How To Pack A Tent for Backpacking The Right Way

If you enjoy the camping experience, especially those experiences in which you will need to take a long backpacking trek into the wilderness, the following article may be for you.

Backpacking is one of the most well-loved activities of outdoorsmen the world over. No other experience is as basic and fundamental as trudging through the forest, but at the end of the day you will definitely need to make camp and rest up for the remainder of your adventure.

This means you will need to take a tent along as part of your gear. Tents, even the lightweight tents being manufactured today, can add a lot of weight to your pack. This is especially true if they are packed incorrectly.

To help you avoid this fate, below we will show you two different methods for packing a tent for backpacking, providing step by step directions for each method.

Why Does a Tent Need to Be Packed Correctly When Backpacking?

If you enjoy the camping experience and you like to hike, odds are you will be walking around with a heavy backpack for a reasonably long distance. This type of extended journey can quickly become fatiguing. This is even truer when you are backpacking with a bag that has been poorly packed.

It is important that you become well versed on the proper way to pack one of the heaviest items for your camping trip: the tent. That’s because a tent that is poorly packed in your backpack can not only cause damage to your tent, it can also cause strain and even severe injury to the person carrying that backpack.

The best way to avoid this and fully enjoy your next outdoor adventure is by following the instructions we have provided below on how to pack a tent in your backpack. The aim of this guide is to give you the best advice possible regarding the position(s) for your tent in order to avoid damage to the same or injury to yourself.

As we mentioned above, there are essentially two methods for properly packing a tent in or on a backpack—the interior method and the exterior method.

Packing a Tent inside Your Backpack: The Interior Method

The first method is to actually pack your tent inside the interior compartment of your backpack. To employ this method, you will first need to select a backpack that is designed with an internal frame.

Keep in mind that backpacks of this nature are much more spacious than those designed with an external frame. This extra space in the interior of the pack makes it easier to pack your tent. Not too long ago, external backpacks were all you saw on the trails. These days, however, most modern backpacks come with an internal frame.

Before selecting your internal frame backpack you must take the size of your tent into consideration before making your final choice. If you have a very large tent, it is, of course, recommended that you elect to purchase a much larger backpack.

In case you already have your own backpack, and you don’t care to invest in a new one, you can always elect to pack your tent in a compression bag beforehand.. A compression bag is one way of getting your tent tightly packed.

Once you have selected your internal frame backpack, spread the tent out on the floor neatly and flat. Be sure to place the tent poles in their designed bag and place that bag along the side of the tent. These poles will serve as support for your tent as you begin to roll it up.

Now you will proceed with rolling up the tent. When doing this, make certain that the tent is well aligned to the tent pole bag. Roll up the tent as straight as possible with the tent poles inside.

The pole bag will act as a support and a base for the tent inside the backpack. After you have completed about three to four rolls, you can now place the tent peg bag in a similar position and continue to roll up the tent. Again, the tent pegs will also provide added support for the tent as you roll it up.

Once the tent is tightly rolled up it’s now time to insert it into the backpack. But we must mention here that it is crucial the tent is rolled tightly and properly. Otherwise you will have a difficult time getting it into the bag.

The best time to pack the tent is when it’s dry. It is much easier to pack a dry tent than a wet one, as tent will weigh much more when they are wet thereby adding extra pounds to the carrier. A wet tent can also spread mildew and mold throughout your backpack.

Always pack the heavier items you will be carrying—like your sleeping bag—in the bottom of the backpack, while leaving the lighter ones to be placed in the top of the bag. Hikers know that this is not always an easy task, particularly when you have to retrieve various items throughout the day.

By placing the heavier items at the bottom, the backpack will be much better supported. Your tent will usually go somewhere in the middle of the bag, between the very heavy and very lightweight objects.

It is always ideal for the sleeping bag to stay at the bottom of the bag since it is literally one of the last things you will need to pull out of the bag. The tent can be packed adjacent to the sleeping bag or as close as possible to the middle.

Placing the tent in the middle of your backpack will help ensure that the weight of your backpack does not cause too much strain on your back. You should also consider the angle of your packing.

Keep in mind that a vertically packed tent is much more accessible and easier to reach when the time comes to fetch it from the pack. On the other hand, horizontal packing helps create more space in the bag for other items. Your exact angle of packing will depend on the volume of items you need to carry.

It is advised, professionally, that you carry no more than 30% of your body weight at any time when backpacking.

Packing a Tent Outside Your Backpack: The Exterior Method

The second and final method for packing a tent in a backpack is the exterior method, or packing the tent on the outside of the backpack and securing it. While the first method requires that you insert the tent inside the bag, thereby taking up a lot of space, this second method helps free up space for other items.

Of course, if you elect for this method the first thing you will need to do is Invest in a backpack design with an external frame. This type of backpack, although not as popular as the inside frame model, is designed to hold your tent on the outside portion of the bag.

If you choose the external method of packing a tent into a backpack you should start by rolling the tent in the same manner you did with the internal packing method. Once rolled, use cordage of some kind to tie the tent up so that it will not come unrolled.

With the tent tied, your best bet is to use closed loop ties to secure the tent to the backpack frame. This kind of fastener utilizes closed loops at both ends. This provides added security for your tent and prevents it from slipping off the frame. Always make sure that the knots on each end of these loops are firmly secured.

The tent will usually be placed on the bottom portion of the external frame. This will reduce the amount of strain on your back and also limits your chances of injury. This position also makes walking much easier. Attaching the tent at the top is a great way to cause discomfort when walking.

If you elect to go with the external method of packing a tent you should know there are many potential risks involved. One of the biggest risks is that your tent will catch on something and become ripped or torn.

Tents packed outside are, of course, much more prone to damage from sharp objects and twigs. Another risk is you can lose your tent entirely. While tents placed inside your backpack offer peace of mind, those hanging on the outside of the backpack will always be a source of concern as you make your way along the trail.

Another potential downfall when packing your tent externally is inclement weather. As such you will need to ensure that your tent is well secured from the rain.

While some tents are waterproof, a wet tent will nonetheless add weight to your pack. Add to that the experience of having to setup a wet tent and the need for protecting it is clear.

To avoid this, try to secure your tent in a waterproof zipper bag. This will provide extra protection for your tent while it’s hanging outside on the external frame.

top image: NPS.gov

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