How To Pack A Tent In A Backpack

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When out on a hike, packing the backpack the right way plays a big role. Everything that is necessary for the hike should be in (or firmly attached to) the backpack. While several items can go in the backpack easily, the tent may need some extra effort. So here’s a quick guide on how to pack a tent in a backpack.




Type Of Backpack You’re Using

Internal Frame Backpack

Internal frame backpacks are modern backpacks that help with better weight distribution. In my opinion, these are superior to their competition. These backpacks usually have a rectangular (cuboid) shape that keeps the bottom flat. The top of the tent under the flap stays horizontal as well.

The structure of the backpack makes it stick close to your back and keeps items inside stationary. It also keeps the center of gravity at a relatively natural position and is easier on the back.

How To Pack A Tent In A Backpack
Images: Loowoko Hiking Backpack (Internal Frame) on Amazon

With internal frames, it is best to put your tent, sleeping bag, and similar accessories in the bottom compartment of the backpack.

External Frame Backpack

These old-timey backpacks have an external, less rigid frame. They sit further from the back, allowing more ventilation to the hiker. They can, however, put more pressure on the back of the hiker.




If you have the room, place the tent in the bottom compartment. Otherwise, I think it’s best to attach the tent securely to the outside (bottom) of the backpack. Secure it with compression straps or something similar.

The total weight you carry should never exceed 30% of your body weight.

Size Of The Tent

Small Tent

Small tents that also pack small are obviously easier to get into backpacks. You can simply place the tent at the bottom of the backpack.

Large Tent

When I say a large tent, I mean a tent that doesn’t pack small. You’re certainly not taking a big family tent to a hike! For a tent like this, it’s best to place it in a stuff sack that will compress it well enough to be placed inside the tent. 

If the tent is large enough that it can’t be packed, it’s best to attach tent to backpack. Place the tent at the bottom, and secure it firmly in place with compression straps. In the off-chance your backpack doesn’t have straps at the bottom, use ropes or plastic straps if you must. The tent must stay firmly attached and not get dangly.

Where Should I Place Tent Poles In My Backpack?

Ideally, tent poles should be placed vertically on the sides of your backpack. Hiking backpacks usually have loops and lash-on points to place tent poles.

If there isn’t enough room to place them vertically, they can be placed horizontally at the top of the backpack, but under the flap.

Pack In Or Attach Tent To Backpack?

I’d say pack in. It is always better to reduce clutter and hike with minimalist gear. Place things like the tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag at the bottom of the backpack. Anything that you won’t need until it is time to set up camp should go at the bottom of the backpack.

Keep in mind, when packing a backpack, you’re not building columns, but packing rows. Center of the backpack is for denser, heavier items like your cooking utensils. The bottom items should not encroach on this layer. You can use some items to fill up gaps here, but remember it’s the heavier, denser items that call this area home.

In case the bottom row is already full and does not have room for your tent, it is better to attach tent to the backpack. Place your tent in line with the bottom of the backpack, and secure it firmly in place.

Get Creative When Packing Your Tent

A lot of packing and preparation is about human ingenuity and common sense. There are, in a broad sense, the best practices to employ like those listed here. But, feel free to color between the lines. Knowing how to pack a tent in a backpack is as much intuitive knowledge as it is experience and camping know-how.