The short answer? Guy lines are only necessary in heavy winds and rain, if your tent is prone to condensation and if your tent is not freestanding.
Does camping turn you into a lazy person?
I know the feeling.
You want to read books, sunbathe and go for a swim, but what you don’t want to do is pitch your tent.
So when you get to the part where you need to string your guy ropes, it’s no surprise that the question “are guy lines even necessary?” comes to mind.
Well, I have some good news for you. Strictly speaking, they’re not needed on 90% of your camping trips, but it’s usually a better experience when you use them.
To answer that question, let’s first take a look at the purpose of guy lines.
Why Guy Lines Are Used
You may think they’re used to keep your tent from flying away, and while they can certainly play a role in that, that’s usually the main task of your tent’s stakes.
Guy lines on the other hand, are primarily used for the following:
- To keep your tent tense: Rough camping nights are almost always caused by noise keeping you awake. It’s either an owl, a crying baby or… the flapping of your tent. That noise is basically your tent telling you to use its guy lines next time there’s too much wind.
- To prevent condensation: Guy lines pull your rainfly outwards, away from the inner tent. This creates a gap of air, allowing more air to flow. This is important when there’s a significant temperature difference between the inside and outside of your tent, such as when you go winter camping.
- To prevent leaks: If it’s raining heavily, make sure you use your guy lines to pull your rainfly outwards so it doesn’t touch your inner tent. Rainflies are never completely waterproof. It would be more accurate to call them water-resistant. The rain doesn’t come inside because it drips off the bottom of your rainfly, but this changes when your rainfly touches your inner tent. The moisture is now passed to your inner tent and will seep in over time.
- To fully pitch your tent: Not all tents are freestanding. Some tents require you to use guy ropes to utilize all parts of your tent, such as the screen porch or vestibule area.
Usually Unnecessary But Worth The Effort
Based on the five purposes of guy lines, we can conclude that you want to use guy lines in the following situations:
- In heavy winds that can cause your tent to collapse or fly. The fewer tent poles your tent has, the weaker it is and the sooner you need to use the guy lines.
- If your tent features a piece of fabric that makes annoying flapping sounds when it’s windy. Unnecessary, but it does make your life much easier.
- If your tent is prone to condensation or if there’s a great temperature difference between the inside and outside of your tent.
- If it’s raining heavily.
- If your tent is not freestanding.
How Do You Use Guy Lines?
I admit they can be confusing if you’re a novice camper, but it’s truly child’s play once you understand how they work.
Guy lines have two components:
- The adjuster
The adjuster is used to—you guessed it—adjust the tension (i.e. length) of your guy lines.
I could explain step by step how to use the adjusters on your lines, but I think a video would be easier to understand:
Related article: How Tight Should Guy Lines Be?
If Your Guy Lines Don’t Do Their Job Properly
Not all guy lines are made of equal quality. In fact, many of them loosen overnight, leaving you with a saggy tent that needs constant adjusting.
If you’re experiencing this problem, consider looking into Clam Cleat Line-Loks (these work for guy lines with a diameter of 1 to 2.5 mm).
They work pretty much the same way as your adjusters, but they’re made of higher quality and won’t loosen unless you want them to.
Check out the video below for instructions on how to install them on your guy lines:
I would like to end this article with a question:
What was your worst experience with guy ropes?
Mine was when I tripped over them during a nighttime pee, resulting in a decent tear in my tent fabric.
I guess reflective guy ropes aren’t superfluous after all…