Camping Hack: The Deadman Anchor

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Have you ever tried to secure tent guylines in sand, loose soil, or snow? Well, it’s a major pain—the ground just isn’t firm enough to keep stakes in place and guylines taught. A quick fix to this headache is to employ the deadman anchor.

In sandy terrain, you can create a simple deadman by filling a sack or bag (even those for your sleeping bag or tent) with sand, then burying it with only the bag’s drawcord remaining above ground. A guyline can then be secured to the drawcord with a trucker’s hitch or taught-line hitch. In loose soil, the same principle applies, but rocks can replace sandbags.

In the case of snow, a bag may work, but a log or large stick (as pictured above) buried perpendicular to the guyline creates a stronger anchor. Lay the guyline under the anchor, leaving a long running end above ground; pack the anchor with snow or earth; then secure the guyline’s running end with a hitch. Never tie the guyline to the anchor before burying it, as this will compromise tension.

Regardless of whether you use a log or a heavy bag, the deadman’s strength depends on the weight and size of the buried object, as well as the firmness of the earth. You can further reinforce the anchor with a bearing log (as seen above) to prevent slippage.

Photograph via U.S. Forest Service