How to Put Up a U.S. Military Surplus Pup Tent (MGR-812)

Around the bottom of the tent are large grommets, some with thick rope knots.

As a prerequisite for an article I recently wrote on repurposing military-surplus gear for camping, I set up’s U.S. military pup tent. The pup tent does not come with instructions, so I asked our resident surplus expert how to assemble it. The tent came with two canvas triangles, nine metal stakes, two 3-piece wood poles, and two ropes.With the help of my trusty photographer, it only took us about 15 minutes to set up.

One of the canvas pieces has female snaps, while the other has male snaps. Start by snapping the two pieces together to form an inverted taco shape. Then assemble the two poles to support the middle of your tent. The poles have an open bottom and a nipple top. Assemble the two 3-piece wooden pole sections. The open bottom sits on the ground, while the nipple goes through a grommet at the top of the canvas. Center your poles in the tent.

We took one of the ropes and wrapped a few inches around the nipple of the front wooden pole. Next, we stretched the rope to stand the tent up. We then secured the other end of the rope to one of the t-shaped metal stakes and hammered it into the ground directly in front of the tent. We did the same for the rear of the tent. With the two poles stabilized with rope, our tent was standing up straight; however, it was flapping in the wind.

Around the bottom of the tent are large grommets, some with thick rope knots. With the remaining stakes, we looped the rope around each stake head and hammered each into the ground all the way around the tent. Some of the grommets were missing rope, so we used paracord to tie down the stakes.

There is extra material both in the front and back of the tent, to either make extra space for gear or snap together to fully enclose the tent. To create a space for your gear, the extra material needs to be staked down the same way you staked down each side of the tent. We had no extra stakes after securing the tent to the ground, so we snapped both the front and back closed.

Take down was quick and easy. We first removed the support poles; then pulled at the rope to remove the stakes from the ground. Next, we put the poles, stakes and rope in the center of the two pieces of canvas—still snapped together—and rolled the whole thing up to pack away.

The U.S pup tent provides shelter from wind and sun; however, you will want to waterproof it before camping in the rain. The tent does not include a ground cover. The two pieces of canvas, wooden poles and metal stakes all showed wear, but all the hardware proved tough and I know this tent will last through quite a few more years of wear and tear.

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Comments (19)

  1. If you can get ahold of extra poles,pegs and ropes do not peg one side down, use the extra poles and rope and make a lean too for ventilation. Great for spring,summer or fall. If you use four poles and insect netting a cot can be placed under the tent.

  2. To that guy who slept in an APC. Right on, yo! Any GI worth anything would do the same thing–at least until an NCO/Officer showed up to run him off.

    I remember the greatest example of “grunt think” I know of involved a guy sleeping in his hootch when a roof leak started up. In a classic response, the dude in question did not fix the leak–he, (what else?) moved his bunk!

  3. I want to turn you on to a cold weather or cold rain trick we used to do with a pup tent. You take your poncho and put it over the body of the tent and tie it down to the side stakes. Then you raked dirt and leaves up on the sides over the poncho. Make sure your rain trench is not blocked or you get wet & cold. You will be amazed at how warm you will sleep.

  4. There is not an ex boy scout younger than about fifty who cant throw one of these up blindfolded.
    I was fortunate enough to have an uncle in the military who sent me one of those WWII Jungle Hammocks. Ive looked for a replacement for years but no luck. It was waterproof canvas with screens and pockets inside to store your stuff. All I can find now are made of some cheap poly stuff and I wouldnt have one if you gave it to me. SOMEBODY should find an old set of prints on the original design and start manufacturing them again. Kept my butt off the cold damp ground while all the rest of the troop was freezing.

  5. Ilearned how to set them up in the early 50’s in Boy Scouts. Boot Camp was a breeze.
    That goes for the Mummy bags too.

  6. First time I ever used a shelter half was basic. After that the only time I used it was for TA 50 inspection.

    In Germany our Maint. section took all of their shelter halves and connected them together covering a large patch of ground. Formed a nice rabbits warren for all of the maint section. Being a Medic I lived in the back of my 113 all nice and comfy.

  7. Back in the day, 1966, I was part of a basic trng company undergoing a final two-three week bivouac in DECEMBER in New Jersey. As we scurried around w our pup tents (shelter halves) I discovered my buddy had snaps and I had buttons. I suspect my shelter halve was a WWII fugitive or even WWI. After some yelling and swearing I traded my half for one with snaps and we moved forward.

    This all happened because we had no training whatever on how to use this field gear.
    We also had to decode how to use the sleeping bag carriers and the mummy style bags etc., etc.

    Bottom line is we were scheduled to be out a week in single digit high temperatures.
    When frost bite began to send guys to the hospital (we had no insulated boots only buckle galoshes) the battalion commander called it off and we went back to barracks.

  8. These things suck…used in boot camp, nowhere else. There is a reason the military uses “normal” tents now. They are heavy and basically open to the environment. I got out in 2004, but even then we had eight man Issue Northface tents for cold weather and light, two man backpacking type tents for the rest of the year. Far superior to the shelter half…

  9. Our poncho was set up to use as the other half of the tent if you didn’t have a buddy. But the pups worked ok in rain as long as you didn’t touch the side when it was raining, this touch would break the water chain and cause it to leak where it was touched.

  10. This is a very informative article. I myself recently put up a pup tent and it is tough! It’s one thing to use this in the war but in peace time you often loose your skills, thanks for the article.

  11. 20 some odd years ago (or more), the shelter half was used in basic training and that was the last I saw of it. If you are going to make it truly a military set-up, you need to take an E-tool and dig a small (about 6″x6″) trench around the perimeter covering the base of the tent with the dirt. This gave a rain run-off trench around the tent, created a draft free interior and another thing to clean when you get back to the barracks. We always attempted to place the door/opening at a slight downhill angle and NEVER uphill, unless you like a tent full of water. Using a candle lantern or two suspended from the ceiling snaps is much safer than plain candles as you usually use debris, leaves or pine needles as floor covering. The canvas is oil impregnated and, while water resistant, will catch fire without much difficulty.

  12. These 2 man tents work fairly well in dry weather but in Vietnam we threw them away and used our ponchos. These are 2 person tents so each person carries half a tent, i.e., one shelter half, one set of tent poles, 5 stakes, & one rope.

  13. When I was in boot camp, we improvised the inside by using a waterproof canvas for the floor and piling pine needles and leaves around the sides to cut down the draft in cold weather. It can be kept rather warm with just a candle.

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