Snow stakes are designed to anchor a tent in compacted snow. They aren’t absolutely necessary to pitch a winter tent—you can also create anchors by using buried objects in the snow, or “deadmen”—but they are certainly convenient, if a bit heavy.
Not a lot of companies make snow stakes, however, and the design is largely identical across most brands: a 9-inch piece of aluminum, sides curved inward, with large holes along its length where snow can penetrate and freeze (or sinter) to create a strong anchor.
The lack of alternative designs surprises me somewhat. I’m dubious that the standard snow stake design—though it does work reasonably well—couldn’t be improved somehow. In particular, I find the lack of a substantial hook on the top of the stake makes it more challenging to secure a tent anchor loop or guy line. Surely a better design could be created that features more than just a tiny curved-over lip of aluminum on the top?
Well, I did find at least two alternatives — the Toughstake and Suluk 46 Titanium Snow Stake — which both feature radically different designs (see below). First, though here’s a quick round-up of the standard snow stake options:
SMC Sno-Tent Stake, $2.50 to $3, depending where you buy. Available at REI, among other places. The color (or lack thereof) makes them slightly harder to keep track of than either the REI Snow Stake ($3, pictured above), which is bright orange; or the bright red MSR Blizzard Snow Tent Stake ($4.95). Per listed specs, all three options hover around 1 ounce per stake.
Now on to the alternatives. First the Toughstake, which features an aluminum paddle-like design. The wide paddle “blade” is at the bottom of the 9-inch stake and features a wire guyline that extends outwards to a metal ring. I’m intrigued by the design, but the metal ring is a significant drawback—you’d need to improvise an attachment system for a tent loop or just use the top T-style loop attachment. It’s a bit heavier than a standard snow stake (1.18 ounces) and runs $24.95 for a pack of four.
The other option I found is the Suluk 46 Titanium Snow Stake, This radical rethink of snow stake design is shorter (6.5 inches) but much wider (3 inches) than other models and seems to offer considerable versatility for different anchoring options. It’s also half the weight of other snow stakes (0.5 ounce), but four to eight times the price ($90 for a pack of four).