How to Pitch a Tent on a Wooden Platform

Tent Platform, Guyot Campsite, New Hampshire Appalachian trail

Tent Platform, Guyot Campsite, New Hampshire Appalachian trail

I really hate tent platforms. They are terrible to sleep on if you have an ultralight tent or tarp because you can’t stake them down easily. That isn’t my tent in the photo above, but you can really see how a self-standing tent with am exoskeleton would be advantageous if you had to sleep on tent platforms a lot. Damn heavy though.

I remember one terrible night I spent at the Imp Campsite along the New Hampshire Appalachian Trail, where I had to set up a Six Moons Lunar Solo on a tent platform. The Lunar Solo uses a single hiking pole and 6 stakes. I must have used about 150 feet of cord to lash it to the platform, only to freeze in it on a very windy night.

There was another time last year when I had to camp on a platform near Old Speck Mountain on the Maine AT with a tarp. That was a disaster. We had very heavy rain that night which pooled on the platform deck and wet out my bug bivy. Contrary to design, the rain water stays on top of the platform boards and doesn’t run down between them. Go figure.

Tent Platform on Maine Appalachian Trail

Tent Platform, Maine Appalachian Trail

I can think of lots of other platform war stores: Bromley Mountain and Mount Killington on the Long Trail in Vermont, Valley Way on Mt Madison in the White Mountains, the list goes on. I really hate the things.

If there’s no other way, it is possible stake a frameless tent or a tarp to a platform using screw-eyes instead of stakes. I carry these with me in my gear repair kit, just in case.

Sleeping in hammocks is also an alternative to platforms. They’re also good for areas like the White Mountains in New Hampshire where it can be a challenge to find a good camping site at higher elevations due to slope angle or brush density.

Personally, I’m in a post hammock phase because my Hennessey had such a narrow temperature range: too hot in summer and too cold, even in mild spring or fall temperatures. Plus, once you’ve savored the lightness and flexibility of a tarp, there is no turning back. I guess that’s why I have no aversion to walking off-trail and stealth camping (wild camping in the UK).

Regardless of the terrain, I’ve had pretty good luck finding nice sites with just a tarp because they don’t require as much space as a tent or even a hammock. As a rule of thumb, there are usually good sites near streams and rivers, which is handy for camping and cooking. I’ve tested this heuristic out all over New England and it works pretty reliably, even in the mountains.

How do you find good wild sites to camp in?

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20 Responses to How to Pitch a Tent on a Wooden Platform

  1. Thomas W. Gauperaa July 12, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

    You should try an underquilt and maybe a weather shield to warm up that hammock of yours :). Take a look at : Can't beat a tarp for weight hough.

  2. Earlylite July 13, 2010 at 3:34 am #

    Jeff has a great site and if you're trying to stretch your hammock's temp range, there are a lot of good ideas on it.

    I have a weather shield and just sold my hammock and my JRB down nest, so it's too late to experiment more with the HH. But if a warbonnet were to appear on my doorstep, I'd have another go, maybe. :-)

  3. Damien Tougas July 13, 2010 at 4:34 am #

    Yeah, I can't stand the things either. I had an interesting struggle with one that I blogged about last year on the NH portion of the AT at Gentian Pond:

  4. Earlylite July 13, 2010 at 4:47 am #

    There's a picture in this trip report of my tent site at Gentian Pond….
    I skipped the platforms and just walked into the woods a ways to camp on the ground.

    I think we hike in the same neck of the woods. If you go back there, check out dream lake and the Peabody Brook Trail.… Your kids will love the water falls on it.

  5. debmonster July 13, 2010 at 6:40 am #

    Platforms do serve a good purpose to minimize erosion and concentrate impact into a small area, especially for such a high use region as the White Mts. I use an ultralight Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo tent and am able to set it up on a tent platform with fairly little trouble by adding about 1-2 ft. of extra lightweight cord (ex. Kelty Triptease, which add less than an ounce) to the stake-out loops. This allows me to either stake out the tent into the ground, or more often, I tie it out onto sticks that I wedge in the space between the slats of the platform, or tie it out to heavy rocks that I place on top of the platform. I've used this method for about 2 years and am able to get a very taut pitch. I've got a great photo of 2 ultralight tents pitched onto one platform this way if you want to see it.

  6. Walter Underwood July 13, 2010 at 7:29 am #

    Platforms are also cold because of the free air circulation below them. You can warm up the ground beneath you, but you can't warm up free air.

    Hmm, maybe you could stay dry with a really, really big tarp that covered the whole platform.

    I do understand why platforms are provided, for concentrating use in areas that don't have much flat. It is good LNT practice, even if they don't work well for light shelters.

  7. rob July 13, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    I haven't used them up north, but in the Okefenokee in Georgia – it's either platforms or swimming with the 'gators. The eyebolts worked well for wrapping the platforms in tarps.

  8. Earlylite July 13, 2010 at 4:46 pm #

    deb – I'd love to see your photo. I like the stick trick. Very Clever.

  9. Damien Tougas July 13, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    Hey, maybe we should catch-up some time for a day hike in the Whites…

  10. Earlylite July 13, 2010 at 4:58 pm #

    In the fall would be nice. Do you live up near Grafton Notch? I'd be coming up from the Boston Area. There's also the sectionhiker picnic I'm planning for the fall too.

  11. Damien Tougasq July 13, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    Fall would be great. Yes, we live quite close to Grafton Notch. We also like to spend time around North Conway as well. Picnic… now that sounds fun!

  12. Tom Murphy July 14, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    I understand your frustration that tent platforms don't work well for a tarp set-up but they are not intended for that purpose.

    I think we can agree that they serve the "majority" of backpackers who are not quite LNT nor UL.

    I am very glad that there are not multiple camp sites along the Bondcliff Trail or n the col between Bond and Guyot.

    How do hardened sites like 13 Falls work for you?

  13. Earlylite July 14, 2010 at 5:34 pm #

    I walked by the pathway to the sites but didn't go over and look at them. Are they packed earth?

  14. Tom Murphy July 15, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

    Yes, packed earth. I have some pics of my bridge hammock set up at 13 Falls on my Facebook. Tommy

  15. John Forrest August 15, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    There's some backpack places in where the rangers requires you use platforms. One nice advantage of platforms they are great in rainy weather, but yes they are a pain to sleep on unless you bring along a small air mattress. I was so frustrated I didn't bother to set up tent; I just just covered myself up with it. One idea would bring some long nails or pointed stakes you can nail in (use a flat rock for hammer). The platform would probably get all full of nail holes, but what can you do?

  16. eddie s August 16, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    I'm rather torn in two about this subject. As a kid camping in the Adirondacks we often came across State built Tent Platforms at known and well used Campsites which had steel eyelets already screwed into the platforms and on a few Islands out on the lakes you'd find Platforms as well..They actually protected the sites from over use. Being as the area got a lot of rain in the summer months it was actually a help to be able to set up your Tent on the Plaform and have the rain drain off without causing a problem. On the other hand, if you were not prepared with a tent that was self supporting without having to stake it down to keep it upright you had a problem for it was against the Rules to set up a tent anywhere else should a Platform be there. And in those days the Rangers actually Patroled the Lakes and checked on things. The last time I was on that trail I found the Platforms are now gone and the Campsite was an environmental diaster as far as I was concerned..The State at work again… Now they sit in their trucks with Binoculars, if they even show up anywhere. So as a Teenager what I learned to do was to carry six small brass screw in hooks which I used to attached the ropes and guyline to,l to set the tent up. Later I bought one of the first on the Market Eureka Timberlines which after what 40 years are still on the Market for less than $125.00? A great tent.I now use a tarp tent so I am back to carrying the six brass screw in hooks which come in handy for screwing into the base of trees and tying off from there. And there reuseable….It is just a matter of doing your homework and being prepared for any eventuality especially when it comes to something so important as shelter….

  17. Jo May 23, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    you’re a bloody rag, you’re not supposed to camp on rivers and streams. 200′ you moron.

    • Earlylite May 23, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

      200 feet is 70 steps.- that’s pretty close in my book. Isn’t calling me a moron, a bit extreme? I’m an LNT trainer, not one of the bad guys.

  18. eddie s May 27, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    In defense of Earlylite from the likes of Jo….I cannot tell you how many Federal and State Campsites I have come across that have been closer than 200 feet to the water. I guess you better write them a letter and inform them. You can Start with the State of Georgia for one and then Alabama and the Tallendega National Forest for a second…

    The Platform Sites at the Chatthoochee Bend State Diaster area, er Park, are less than 30 feet away from the River. As are a dozen or so picnic sites. This State Park is the absolutely the most gosh awful worst designed State Park I have ever been too…It was quite obviously designed by someone who drew pretty pictures on a BluePrint but had never ever gone tent or RV camping in their life time and probably got paid $500,000 for the design…

    The Tent Platform sites are in the middle of a flood prone area with the nearest bathroom some 200 yards away. Same with Water. Except for the fast flowing River itself and I can see some child getting water and getting dragged away by the River due to it’s speed at that point….The Trees around the RV Sites have been erased from the earth so your RV Air Conditoner will be running 24/7 and the area they call the Adirondack Camp to house some 40 campers has neither Bathrooms nor Water within a reasonable distance, in fact you have to get in your car to drive to find them…The Fire Pit, literally at the Tent sites are similar to cut in quarter 50 gallon steel drums with no grate to rest your pots on…They Platforms do have to tall posts to hang a Hammock from, but it better have Mosquito netting cause your gonna get eaten alive due to the area being wet most of the time and a great breeding area for every bug you can think of….And yes, I did write them since one very embarrassed “Ranger” in the well designed and well thought out “Gift Shop” told me that they were building it’s twin at Lake Lenier…It was very obvious they spent more time designing the Gift Shop and all the cute Logo Trinkets to soak the tourist dollars up than designing the camping areas…And I am finding this to be the norm with State and Federal Sites…See Rangers don’t leave their air conditioned offices much these days and only work Mon-Fri 9-5 and contract out the real work…In fact the last Controlled Burn Team I came across using Federal Vehicles, were a Contract Crew, you cannot expect a Ranger to get their uniform Dirty and Smokey it harms their appearance and might tarnish the finish on their Guns…

    • Earlylite May 27, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

      Same thing in the White Mountains – many forest service $$ sites – not even with platforms – next to streams. Ground trampled flat. Abominations.

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