This has happened to all of us: it gets dark, the cold pierces to the very bones, the wind picks up, and you have to sleep outside tonight. It's the most inconvenient time to forget how to pack your tent. Before you get out into the woods, it's still best to learn (and remember!) how to pitch your tent to avoid time-consuming awkward moments and effort on the spot. Learn the right place to pitch your tent, how to assemble it, and how your tent should be stored.
Put a tarp under your tent before you start setting it up. When you pitch your tent, it's important not to get the bottom wet, and that's what the tarp is for. A good quality plastic and vinyl tarp should come with every tent.
Put the tarp down so that it matches the shape of the tent, even a little smaller. You don't want a piece of tarp to stick out over the edge of the tent and accumulate moisture underneath. Fold up the too-long ends of the tarp before you put it under the tent.
Lay out and count all the parts of the tent. Modern tents consist of lightweight nylon, poles assembled into a single unit, and stakes, whereas older tents usually include a rag tent and collapsible poles. At a minimum, you'll need a tent and poles, and the installation method is no different than traditional tents.
Place the tent on the tarp. Find the bottom of the tent and place it on the tarp. Place the tent with the doors and windows in your preferred direction. Spread it out and begin collecting poles. Put the poles together. Depending on the type of your tent, they may be connected by rubber bands, or they may be prefabricated, then you will need to connect them yourself. Put the poles together and lay them along the side of the tent.
Insert the poles into the holes in the tent. Most regular tents have two of these through holes that intersect to form an X, forming the main frame of your tent. To insert the poles, you usually need to find a hole on the corner of the shawl and push the pole through this flap, or secure the poles with plastic clips sewn into the tent itself.
Read the instructions that came with your tent, or carefully study the tent's construction to determine how the poles should be set up. Every tent is set up differently.
Lift the tent. This requires some dexterity, so it's best to pitch the tent with someone else. Once you have both poles attached, they should bend in their direction, be straightened and lift the tent, this way you should have some semblance of a sleeping space.
With some tents, you'll have to do a little bit of work. Pull the corners so that the tent is square and make sure the poles are secured and untangled.
Depending on what kind of tent you have, there may be hooks attached to the tent that are held on small ropes that are part of the structure. Attach these hooks to the poles, raising the tent slightly. You only have to add a few more necessary pieces of construction to raise the tent.
Attach the shawl. Once the tent is relatively secured, repeating the square shape of the tarp, use pegs to thread through the holes in the corners of the tent and thus secure the tent to the ground. If you are camping on rocky or fairly hard ground, you may need a small hammer or other blunt object to hammer the stakes in. Some stakes bend easily, so be careful.
Stretch a tent over the top if you have one. Some tents have a rain shade. It's made of a different material. Some have extra poles for the tent, so read the instructions that come with the tent to understand how to set it up if you have trouble.