How to Pitch a Tent in Deep Snow

Posted on: December 9, 2019
By: Robyn Smith
How to Pitch a Tent in Deep Snow

For WinterCamp we set out to test our gear, knowledge, and resolve at 9000 feet (2700m) in the heart of the Rockies. Here is what the mountain taught us about pitching a Sibley Bell Tent in 3-4 feet (1m) of sugary snow:

How to Pitch a Tent in Deep Snow Using Dead Man Anchors

After settling on a spot with enough tree cover to break the wind yet a spectacular view of Byers Peak across the valley, we set to work packing down camp. Walking, stomping, and dancing our way in circles and then letting the sun melt and freeze the snow we were able to create a surprisingly flat surface, an essential component of a solid pitch.

3-4 feet (1m) of fine sugar in mid-February makes staking the tents to the earth impossible so we set to work digging pits 1.5 feet (45cm) long and roughly 1.5 feet (45cm) deep, 6 feet (2m) away from the tent for each guy line and 1 foot (30cm) away from the ground sheet grommet. Burying 16 inch (40cm) long pieces of wood with 3 feet (1m) of paracord centered beneath them, we left our anchors to set up and freeze in the ground for about an hour.
Using a simple half hitch we attached ground sheet grommets to their deadman anchors and set to raising the canvas. The tension required for a proper pitch will cause the center pole to sink in snow, sand, or any soft unstable surface; we used a strong flat board about 2 feet square (60cm²) to give the pole a solid plane to stand on.

The A-frame door pole on the 500 holds less weight and we were able to erect it without additional support. Using the same half hitch to attach the guy lines, we then applied tension and achieved a solid pitch for the 500.

In the interest of seeing how well the tent held up overtime we left the 500 standing for 2 weeks after WinterCamp came to an end. A windstorm with 55mph (90kmh) winds, according to some accounts gusting to 70mph (110kmh), blew through the valley taking down trees and powerlines no more than 100 yards (100m) away. The 500 remained entirely intact, without a single rip, tear, pole collapse, or guy line snap.

Unsatisfied with the level of abuse we decided to see what would happen as the snow melted away in the following week of unseasonably warm weather. Although not the prettiest girl at the dance, the 500 remained standing, with half of the guylines being held with only the weight of the deadman logs lying on the ground.