Skip to main content

How To Pack a Tent in a Backpack in Six Steps

Big camping green backpack and yellow tent in the mountains.

When you’re out for an overnight hike in the wilderness, you’ll want to be amply prepared for the experience. This means having a map, good shoes, water and food, and all the other essentials. You’ll also want to make sure you pack things properly so you don’t create an overly cumbersome pack, which can lead to a miserable slog along the way, or worse, injury and strain that can put an end to the planned outdoor adventures. Learning how best to pack a tent inside a backpack will allow you to focus on the things that really matter, like watching wildlife along the trail.     

Step 1. Selecting a Backpack

Most backcountry campers agree that a backpack with an internal frame is the best way to go. Internal frame backpacks are roomier, and the extra volume makes it easier to pack the tent inside. If you haven’t purchased a backpack or tent , make sure the sizes are compatible before buying. If you already have a tent and it’s on the larger side, you can use a compression bag to make the tent as compact as possible. 

Step 2. Preparing the Tent

Make sure your tent is dry, since packing and carrying a wet tent is very cumbersome. Lay out the the tent to its full length on a flat surface. Keep the tent poles in the bag, and place it alongside the tent. Adjust the tent so its width is the same as that of the tent pole bag.

Step 3. Rolling

Place the bag of tent poles onto the tent, and begin rolling up the tent. Use the poles to keep the rolling tight, and make sure everything stays in line (that the tent poles don’t start to jut out above the tent and vice versa). After a few rolls, add the tent peg bag and continue rolling. Go slowly to ensure you keep things as tight as possible.

Step 4. Packing it in

Take the completed tent roll and stuff it inside the tent bag. The poles and pegs in the center will keep things compact and add a central support. 

Step 5. Prepare Your Backpack

Leaving the tent aside for the moment, pack some of the other items you’ll be carrying on your walk. Place the heavier items towards the bottom and the lighter objects toward the top. 

Step 6. Pack Your Tent Inside the Backpack

Active tourist with backpack standing at mountain lake and pine wood background.

Aim to place the tent in the middle of the backpack. Placing it in the middle puts the least strain on your back since your tent is one of your heavier items. Ideally, your sleeping bag should be at the very bottom of the pack, and your tent should be just above it. In general, you can pack the tent vertically or horizontally. A vertical position allows for easy removal of the tent when unpacking, while a horizontal position allows you to pack other items on top of the tent. 

Packing Method for External Frame Backpacks  

If you’re using an external frame backpack, you’ll still roll and prepare the tent in the same manner as you would using an internal frame backpack. The only difference is the tent’s placement in your pack — or rather on your pack. Ideally, place the tent on the exterior. External frame backpacks are specifically designed for this. The best placement is at the bottom of the backpack; this ensures less stress on your back when you’re walking. Just bear in mind that keeping the tent on the outside exposes it to extra risks — snagging on tree branches or saturation if it rains. There’s also the danger of the tent falling off the backpack, leaving you in a bad situation. Make sure you tie a secure knot from your backpack to your tent to avoid it falling off and being left stranded.  

Editors' Recommendations

Camping gear 101: the must-have equipment for everyone
Camping gear tips: We bet something on this list will make it into your pack this winter
Two camping tents covered in snow on a mountain in winter.

Winter doesn't have to be the end of your camping season. Sure, during the summer, many of our camping gear tips focus on staying lightweight and trying to be as minimalist as possible. In winter, some of this goes out of the window. After all, winter camping means more than just throwing in an extra insulated jacket and a few beanie hats. It means long nights under the stars, freezing temperatures, and changeable weather to contend with.

Now, we haven't put together this list of the best winter camping gear as an exhaustive camping packing list, and what you take with you will depend on your camping style. Are you going roadside and camping from the car? Or do you need to haul everything ten miles over a mountain pass to get to your remote real estate? Either way, there will be something on this list for you, we almost guarantee it.

Read more
Explore the winter landscape with our snowshoeing tips
Snowshoeing is a great way to explore winter trails, and these tips will help you to get started

Snowshoeing is a great way to explore the winter landscape. Sure, winter for a lot of folks is all about hitting the slopes and heading out skiing, but not every day needs to be a high speed race down the mountain. When the trails are packe with snow, a good set of snowshoes will stop you postholing through. By spreading your weight, you stay on top of the snow and won't find yourself exhausted in minutes.

But snowshoes are challenging to get to grips with. Having run some snowshoe tours in BC while I was living up that way, I have seen first-hand how hard people found it to get to grips with moving in this flipper-like footwear. But with a little practice, you will quickly find yourself exploring trails that you had thought were out of bounds when the snow was deep. These tips will not only help you get to grips with snowshoeing, but to stay out for longer this winter.

Read more
The best leg gaiters for exploring the snowy outdoors this winter
No matter how far off-trail you're exploring this winter, protect your legs with a good pair of gaiters
The best gaiters are lightweight, waterproof, and durable to protect your legs and footwear.

Outdoor adventuring in winter can be brutal. Frigid temperatures, waist-deep snow, and the constant challenge to stay dry all make cold-weather hiking, backpacking, and camping especially trying. As with any outdoor adventure, the right gear makes all the difference: Good insulated pants, warm socks, a cold-weather jacket, and lots and lots of layers for starters. But, nothing protects your lower extremities quite like a good pair of gaiters.

Not to be confused with neck gaiters, of course, traditional gaiters are designed to keep your legs, feet, and footwear dry while bushwhacking, post-holing, and extreme off-trail exploring. They're essential for anyone serious about exploring the outdoors in winter. Here are our picks for the best gaiters for venturing into the snowy outdoors in 2023.

Read more