The right tools can make camping in the great outdoors much easier and less stressful. Knowing your tent pegs are staked securely to the ground lets you sleep better, and the best way to make that happen is with the right mallet.
The best mallet for pounding in tent pegs is made of a durable material like rubber, plastic, or steel and is suitable for hammering on the type of stakes you use. A lightweight mallet with a good handle grip will not add too much additional weight or mass to your gear stash.
You may be wondering how to choose the right mallet for your next camping adventure. After all, isn’t de-stressing one of the reasons we head to the hills anyway? Read on to uncover the best mallet to take along.
What Is a Mallet Used for When Camping?
When you camp, you have to plan carefully. You need certain things like food, cooking equipment, and sleeping gear at the minimum. Depending on whether you hike the backcountry and roll up in a sleeping bag by the fire, tent camp in a state park, or “hotel” it in an RV, there is limited space to carry everything you need.
Tools that do double or triple duty usually find a spot on your checklist. When it comes to camping, a mallet makes a handy addition to a camper’s gear. We’ve come up with a few reasons you might pick up a mallet on your next campout. If you’ve got camping experience, you can probably add a few more to the list.
The number one reason to carry a mallet when camping is for hammering in tent pegs. A mallet head is designed to deliver a softer blow than a hammer, so you’re less likely to bend or break tent stakes.
Other possible uses for mallets include:
- Pulling up tent pegs: Many camper mallets have a specially designed hook on the non-head end that can be used to pull up tent stakes.
- Breaking up wood pieces for firewood: A mallet in conjunction with a wedge makes an effective wood splitter for small logs or tree branches. Since eating and staying warm requires firewood to get a blaze going, a mallet could be handy. What’s camping without a campfire, right?
- Breaking up large rocks: Speaking of building a campfire, it’s always a good idea to surround a fire with a ring of rocks to contain the logs and embers. If there is no campfire ring already in place, you can use a mallet to break apart larger rocks, making them a more suitable size to circle your fire area.
- Hammering in stakes for elevated food storage: Nocturnal critters like raccoons and bears like to poke around a campsite to forage for food. Use a mallet to stake down the rope system that lifts your food bag or box out of reach of the local wildlife.
- Tying down an RV awning: If you go the luxury camping route, i.e., an RV, consider carrying a mallet to hammer in the support lines for your RV awning.
- Setting up a tailgate tent: Whether you RV or tent camp, you may want to cover the outdoor eating or sitting area with a small tailgate-type tent or rain cover. Use a mallet to secure the tent frame or tarp support lines.
- Setting up cooking apparatus: There are portable grills and cooking grates that rely on a stand to keep them above the campfire. Use a mallet to pound in the vertical support tightly so that your whole meal doesn’t end up in the coals.
- Self-defense: Maybe it’s a stretch, and hopefully, it won’t ever come to this, but you could use a mallet in self-defense. Be it an unexpected wild animal attack or a human intruder, swing that mallet with all you’ve got to protect yourself.
Can I Use Any Mallet When Camping?
A mallet differs from a hammer in design and what it’s made of. So, while any mallet or hammer can strike a blow to another object, a mallet is designed for a softer result that doesn’t damage the target.
There are different styles of mallets; the heads and handles can be made from various materials, but mallet heads all have the same basic shape with a few style variations.
Construction and Carpentry Mallets
Construction and carpentry mallets follow the traditional double-head mallet style. Sometimes they have two types of heads: one harder and one softer. Using these mallets outside of the carpentry shop isn’t advised.
You don’t want to have any dirt or abrasive stuff that you picked up while camping get transferred over to a piece of fine furniture you’re building in the woodworking shop.
It seems obvious, but we’ll say it anyway. A croquet mallet is not ideal for use at the campsite for a couple of reasons. They are about three feet long, which makes them unsuitable for backpacking or camping in general. The price is another negative factor. Who wants to pay over $100 for a mallet to put in tent stakes?
Meat Tenderizer Mallet
You’d think that a meat tenderizer would be super heavy to pound meat effectively. Some are, but the main reason you don’t want to take a meat tenderizer with you on a camping trip is the spiky surfaces on the mallet head.
It could damage your tent stakes—and you—if you try to carry it in a backpack!
In a pinch, you could take a hammer out of your toolbox and pack it with your camping gear. It would accomplish the same purpose: driving tent stakes into the ground. But using a regular claw hammer is just overkill. It adds unnecessary weight to your pack, and the claw really serves no other useful purpose at the campsite.
Plus, a lot of tent stakes are made of plastic these days. Pounding in stakes with a construction-type hammer may lead to cracking or breaking a peg. Then you really are up the creek without a paddle (or a tent), so to speak.
As you can see, technically, you can use any mallet or hammer to secure tent pegs. Some, like a carpentry mallet, would work okay; others, such as a croquet mallet, are a definite no. However, you run the risk of damaging your tent pegs or weighing down your box of gear or backpack when you use the wrong kind of mallet.
That’s why it’s in your best interest to choose and carry a “made-for-camping” mallet. They are designed to be lightweight and the right length to fit nicely in a backpack or camping gearbox. Most are designed to work on either metal or plastic pegs without damaging them.
Besides a Mallet, What Can I Use for Camping?
If you don’t own a mallet or would rather not give up space in your pack for one, what else can you use to make sure your tent pegs are securely in the ground? Luckily, there are a few ways to stake your tent without a mallet:
- Foot pressure: Step on the tent pegs to push them into the ground. This usually works best when the ground is soft, and you can push hard enough with your foot to actually drive the pegs in. If the ground is hard and rocky, or you’re a lightweight person, you may have trouble making this happen.
- Rock: Find a heavy but manageable rock to use as a hammering tool. With the right stone, this can make a passable substitute. But, holding the rock and hitting the target squarely on the head can be a bit awkward. There’s no handle, obviously, and rock surfaces are often irregular. Certain types of rock can splinter into pieces too.
- Tree branch: Look for a hefty branch nearby that will work as a tent peg pounder, assuming your campsite is near some trees. (If you’re in the desert or above the tree line, forget this option!) However, just like rocks, a tree branch may splinter when you subject them to a hammering motion.
- Axe: The back, non-sharp side of an ax can be used as a mallet. Obviously, you need to be careful since there is a sharp, cutting side; you don’t want to end up hiking out for an ER visit!
- Whatever you brought: If you get desperate, check your gear for something that can be used as a mallet. Think canned goods, pocketknife, cooking pot, hairbrush (it could happen!), whatever might give you just a bit of added force to get those pegs into the ground.
While these might make decent substitutes for a mallet, they’re not quite the same and may not work for everyone depending on the situation. So, if you decide to leave your regular hammer in the toolbox at home (where it belongs), consider purchasing a camping mallet to add to your camping checklist.
What Should I Look For In A Mallet For Tent Pegs?
Once you’ve decided to add a mallet to your stash of camping gear, it’s time to figure out exactly what to look for. Since you’re going the specialty tool route, you should factor in all the variables to maximize the mallet’s impact on your outing and minimize any negatives.
Unlike using a hammer or mallet in construction or carpentry, where the driving force is a key component to the blows you strike, a mallet on a camping trip doesn’t need to be that powerful. In fact, too much force could find you pegless, and therefore, tentless for the night.
Camping mallets are specifically designed to be lightweight, shorter in length, and durable. When you’re shopping for a camp mallet, be sure to think about these three essential characteristics.
Just like the real estate mantra is “location, location, location,” a camper’s motto is always “the less weight, the better.” Particularly for backpackers and those who tent camp trailside, the weight, or the lack thereof, of everything they have to carry plays an important role.
According to REI, a loaded backpacking pack should not weigh more than 20% of your body weight. For a 150-pound person, that equals 30 pounds max. A heavier mallet may mean you have to leave behind another essential item just to keep your overall load within a manageable range.
Typical camping mallets weigh anywhere from around 3 ½ ounces for a plastic one to about 2 pounds for one with a carbon steel head.
If your camping adventure begins and ends at a tent or RV campsite, weight is probably not as critical. You’ll have more space to store a mallet, and since you’re not actually carrying it on your pack all the time, the weight won’t matter as much.
The material a mallet is made from affects the tool’s weight and ability to perform the job of staking the tent. Some materials weigh more than others, and it bears repeating that weight is a critical factor when packing a backpack for an extended camping hike.
You know the saying, “You had one job?” A mallet’s main job is knocking in tent stakes. Using a mallet that is too light on heavier weight pegs will be ineffective. At the same time, pounding plastic stakes with a heavy mallet can lead to broken pegs.
So, what are mallets usually made of? There are two parts of a mallet you have to consider: the handle and the head. Sometimes they are made of the same material, but, more often than not, the head is composed of a different material than the handle.
Forged carbon steel
You can find various combinations of these materials, but the most common ones seem to be:
- Rubber head with wood or fiberglass handle
- Plastic head with plastic handle
- Carbon steel head with steel or fiberglass handle
Sweaty or rain-soaked hands and swinging a mallet with enough force to drive in a tent peg isn’t a good combination. That’s why you should make sure the mallet you choose offers an effective gripping surface.
Rubber or fiberglass handles already have a gripping feel, given the nature of those materials. If you go for a steel or aluminum handle, look for one with a rubberized gripping surface at the end of the handle.
Most mallets fall into the 6 inches to 12 inches range. A few are as long as 13 to 15 inches. Length isn’t a deal-breaker, though, and any mallet in this range will do a fine job of pounding in tent pegs.
A shorter handle could mean you have to work a bit harder in hard-packed soil since you can’t get a considerable swing going. But most tent pegs don’t require Paul Bunyan-esque strength or chopping motion to go into the ground.
Just make sure the handle is long enough to give you an effective swinging motion and leverage.
Length will also come into play with your storage and carrying capability. The longer the handle, the more awkward it will be to find a spot for the mallet in a pack or box.
If you set up your tent correctly, your tent stakes were driven pretty far into the ground. The loop or pieces that hold the tent lines can often wind up almost buried in the ground with just a little bit sticking up. When it’s time to leave, it’s challenging to grasp the tent stakes with just your fingers and use enough force to pull them out.
One super handy feature to look for in a mallet is a peg puller. You’ll find it sticking out of the end of the handle opposite the head. Typically made of metal, this hook is designed so that you can insert it under the tip of the tent peg and pull it right out of the ground.
You want to be sure the mallet you choose works with the type of stakes you have. Most tent stakes are made of steel or aluminum, but you’ll also find plastic ones as well.
Metal stakes can stand up to a pounding from heavier weight mallets like those made of rubber or carbon steel. On the flip side, using a plastic mallet on metal stakes may be an exercise in frustration. Plastic won’t drive with enough force to push in the pegs, and there is a chance you might crack or break a plastic mallet by using it on metal stakes.
Plastic tent stakes are best hammered with a plastic or lightweight rubber mallet. Even though they’re made of heavy-duty plastic, they’re still plastic, which can become brittle over time. You run the risk of breaking a plastic peg if your mallet is too heavy.
We’ve talked a lot about how space and weight are at a premium when you camp. Manufacturers have responded to this dilemma by designing mallets that offer multiple functionalities.
So, if you really want to maximize your options, find a camping mallet that performs various jobs. You’ll often find features such as:
- Bottle opener
7 Best Mallets for Tent Pegs
Now that we’ve covered the basics of camping mallets, their design, and their uses, it’s time to check out the features of some specific ones on the market today. There are plenty of mallets that are suitable to use on tent pegs.
Take a look at the list of the top seven tent mallets available. Whatever your specific needs are, there is a mallet for you!
1. Coleman Rubber Mallet
Coleman makes a couple of different rubber mallets, both of which will handle putting in tent stakes. The difference between the two comes down to handle material, weight, and price.
The Coleman Rugged Rubber mallet weighs in at 16 ounces and just over 13 inches long. Its double-sized rubber head combines with a steel shaft and rubberized grip to make driving in plastic or steel tent pegs simple. This mallet also has a steel peg puller that can handle up to 40 pounds of pulling force when it’s time to pack up.
Coleman also offers a less expensive version of the rubber mallet built with a wooden handle instead of a steel one. It’s shorter in length at 11 inches and weighs the same at 16 ounces. It has a peg puller on the end and works for all tent peg types.
2. Texsport Mallet
For backpackers or trailside campers trying to cut down on excess weight, the Texsport mallet is perfect. It is lightweight at only 7.0 ounces and runs 13 inches long. It comes in a bright red color that helps it stand out against the greens and browns of the forest. The open nature of the handle also integrates a peg puller into the design.
The Texsport mallet can work on plastic or steel tent pegs. However, the heftier (steel) your pegs are, the more likely it is that this mallet may lose the plastic versus heavy steel battle. Give it a chance, though, and it will do an excellent job on lighter-weight metal pegs.
3. MSR Tent Stake Hammer
The MSR tent hammer catches the eye with its sleek, gray handle design and mod-looking head. But don’t let the aesthetics fool you. This mallet can do the job. The head and hollow-core handle is made of stainless steel, and the whole thing weighs less than a pound.
The head is double-sided with a mallet surface on one side and a hammer tool on the other. A bottle opener is integrated into the head where the two sides meet. This mallet doesn’t have a dedicated peg puller on the shaft end, but you can use the hammer claw for the same purpose.
The MSR hammer can be used for any kind of tent peg, and it works particularly well at driving pegs into very hard ground.
4. Nuzamas Outdoor Camping Mallet/Hammer
Nuzamas makes this rugged and highly functional camping mallet out of durable steel and adds a rubberized grip so that the handle is non-slip and helps absorb the shock when you use it.
The mallet surface is also made of non-slip rubber, so it won’t slide off a tent peg when it strikes. The hammer-shaped side of the head gives you the option of using it as a hammer on the campsite.
At 14 inches long, the Nuzamas mallet is one of the longer options. Its 1.65 pounds gives you plenty of weight to do the job, so it works exceptionally well on steel tent pegs. It comes with a peg puller and a convenient storage bag too.
5. Redcamp Camping Hammer
This portable camp hammer by Redcamp boasts a high-carbon steel head on an aluminum handle, making it durable, rust-free, and lightweight at the same time. It’s 12 inches long and weighs 13.2 ounces.
The unique head design is double-sided with a mallet on one side and a shovel shape on the other. You can use this camp hammer to pound in any kind of tent peg as well as dig in the dirt if needed (camp latrine, maybe?).
The Redcamp hammer comes with a peg puller and a carrying strap that lets you attach it to the outside of your pack. It is offered in four colors: red, orange, blue, and black.
6. RoverTac Multi-Tool
A solid choice when you need a tool that can handle a lot of different jobs, the RoverTac Multi-tool is a compact device that boasts 14 tools in its repertoire. The RoverTac is constructed of high-quality, durable stainless steel for the head and handle.
Its overall length is 7 inches, and it weighs just under a pound. In addition to working as a mallet for tent pegs, the tools contained within this device cover just about anything you might need on a camping trip, including:
- Knife Blade
- Wire Cutter
- Regular Plier
- Flat Jaw Plier
- Fish Descaler
- Bottle Opener
- Assorted Wrenches
- Philips Screwdriver
- Slotted Screwdriver
- Large Slotted Screwdriver
Most of these tools fold up safely and securely within the handle. The RoverTac also comes with a nylon carrying pouch that makes it portable and easy to store.