How Tight Should Guide Ropes Be

Camping can be quite complicated especially if you plan to do it right. One of the things that can often confuse campers if how tight guide ropes should be.

Guide ropes or also known as guy ropes are ropes that keep a tent fastened down to the ground with extra stability especially in harsh weather conditions. Guide ropes should be tight enough to be taught but not so tight that there is no movement, you still need them to be somewhat flexible.

In this article we are going to cover the key questions you might have when it comes to guide ropes and how tight they should be.

What Are Guide Ropes?

A guide rope is a cord that campers use to fasten their tents and tarps to the ground. Guide ropes give shape and ensure stability to the sections of a tent where poles cannot be used as support. One end of the guide rope is attached to the tent, while the other is fastened to the ground a few metres away from the base of the tent. The tension in the guide rope and the tent’s strength help the entire structure overcome external forces such as wind or heavy rainfall.

Although campers can do without them in many instances, they are particularly useful in windy environments and when expecting a rainstorm. The guide ropes provide extra support to the tent, making them sturdy and able to withstand anything that comes at it instead of flopping around in the presence of wind. Without the use of guide ropes, you might have trouble falling sleeping because of all the noise the tent will make when a strong wind blows.

Also, if you are camping in a double-walled tent, guide ropes would make sure these two walls are separated at all times. Some tents come with a rainfly, and most times, this rainfly will be unable to stand on its own. Guide ropes stop the rainfly from directly laying on the roof of your tent so air can flow adequately, preventing condensation and allowing ventilation. It works by stretching the rainfly out. Guide ropes help create more space inside the tent by using the loops along the edges and walls to pull the tent’s sagging areas. Additionally, some tents cannot stand on their own and need guide ropes to stand them upright. 

What Are Guide Ropes Used For?

Some campers are not sure whether or not they need to use guide ropes because there is the lingering question of whether it is necessary or not. Note that tents are usually lightweight and have a large surface area, which leaves them vulnerable to sudden strong winds.

It is not compulsory to use one because your tent would stand under normal circumstances, but it helps immensely, especially in bad weather, to prevent unforeseen disasters. It would not feel good if you are sleeping, and water starts leaking into your tent during a storm. Guide ropes prevent that because pitching your tent normally is insufficient to keep moisture out in bad weather. 

Using guide ropes helps pull the tent’s walls outwards, thus creating more space within it. Inside the tent, you tend to exhale moist air that will condense on the tent’s walls and roof or on the rainfly – if one is used – slowly dripping downwards. If there is no guide rope pulling the tent’s edges, the droplets of condensed water will hit a portion of the tent, which is sagging and fall on you.

A tent in which the guide ropes have been correctly used would let the condensed water flow to the corners without dripping on your body. Additionally, they can also be used to set up tarps to cover camp kitchens and picnic tables to provide shade from sunlight by pulling at the corners, keeping the thing from collapsing. 

Using Guide Ropes During Storms

Guide ropes help campers keep their tent steady during heavy rainfall, so it is essential to know how to make use of them to protect yourself in those conditions. After setting up the tent, use thick cords as guide ropes to withstand any tug from the strong winds. Make them taut but not overly tight, so they are not overwhelmed by the storm. Alternatively, you can use more guide ropes than usual to fasten the tent to the ground. 

Campers can use two guide ropes from each loop to provide more security in harsh weather. These two guide ropes do not necessarily have to be attached to the same anchor. They can be fixed at 45-degree angles to each other to spread out the force acting on the two guide ropes attached to a single point.

How to Use Guide Ropes

Fix One End of The Guide Rope to The Tent

Locate the loops on the tent you want to attach the ropes to; they are usually found at the corners. Nonetheless, some of the loops might be on the walls of the tent. These loops are the points on the tent where the guide ropes would be attached to. Usually, some tents come with guide ropes when you buy them, but they are too short in some cases.

You are free to improvise though, and make your own guide rope using a cord, rope, or string. Making your guide rope allows you to choose the length you want it to be, but 3ft should be sufficient. Once you sort out the exact positions on the tent you want your guide ropes to extend from, you should tie around the loop and form a knot.

Anchor the Guide Ropes and Adjust Until You Are Satisfied

Get good anchors, preferably stakes or pegs, and prepare to use them. Sometimes, the soil in your campsite might not be ideal for a regular anchor, so in cases like this, you can use trees, big logs of wood, or large rocks to hold up your guide rope.

The problem here is not finding a way to attach the guide ropes to the anchor because there are many ways to do that, but the issue is how easy it will be to adjust the length of the guide ropes. Campers would appreciate the ability to increase or reduce the length of a guide rope whenever possible because it gives them more options when they want to anchor the ropes. The guide ropes can be adjusted by tighteners – or tensioners – which are very helpful and can be purchased at camp shops.

Properly Stake Down the Tent

When you have tied the guide ropes to the tent’s loops, you would need to set the rope at a sufficient length and stake it down. To achieve a strong anchor, let the guide rope be kept straight and perpendicular to the tent. The stake should be angled inwardly towards the tent at 45 degrees.

If you angle the stake away from the tent, it would not only unnecessarily require a longer guide rope, but it would not provide adequate resistance against external forces that might act on it. In this situation, it would not need much force to take the stake off the ground.

What Is the Correct Tension for Guide Ropes?

The guide rope needs to be tight to hold the tent up firmly, protecting it from moving around with the wind. However, it should not be so tight that it begins to stretch out the tent itself, distorting the material. Tighten it such that there just enough room for wind to move it around but not enough to let it sway wildly. If the guide ropes are set up to be too tight, they can snap in highly windy conditions.

Generally, no hard and fast rule governs how tight a guide rope should be, so campers usually rely on their discretion. The weather plays a massive role in this decision because a tighter guide rope would fare better in calm weather, but you could rupture your tent if you tug on it mistakenly. 

You could loosen up your guide ropes if the pegs used in anchoring it cannot be fully pushed into the ground. Usually, the anchor should be put into the ground as deeply as possible, but if you lack the tools to push it all the way into the ground, ease the tension on the guide ropes. This would prevent the tent from pulling the guide ropes off the ground since they would not be as secure as they usually should.

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