How To Pack A Tent In A Backpack (Tips & Tricks When Camping)

Tents are an essential factor for any camping trip, but unfortunately, packing a tent can feel like a cumbersome and frustrating task. What makes matters worse is that packing a tent into your backpack incorrectly means that there’s less room (or no room at all) for other camping essentials.

Incorrectly packing camping or hiking backpacks also increases the risk of putting strain on your back, and it could even lead to injury.  To ensure that you’re staying safe, staying comfortable, and not leaving any essential gear behind, check out this guide with tips, tricks, and techniques on how to pack a tent in your backpack.

Things to Consider When Packing a Tent in a Backpack

Before loading a tent into your backpack, there are a few things you need to think about. It all starts with the backpack buying process; when choosing a travel backpack for camping, hiking, trekking, etc., you must select a bag that caters to the type of activity you're planning and the amount of gear you plan to bring with you.

Once you’ve purchased your backpack, it’s not quite time to shove your tent inside just yet. First, you have to consider things like:

  • The Size Of A Tent 
    Before you choose a backpack, consider the size of your camping tent. You'll need a backpack that can accommodate your tent's specific size, so check the specifications carefully.
  • The Backpack’s Size/Available Space 
    Most campers and hikers choose a bag with an internal frame in order to accommodate the space needed when packing a tent. Internal frame backpacks are more spacious inside, making it more possible to pack the tent within the bag.
  • The External Frame 
    While it’s possible to use a backpack with an external frame for packing a tent, it’s more common to attach a backpack to the outside of this type of pack.
  • Do You Have A Compression Bag?
    In order to make the tent as small as possible before packing it in the backpack, you can make it more compact by putting it in a compression bag.
  • Is This Backpack Waterproof? 
    It’s always best to use waterproof backpacks for camping trips to keep your valuables dry - that includes your tent.

Answering these questions will give you a better idea of how to start the packing process.

How to Pack a Tent Inside a Backpack (7 Easy Steps for Camping)

Packing your tent the right way will not only prevent the risk of injury and reduce strain on your back, but it will also make the entire outdoor adventure much more enjoyable. Here are the exact steps on how to pack your tent in a backpack:

1. Choose a backpack with an internal frame

If you’re planning on packing a tent inside the backpack as opposed to attaching it to the outside, you’ll need a pack with an internal frame. This type of bag has a lot more room to play around with, and that extra space will go a long way when packing your tent.

2. Pack the tent poles

Your tent will come with a pole bag, so make sure to securely pack the tent poles into this bag. Once the poles are packed away, lay your tent on the ground and line the pole bag up along the side of the tent (not in the center). The poles help form support for the tent as you pack it away, so this is an important step that shouldn’t be missed.

3. Roll the tent and make sure it's tight

To be able to secure your tent to your backpack, it's important that you pack your tent away properly. Your tent will come with a pole bag, so make sure to securely pack the tent poles into this bag.

Once the poles are packed away, lay your tent on the ground and line the pole bag up along the side of the tent (not in the center). The poles help form support for the tent as you pack it away, so this is an important step that shouldn’t be missed.

4. Put the tent in its own bag

Once the tent and pole bag are rolled up tight, it’s time to put the tent in its carrying bag. Putting the tent in a carrying bag (or compression bag) will ensure that it stays tight within the backpack. Always make sure the tent is completely dry before doing this.

5. Put the heavier items at the bottom of the backpack and lighter items on top

This is a general rule that every hiker/camper should be following when packing a backpack. Chances are you’ll be doing a lot of walking, so the best way to stay comfortable and safe is to pack the heavy items first. Also, try to keep the weight of your bag at about 30% of your total body weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, your bag should not exceed 45 pounds.

6. Put the sleeping bag first

It’s best to pack your sleeping bag directly before your tent. Sleeping bags are usually quite heavy, plus it’s the last item you’ll need from your backpack, so pack this first.

7. Place the tent above the sleeping bag

Once your sleeping bag is secure, it’s time to pack in your tent. The ideal placement of a tent within a backpack is somewhere in the middle, so try to get it as close to the middle of the bag as possible. Before you pack it away, decide whether to store it vertically or horizontally. Both positions have pros; vertical packing makes the tent more accessible, while horizontal packing gives more space for lighter items up top.

There are a few advantages as well as disadvantages that come along with packing a tent inside the bag. The main benefit is that you won’t have anything hanging loosely outside of the bag. The downside is that tents can take up a lot of room and minimize the amount of space for other camping essentials.

How To Pack A Tent Inside A Backpack

How to Attach a Tent to the Exterior of a Backpack

If you’re more interested in finding the answers to how to attach a tent to a backpack, we’ve got you covered. Here are the steps for attaching a tent to the exterior of a backpack:

1. Use a backpack with an external frame

While it's possible to secure a tent to the outside of an internal-frame backpack, this is a much better option if your backpack has an external frame. The external frame of the bag is specifically designed for this purpose.

2. Know the damage potential of attaching the tent to the backpack’s exterior

There is a much higher risk of damage to your tent when attaching it to the outside (this is the biggest disadvantage of choosing this packing method). Understand those risks before attaching it so that you can do your best to prevent tears and snags.

3. Ensure the tent is protected from the rain

Another downside to attaching a tent to a backpack’s external frame is the risk of getting it wet. Even though tents are waterproof, it’s best to use additional protection - like a waterproof compression bag.

4. Examine your backpack to determine whether it is acceptable for exterior packing

Exterior packing requires a lot of strong compression straps, so make sure your backpack’s straps are all intact and are strong enough to keep the tent securely in place.

5. Use closed-loop ties on your backpack for outside packing

This type of loop means that the tent will be threaded through closed loops on both ends. On the off chance that your tent does slide off, it'll still stay attached to the bag so that you won't lose it entirely.

6. Attach the tent at the bottom of the backpack

Tents are heavy, so placing the tent at the bottom of the pack will make it much easier to walk. If you attach it to the top of the backpack, you’ll feel top-heavy and increase the risk of falling.

How To Attach A Tent To The Exterior Of A Backpack

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What do you do with a wet tent when backpacking? What happens if you put a tent away wet?

Although it’s not recommended that you pack your tent wet, sometimes this is just inevitable, especially after heavy rainfall. Before packing it up, just make sure that it’s as dry as possible and get all the excess water off the tent’s surface. Once you’ve safely returned home, unpack your tent and let it dry fully to reduce the risk of mold and mildew.

Can you put a tent in a stuff sack?

Yes, using a stuff sack is a great way to compress the tent and keep all of its contents secure in your backpack.

Is it better to fold or stuff a tent?

The best method is to roll the tent as tightly as possible before packing it directly on top of your sleeping bag. Rolling the tent helps to reduce air pockets, therefore freeing up more space for other camping gear.


There you have it - the complete guide on how to pack a tent in a backpack. We’ve also provided you with all the steps for securely attaching a tent to the exterior of a bag, so now you’re ready for your next camping adventure!

  • Updated November 1, 2021