Packing your tent in a backpack doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Knowing 2-3 rules of thumb will prepare you more than you think: 1) place your tent vertically; 2) don’t pack items that are too heavy; 3) lighter items should stay towards the top of the backpack.
How to Choose the Right Backpack
When going camping, you need to choose the right backpack.
The goal here is to have a durable, high-quality backpack that you can use to travel safely & without any fear of ripping or damaging the backpack. While you’ll come across several different backpacks when shopping, you should know which kind of frame you need for your backpack to pack a tent.
There are a lot of theories on how to choose the best backpack, but we’ll do you a favor and summarize everything.
Long story short, there are two factors that you need to keep in mind before buying any backpack:
External Frame Backpack
You can skip this if you’re planning on putting your tent inside your bag. These paragraphs are only useful if you want to attach a tent on the outside of your backpack (which we recommend).
The external structure should be durable enough to resist any weather conditions, no matter how harsh they are (of course, within reason!). Ideally, it should be made of breathable & waterproof material, where your belongings can be packed safely.
Also, it should be useful to carry heavy loads. In other words, when you wear this backpack, the weight should be distributed all over your back so you can move without feeling burdened. It should not be putting too much pressure on your shoulders.
Finally, you should look for a bag with a separate compartment to accommodate more precious belongings (think cellphones, GPSs, and other electronics).
Always place the tent gears in separate compartments so you can easily get to everything very easily.
Internal Frame Backpack
If you don’t agree with us or just prefer to pack your tent inside your backpack, consider buying one with a sturdy internal structure. While these will be less breathable and durable, they will protect your tent from branches and trees on rough terrain.
However, if you place durability above everything, you’re in for a painful experience.
It’s very important to choose a backpack that is also comfortable and convenient for you, and you should one according to the nature of camping:
If you want to camp outside, choose a backpack with an external structure and frame
For indoor camping, an internal structure bag will do the job
Finally, we recommend choosing a bag with a padding to support your shoulders and back. This will be easy to carry and help your body support heavy loads.
A Step-by-Step Guide On How to Pack a Tent In a Backpack
1/ Gather Your Belongings
First, you have to gather your belongings (if you’re having trouble deciding what you need to take, we wrote an article on that that you can read here). Once you have everything you need, see what fits well inside your bag and think how you’re going to put things in the different compartments.
2/ Check Your Tent
It’s important to check your tent thoroughly: check for any holes, debris, or other things that can be stressful once you’re already camping. Laying your tent on the floor and washing it once is a good idea, as long as you let it air dry and clean it for any debris or water drops.
Do NOT pack your wet tent in a bag – there’s a good chance it will get mold because of condensation (in which case you won’t be able to sleep in it safely).
3/ Pack the Tent Poles
When packing your tent, don’t forget to pack the tent tools. For example, poles help you stretch the tent when you open your bag, so you’re going to need them. We normally recommend keeping the tent poles at the side of the bag.
4/ Roll the Tent
Rolling and packing the tent depends on the material.
If the tent material is flexible and made with DSF, you can easily roll and place the tent inside with poles. In other cases, it’s probably better not to roll the tent and instead pack it in layers to avoid ripping any holes on it.
Always make sure that your tent is completely dry to accommodate other accessories as well.
5/ Pack Heavier Items at the Bottom
When packing all your things, you should start with the heavier items first (the bottom of the bag is in fact made to accommodate sleeping bags or quilts). Start with heavy items and work your way to the lighter accessories; in other words, heavy on the bottom, light ones at the top.
When you’re done with other things, you are finally ready to pack your tent.
There are different options here – take a look
At the bottom
The first option is to keep your tent at the bottom of the backpack. This is normally the best option if you have to open the tent at night after a long hike.
On your back
If you plan to open your bag once you reach your destination, you should keep your tent in the back of the bag. Doing so will be comfortable and it will spare some space inside for other things.
Packing in or out
In this case, you can keep the poles outside and the tent inside the bag. This is easy to do if you’re going camping with a partner; otherwise, putting the things inside and out may be a hassle.
Inside vs. Outside: Which is Better?
It depends on your needs.
If you are going on a long trip, it’s better to pack your tent inside the bag: it will protect your tent from dust and damage, and you can quickly move along.
If instead you are going nearby on a short getaway, you can also pack the tent peg bag outside.
The stuff sack is a durable sack that can accommodate your tent while keeping other items separate.
We don’t recommend going for a stuff sack if you are camping on long routes, but if you’re using one, make sure it’s waterproof & breathable (otherwise it may damage your tent’s material).
You should maintain balance by packing the tent vertically. By keeping it vertically, you’ll have enough space for other gear inside the backpack – you should place poles and stakes at the side and other necessary items at the bottom.
This side-by-side packing method will help you accommodate more things in your backpack, and reduce the need for any extra bags.
As a rule of thumb, you should not pack heavy things in your backpack.
Knowing how to pack a tent in a backpack is easy if you know what you’re doing. Always remember to pack the tent vertically, make a place for other things and don’t bring too many heavy items (and of course, make sure you don’t have a wet tent!)
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best way to pack a tent?
Place it vertically in the backpack, tent accessories on the sides and other items (for example a sleeping bag) on the bottom).