How to set up a non free standing tent on a tent platform


I love my tent, I love sleeping in the dirt. But in the White Mountains National Forest of New Hampshire you can’t just set up your tent anywhere. The (sub) alpine environment is fragile and rough so established sites have wooden tent platforms. For years I dreaded using the those platforms. How was I going to set up my non free standing tent? Normally I use ten tent stakes to get a taut pitch so I had my doubts I could pull it off. 

Last fall I had a trip planned to Nauman tent site for Redline Guiding near the Mizpah hut in the Presidential range so I had to bite the bullet. We arrived early and had plenty of time to figure it out. What I learned then came in handy last month when I backpacked with my niece and stayed at Kinsman pond, Liberty Springs, Garfield, Guyot and Nauman tent sites ($10 fee per person, discount available for AT thru hikers, ask the care taker).  All of these have wooden tent platforms and by the end of the trip we were pros at using them to get a good set up.

I’ve written down a few tips and included photos to share what I learned. If you have anything to add feel free to leave a comment. 

-You will often be asked to share a platform since space can be limited. It is okay to use the dirt around the platform to stake out your fly or guy lines ( I asked the caretaker). 


-Instead of using stakes to secure your tent you can use small sticks, rocks, or the metal rings on the side of the platform. Sometimes a triangular stake or thicker round stake will fit, skinny titanium ones won’t work. 


-The biggest challenge for us was to get the back end taut enough. This didn’t always work because of limited space but we were able to secure the guy lines using sticks and rocks so the tent was secure even if the fly wasn’t tight. 

-The toughest set up was when we had to share a larger platform with two other tents with guys we’d never met before. Be patient, be friendly and share anchors and possibly stakes, it’ll all work out. We didn’t get the best set up but I could have tightened it up a bit if it had rained. 


Dirt will always have my preference but the terrain in the Whites is fragile and challenging and now that I know I can get a good setup I no longer dread the platforms. And as a bonus there are usually bear boxes, privvies and a good water source! It beats having to dig a hole early in the morning. ; )


PS The tents we use are ‘The One’ by Gossamer Gear. (I believe they are currently sold out but should be back in stock mid August). 

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