Q: My troop is going camping, and we lost our tent stakes. Can we use whittled sticks?
— Nigel, Monroe, Georgia
A:Sure you can. Look for downed branches that aren’t rotten and brittle. After finding a strong piece of wood that is about a foot long and an inch in diameter, whittle one end into a point.
On the other end, carve a notch a couple of inches from the end of the stake. To create the notch, make a cut across the branch at least a third of the way into the wood. Below that cut, carve up into the cut until you make a wedge-shaped cutout. You’ll tie your tent’s guyline around this notch.
Whittle the edges around the top of the stake. This will prevent the stake from splintering when you hammer it into the ground. Stakes perform best when you drive them straight into the soil instead of angling them.
If you’d rather buy tent stakes, you can find a plastic or metal set for only a few dollars. Make sure you look at their shape. The longer the stake and the greater its surface area, the stronger it will likely be.
Instead of short J-shaped stakes, which can bend easily, consider metal Y-shaped stakes, which work well in most soils. A couple of great-performing Y-shaped stakes are MSR Ground Hog Stake (six for $25, msrgear.com) and Nemo Sweepstake Tent Stakes (six for $25, nemoequipment.com). The Sweepstake also has a polymer piece that can slide to clean dirt off the stake and glow-in-the-dark components to help you avoid tripping over guylines at night.