Exotic materials, like carbon fibre, may be used for technical models to keep weight and bulk down but there are three key materials used to make pegs for family tents – wood, metal and plastics.
Wood Benefits: Make your own; durable if quality wood is used; great if used for soft ground. Cons: Heavy; bulky; can split or deform over time or if you hit a hard object like a rock.
Metal (steel/aluminium) Benefits: Hard wearing; good in stony ground; strength of steel. Cons: Heavy; steel will rust; cost; aluminium is light but deforms easily.
Plastics Benefits: Cheap; light; good for hard to soft ground; easy to clean and maintain. Cons: Break or deform if hit incorrectly or if strikes a stone.
In its simplest form a tent peg is just a skewer or nail. But this has obvious limitations such as little holding power and shedding of the guyline as the peg twists in the ground in windy conditions. As a result, this style is best left to pegging out groundsheets, ensuring the head of the peg is pushed down to the ground where it will not trip up the unwary camper.
However, a hardened metal version of the skewer, or nail, will come into its own if camping on rocky soil that will bend, break or just plain resist any other design or material. These are known as rock pegs.
Stakes make up the vast majority of your peg collection and will meet most conditions if you choose a variety of materials and profiles. Thick, square section wood or, more common, plastic pegs are great for medium to soft ground. Use longer and thicker pegs if camping on very soft (muddy) or sandy ground. While the standard stake can be used for every pegging point it is worth considering taking a few longer pegs for the main guylines that hold the tent up and the main pegging points at each corner when camping on soft ground.
Metal stakes tend to have a V-profile for grip and to stop them rotating in the wind, causing them to shed guylines. Their resilience will be appreciated in the sort of hard and stony ground conditions that will break or deform a wood or plastic stake. Again, eight or so metal stakes are a useful addition to the peg bag to meet most emergencies – more if you know you’re going to be camping on hard ground.
The final peg to consider is the Delta peg. This style of peg is shaped like a number 7. The short horizontal top piece lies flush with the ground and the guyline attaches to its end. Any forces applied just drives the peg deeper into the ground. This makes them ideal for stormy conditions.
The Delta peg comes in three varieties: nylon for general ground; stainless steel for long life and all conditions up to hard ground; and a stainless version that is made for use with rock pegs. A good combination is four stainless for the main guys, nylon for other guys, and four rock versions if you are camping on stony ground. The metal versions have a premium price tag but last for years.