to set them up may impact the quality of your camping experience.
Guylines should be tight but not too tight, this will take time to develop a sense of not making the line too tight. If you tighten it too much you can start straining or distorting the tent shape.
Understanding the purpose of each piece of your equipment is vital for a successful camping trip, and will certainly spare you of any additional stress. This is why it is very important to always think a few steps in advance before any type of trip.
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What Is a Guy Line?
A guyline is best and simply described as a piece of twine, rope, or cord (most commonly) used to tie out a tent wall or rainfly/tarp to the ground. There are a few logical reasons why this should be done (and they are not mutually exclusive).
Stay dry and keep the water out. Staking the rainfly or tarp will prevent any rain from flooding the tent. If you keep the rainfly taut, water will roll off and drip off to the ground instead of inside the tent. Guy lines that are not properly set up (or not at all) are quite a common reason for water leaking in tents.
- Ventilation is very important, especially while sleeping inside a tent. Guylines in keeping the rainfly taut also prevent it from resting on the interior wall of the tent. At the same time, this allows ventilation of air, avoiding pesky condensation.
- Space for storage is very important. Staking out the tent walls using guy lines will help prevent sagging, providing more space to keep everything in a dry space and keeping it watertight. In a similar manner, tents with vestibules (spaces outside the interior wall created by rainfly) rely on guylines to create them. These are like a porch where you would want to keep the gear you don’t want inside the tent, like muddy boots or other dirty equipment.
- Stability is the most important thing for a successful tent. All non-freestanding tents will rely on guylines to be able to stand up at all. They are the main or additional structural support, keeping the tent body anchored to the ground especially with snow or heavy winds.
Are Guy Lines Necessary For Tent Camping?
Frankly speaking- yes. They are mandatory, super important, and a must-have in your tent equipment. Not every tent will have them or require them to be able to function.
There are tents that use guy lines only on the rainfly which you might not even set up on clear sky nights to be able to watch the stars. However, guylines have several purposes and will secure your tent from several unexpected accidents. Even though some tents are strong on their own, guylines will increase their stability. For example, tunnel tents are great for windy weather but you will still want to secure them with guy lines.
They are an easy-to-set-up and useful tool that is compact and will fit into every pack, not taking practically any space. Learning how to set them up and tighten them will improve the camping experience, without having to worry about the weather changes, etc.
How to Set Up and Use Guy Lines
Setting up a guy line may be easier than you think! It will take a couple of quick knots and you are all set up. It might take some practice, but once you have the knack at it you will be good to go.
Start by tying the guy line to the tent or rainfly. Most tents will have little loops to attach to the line, and others will have grommets (both will work). The guy line can be tied onto the loop using different knots. Experienced campers will recommend using the Two Half Hitches, a sturdy sliding know. Once the lines are attached to the tent it will be time to anchor everything. Depending on your camp location and the available tools will determine the quality of the anchor.
In most cases, it is recommended to use a tent stake to anchor the line into the ground. In order to do this, you should look for a spot that will provide enough slack to tie the line, use a foot, rock, or hammer to bury the stake in the ground. The stakes should go at a 45-degree angle, pointing towards the tent. This will keep the taut guy line from pulling the stakes off the ground, as your tent will not last that long in those conditions.
Think About the Terrain
Using stakes is a great option to set up the tent and guylines, but not every environment will make it easy to use them. You will not be able to drive stakes into the ground on a sandy or rocky beach, for example. On soil that is too hard or easy to drive stakes in will require some creativity to anchor the tent and guylines differently.
It does not matter if the terrain does not allow using stakes, or maybe you lost the majority of them (it happens even to the best campers). Substitutes like trees, heavy rocks, or logs can serve as sturdy and easy substitutes for stakes to anchor the guylines.
Always tie the guylines to the anchor points and make them taut enough to truly support the tent or rainfly, allowing it to do its job. This is where the expert’s secret will come in handy. Use the Taut Line Hitch – this adjustable knot will keep the lines taut while also giving you the ability to adjust the tension at any point. Once you have tied the tent and rainfly out to all the anchors, then tighten the hithes to make the guy lines taut, you will be good to go.
A Few Other Tricks and Tips
- Bright colors and reflective cords are wise to use for guylines as you will be able to see them in the dark and possibly not trip over them. With low visibility, the guy lines will become invisible. In the absence of bright and reflective guylines, taking a few minutes to attach a few orange flagging tapes to each line can do the work. Staying safe in the dark can be much more challenging, but still not as demanding with good preparation in advance.
- Many guy lines come with small plastic bits on the lines that substitute the place of the Taut Line Hitch, called the tensioners. They tighten the guyline without tying the know. This is not good and we highly advise against them. Tensioners are not a substitute for real knots or the knowledge of how to tie one. Also, they can break or slip easily, leaving you in a collapsed tent, making it soaking wet if it is raining outside (because of Murphys’ law). In general, they seem to save a few extra moments you will spend on tying each know, but in the long run, are completely not worth it.
- Freestanding tents require all anchoring (on the tent and with the guylines should be done as the last step. Doing so earlier can postpone the finished product that is clean, anchored, and properly tightened.
- Being moderate with the tightening will prevent tearing the material over time.
- Investing in good stakes is a great decision because sometimes they can get smashed or twisted. Not having enough spares can leave you with an unsecured tent (which is what you should aim to avoid at all times).
- Practice and learn about the most important camping knots before you start learning how to set up a tent. Having good knotwork, and knowing how to use a rope for different things is among the most important skills when it comes to spending time in the wild and camping.
- Once you drive a stake in the ground NEVER do it at a right angle straight into the ground. This will cause the stakes to pop out at the first sign of tension.
There are many skills that might seem a bit off or maybe even too challenging, however, learning a bit about the equipment before trying it out. Or learning how to tie knots, and then how to set up camp before going camping is everything you need in advance. Some planning to make the time for preparation is a great practice in life and makes your camping trips a lot more pleasurable and easier.