How to Pack a Tent in a Backpack 

 June 19, 2023

By  Keith Terrell

If you are going hiking or camping for a few days, you will likely be carrying a backpack that is heavy. And if it is a forest or a mountain you have chosen for your camping trip, chances are that you will be sleeping in nature and carrying all the essentials with you. For more serious hikers, this would include a tent and a sleeping bag and cooking essentials.

Since you will be on the move most of the time (until you decide to camp down), you would surely need to know how to organize and pack a hiking backpack correctly. You will be carrying most of your essentials with you to avoid hiking back to your original campsite. The need to set up your camp close to your camp requires a tent.

This is an often-asked question — “how to pack a tent in a backpack?” Do you pack it inside your backpack, or do you attach it to your backpack? Different backpackers have different views about it, and there are ways to do both. But, it is not as easy as it sounds. If you have packed it all wrong, you may feel discomfort while hiking, and it may damage your tent or backpack. So in this article, we will explore a few ways on how to pack a tent in a backpack.

We cannot stress enough on packing up your backpack properly, because that will affect how comfortable you are during your hike. If a backpack is packed properly, you can carry it on for hours without feeling fatigued, because of proper weight distribution. On the other hand, a badly packed backpack can lead to back pains, resulting in you taking frequent breaks, and affecting your overall hiking experience.

For this, you will have to choose a hiking backpack that suits your needs. Our guide will teach you how to do this, so go ahead and get informed if you are new to the world of backpacking.

If you don’t already have a backpack and are going to choose one for your hiking trips, we recommend that you look for one that has an internal frame.

We recommend an internal frame for this purpose because of its many benefits such as keeping your bag upright and your stuff securely in place, without the discomfort of a wobble or sway. Besides, backpacks with an internal frame have more space, giving to the freedom to put in more stuff (though we do not recommend over-stuffing your backpack), or to pack in your gear more easily.

In case you already have a backpack and have bought the tent as an afterthought, you might be worried that the tent might be too big for the backpack. But have no fear, an easy solution for that is to get compression bags that pack the tent tightly making them smaller and easier to pack.

Once you have your backpack and tent in place, let us first explore how to pack a tent in a backpack.

How to Pack a Tent inside a Backpack

Before packing in your tent in your backpack, lay it flat first and see if it is not damp. If it is, then you will need for it to dry completely. If a tent is too wet, it will not only add unnecessary weight to the backpack but also make other stuff around it damp. It may also cause mildew and mold.

  1. 1
    First off, take the tent poles that came with your tent, and put them in the bag they came in. Now take the tent and lay it flat on the ground, making sure there is no dampness. The bag with the poles should be at the bottom of the flattened-out tent.
  2. 2
    Start rolling the tent along with the poles into the smallest possible package, making sure both are aligned. Keep in mind that these should be rolled into as much a straight line as possible. If you think that the alignment is all over the place, unroll and start again. A badly-rolled tent will make for uncomfortable packaging later on. The poles present in between the tent will provide it with firmness and stability.
  3. 3
    The tighter the tent is rolled, the better. The more loosely you pack your tent, the more space it will shake. There is also a chance of it getting loose and unfurling inside your backpack, causing your other gear to get tangled up, and ending up damaging either the tent or your gear.
  4. 4
    If you have an extra bag that came along with the tent, keep the rolled tent into it and tighten it up as much as you can. You now have a compact tent ready to be packed in. Now move on to your backpack for the next step.
  5. 5
    Take an inventory of what you are carrying and keep the heavier items aside. These will go at the bottom of the backpack so that the weight is distributed evenly between your shoulders, your spine and the top of your hips. Remember, about 30% of your body weight should be in the backpack, and no more.
  6. 6
    If you have a sleeping bag, this should always go at the bottom of the backpack. This is because it is always the last item to be taken out whenever you are camping. Another reason for it is that in some cases, it could be quite heavy (though there have been breakthroughs and lighter sleeping bags are available). This too should be made as compact as possible before it goes inside the backpack. Packing it at the absolute bottom also makes sure that you have ample space for the rest of your gear. Before packing this in, make sure it is dry as well.
  7. 7
    Place the packed tent on top of the sleeping bag. Ideally, you should put it upright in the corner of the bag, but if you find that it is occupying too much space, you can place it horizontally as well, depending on your other gear. Make sure that it is placed somewhere in the middle of your backpack though. You can pack other items such as a rolled up pair of jeans or a few T-shirts to make sure it does not wobble. This will ensure that the weight is equally distributed.

And this is how to pack a tent in a backpack. Now that you have learned how to do this, we will move on to learn how to attach the tent to a backpack.

How to Attach a Tent to a Backpack

You have possibly seen hikers and travelers walking around with bulky-looking backpacks. These are mostly tents or sleeping bags that they are lugging around, with backpacks that have external frames. This is not to say that you cannot attach tents to a backpack with an internal frame, but the ones with external frames are specifically designed to carry these items on the outside.

  • While there are some benefits to carry the tent externally, there are indeed some downsides to do so. One of the major disadvantages of carrying a tent externally, especially if you are on a hike in the woods is that the tent may get snagged on a branch and might get damaged. It can also come in contact with other sharp surfaces that might put cuts on it. There is also the danger that it might fall off if it is not properly secured. With the tent inside the backpack and packed tightly with other items, you are secure in the knowledge that it is safe.
  • One great advantage of putting it externally is that it makes extra space for your other gear. Another advantage of doing this is that it will put less strain on your back.
  • Backpacks with external frames come with loops and straps that are provided to secure the tent in place, usually at the bottom of the backpack. While placing the tent on the external frame, you will have to be careful as to tighten it properly, without leaving any wriggle room.
  • Before attaching the tent, make sure that the straps themselves are secure. These straps also double up as compression straps, which will make your tent into a neat little bundle.
  • You will notice threaded loops on both sides of an external backpack. These loops are threaded through both ends, in case your straps get loose and will save your tent from sliding off the backpack entirely. All you need to do is put a tight knot of your choice at the bottom to keep it in place.
  • While the tent is packed at the bottom of the backpack this way (against packing it at the top), you will find that your movement is not restricted and that you can walk about freely, without any hassles.
  • You are ready for your trip!


In this article, you learned how to pack a tent in a backpack, by carrying it externally or internally. Before you start your trip, practice packing the tent at home so that you will be aware of the shortcomings and advantages of doing both, depending on the backpack you are using. Carrying this cumbersome gear on your person may seem unnecessary at times, but it is one of the most essential items that you can bring on a hiking trip.

About the author

Keith is a one bag traveler and the owner of Backpacks Global. His go to backpack is the Osprey FarPoint 40.

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