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Tent Pitching

Tent pitching started as an envious task. Oh to just have a tent to pitch, instead of this measly hole in the ground. However, times have changed and the unit has since acquired some canvas. With this in mind, we have compiled information on the bulk of tents that our unit will generally have to work with. The vast majority of material on this page has been taken from "FM 20-15 Tent Pitching".


The field manual seems to go about this in the reverse. It instructs you generally how to put up the tents BEFORE telling you where to put up the tents. The Army assumes you would have read the ENTIRE manual before you began, right? 

Great care should be exercised in selecting the correct tent site. Battle needs, however, may often necessitate the use of poor camp sites. 

Important points to remember are listed below:
a. The tent should be protected from wind and storms. Do not pitch the tent in an open field or on a ridge which offers no protection. If the wind is cold and it is necessary to leave one end of the tent open, pitch the closed end of the tent into the wind.

b. Choose high ground, if possible, because it will be drier.

c. If possible, choose an area having tough grass turf.

d. In hot weather, a shady area free of underbrush is desirable.

e. In the woods, avoid a location directly under dead trees or trees with large dead branches.

f. If the tent is being pitched by a river, lake, or other body of water, place it far enough back so that it is above the high watermark.

g. In mountainous country, avoid camping in canyons and next to dry creek beds. Such places have been known to fill up with rushing torrents in a remarkably short time.

h. Do not camp at the base of a cliff or steep mountainside where there may be danger from avalanches and rockfalls.

i. Choose level ground. The ground the tent is pitched on should be level and free from projecting roots of trees and large embedded rocks showing above the surface. This applies to an area extending about a foot beyond all sides of the walls, where a ditch should be dug to carry off water during a rain. When such a spot is not available, a place can often be leveled and cleared with very little work. In woods, moss and rocks may be used to smooth out the irregularities in the ground. It is particularly important to level the ground when pitching a tent for sleeping purposes.

Mistakes that the unit has made in the past:
a. Yes, it gets damn windy.
b. Yes, the low ground gets wet in a torrential downpour
c. Have not made this mistake, yet.
d. Yes, tents heat up in hot weather, free shade is good.
e. Yes, dead trees and branches will, generally, obey the laws of gravity.
f. Have not made this mistake, yet.
g. There exist more places, possibly less well known, that have filled up with rushing torrents in a remarkably short time.
h. Have not made this mistake, yet.
i. No ground is level after a few drinks.

Before selecting a camp site on a snow covered glacier (if you find one in Illinois, I'll give you $5), prod the surface with an ice or ski pole to see whether the snow conceals any  crevasses. It may be impossible to find an area entirely without crevasses but in order to avoid accidents their presence should be known.  When an adequate site on snow has been found, the snow should be packed hard by stamping on it with skis or snowshoes or, better still, the  top snow should be shoveled off until firm snow is found below. A doorstep dug a foot below the surface of the snow makes it easier to, get in  and out of the tent, and to brush off snow. It is important to leave some space between the sides of the tent and any protective snow wall so  that there is room to shovel out the snow which might drift in. Such a wall must not be high if snow is likely to drift. On any slope a horizontal  platform should be formed. The snow which is removed may be packed around the outer edge of the platform to widen the space for the tent.  The prevailing winds should be taken into consideration.

Tent, Mountain, Two-Man pitched white side out (better camouflage), entrance tied open using tapes. 
Rear guy line is tied to shrub, front and sides are staked in snow.
Kyle waits for food to heat up as Shawn fumbles with broken laces.

Metal pins are made from a good grade of steel rod or wire, and are strong enough to stand the strain of being forced into frozen ground or ice by means of force applied through the eye. These metal pins are now an item of issue with the two-man mountain tent and with other tents  for  Arctic use. All wooden pins currently issued receive a wood preservative treatment. In determining the serviceability of pins, look for cracks, splits, distorted ends, and broken or flattened points.

Different types of tent pins.

Short tent pins are driven vertically into the ground. Long tent pins are driven into the ground  at a 60 degree angle, with the top of the pin leaning toward the tent. All pins are driven with their notches away from the tent. Long  pins should not be driven vertically or away from the tent because of the natural contraction of canvas and ropes when exposed to dampness or rain. Such contraction causes high tension which may  become strong enough to  tear  canvas  or break ropes and pins. With the tent properly staked, the  pin will pull out of the ground and damage will be avoided. An exception to this rule is the assembly tent. The long pins of this tent are driven vertically into the ground. It is not safe to allow the pins of such a large tent to pull out of the ground due to the damage which would be caused if the tent collapsed. The danger of tearing canvas or breaking pins and lines is avoided by loosening the lines from within the tent, thus  relieving the tension on the  pins. To do this the tent is lowered or raised by adjusting the drift lines which are attached to the block and tackle assemblies on each main  pole,

In case of doubt as to the advisability of digging a trench around a tent, a safe rule to follow is, always dig the trench. If the tent is set up in very sandy soil which absorbs water as fast as it falls, or if it is located on a little mound which slopes off in all directions a trench may not be necessary. When the tent is being pitched on heavy soil, clay, or a flat rocky surface, ditches should always be dug because the surfaces of these soils hold water and will not readily absorb rain.

Figure 43. Cross section view of proper tent trenching.

(1)  Dig the trench all around the tent.
(2)  Do not dig the ditch in a V-shape but cut straight down, just outside the tent pins. Slope the side away from the tent inward toward this dam or straight side. (See fig. 43.)
(3)  When digging a ditch cast the dirt away; never pitch it against the tent, for it will quickly rot the canvas.
(4)  The ditch seldom needs to be more than  4 or 5 inches deep and in the shallowest places not over 3 inches. There should be enough slope in the ditch so that the water will flow freely toward the outlet and not back up.
(5)  At the lowest point of the area an outlet trench should be dug and connected to the ditch which has been dug around the tent to carry the water off. (See fig. 44.)
(6)  When there is a possibility that water may flow in from higher ground, a ditch should be dug to divert the water before it can reach the tent.

Figure 44. A trench outlet.


The mountain tent is a lightweight, waterproof, two-man tent for use in cold climates. It is reversible and may be pitched with either the  olive-drab or white side out, depending on which will provide the better camouflage. The tent, shelter-half, will not be issued when the two-man mountain tent is issued.

a. The tent made of cotton cloth, with its component parts, weighs 9 pounds 7 ounces. New tents which weigh 8 pounds 11 ounces are being  made of nylon. The stock number for both the cotton and nylon tents [sic] are the same. 

b. This tent is 54 1/2 inches wide,  82 inches long and 43 inches high.

c. The floor space of this tent is 30.7 square feet.

d. This tent has a ridge height of 43 inches and a wall height of 12 inches (formed by stretching guy ropes on each side). This gives the tent a 31-inch pitch.

e. The tent has one tunnel door, tubular in shape, 27 inches in diameter, and 24 inches long. This tunnel entrance may be tied up tight either from the inside or the outside by means of the tie string. Wind tie string around the tunnel entrance as if the entrance were the mouth of a bag and fasten it with a half hitch. The entrance may be kept wide open by tying the tabs on the edge of the tunnel together.

f. The floor is sewed into the tent. Special care should be taken not to tear the floor with nails of boots.

g. Ventilators 8  inches in diameter, covered with mosquito netting, are at each end of the tent. Ventilation is of the greatest importance in  the mountain tent because the cloth is absolutely airtight. In good weather the ventilators are kept wide open by hooking them up to the guy  ropes; in storms, they are left hanging loosely to provide adequate protection as well as ventilation. Only under exceptional circumstances  are the ventilators closed with the tapes. This should never be done when the cook stove is lighted because of the danger of carbon monoxide. In  cold weather there is an additional reason for leaving them open. Unless the moisture caused by breathing and cooking can pass off into the outside air, it forms as frost inside on the roof of the tent. In a wind this shakes off and wets the clothes and sleeping bags.

h. Since the interior of the tent is extremely susceptible to dampness, the following individual precautions should be taken:
(1) Each man must take great care to brush all the snow off his clothes and boots before entering the tent. Snow in the tent will melt and wet sleeping  bags and clothes.
(2)  One man should enter he tent first and take the sleeping bags, packs, and other articles from the other man after the latter has brushed them off completely.

Mountain tents with both white and green sides out.
Reclaiming our Heritage, 2010

a. Wind considerations. 
The tent should be pitched with one of the back corners, rather than a side or the front, facing toward the wind. If the tent is pitched on snow with the entrance directly down wind, the entrance may become blocked, since snow tends to pile up in the lee of any object.

b.  General procedure. One man can erect the tent in approximately 10 minutes by following these directions:
(1)  Place the side of the tent having the desired color on the outside.
(2) Divide the tent pole sections into four groups, each group having 
a bottom section with a spiked end, a middle section, and a top section 
with an eye and disk, or a rectangular wire loop.
(3) Assemble two of the poles in the outside sleeves in the front of the tent. (The sleeves are found inside and outside the tent along the seams which join the sides to the front and to the back.) Slip the spindles on the bottoms of the poles through the loops in the bottom corners of the tent.
(a)  If the poles have rectangular wire loops at the top, slip one loop through the other. Twist the pole a half-turn, to lock them together.
(b)  If  the poles have eyes and disks  at the  top, place the eyes over each other. Slip the toggle through both eyes and through the grommet at the peak of the tent. Lock the toggle.
(4)  Assemble the rear poles  similarly.
(5)  Attach the guy ropes to the webbing loops on the front and rear peaks of the tent.
(6)  Stake out the front and rear guy ropes on tent pins.
(7)  Attach side guys to loops on the sides of the tent.
(8)  Stake out the side guy ropes on tent pins. Both ropes may be attached to the same pin.
(9)  To anchor the corners, tie ropes to the loops at the corners and stake them to the front or back pin.

c.  Special procedure. 

(1) In rocky terrain, it may be impossible to drive the tent pins into the ground. In that case, attach the guy ropes to  rocks.

(2)  If the snow on which the tent is pitched is loose and powdery, the guy ropes may be attached to ski poles or ice axes, which are driven down into the snow after it has been packed; or they may be attached to a "dead man" anchor. This is made by burying a tent pin or stick horizontally in a hole in the snow and stamping the snow on top of the anchor until it is thoroughly packed.

d. When tent alone is used. It is not always necessary to carry the complete unit. Occasionally in wooded terrain the tent alone is used in order  to achieve maximum mobility and to save weight. In such cases, the corners are staked down with and sticks or stones that are available; then the front and rear guy ropes are also staked with available sticks or rocks. If the ridge of the tent sags, it may be supported by the loop which is in the center of the ridge. Skis and ski poles may be used in place of tent poles  and pins.

When camp is broken, the mountain tent must be handled carefully if it has frozen in place as a result of successive thawing and freezing. Shovels must be used with the greatest care, since it is easy to rip the tent while digging it out. Ice remaining on the tent should be carefully  removed before the tent is packed up.


The normal use of this tent is for the shelter of officers when in the field and not in combat. It has a capacity of two individuals. When necessary, this tent may also be used as a small storage tent.

Shawn & Cindy cool off under a small wall tent that has been set up as an office and sleeping quarters.
Reclaiming our Heritage, 2010


Normally this tent will be used either as an officers' mess or as an office in battalion and higher headquarters when so authorized. It may,  however, be used for the storage of supplies or for the quartering of personnel. When used for quartering personnel, its capacity is 8 men  without a stove and 6 men with a stove installed. It has a normal capacity, when used for  mess  purposes, of 20 to 22 men, depending on whether tables 8 1/2 or 10 feet long are used. When equipped with folding camp tables for office purposes, it has a capacity of approximately 12 men.

Shawn works in a Large Wall tent set up as sleeping quarters/display at the Illinois State Fair, 2010.


a. Preliminary arrangements. The officer or noncommissioned officer in charge selects suitable ground. He indicates the direction in which the tent is to face, the line on which the tent is to be placed, and the position of the door pin. It requires approximately 20 minutes for four men to pitch the large and small wall tents.

b.  Procedure for each tent. 
(1) Drive a pin to mark the center of the door.
(2)  Spread the tent on the ground it is to occupy, placing the door foot stops over the door pin.
(3)  Draw the front corners taut, align, and pin down.
(4)  Lace the rear door, if there is one.
(5)  Draw the rear corners taut in both directions and pin down.
(6)  Drive the four eave line pins on each corner in prolongation of the diagonals of the tent and about two paces beyond the corner pins.
(7)  Loosen the front door.
(8)  Loosen the two corner foot stops from the corner pins on one side only.
(9)  Insert the ridge pole between the ventilation strip and the tent ridge.
(to)  Insert the spindle of the upright poles in the ridge pole and in the grommets of the tent.
(11)  Raise the tent and hold it in position.
(1 2)  Replace the two loosened corner foot stops and secure and tighten the guy lines to hold the poles vertical.
(13)  Drive the wall pins through the foot stops as they  hang, and finally, drive intermediate cave-line pins in alignment, with the caveline pins already driven.

a. Remove all pins, except those of the four cave lines on the corners and the corner wall pins on the down-wind side, and place them in a receptacle.
b.  Have the men unfasten the guy lines and hold them while the tent is being lowered.
c.  Lower the tent down wind.
d.  Remove the poles and remaining corner wall pins. Fasten the poles together and collect the remaining pins.

a. Spread the tent flat on the ground, folded at the ridge so that the bottoms of the side walls are even, the sod cloth folded under, and the ends of the tent forming triangles to the right and left.
b.  Fold in the bottom of the wall approximately one foot.
c.  Fold the triangular ends of the tent in toward the middle to form a rectangle.
d.  Fold the top over about 9 inches.
e.  Fold the tent again by carrying the top fold over to the foot, and again from the top to the foot.
f.  Throw all  the cave and guy lines onto the tent except the second eave line from each end.
g.  Fold the ends in so as to cover about two-thirds of the width of the second panel.
h.  Double the left fold over the number of times required to bring the resulting bundle into position 3 to 5 inches from the right fold.
i.  Place the  right fold in position on top completing the bundle.
j.  Tie the bundle with the two exposed eave lines.


A M1934 Pyramidal with sides down and tent hood. Identical one in foreground and 2 tents down.
Small Wall Fly also seen. 

The main purpose of this tent is for the quartering of personnel. The  maximum capacity of the tent is eight men when the tent stove is not used. However, for reasons of greater comfort and sanitation, it is limited to six men when the supply of tentage permits. When the tent stove is used, the maximum capacity is six men. Because of its distinctive shape, it is easily observed from the air; for this reason more  than usual care should be taken to camouflage it properly. This tent is a limited standard item of issue and will eventually be replaced by the squad tent; M-1942.

a.  Preliminary arrangements. The commander designates the line on which the tents are to be erected. The line of tents is marked by driving a wall pin on the spot to be occupied by the right front corner of each tent. The interval between adjacent marking pins should be 30 feet. This leaves a space of about 2 feet between tents. Each tent is usually erected by the squad which will occupy it. It takes four men approximately 30 minutes to erect this tent.

b.  Procedure. 
(1) Spread canvas. Spread the tent on the ground which it is to occupy, door to the front. Lace the corners of the tent wall, tie the door fasteners, and place the right front corner foot stop over the corner pin already driven.
(2)  Drive left front corner wall pin. Carry the left front corner foot stop as far  to the left as it will go and drive a short pin through it in line with the right corner pin already driven.
(3)  Drive rear corner wall pins. Pull the rear corner foot stops to the rear and outward, so that the bottom of  the rear wall of the tent will stretch to complete the square. Then drive the pins through these foot stops with each rear corner pin directly to the  rear of its corresponding front corner pin, forming the square. Unless the canvas is wet, allow a small amount of slack before driving the corner pins.
(4)  Adjust center pole and hood. Have three men crawl under the tent and fit the center pole into the plate of the chain and plate assembly. Adjust the hood.
(5)  Raise tent. With a man steadying each corner line, have the men underneath the tent, raise the tent.
(6)  Adjust corner lines. Place the four corner lines over the lower notches of the large pins, which are driven in prolongation of the diagonals at such distances as to hold the walls and ends of the tent vertical and smooth when the eave lines are drawn taut.
(7)  Insert side-wall upright poles. Place the four side-wall upright poles, one at each corner, in a vertical  position with the spindle inserted through the grommet in the tent.
(8)  Drive remaining pins and adjust lines. Drive a small wall pin through each remaining foot stop and a large pin for each eave line in line with the four corner-line  pins already driven. Place the cave lines over the lower notches of the large pins and draw all the lines taut.

a. Remove pins. Remove all pins except those of the four corner lines and the two rear corner wall pins. Pile them, or place them in a container.

b. Remove the four side-wall upright poles.

c. Lower  tent. With one man holding each corner line, slowly lower the tent to the rear. Fasten the poles together and collect the remaining pins.

a.  Procedure for each tent.  
(1)  Pull canvas smooth. Pull the back wall and top canvas out smooth. This is done by leaving the rear corner wall pins in the ground with the foot stops attached. One man at each corner line and one or two men holding the chain and plate assembly perpendicular, pull the canvas to its limit away from the former front of the tent. This places the three remaining  sides of the tent on top of the rear side, with the door side in the middle.
(2)  Straighten right side of tent. To straighten the right side wall and top canvas, carry the right front corner over and lay it on the left front corner. Pull the canvas smooth and the bottom edges even. Throw the eave lines toward the chain and plate assembly. Return the right front corner to the right in order to cover the right rear corner. This folds the right side of the tent on itself with a crease in the middle. This fold will now be under the front side of the tent.
(3)  Straighten left side of tent. To straighten the left side wall and top canvas, carry the left front corner to the right and rear in a similar fashion. This will leave the front and rear sides of the tent lying smooth, and flat and the two side walls folded inward, each on itself.
(4)  Make sure the sod cloth is folded under all around the tent.
(5)  Fold tent length-wise. Fold in the  bottom of the wall approximately 1 foot. Fold the chain and plate assembly downward toward the bottom of the tent. Place the hood on the chain and plate assembly. The tent is now folded with the chain and plate assembly as a  core, all folds being placed down flat and smooth and parallel to the bottom of the tent. If each fold is compactly made and the canvas is kept smooth, the last fold will exactly cover the lower edge of the canvas.
(6)  Arrange lines on tent. Lay all the exposed eave lines, except the two on the center panel, along the folded canvas. Pull these two out and away from the bottom edge to their extreme length so that they may be used later for the final tying of the bundle.
(7)  Complete folding of bundle. Fold the bundle from one end toward  the center at the first seam (that is, the seam joining the first and second panels). Fold the bundle again toward the center so that the canvas already folded will come within about 3 inches of the middle panel. Fold the bundle once again to the far seam of the middle panel. Starting from the opposite end of the bundle, fold the first panel width in  half. Fold this again. This will bring it about 4 or 5 inches from the part of the tent already folded from the first end. Throw this second fold completely over the part already folded.
(8)  Tie bundle. Draw the exposed eave lines taut toward and across one another so that they are at right angles. Turn the bundle over on the eave lines. Cross the lines again on the new top of the bundle. Turn the bundle over again on the crossed lines and tie the lines with a slipknot.

b.  Bundle.  
(1) When properly tied and pressed together the bundle will be about 11 by 23 by 34 inches.
(2)  The unit designation, stenciled on the upper half of the middle width of canvas in the back wall, will appear on the exposed top of the bundle.


An Armbruster M-1942 Command Tent on display at Rockford, 2010.

This tent is used in theatres of operation to provide office shelter for staff sections of the several command echelons. It will eventually  take  the place of the small wall tent. The command post tent is constructed so that it may be completely blacked out, and for this reason it may be safely used in the combat area without fear of observation. When necessary, this tent may be used for the quartering of two officers

a.  Preliminary arrangements. The officer or noncommissioned officer in charge selects suitable ground. He indicates the direction in which the tent is to face and the exact position of the entrance. This tent is pitched by five men in approximately 30 minutes.

b.  Procedure 
(1)  Spread canvas. Spread the tent on the ground with the inside entrance facing the area or direction which has already been designated.
(2)  Drive corner pins. Drive the right front corner pin, square off the tent, and drive the other three corner  pins.
(3)  Drive eave-line pins on  corners. Drive the three eave-line pins on each open corner diagonally opposite each other, from right to left. Set  the fourth (entrance corner) eave-line pin one and one-half upright pole lengths from the corner pin, diagonally across from the  opposite corner eave-line pin.
(4)  Adjust ridge ventilators. Set  the ventilation strips in all three ridge ventilators.
(5)  Insert ridge pole. Open the rear door flaps  and insert the ridge pole.
(6)  Adjust upright ridge poles. Place the spindles on the two upright poles through the holes in the ridge pole and through the grommets in the tent, with the upright poles lying along the right  side of the tent.
(7)  Raise tent. Loosen the two corner pins and hold  the two eave lines on the side which is still staked and raise the tent.
(8)  Adjust eave lines near the corner of tent. Put the two corner foot stops back over the short pins and set and tighten the four  eave lines  near the corners (calling the outside entrance of the door a corner).
(9)  Adjust remaining lines and insert remaining upright poles. Set the remaining eave-line pins and place the upright poles in position. Place and tighten all lines and stake the remaining wall pins. Place the window screens in position.

a.  Remove pins. Remove all the wall pins except the two left corner pins.
b.  Remove eave lines and upright poles. With two men holding the upright poles which support the ridge pole, loosen and remove all  cave lines. Remove the remainder of the upright  poles.
c.  Lower tent. With two men holding the ridge pole supports and two men holding the cave lines at the right side corners, allow the tent to fall to the left toward the two corners which are still pinned down.
d.  Remove metal strips from the ventilators.

a.  Straighten canvas. Pull  the ridge corners away from the pinned down side so that the bottoms of the side walls are even, the sod cloth folded under, and the ends of the tent forming a triangle to the left and right.
b.  Remove two remaining corner pins.
c.  Fold entrance. Fold the outside entrance across the tent side.
d.  Place the loose-side eave lines on the tent.
e.  Fold the tent lengthwise. Grasp each corner of the ridge and fold the tent lengthwise to a position 1 foot from the bottom of the wall. Fold in the bottom of the wall approximately 1 foot.
f.  Place remaining lines on tent. Place all loose cave lines still showing, except the second from each end, on the tent fold.
g.  Complete folding. Fold each end over almost to the center and then fold together, making a neat bundle approximately 15 x 28 x 30 inches.
h.  Tie bundle. Tie the bundle using the two cave lines which were left loose for this purpose.