For most backpackers, the camping tent will be the largest item they bring on their trip, which means that it’s critical to properly pack it. While we’ve found dozens of methods on the internet over the years, we’ve found that a couple stand far above the rest.
In this article, our team of experts will teach you two ways to pack a tent in a backpack: the inside method and the outside method. Both will have you comfortably carrying it around for as long as you want.
Packing Your Tent Inside Your Backpack
The best way to carry around your tent while backpacking is to pack it directly inside your backpack. This will maximize the space you have for other items and makes it as easy as possible on your back.
However, there is a right and wrong way to put your tent in a backpack. Below, we show you how to do it right so you don’t run into any issues on your camping trip.
1. Disassemble Your Tent Completely
While there’s nothing wrong with using a tent bag, it’s not necessary if you’re already packing it inside your backpack. The backpack will keep your tent protected and secure, and ditching the stuff sack will save a small amount of space you can use for other items.
Additionally, spreading different parts of your tent around your backpack will save space versus keeping them all in the same place.
2. Fold or Roll Your Tent Tightly
With your tent disassembled, start the packing process with your tent body and rain fly, if you have one. We prefer to roll each of them up separately as tightly as possible, but you can fold them as well.
To roll your tent properly, start from the narrowest side and fold the edge of the tent fabric on top of itself. Continue rolling it up while keeping it straight and not letting any air inside the folds, and you’ll have a super compact tent when you’re done!
3. Stuff Your Tent in the Bottom of the Backpack
Once, you have a rolled tent, you should stuff it inside the bottom part of your backpack, along with other heavy items like your sleeping bag and pad. This is the best system for two reasons.
First, keeping heavier items at the bottom of your backpack makes it easier to carry. Your shoulders will remain in a nice, upright position and can handle the weight for hours on end. If the weight was shifted towards the top, it would cause you to hunch over.
Second, it is backpacking best practice to put the items you’ll need during the day on top, and items you won’t need until making camp on the bottom. That way, you won’t have to rummage through your entire bag to get a hat or some food.
Since you won’t need your tent until making camp, you can safely leave it in the bottom compartment.
4. Keep the Weight Distribution Even
Along with keeping your tent in the bottom of the backpack, you’ll want to make sure the weight distribution is even on a left-to-right basis as well. When stuffing your tent inside the backpack, keep it horizontal and centered.
This goes for other gear items as well. If you have several items in the right pocket of your backpack, put a few on the left side as well to balance the weight. You want the load on both shoulders to feel even before you start your hike.
5. Spread Around Smaller Items
For the other, smaller parts of your tent, we suggest spreading them around different parts of your bag to maximize space.
Typically, we’ll put our tent poles in the stuff sack, and then slide them into a side pocket. We’ll then put the tent stakes and guy ropes in the opposite pocket to balance out the weight.
Attaching Your Tent to the Outside of Your Backpack
If you don’t have enough room inside your backpack for a tent, then the next best option is to pack it on the outside.
1. Pack Your Tent in its Stuff Sack
Fold or roll the tent the same way as described for the inside method. However, instead of putting the tent in the backpack, pack it in your stuff sack instead.
When we leave our tent outside the backpack, we also prefer to pack the tent poles and stakes in the sack along with the body. An easy way to efficiently pack your poles is to roll them up inside your tent so that they take up very little extra space.
Once your folded tent is in the sack, you can pack your stakes and ropes inside as well before pressing out any excess air.
2. Attach the Tent to the Bottom of the Backpack
With your tent secured in its sack, you should attach it to the bottom of your backpack. This is the best place to keep the weight on your bag even and not put extra strain on your back and shoulders.
Most backpacking bags will have compression straps that loop around the bottom. Place your stuff sack at the bottom of your bag and then use the straps to secure it tightly. Now you’re all ready to go.
Other Tips for Carrying Around a Backpacking Tent
Packing your tent properly is a great first step, but the tips below will help make your backpacking trip even easier.
Go as Lightweight as Possible
While you probably know this if you’re a seasoned backpacker, tents can weigh drastically different amounts depending on the type you buy. If you pick one that’s too heavy, you’ll have a tough time carrying it around, especially if you’re planning to hike long distances.
That’s why it’s important to get either a backpacking tent or an ultralight tent for this kind of trip. Target a tent weight of no more than 2 to 3 pounds when you’re shopping for one of these.
Choose the Right Backpack
If you’re unfamiliar, there are two primary types of backpacks for hiking: the internal frame backpack, and the external frame backpack.
We suggest choosing an internal frame backpack for a few reasons. First, it spreads the weight of the backpack around your body, making it easier on your back.
Second, internal frame backpacks are roomier than external frames, which means it will be easier to fit your tent inside. Since we always recommend you do this if you can, choosing this type of backpack is a no-brainer.
Share the Load With a Partner
If you’re sharing a tent with a friend or two, it makes a ton of sense to spread the load around. Since it’s likely the largest item that any of you will have to carry, splitting it up will make everyone’s load easier and increase the space in your bags for other gear.
If you’re camping with a group of 3, one person could take the tent body, one person could take the rain fly, and the last person could get the tent poles and stakes.
Carry a Waterproof Bag or Cover
If bad weather hits while you’re camping, your tent will get wet, and it’s nothing you can control. Unfortunately, though, a wet tent will be a problem sitting inside your backpack with no cover.
To avoid getting the inside of your bag and clothes/gear wet, we suggest bringing along a small waterproof stuff sack. It takes up very little space and you can stuff your wet tent in there when you need to.
Packing your tent in a backpack can be a challenge if you don’t know what you’re doing, but once you have all the steps, it’s relatively simple.
If you have a creative way to pack your tent differently, we’d love for you to tell us how in the comments below. Happy camping!
Carl is a content writer for The Camping Buddy, specializing in informational camping articles and product reviews. Carl has been a freelance writer for outdoor news sites while spending his time backpacking across the world. His favorite camping spot is Malaekahana Beach in Hawaii.