Excellent advice guys, much appreciated. Yet another case where software (knowledge of how to use nature) is better than hardware (junk you buy at the store).
I've recently started carrying half the stakes I need and use some sticks instead. Hiking solo, it's a big plus as yet another task to keep my mind occupied and kill time by finding and fashioning a stick into a good stake. Plus, I don't own any stakes that would have worked in some of the sandy soil I encounter.
With our land becoming more developed and crowded, lots of people go into the woods because they are beautiful and wild. Unfortunately some people’s actions make these places much less beautiful than when they arrived (bushcrafters building chairs, tables, shelves, tripods, walls, huge fires, cutting trees, etc.) Do your best to make sure you’re not one of those people.
Have gear appropriate to HOW you're camping.
If you're backpacking...stick to the compromise ones that you're using already, and you can use a lot of the other suggestions you've received.
If you're car camping...carry something heavier/more useful in that situation. Heck, throw a mallet in the car to drive those suckers with if you need to. That's the beauty of car camping vs. backpacking...you aren't limited to what you're willing to carry far out on the trail.
My wife and I are going to go camping tomorrow night. I tend to hike in a bit...but I car camp with my wife. We'll be carrying stuff into where we want to setup with a small collapsible wagon. No reason for me to worry about which stakes to take...I'll take the ones I use for car camping with the wife.
When I'm hiking into a campsite with Weasel (my son)...I'll have all my gear on my back. Different scenario for me.
There's a great article by Ryan Jordan just posted on the BPL site if you have a membership. It's really about tarp camping - and very good at that but there is a good bit of discussion on stakes. I won't copy the article but there is a sidebar that is interesting. It states:
Ryan is actually now carrying 14 stakes - 8 MSR Carbon Cores (these look sweet) and 6 Vargo titanium skewers.Tent Stakes: More Stakes or Stronger Stakes?
Consider a moderate storm that delivers a 50 mph wind gust to your tarp such that the wind forces on the tarp transfer 120 pounds of force along one of the 8 foot long side edges of your tarp. If you only secured the two corners, you’d need stakes that have a holding power of 60 pounds each. Using data from Will Rietveld’s Tent Stake Holding Power and assuming you are camped in moist sod, you might consider the 9-inch Easton Tubular stake (rated at 66 lbs), for a total weight of one ounce.
However, consider the holding power of five lighter stakes, such as 6” titanium shepherd’s hooks, staked equidistant along the side edge of your tarp. If the simple assumption is made that each stake will absorb an equal amount of force, then the same 120 pounds is distributed among five stakes, imparting only 20 pounds of force per stake. Referring to Mr. Rietveld’s tables, which show that these stakes are rated for 31 pounds, so you actually have a total holding power of 5 x 31 = 155 pounds - more than the holding power of the two “robust” stakes described earlier.
In reality, my measurements show that nonlinear modeling is required and that the simple assumptions above don’t pan out in the field. In an experiment described exactly as above, I measured forces on the five skewer stakes to be less than 20 pounds each. My hypothesis is that the increased number of stakes created a shelter canopy with more lines of tension through it that resulted in less deflection (better wind spillage) and thus, less total force distributed to the stake-out points of the entire shelter when more stakes were used.
If you have access to the site be sure to read the article.
"There are places in this world that are neither here nor there, neither up nor down, neither real nor imaginary. These are the in-between places, difficult to find and even more challenging to sustain." - Thomas Moore
I just use a big enough stick that it has to be pounded into the ground with a heavy object like a hammer or rock. And I used a long enough stick so that it wont back its way out during high winds. Putting shock cord tension on your tarps will also help to keep the tarp's flapping motion down to a minimum and help keep your stakes from backing out.
I have also made stakes when needed....not only do they usually work great and can be made to order based on the situation, but once staked out, you get that sense of accomplishment and pride.