Happy and trouble-free camping is a combination of a whole lot of equipment interactions. Get it all right and you sail through the easiest of days and the toughest of trials. Get even the smallest of decisions wrong and you can have a day – or worse, a night – of hell.
Even the smallest and seemingly least significant of components in your set-up can prove majorly important. Take, for example, the humble tent or awning peg. Seemingly irrelevant, the effectiveness of awning pegs can suddenly become vital in the face of a violent storm or sudden gust of wind.
So let’s take a look at awning pegs. We’re not interested in the flimsy bent wire items given away with every department store tent, which will bend and fail the first time you drive them into hard ground, hit a rock or tree root, or subject them to stress from wind or rain. We’re talking about the real deal.
Tent pegs were, until recent years, simply bent wire or round bar, driven into the ground with a hammer. They were prone to bending whenever they hit an obstruction or when hammer blows came down off-centre; and they would rust in the long run and were considered expendable.
As camping has become more elaborate so have peg systems; people have started to think outside the box and offer a greater variety, with specialist features. The biggest recent development has been the appearance of screw-in pegs. And, abandoning more traditional pegs, plastics have become a highly favoured material for some pegs.
The usual materials are polycarbonate or polypropylene. The former is harder and more heat resistant. Polypropylene sand pegs will gradually weaken if used in hot sand and can then bend. Plastic pegs are much lighter than metal, if weight is an issue, but can sometimes be more bulky.
Your choice of peg is determined by the ground on which you will camp. Firm soil with no rocks, few tree roots and a modest moisture content is the preferred surface; dry crumbly soil with a lot of rocks or roots is bad; sand, snow or mud are the worst. Inevitably you will need a selection of at least two different peg types – something for soft soil/sand/snow and a choice that will handle most other options.
Without further ado let’s look at some of the leading brands and pegs on the market.
If the screw-in design of peg interests you, check out Adelaide company Hex Pegs. Their pegs are Australian designed and made from high quality bright finish steel. They are tapered, with the bottom 150mm in a self-tapper type thread. All up they are 270mm in length with a 5.8-inch hex head.
There are two styles of stainless steel washers for the head, one with a forked retainer for your guy rope and the other with a flat washer to secure ground sheets. Both have a rubber grommet beneath the head. They can be driven into just about any (though not extremely hard) ground using a cordless drill or impact driver. Removing is as simple as selecting reverse.
They are certainly good enough for all heavy duty guy rope requirements but will only permit attachment to a rope; the forked retainer will not pass through a spring’s end loop. They are probably overkill for ground sheet use and a shorter version for smaller jobs would save time and effort. Price $7.27 each for the flat top washers, $8 each for the guy rope lug version.
Pros: Strong, clever design; suitable for most conditions
Cons: Heavy; long; unsuitable for sand/mud/very hard ground
PATRIOT SUPPLY CO.
Patriot Supply Co is on offshoot of the very successful Patriot Campers. Amongst their very extensive range of gear is a kit of screw-in tent pegs. These are a 180mm zinc-coated screw with a plastic rope retainer at the top. The latter is supposedly luminous at night to assist in making your pegs and ropes trip-proof in the dark, but the level of luminosity is quite low so it really doesn’t matter. The limited length of threaded shaft makes them unsuitable for dry or crumbly soils. The kit comes in a canvas bag with 29 pegs, plus a 13mm driver socket, for $69.95.
Pros: Good price; luminous
Cons: Limited length of thread
Peggy Peg is another version of the screw-in design, but in a unique, fibre-reinforced, UV-resistant, plastic construction. There is a large range of sizes and designs; they work with either a cordless drill or a hand wrench and have a large steep pitch thread that grabs and holds well even in soft soils (unlike some metal thread bolts which have a fine thread and require a longer thread).
Being plastic, they are very light, but you must remember to reduce the torque on your drill to avoid stressing or breaking them. Each peg has a long upper shank with ring flanges which permit you to lock in plastic rope clips at ground level. They’re available in two lengths: 20 or 31cm (in packs of 10 and two respectively, with rope clips) for $42.50 or $30 respectively.
Extras: Peggy Peg also offers tough and flexible guy rope ladders which can help in attaching ropes or trace springs to the rope clips and provide an extra layer of flexibility in the set-up (packs of 12 for $12.95). They also offer other goodies, such as: aluminium sand pegs (31cm long, $45 for a pack of two with rope clips); aluminium 15cm hard ground screw-in pegs ($37 per pack of four with rope clips); and a metal socket driver ($14) and hand wrench ($16).
Pros: Lightweight and yet tough; grippy threads
Cons: Wear down with extensive use and can break if over-torqued
WA company Red Roads Camping’s top-of-the-line peg is the stainless steel Sabre. It has a sharp point to penetrate ground, a heavy square head with an oversized crown to better absorb hammer blows, a sturdy rope lug to retain the attachment to your guy rope, and a large extraction eyelet to assist in removing the peg from the ground. The Sabre comes in two sizes (20 and 30cm) at $10 and $12 respectively. The Skewer is Red Roads’ slightly lighter grade peg design in mild carbon steel, basically a downsized version of the Sabre; it comes in three lengths (20 and 30cm) at $7.50 and $8.
Their ‘Nail’ tent peg is made from mild steel which is blackened, with a welded rope lug. It has a pointed lower end and an upper boss to take the hammer blows, plus an extraction eyelet to assist in removal. It comes in three lengths (20, 30 and 40cm) at $3, $4 and $5 each respectively. Then there’s the ultra-simplified Tack, measuring 30cm; it’s designed to anchor ground covers without creating a trip hazard. For removal from hard ground Red Roads sell a Tack Plate to anchor under the head and allow you to grip the peg. Price is $2.50 each or as a pack of 10 with the tack plate all in a canvas pouch for $60.
Extras: Red Roads also offer a Strike Hammer. This wooden handled hammer comes with a weighty stainless steel head and claw to give you control over your campsite set-ups and peg removal, enhanced by a brass striking face. This absorbs the worst jarring of the hammering process so your pegs last longer and your hand suffers less jarring. If it wears out over time it’s easily replaced by removing the two roll pins and inserting a new face. Priced at $50.
Pros: Beautiful design with handy features; strong
Cons: Heavy and a bit more expensive
Brisbane-based Supa Peg’s Key-Head wire tent pegs have a uniquely designed head which places the point of contact with the hammer almost directly above the main shaft of the peg, such that force is directed into the ground, not at an angle.
They key to the ground to avoid rotation; and come in raw metal or zinc coated high tensile steel. They’re available in 175mm to 450mm lengths, with price around $1.50-$5.95 each.
Supa Peg also manufacture high impact bright yellow plastic screw-in pegs with a sturdy 15mm shaft. They have an eye in the upper boss to permit the attachment of a shackle and screwing in with a large screwdriver or bar, and a hex top for a 24mm socket on a cordless drill. Two lashing hooks allow for the attachment of ropes. The 300mm long peg is suitable for loose soil and the 500mm peg is ideal for use in sand. Priced approximately from $9 to $18 each in various packagings.
Alternative pegs: Supa-Peg offer a 300mm tent stake in the softer polypropylene, with a hook and an eye under the head and a chisel point; it’s a great budget buy at $1.50-$1.75 each.
They also have ground anchor peg: a unique registered design which lays flat on the ground to avoid trip hazards and actually embeds itself more firmly into the ground when under load. The spade end to the peg enhances its use in soft substrates. Priced around $2 each.
Their hurricane angle peg is designed to anchor awnings and tents in extreme conditions. Its hook secures either a rope or trace spring, and the peg is suitable for the hardest ground or sand. It’s available in two lengths (450mm or 300mm) in galvanised steel and is priced around $6.50 each.
An easy solution to anchoring a ground sheet is their plastic Tarp/Dome Pegs. These 18g polycarbonate plastic nails are 170mm long and are an easy fix for the edges of ground covers or small tents. Priced around $1.50 each.
Finally, their galvanized steel screw pegs are a replacement for standard pegs where the ground is too hard. These 220mm pegs can penetrate to get you a good grip without wearing your arm out hammering; a 13mm hex head works with a socket and cordless drill.
These are sold individually at $4.95 each or $24.95 for a pack of four with a driver socket.
Pros: Strong; the range covers all ground types and situations; usually light
Cons: Specialised pegs may not suit particular scenarios
WHAT GOES IN MUST COME OUT
Getting pegs into the ground is one thing, getting them out another.
Screw-in pegs are easy; simply put your cordless drill into reverse and back them out. Hammered pegs can be a very different story, particularly when they’re in quite firm ground.
The best solution is probably a peg puller for around $10. These have a T handle on one end of a long (about 400mm) straight bar, with a hook on the other end. You simply stand in a straight line with the peg angle into the ground and pull, using your legs and not your back.
For really tough pegs in tough ground there are the pullers that work on leverage. These have a pivot point which sits on the ground and a side bar which you tuck under the head of the peg. Simply stand on the outer end of the lever. These may cost around $20 to $40.
SAND PEGGING SUBTLETIES
Peggy Peg Australian agents Pete and Di Browne offered some pertinent comments on making the most of using pegs in sandy sites:
“Much of the camping in Australia is beach-side. But even ‘sandy ground’ can cover a multitude of camp sites. If the sand is covered with grass, as many beach-side sites are, the intertwined roots of the grass act as reinforcing fibres to the top 200–300mm, binding the substrate together and offering a good anchor point.
“On the other hand, if we are talking about pure beach sand, that is quite a different matter, and anchoring depends on the density of the sand and its inherent tensile strength. To get the best grip on pure sand we find that if you scoop off the top ‘dry loose’ sand and expose the more densely packed subsurface sand you will get a much better bite into the ground.
“If you are using a screw-in peg in these instances it is important to screw the peg in slowly whilst pushing the peg in at the same time. In this way the threads are carving into the substrate and not disturbing the integral strength of the sand. Once the peg has bitten into the sand it is important to stop drilling, or you will simply auger out a perfect plug of sand that has absolutely no holding capacity for you guy ropes.”