Are you a camping newbie? If so, listen up. One of the biggest things you need to learn is how to set up a tent. Lucky for you though tent manufacturers have come a long way. It doesn’t have to be rocket science.

I’m going to walk you through my mistakes as a camping newbie and teach you what I needed to know – aka how to set up a tent. Some tents are easier to pitch than others. If you’re smart, you’ll buy one of those ones that pop out of the box pre-assembled and all you have to do is unfold them. If you want more of a challenge (I have no idea why), but this can help you too.

Here's My Story

My first time camping in Joshua Tree was one for the books. My friend Tiffanne invited me on a trip with a group of people for her twenty-third birthday celebration. I was stoked. Sure, I’d had previous experiences with the great outdoors. Growing up in Washington state, that’s hard to avoid. I consider myself an avid hiker. I’m by no means an expert, but I can climb just about any trail in the PNW.

Random side note: I under-packed. A lot. While we were only spending a day and a half in the park, I only brought the clothes I was wearing and two additional sweaters. No pajamas, no sleeping mat to shield my back from the hard, cold ground, nothing. I wasn’t playing tough; I was just really naive. A thin sleeping bag, throw blanket, and an extra sweater should be enough, right? Wrong. Don’t be like me. Plan ahead. I didn't even think about making a camping checklist.

Let’s Move On…

Okay, moving on. Let’s get to the good stuff. So Tiffanne has what I like to call jungle skills. Like, if you’re alone in the woods or stranded on a desert island and you can only bring one person, you’d bring her. For some reason, she has this innate instinct for survival. She knows her way around the trail, does some gnarly hikes, cooks food from scratch, can start a campfire without a lighter, the list goes on… I once told people she could tear a coconut apart with her bare hands. That’s not true. But it did get the office in an uproar.

The Moral of the Story

Anyways, when we got to the campsite, her, two friends, and I began to pull the tents out of the boxes before her brother arrived with the food, coffee makers, and cooking gear. I swear, I’ve never felt so incompetent in my life. While Tiffanne and the other girls were spreading out the tent and hammering in pegs with rocks they picked up, I was struggling just to find out how to pull the tent apart.

To spare you the embarrassment of looking like a camping rookie, I’ve put together a simple list of instructions for you. Let’s read on and see how to set up a tent.

How to Set Up a Tent

How to Set Up a Tent

Ah, here’s what you clicked on the article for in the first place. But hey, what can I say? I’m a storyteller. Let’s take a look at each of these steps and break it up as simply as possible. Don’t let me discourage you. Camping is a blast and I really did have a great time.

1. Unpack All of Your Tent Supplies

Tent Supplies

Credit: Wikihow

Once you’ve found a good place to set up camp, it’s time to unpack your things. It’s good practice to have all of your things out of the box and bags at once. Assembling your tent will go more smoothly if you don’t unpack one thing at a time. Plus, you’ll reduce your risk of misplacing something you really need like that extra peg for the tent.

Furthermore, the type of supplies you need depends on the type of product you’re using. Are you using an a-frame tent, tunnel tent, or dome tent? Here’s a little bit of information to help you understand each:

  • A-frame tents are the easiest to set up. That’s why they’re the most common. Typically, they will come equipped with features like a rain-fly and weather tarp.
  • Tunnel tents differ from the structure of a-frame tents by two structured poles that run the width of the tent. This allows for a wider interior and more tent space. However, they are not as sturdy when it comes to wind.
  • Dome tents are the largest, typically use by groups for camping. Despite their size, they are relatively easy to pitch.

2. Lay Down a Tarp

Lay Down a Tarp

Credit: Wikihow

Clear the area for debris as much as you can. Then, lay down a tarp. This will not only make sleeping in the tent more comfortable but it will also prevent water from seeping in. Moreover, the tarp should be large enough to encompass the bottom floor of your tent.

3. Insert Your Tent Poles Into the Designated Openings in the Tent Frame

Tent Frame

Credit: Wikihow

Once you’ve gotten all the tent parts out, insert the tent poles into the designated openings in the tent frame. Line the tent frame out. This way, you’ll ensure you are putting the poles into the correct slots. While this is arguably the most time-consuming part of how to set up a tent, it is still pretty straightforward.

4. Raise the Tent Up

Raise the Tent Up

Credit: Wikihow

Do the tent poles have joints? If so, make them rigid. Help the tent up by lifting parts of it. The poles should hold the structure in place. If not, secure loose parts of the poles and lengthen them as needed.

5. Hammer Your Tent Pegs into the Ground

Tent Pegs into the Ground

Credit: Wikihow

Use a mallet or nearby rock to drive your tent pegs into the ground. This will stabilize the tent and make sure it doesn’t move around too much or get knocked over when the wind picks up. In the event you don’t have tent pegs, you can use sturdy sticks to accomplish the same purpose.

6. Make Sure the Rain-Fly is Set Up

Rain-Fly is Set Up

Credit: Wikihow

Keep in mind that tents usually aren’t made with waterproof material. Enter the rain-fly. You should place this additional piece over the tent. There should be something that latches on the roof of the tent to secure it in place. Even when it's semi-sunny outside and if you don’t think rain is on the weather forecast, it’s better to play it safe. The rain-fly will not only ensure all your equipment will stay in place and dry.

7. Move Your Belongings Into the Tent

Move Your Belongings Into the Tent

Credit: Wikihow

Once the tent is set up and secure, feel free to prepare the interior. Since there isn’t much space in a standard camping tent, you should decide what things to keep outside and what to store in with you. Crates and hard-cased storage can be left outside. Spread out your sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows inside.

If there are bears in the area, do not store food in your tent. The last thing you want is it to come in looking for that yummy Clif bar you’ve been munching on. Tie food up high and hang it suspended (and out of reach) on a tree.

That’s All. Learning How to Set Up a Tent Really is That Easy

We hope this article helped you learn how to set up a tent with ease. The next time (or first time), you head out for a camping trip, you’ll know what to do. Now that you're ready to go camping, check out these awesome free sites in the US and Canada to pitch your tent.

Related Article: 5 Best Camping Tents For Outdoors Adventurers