Packing a tent into your backpack can be one of the most frustrating parts of backpacking. If you’re not careful how you pack it, it’ll either get all scrunched up and crushed or cause your backpack to explode like an overinflated balloon.
Either way, packing your tent will make life easier on both yourself and the gear that’s packed around it.
If you’re already using a backpack, go ahead and load it how you usually would. If the pack doesn’t have an internal divider or mesh pocket for wet items, add one of those to your packing list so you can separate your tent from everything else.
If this is your first time backpacking with a new piece of equipment, consider how you’ll want to load it. If your pack is a top-loader with no side pockets or compression straps, go ahead and add some of those too before putting them in the tent.
I prefer to use a frameless backpack for backpacking because they’re lightweight and often more comfortable when loaded down with weight (aka how to pack a tent in a bag). That said, I’ve found the most success packing my backpacking tent by first putting it into its stuff sack and then placing it vertically at one of the bottom corners.
Here's How to Pack a Tent in a Backpack
Here are some steps for how to pack a tent in a backpack:
Whether you’re using your bag or borrowing someone else’s, how to pack a tent in a backpack is the same: stuff sack and down. There’s no other way around it, so don’t go trying to pack your tent in a backpack by laying it out flat because you’ll only end up with an overinflated air mattress-style mess that won’t fit into the bag at all (and doesn’t protect very well).
Stuff the stuff sack with your tent. If you have a compression sack, use it to remove as much air from the bag as possible so that there’s no extra space for things to move around during transit.
If you’re using a down-filled sleeping bag or jacket, put that on top of your rolled-up tent before cinching the sack closed. It will prevent your tent’s fabric from becoming dirty or wet when you pack it with other items that may leak or spill while also making sure all the down stays in place and doesn’t get crushed by a heavy object like a cooking pot.
The next step is to put some clothes on top of your rolled-up tent before zipping your backpack closed. It prevents the items inside from moving around too much during transit and helps keep things organized. Finally, pack any other loose objects you may have into whatever spaces are left in the bag (along with snacks if you’re bringing them).
To help prevent rips or tears, remember to pack your tent with the door facing down as a general rule of thumb. This way, if any part of it does get caught on a tree branch or rocks during transit, there’s less chance of tearing through the fabric and rendering your shelter useless when you need it most.
If everything fits properly in your bag, buckle all straps (shoulders, waist belt), cinch your bag closed, and you’re all set.
Tips: If this is your first time backpacking, ask a friend to help show you how to pack a tent in a backpack so that it’s done right the first time around. You don’t want to go on anything longer than an overnight trip without knowing what you’re doing since there are so many things that can go wrong with your gear.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and either borrow or buy the right equipment for backpacking, so you know what will suit your needs.
Is it possible to attach a tent to the outside of a backpack?
Many backpacking tents come with a set of straps that allow you to attach them to the outside of your backpack. If you’re using one and need some extra space in your bag, definitely go ahead and use them!
They’ll help distribute weight more evenly across both bags, so everything feels lighter when walking around or climbing up steep inclines.
Of course, it’s important to remember that you should always pack your backpack according to weight guidelines provided by the manufacturer. That means you’ll want to make sure heavier items go into smaller bags.
In contrast, lighter ones get tucked away in bigger compartments where they’re less likely to shift around during transit or fall out when you unzip your backpack to grab a water bottle.
It is vital to hike on any uneven terrain or scramble up and down rocks since you don’t want anything falling out and getting lost. It’s also why packing everything works best: so nothing falls over!
As long as your tent isn’t too heavy, you should be able to use a compression sack for sleeping bags and jackets or strap it to the outside of your pack without worrying about weight distribution too much. Just make sure everything is packed, so nothing gets damaged during transit!
Tips: Always remember that weight distribution needs to take into account both comfort and safety when backpacking. You want to carry all your gear quickly, but you also want it packed in a way that prevents damage or injury.
If this is your first time backpacking with a tent attached to the outside of your backpack, take extra care when packing and unpacking everything. Hence, nothing falls out along the way! It may feel tedious at first, but you’ll get used to it quickly enough.
You can also experiment with how you pack your tent on the outside of your backpack by attaching different items at different angles along with the straps depending upon what you need for comfort and safety.
It means that if something is digging into your shoulder, move it around or attach it differently, so there’s less pressure—remember to practice putting everything back where it belongs so you don’t get confused when you’re ready to hike.
When Should You Keep a Tent Attached
Keeping your tent attached isn’t always the best idea, especially since weight guidelines need to be taken into account no matter what type of equipment or gear you bring with you.
The other thing to consider is that you’re probably better off keeping your tent in its storage bag since this will help protect it from dirt, debris, and any potential weather conditions. It’s also useful for when you need to pack away your gear quickly or if the ground beneath your sleeping pad gets wet (which can happen quite quickly during a rainstorm).
If you’re going to pack your tent away, everything must be kept dry and clean. If the ground beneath you is wet when you unzip your sleeping bag in the morning or if there’s any condensation on your gear, this is where a separate storage bag will come in handy—it’ll help prevent damage from occurring.
If you’re not attached to the idea of carrying around a separate storage bag (which can be pretty bulky and weigh down your pack), then perhaps consider using an extra stuff sack for your sleeping bag or jacket that will help protect them during transit as well. This way, if anything falls out while walking along uneven terrain, it’ll at least be contained within the stuff sack rather than rolling all over the place.
If you’re using a tent with your backpack, make sure it fits in vertically (so long as this doesn’t add too much weight) and that everything is arranged correctly for easy access when needed during transit! If there are any loose items along the outside of your pack, make sure they’re secure and packed away properly.
In addition to placing everything vertically, you can also pack your tent safely by attaching it along the outside of your backpack and other lightweight items such as sleeping bags or jackets so that weight is distributed evenly across both shoulders.
If you have a two-strap system on the back of your pack, you can also get creative with how to pack your tent by attaching it along with the straps. Just remember that if there’s a lot of weight on one strap and not enough weight on another (due to uneven distribution), this could cause problems for both stability and safety while backpacking, so take care when packing!
Don’t be afraid to experiment with how you pack your tent, but always keep weight distribution and safety in mind. There are several ways to go about packing a tent on the outside of your backpack, so it’s worth trying out different methods before heading off into the wilderness!
How to Pack Other Camp Shelters in a Backpack
Suppose you’re planning to bring along a different type of camp shelters, such as an Adirondack lean-to or platform tent. In that case, there are some slightly different packing guidelines to follow.
Since most people won’t be carrying around lightweight backpacking tents (unless they want two separate packs), these types of shelters shouldn’t get attached to your backpack.
Instead, these shelter types are best carried on the outside of your pack with lightweight items such as sleeping bags or jackets so that weight is distributed evenly across both shoulders—make sure you don’t overload yourself!
Don’t forget to pack extra tent poles in an exterior pocket if there’s not enough room elsewhere.
One thing to keep in mind is that some of these types of shelters involve a lot more pieces and parts than your standard backpacking tent, so you’ll need to pack everything away carefully before heading off on the trail!
Want More Backpacking Advice?
Looking for more backpacking advice? Check out these helpful articles with additional tips and tricks to make the most of your next trip!
If you’re still struggling with packing a tent, don’t worry—you’ll master it in no time. Just take care when putting everything away so that gear is protected from dirt or debris as well as from the elements, and you’ll be good to go!