Camping in the snow offers a number of benefits, but also a number of challenges. Once of the largest challenges to camping in the winter is dealing with how to secure your shelter. When the ground is frozen and covered in snow, it can be hard to access and in secure with your standard tent stake. Fortunately, there are a number of other techniques that will ensure you won’t blow away in a winter storm.

Sand/Snow Bags

An example of on the market Snow Bags
An example of on the market Snow Bags

There are two ways to go about using sand and snow bags. You can either make your own, or purchase a premade set. The obvious benefit to homemade bags is that they’re cheaper, however, they store bought ones are usually easier to use.

To make your own snow-bags, it’s really pretty simple. You’re going to need some form of container – like a stuff sack or a pillowcase – that you can fill with snow from the surrounding area. Fill the bag until it is of ample weight for the weather you’re expecting and twist the top (like a bread bag) to seal it shut. Once is appropriately spun (A.K.A. “goose necked”), using a clove hitch attach the tent guy line to the bag. I like to make sure that I attach my clove hitch to the bag itself, rather than some form of rigging or zipper. This just insures that the integrity isn’t compromised by a bad seam. Place your snow bags around the tent in the same places you would place a stake. If you’ve added enough weight to them, you should be risk free when camping.

Snow Stakes / Snow Pickets

The standard Snow Stake
The standard Snow Stake

Snow stakes and pickets are designed specifically for use with tents in the snow. Snow Stakes look like (and are often mistaken for) regular tent stakes, however, they maintain one significant difference. A regular tent stake has one point to fix the guy line too, while a snow stake has multiple that run the length of the stake shaft.

The Snow Picket is a “T” shaped aluminum object with multiple holes in the body to attach the guy line too. Snow pickets are a highly versatile anchor that can be used for all types of winter mountain anchoring, safety and rescue.

A typical Snow Picket
A typical Snow Picket

When using a snow stake or snow picket, the object is to create a mechanical advantage using both the stake and the weight of the snow around it. When affixing your guy line to the stake or picket, you’re going to attach it in the middle or on the bottom to create a stronger holding force. The guy line itself should actually be buried with the bottom of the stake to create a larger mechanical advantage.

The “Deadman”

Using a deadman is probably one of the most effective ways to secure your tent in the winter. Making a deadman is simple in theory, but takes practice to perfect. The concept behind deadmanning an anchor involves burying an object in the snow in order to create an extra strong hold. This item, oddly enough, can be as small as a stick or as large as a bag – clearly, the larger the object the stronger the hold, however, size really doesn’t matter unless you’re dealing with extra extreme weather.

The basic Deadman Setup
The basic Deadman Setup

The trick to the deadman is having the appropriate amount of snow. In order to securely fascine your tent, you’re going to need about 2 feet of snow to work with. Start by measuring out the approximate location of where your guy line is to be located and dig a rectangular pit down into the snow. In front of your pit you’re going to want to spend a few minutes “work hardening” the snow. Essentially this means stomping on the snow to created a denser, more packed section that will offer more resistance than standard powder.

A Deadman "T" channel before being buried.
A Deadman “T” channel before being buried.

Next you’re going to create a “T” channel perpendicular to the pit you just dug, cutting through the work hardened snow and at an angle that would trace that of the guy line. Now, take an object about the size of a standard tent stake and affix a girth hitch to the center of it with a loop on it. You’ll then attach the guy line to that girth hitch and lay it all in the system. The final step is to then bury the item in the rectangular channel and work-harden on top of it as well. The deadman is probably the strongest of all of the tent securing methods and can be used in both snow and sand. I would suggest trying this out in your back yard or on a beach as it can be useful in many situations.

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