Simply stated: these are the best stakes I've yet tried.
If you don't know, these are actually pretty well known in backpacking circles. It *seems* like something should be better, and yet nothing arises. I've looked for a titanium alternative, but they are hard to find and I always end up back at the aluminum groundhogs.
Q: So, why do I think they are so great?
A: Well, because they are the best tradeoff.
- They are strong enough that you can push them in with your heal, and not worry about bending them.
- They hold well enough that you can pitch a tarp in sand with them, as long as it's not stormy, or in sandy loam if it is stormy. I've had them hold in ~50mph wind when stuck into turf (I twisted my ankle on top of a mountain on the AT), a hailstorm in Yosemite, etc.
- They're the lightest thing with the two above properties
Q: Do they always work and always hold?
A: No, of course not, don't be ridiculous. For instance, they don't hold in sandy clay in a full downpour with no cover or rootstructure in the soil, and 40mph winds. Neither do they hold in soft-snow unless you deadman them (burry the stake sideways with the twine tied aroudn the middle). I've used them normally in shallow/stiff snow a couple of times and they worked fine.
Q: Why not these?
A: Because in practice I'd rather tie to bushes, rocks, and sticks. These are okay... but I don't trust these to hold any more than I trust a stick shoved in the ground. They bend on hard ground, they don't hold at all unless you're basically in peat. So why the heck would I bother carrying them? I did for a while... no thanks.
Q: How about these?
A: They snap in half, trying to get them to hold in sand in Joshua Tree I set rocks on them and they collapsed. The ones without the holes through them are a bit better, but still don't hold as well as the groundhogs - I currently use them for non-critical stakes. If you're gentle and a gram weenie, the ones without holes may be a good fit for you though.
Q: How about a large curved steel stake? (sadly, I can't find an image)
A: These are awesome, I might consider carrying these again even if I was the type to go up into the rockies carrying a nice big tent and set a base-camp for a long period of time. For "backpacking" though, as I think of it (that is, hiking every day, moving camp regularly, etc.) these are just WAY overkill.
Last notesIf you're a gear manufacturer, could you make some titanium groundhogs? PLEEASE!?
FYI: make sure you get ones with the label/stamp. There are fakes
So, what are your favorite stakes?