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Reviews > Shelters > Shelter Accessories > MSR Carbon Core Stakes > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

MSR Carbon-Core Stakes
By Raymond Estrella

August 29, 2012


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 52
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 225 lb (102.00 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.

The Product

Manufacturer: Mountain Safety Research, Inc. (MSR) Carbon-Core stake, solo
Web site:
Product: Carbon-Core Stakes
Year manufactured: 2012
MSRP (package of 4): US $27.95
Weight listed each: 0.19 oz (5.5 g)
Actual weight each: 0.19 oz (5.4 g)
Length listed: 6 in (15 cm) verified accurate
Diameter of shaft: 0.26 in (6.5 mm)
Diameter of head: 0.67 in (17 mm)

Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty

The MSR Carbon-Core is hands-down the lightest "real" stake I have used. Lighter than the titanium hook stakes I used to carry the Carbon-Cores hold much better. The only drawback I have found is the steep price, but the weight savings and better performance make it worth it in my opinion. Please read on for the details.

Product Description

Carbon-Core stakes, group

The MSR Carbon-Core Tent Stakes (hereafter referred to as the Carbon-Core or stake) is a neat little piece of design work aimed right at the backpacker who values low weight.
1.25 mm Spectra cord
The heart of the Carbon-Core is, well, its carbon core. It has an Easton carbon core. (Easton is the folks famous for their carbon fiber arrows.)

The carbon core is wrapped with a 7075 aluminum alloy jacket. 7075 is one of the strongest aluminum alloys and is known for its resistance to corrosion.

At one end a red anodized machined 7075 alloy point has been pressed on. At the other end is a translucent red poly-carbonate head that has been pressed on to the shaft and glued, I presume. The shaft is inserted 0.6 in (15 mm) inside the head. The head is adorned on top with the MSR logo, and a small hole has been drilled through the head to allow a cord to be run through to assist in pulling the stake from the ground.

After my first trip I decided to add some very narrow gauge Spectra cord to my stakes, as seen in the picture to the right.

Field Data

With a BA Seedhouse

I have used the Carbon-Cores with three different tents on approximately a dozen two or three-day backpacking trips, and one camping trip, all in Minnesota (MN). Locations have been along the Red River of the North near Hendrum and Halstad, Paul Bunyan, Two Inlets and Smokey Hills State Forests, Chippewa National Forest, Lake Bronson and Old Mill State Parks and on the Superior Hiking Trail along the Beaver River. Temperatures have ranged from lows of 34 F (1 C) to highs of 88 F (31 C) in conditions from sunny, hot and humid to stormy and raining. Terrain in MN is mostly good soil with rocky areas near the lakes, and a lot of rock on the Superior Hiking Trail. Probably the rockiest lake location was at McCarty Lakes in the Paul Bunyan State Forest where the shot above was taken.

They were also used on an overnighter on the North Country Trail at its western terminus at very windy Lake Sakakawea State Park (seen below) and for four days of hiking on the Maah Daah Hey Trail in Sully Creek State Park, the Little Missouri National Grasslands, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park (south unit) all in North Dakota. Terrain is fairly good, some rocks and weird tarry stuff on the Maah Daah Hey.

Windy Seedhouse


I have been a shelter nut for a long time. I love trying out new backpacking tents and reviewed or written about a whopping 38 tents since 2005. One thing I found early on was that most tents come only with enough stakes to set them up, but not enough to use all the guy-line points. Some don't come with guy-lines even. So a few years back I made up a stake kit with a dozen stakes and four 8-ft (2.4 m) Spectra guy-lines with mini-tensioners. To save weight I used titanium shepherd's hook stakes, which weigh 0.28 oz (8 g) each. The problem with the hook stakes is that they really do not hold well in poor soil, but I liked the weight so lived with it.

Last winter I was getting ready to write a review of MSR's Needle Stakes (the best stake I have ever used on frozen ground) and found that they had been discontinued. So much for that review! But that is how I found the new Carbon-Core. With a claimed weight that was 32% lighter than the titanium hooks I decided to give them a try. I replaced 8 of my titanium stakes with the Carbon-Cores. I did not replace all 12 as I need the titanium stakes for some of my Trail Designs cooking systems (see reviews).

I was immediately impressed with not only the weight (even lighter than listed by one gram each) but with how well they held. Which is important for non-freestanding tents like my Tarptent Hogback that need the stakes to keep the tent up. The Carbon-Cores work great with it on the Superior Hiking Trail as seen below. It was pretty rocky terrain and I had to shift a couple times to get past rocks but once in we were good for the night.

With a Tarpten Hogback

The thicker diameter really helps the Carbon-Cores hold, and seem to give them a lot of strength. My night at Lake Sakakawea State Park was crazy windy and I had to deploy guy-lines to keep the tent from folding. Even during big gusts I never had a stake pop loose.
Used stake
I bend my titanium stake quite often when one hits a rock but the Carbon-Cores just come to a stop with no bending or warping of the shaft to date.

My biggest concern coming in was the poly-carbonate head. I worried that they may break getting pounded on with rocks, my normal back-country hammering device. My worries were unfounded as I have clobbered them with a rock many times now, and even with a steel camping hatchet on one trip, with no discernible damage.

As titanium is almost twice as strong as 7075 aluminum I was not surprised to see how little wear there was on the tips of the Carbon-Cores, there is a bit though. The red anodizing came off right away which makes me wonder why they bother with the extra step. Here is a picture of the most worn of my Carbon-Core stakes. I can take some sand paper or a fine file to clean it up if I want, and I may do so down the road if any of them get too smashed.

The shafts have only some fine scratches, but no deep gouges or nicks in the alloy.

One thing I found is that the Carbon-Cores are hard to get out sometimes. The head is sloped on the inner part where I grab it for removal from the ground. If it is really stuck there is not really any way to utilize one of the other stakes in pulling the stuck one. After my second trip I added the loops mentioned earlier. With them I can usually use my finger through it to pull the Carbon-Cores but sometimes I slide a stake through the loop to give me more pulling power.

All told I am pretty happy with the Carbon-Core stakes. They are a permanent part of my stake kit now. I leave with a shot of them holding down a MSR Nook tent at Halverson Lake.

With a MSR Nook

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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