Pitching A Tent On Snow Guide

For most campers, the best time to enjoy the outdoors is during summer. At this time, the weather is warm and you can enjoy yourself to the fullest. However, outdoor adventures shouldn’t stop in wintertime where there is a lot of snow.

pitching tent in a snow

Setting up your tent in nice weather is easier than on frozen ground. As such, fixing its stakes won’t be challenging. Things, however, get difficult when you are camping during winter in the snow loads.

How to set up a tent in the snow? Here are some useful tips for camping in the snow so you will know how to pitch a tent properly to be safe in the mountains.

Winter camping

If you camp throughout the year, then you can attest that winter is the hardest time to camp. The temperatures are cold and the strong winds make it difficult to perform simple tasks.

As a result, you will have to bring a lot of heavy clothing to stay warm and this adds to the weight that you will have to carry around.

camping in the winter

Your movements will be labored as a result of having to move around with a lot of weight on you. This way, you will not be able to explore the outdoors as much as you want.

All these challenges, however, will mean nothing to you if you are an avid camper. You probably have a 4-season tent and great gear to stay safe.

If you don’t have a proper all-year tent, check 4-season models. The only problem remains how to set it in the snow to ensure that you are protected from the elements. 

Follow the next setup procedure to enjoy protection from the harsh elements.

Pitching a tent in snow

How do you pitch a tent on a mountain full of snow? Follow these 4 steps so you won’t jeopardize your safety.

1. Site selection

You will have to choose a good pitching location if you want your tent to remain fixed to the ground when you are camping.

winter campground

The area that you choose as a pitching spot should not be in an avalanche zone. It should also be level to ensure that there are no sections of the tent that are raised more than others.

2. Probe the area for voids

Avoid areas that have voids when choosing a pitching spot and that is why you need to probe the area with an ice ax or a hiking pole.

When you set up your tent in an area that has a void underneath, you may crush it into the ground at night and this can be quite dangerous.

3. Create a solid ground

You will also have to create a level ground for setting up your tent in the snow. If you have your snowshoes on, stomp the ground to make it level.

You should not only stomp on the area where you will set it up but also the area around it to make it easy to move around.

If you have a latrine nearby, you should also stomp the area around it to make sure that the area is level as well. Another option would be to use an avalanche shovel to dig a shallow platform where you will set it.

Strong winds can make this process challenging but you can pile the snow that you dig up on the side to break the wind. Once you prepare the shallow platform, let it rest for about 10 minutes for the area to harden up.

4. Pitch your tent

If you have a free-standing tent, you can easily set it up on your platform with minimal effort. Such a unit, however, could get blown away so you need snow tent stakes to secure it. How do you use snow stakes?

tent in the snow

How to stake a tent in snow?

How do you anchor a tent in snow? Do you need snow stakes? Normal stakes won’t anchor into the ground so you need special ones for staking a tent in the snow.

How do you stake a tent in frozen ground? For anchoring, loop the guy lines to your shelter around the stakes. Create a small hole in the snow and put them inside the holes vertically.

Cover up the holes with snow and stomp the area with your boots to firm it. That area will harden and this will hold them properly. Trim the guy lines to your tent to taunt it.

To remove the stakes later on when you are done camping, use an ice ax to chop the hole and to loosen the stakes up or use a stake hammer that enables this action.

How do you make a deadman anchor?

A smart way to anchor a tent in the snow is to use a deadman anchor. For this technique, you will need stakes with holes. Grab a line and insert it through the two holes in the stake that are not close to each other and make a knot.

Dig a deep horizontal hole so the stake will fit in. Put the stake in the hole and fill it with snow. For making this technique effective, use a stick of some kind under the line to make an angle. The angle will cut down on friction with snow. You can also use logs, ski poles, or an ice ax for a deadman anchoring system.

What are the best tent stakes for snow?

When trying to stabilize your tent on the frozen ground you need the best stakes available. I recommend using titanium, aluminum alloy, or steel ones.


These have the best strength-to-weight ratio but are the most expensive. However, what is money has to do with your safety? Nothing, so go ahead and get titanium tent stakes if you think will help you to stay secure out there.

Aluminum alloy

Stakes that are made of aluminum alloy are strong and light and are cheaper than titanium ones. Many backpackers like them because they don’t add significant weight.


Steel stakes are the ones that are sturdy and durable and handle any terrain. They don’t cost much but they do add some weight so think about packing them in the backpack.

Which stake shape is best for the snow?

There are several of them on the market, from V, Y, and nail shape. However, V and Y shapes can only be used in medium to hard ground so the best ones to opt for are the ones that have a nail shape.

Nail shaped

They are made of titanium, aluminum alloy, or steel and are the best to use on hard ground.

Their interior is hallow most of the time and comes with a flat head and pointed tip (like a nail). They can also include a piece of cord that will help you to pull the stake out of the soil.

Get a tent stake hammer

I advise you to get a stake hammer because the ground will be frozen up there and you won’t be able to beat them in the ground as you want.

This task is easy to do on the soft ground where you can put stakes in with a rock or a piece of wood.

MSR Tent Stake Hammer , Grey
  • Tent stake hammer featuring a stainless steel head and balanced swing weight
  • Ideal for driving stakes into rocky ground
  • Includes integrated bottle opener
  • Weighs only 11 ounces

I recommend an MSR tent stake hammer that is one of the best hammers for camping stakes that will be used in hard soil. It features a hardened stainless steel head and a balanced swing weight.

As it weighs only 11 ounces it won’t add substantial weight to your backpack. It has a length of 11 inches.

With the other side of the hammer, you will be able to pull the stakes out when you will be going home. It has an integrated bottle opener and the whole product has a nice design.

Because this is a steel hammer I don’t recommend using it with too much force as you can bend the stakes.

Do I need a tent footprint on snow?

It is good to have a footprint because it will make a waterproof barrier between the snow and your tent’s floor. A footprint will take care that you spend time in the outdoors dry.

Additional tips for snow camping

Camping in snow and on elevated grounds is much more dangerous than enjoying nature in the nice weather and grassy terrain in summer.

camping in snow tricks

You should take some precautions so here I have some additional tips that will help you to stay safe.

Tent location

Never pitch your tent under the trees or close to the high rock walls as your shelter can get damaged and in the worst case, you can get damaged also.

Avoid avalanches

Also, don’t set it up on the slope as it is not safe. A slope that has more than 20 degrees is more likely to face an avalanche so stay away from them.

Find a clear and horizontal place for the setup.

Make a snow wind-wall

Take advantage of the snow and build a snow wall around the shelter. This way the barrier will block the wind gusts that won’t get so easily to you while staying inside the tent.

Preparation is the key

Camping during winter can be very difficult as the weather is quite challenging. You could deal with strong winds and this will make it difficult to do even the simple things.

Setting up a tent in the snow is a skill that you will have to learn to have pleasant and safe camping in harsh conditions.

I believe that you will have an easier task with my tips so go ahead and consider them when winter camping.

Leave a Reply