Picture this: It's your long awaited vacation. You've arrived at a beautiful campsite. You go to set up your tent only to discover that you've forgotten the tent poles at home! Don't panic, all is not lost! Here's one way to tap into your inner MacGyver and pitch the tent without poles.

(I may or may not have found this out the hard way... : ) A big thanks to my fella Mark for making my forgetfulness fun!)

The first thing to do is look around your campsite and see what you have to work with as far as support trees.

An overhanging tree like the one Mark and I found (pictured above) works great and will go with the 'One Point Pitch' instructions in Step #1.

If there's nothing with a good strong overhang to tie onto, the alternative is to find two trees to string a rope between and that rope will become your 'overhang'. (NOTE: the trees must be wide enough apart to fit your tent in between) If this is the case, you will follow the 'Two Point Pitch' instructions in Step #2.

Now that you have assessed your structural surroundings, you'll need to find the following items either in your pack or car (lucky duck!) or at a local camp supply or hardware store:

- 80 feet of rope (for the 'One Point Pitch') or 100 feet of rope (for the 'Two Point Pitch')
- 8 tent stakes or long metal nails/spikes (at least 6" long)
- a pocket knife (if you don't already have one)

* You will also want to find a nice big rock to use as a hammer for the stakes.

Step 1: The 'One Point Pitch'

Pitching your tent using an overhanging tree requires the following steps:

1. Tie one end of your rope around the tree, far enough out so that when hanging loose it hits the center of the spot you have in mind for your tent. If the tree is too tall to reach or shimmy up and tie one end, throw the rope over the tree and work with the double length instead!
2. Cut the rope that's hanging down at about the height of your navel - to make sure you have enough length to work with.
3. Lay your tent out in the (hopefully flat) spot you've chosen.
4. Use four stakes to secure the four floor corners of the tent using the stake loops.
5. Measure and cut two lengths of rope that will go from each front top corner to the same side back top corner. (remember to include extra length for your knots!)
6. Tie the two ropes to the corresponding front and back corners (like in the Step 2 illustration) using a tab, hook or eyelet (whatever's available on your style of tent). Loop the hanging rope through the two top ropes and pull up until the tent fabric is taut but not strained. Tie the hanging rope to itself to secure the top ropes.
7. Measure and cut four 10-12 foot pieces of rope.
8. Secure each rope to a tab, hook or eyelet (whatever's available on your style of tent) close to the top of the tent (as illustrated above).
9. Tie knots on the other end of all four ropes and use your remaining stakes to pull the tent fabric outwards, 'shaping' of your tent.
10. If you're lucky enough to find two sticks that are approximately the same length as the top side edges of your tent, you can use them to give the top of your tent even more shape (= space inside) by wedging them in between the two rope end knots. You can also lash the ends of the sticks to the knots if you have extra rope.
11. If you're camping somewhere that gets cold at night and need to add the fly for warmth, you'll have to feed it carefully through the top ropes and wrap it as best you can around the mesh parts of your tent. (We were somewhere warm enough to not need the fly.)

That's it! Because most tents will be different shapes and sizes, you may have to come up with additional tricks/fixes, but I believe in your inner MacGyver! You can do it!
A fair amount of tents come with a "Guy-Up" system which allows you to pitch your tent without poles. I would suggest familiarizing yourself with the Guy-Up system in your tent before relying on this method, although it is a good fix for a tight situation.
<p><a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/How-To-Tie-A-Tautline-Hitch/" rel="nofollow">http://www.instructables.com/id/How-To-Tie-A-Tautl...</a></p><p>You will find this is a better knot to use in this case than the half hitches. I always keep the tent poles in the same bag as the tent ;)</p>
i have also hit this rough spot before and you could use less rope in figure 1 if you got 4 sticks all about 4ft tall and put one on each corner at about a 65 degree angle you could use a shorter length of rope to attach it to the middle pole hook thing on each corner and tie that to the stick and adjust it till the tent is taunt

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Bio: Made in Canada, I have a BFA in product design from Parsons School of Design in NYC. I've done work for Martha Stewart Living ... More »
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