2012-07-26

review: MSR Groundhog Stakes

Simply stated: these are the best stakes I've yet tried.

If you don't know, these are actually pretty well known in backpacking circles. It *seems* like something should be better, and yet nothing arises. I've looked for a titanium alternative, but they are hard to find and I always end up back at the aluminum groundhogs.

Q: So, why do I think they are so great?

A: Well, because they are the best tradeoff.

  • They are strong enough that you can push them in with your heal, and not worry about bending them.
  • They hold well enough that you can pitch a tarp in sand with them, as long as it's not stormy, or in sandy loam if it is stormy. I've had them hold in ~50mph wind when stuck into turf (I twisted my ankle on top of a mountain on the AT), a hailstorm in Yosemite, etc. P1000376
  • They're the lightest thing with the two above properties

Q: Do they always work and always hold?

A: No, of course not, don't be ridiculous. For instance, they don't hold in sandy clay in a full downpour with no cover or rootstructure in the soil, and 40mph winds. Neither do they hold in soft-snow unless you deadman them (burry the stake sideways with the twine tied aroudn the middle). I've used them normally in shallow/stiff snow a couple of times and they worked fine.

Q: Why not these?

A: Because in practice I'd rather tie to bushes, rocks, and sticks. These are okay... but I don't trust these to hold any more than I trust a stick shoved in the ground. They bend on hard ground, they don't hold at all unless you're basically in peat. So why the heck would I bother carrying them? I did for a while... no thanks.

Q: How about these?

A: They snap in half, trying to get them to hold in sand in Joshua Tree I set rocks on them and they collapsed. The ones without the holes through them are a bit better, but still don't hold as well as the groundhogs - I currently use them for non-critical stakes. If you're gentle and a gram weenie, the ones without holes may be a good fit for you though.

Q: How about a large curved steel stake? (sadly, I can't find an image)

A: These are awesome, I might consider carrying these again even if I was the type to go up into the rockies carrying a nice big tent and set a base-camp for a long period of time. For "backpacking" though, as I think of it (that is, hiking every day, moving camp regularly, etc.) these are just WAY overkill.

Last notes

If you're a gear manufacturer, could you make some titanium groundhogs? PLEEASE!?

FYI: make sure you get ones with the label/stamp. There are fakes

So, what are your favorite stakes?

6 comments:

  1. 2 comments outside of here:
    1) I intended this to be about "general purpose stakes", if you know you'll hit specific things like sand, snow, etc. obviously you'll want a stake designed for the task.
    2) As an even more specific example, if you're going to the plya, these probably aren't the stakes for you :).

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  2. I'm happy with http://www.globetrotter.de/de/shop/detail.php?mod_nr=101671 and http://www.globetrotter.de/de/shop/detail.php?mod_nr=108680

    Both type in use for many years. I managed to bend 2 or 3 of the second type, but overall both are solid and have a great weight and are nearly indestructible.

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    Replies
    1. Interesting!
      I suspect the first are stronger than the similar ones I talked about the article. Mine failed on the first trip, and in sand :(.

      As for the second, that makes sense. That sounds like about the bend-rate I had with the titanium crook stakes. As long as you push them in with your hand they hold up fine.

      I'm really curious about the first ones you linked now... I wonder just how tough they are. Do you shove them in with your hand, pound on them, use your heal? Ever use them in solid hard-packed clay/gravel campsites?

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    2. I've used the first ones even in hard soil with my boot or a rock to pound them in. Worked fine, no visible bending after I think at least 3 years of use.

      The other ones I have even longer. I think 7 or 8 years. From 12 I bought 3 are bent but still usable by now.

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    3. Neat. I'll have to try those. Thanks for the hint.

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  3. Interesting, are the first ones more solidly built then the other titanium v's you've seen? Or maybe you're just better at not breaking things. ;)

    The second type is neat. Good to know they're easier to bend than titanium v's though - I'd been thinking of picking some up.

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