How To Pack A Tent In A Backpack For First Time Hikers

by Julie | Last Updated:   October 8th, 2022
How To Pack A Tent In A Backpack For First Time Hikers

When it comes to camping, your tent is perhaps the most important piece of equipment that you have. It is also often the largest. There is a lot of other gear that you need to be able to pack inside the backpack, so it can be difficult when you have to fit your tent inside too.

You can’t really go and leave your tent behind because of the struggle of packing it. It is your essential shelter. Fortunately, there are multiple options for packing a tent. There are different ways you can break it up to save space inside the backpack, depending on how you pack it and where you pack it.

We are here to give you all the packing tips you need to get this done easily and still have extra space. It is a heavier piece of gear, but there are ways to mitigate carrying that unnecessary weight.

So, let’s get to it so you can start packing for your next camping trip!

Packing And Selecting A Backpack

The first thing to consider before loading up your backpack is ensuring you have a proper one that will perform the way you need it to when camping or backpacking. There is a vast selection of backpacking packs out there, and the best way to choose one is to try them out. You need to find one that fits you, is comfortable, and sits properly on your frame.

The most common types of hiking backpacks that you will find are internal frame and external frame backpacks:

Internal Frame Backpack

These are just as they sound. They’re the more modern version of the hiking backpacks out there. They look like tall, oversized school backpacks with a lot more space and compartments. They also have a rigidity to them because of the internal frame. It is important that you pick one that fits your size and feels comfortable. They should not sit low toward your butt, but up on your lower back and hips.

The internal frame is made to increase strength and durability, and support the weight without straining your arms, shoulders, or upper back too much. They provide plenty of padding for the back and on the shoulder straps.

External Frame Backpack

These types of backpacks are more traditional, and some truly enjoy this style. They definitely offer a different experience as they are set up with an outside rectangular metal frame (external frame) with shoulder straps. They are designed to support different gear you have in stuff sacks or compression bags and are secured by the horizontal straps that go across the back.

The external frame backpack makes all of your gear easily accessible and helps to evenly distribute weight.

Properly Pack Your Backpack

The actual packing of your backpack is more important than you would think. It helps to distribute weight and gives items a designated spot. Here are some tips that will help a lot when packing:

  • Bottom compartment of the backpack: This is where you want to place the majority of your large, bulky gear. They should all be items that you won’t be needing until you reach camp for the night. Examples: sleeping bags, tent poles, and camp shoes
  • The core area of the backpack: The best place for heavy items you also won’t be needing until reaching your campsite. Examples: cooking gear like pots, pans, stove, tent, and utensils
  • Top of the backpack: Where your more essential lighter items should go in case you need to grab them quickly. Examples: rain jacket, clothes
  • Accessory pockets: This should include the vital essentials that you need often. They need to be accessible and quick to get to, so utilize your accessory pockets for these gear items. Examples: first aid kit, bug spray, headlamp, toiletries, water bottles, water filter/ purification, lip balm, and other essentials
  • External straps and lash-ons: These are for your oversized items or those that are too long to fit inside the backpack. Example: sleeping pad, tent bag

To simplify everything: you want your heavier items at the very bottom of the main compartment and the lightest items towards the top. All other items and essentials can fit into the smaller pockets. When done properly, you’ll be able to fit all your necessary gear inside without trouble.

Ensuring your backpack is properly packed can make a huge difference, especially for those going on a thru-hike. It’s better to have way too much space than not enough at all!

Watch this video here to see in detail how to pack your backpack:

Can You Attach A Tent To The Outside Of A Backpack?

How to pack a tent in a backpack

The simple answer is “yes, technically you could.” There are straps on the outside of your backpack that can easily strap your tent to it. However, when you carry your tent on the outside of your backpack, it leaves it open to possible damage. If you fall or if the tent bag gets snagged on anything like tree branches, it could cause tears or even parts of the tent to become bent.

So, keeping your tent inside the backpack is safer. When doing this, always make sure you have your tent and tent equipment packed properly. You can store the poles for your tent vertically in your backpack. That will be the easiest method, and it will take up less room that way.

The main tent body can fit into the core area of your backpack where the heaviest items go. Or, if you’re on a camping trip with someone else, then you can break up parts of the tent into both of your backpacks to save even more space.

Your tent peg bag can be kept separately at the top of your backpack.

Prevent a Wet Tent

Another reason why you should think before you attach tents to the exterior of your pack is to prevent them from getting wet. A wet tent could spell a miserable camping trip. You can’t have your shelter get wet, so taking extra precautions is wise.

You can do this by keeping the tent inside the backpack and using plastic garbage to line the interior of the backpack for extra protection. This is always why it is better to pack a tent towards the bottom of the backpack as well.

Making use of a compression bag or stuff sack could also provide additional protection for your tent.

Final Thoughts & Takeaways

When it comes to how to pack a tent in a backpack, it’s really not that hard. If you have an internal frame backpack, then you can fit the tent inside. If you have an external frame backpack, then your tent will be secured by compression straps, lash-on, or a rope with a secure knot and best kept in a stuff sack.

These backpacks are specifically designed for camping, hiking, and rugged terrain. They know to make use of as much space as possible. The tent is often kept toward the bottom of the backpack with the bulkier and heavier items like your sleeping bag.

There is always the option of attaching the tent to the outside of the pack, but you’ll want to make sure they have extra protection. Keep the rainfly inside your pack along with the tent peg bag, and the tent poles, which can be placed vertically in the pack.

-Happy Camping-

Frequently Asked Questions

Can A Tent Fit In A Backpack?

Yes, it can. Camping and hiking packs are specifically designed to hold the gear you need for these activities. This includes your sleeping bag, tent, tent poles, cooking gear, camp shoes, and all the bulkier gear you need at the campsite.

Should A Tent Go Inside A Backpack?

Yes, it really should. This is because it will offer the most protection for the tent. It is one of your most vital pieces of gear after all. So, preventing any damage from happening to it should be a priority because it could ruin a camping trip entirely.

Where To Pack A Tent In A Backpack?

The tent should be placed towards the bottom of the backpack. Either the very bottom or on top of the gear at the bottom like your sleeping bag. Keeping the weight low on the pack will help in the long run as it should be your hips and lower back supporting the weight, and not your shoulders.

How To Pack A Wet Tent?

A simple trick to packing a wet tent is to use and always have an extra, large garbage bag. Before you even begin packing your backpack, you should line the inside with a large garbage bag or plastic sheet. This will help protect all of your gear inside your pack if it’s raining. It will also protect the inside of your pack and other gear from getting wet if you have an item that does.

How? By putting the wet tent inside the garbage bag inside your pack and rolling down the excess so that the wet item is sealed inside. Then, you can place your other dry gear on top without worrying that it’ll get wet.

How To Attach The Tent To The Backpack?

Nearly all camping packs come with external straps, buckles, clips, and lash-on to attach gear like your sleeping pad and tent. They are usually located toward the top of the pack and the bottom. You always want to make sure that they are tight and secure so that the tent won’t slip out or get snagged on anything.

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I was fishing before I could walk and it's been a family tradition for centuries. Fishing is my life, or at least as long as I can remember. In the Lake Champlain International Fathers Day Fishing Derby, not only have I won first place twice but also third place! Also, in addition to majoring in Wilderness Recreation Leadership, I also happen to be a licensed camping, hiking, and hunting guide for NY.