OUTDOOR BASICS

How to Fold a Tent: Tight like a Tiger

How to Fold a Tent
Jerry Mueller
Written by Jerry Mueller

Do you love camping? We do too. And what’s not to love with all the wonderful things you can do after you’ve set your tent? You can explore the wilderness with day hikes, build campfires, eat marshmallows, tell stories, and marvel at the beauty of a colorful sunrise or sunset. But then the departing day comes when you have to say goodbye to everything. Except for your tent. That you have to take with you. And all hell can break loose if you don’t know how to fold a tent.

Unfortunately, something like this can really mess with your whole trip because it can set you back hours. Or, you would wake up hours in advance and then be miserable for the rest of your trip home. But folding a tent has gotten a bad rep for all the wrong reasons, it’s actually quite easy if you follow the right steps, depending on the type of tent you have.

Tent Folding

And that’s exactly what we plan on helping you with. We’ll start with a list of reasons why knowing how to pack your tent is extremely important. After that, we’ll discuss how to put away different sorts of tents, keeping in mind that each different model requires a different packing process. To top it all off, we’ll end with a bunch of tips and tricks on how to make this process easier, so read on.

Why Packing Knowledge is Power

The tension and anxiety you might feel before packing your tent aren’t justified if you know the right steps. So folding your tent is actually quite easy, though it takes a bit of practice. But if you need some great motivators on why you should learn how to pack away your tent, this section is definitely it.

  • You’ve probably invested more than a pack of gum in your tent, so packing it badly might affect that investment.
  • Packing a tent wrong can lead to the fabric tearing off.
  • If you don’t pack a tent properly and it crumples but doesn’t tear, it can still ruin the fabric in the long run.
  • If you’re hiking and packing the tent wrong between each campsite thinking that a few hours don’t matter, you’re going to have troubles carrying it because of the poor weight distribution.
  • Knowing how to pack your tent can spare you from injuries while you’re on the move because poor weight distribution leads to imbalances.
  • If you can pack your tent wisely, you’ll have more room for other stuff in your backpack.
  • A constant feeling of anxiety when packing your tent may lead to less outdoor trips, which means less fun as well as fewer benefits brought by cleaner air and exercise.
  • A great packing of your tent means an easier setup during your next camping trip because every piece of gear will be well stored and thus easy to find.
  • If you pack your tent the right way, you’re minimizing the risk of misplacing a pole.

Person is Folding Tent

Are you convinced yet? Then it’s time to move on to the next section.

The Actual Folding Process

If you’re a newbie to camping or haven’t folded a tent before, you might think something like “how hard can it actually be?” Well, don’t take our word for it. Set up your tent, then try packing it away without reading this article. We’ll wait.

Are you back? Welcome, we’ve been expecting you. Now, let’s get down to business. Question number one: What sort of tent do you have? We’ve got you covered, but it’s really important to read the right instructions for your exact type of tent seeing that its shape, weight, and type of fabric influences the folding process.

The Large Pop-up Tent

If you have a pop-up tent, you already know that this is an easy tent to set up simply because it pops up into place. This is just the thing you want if you’re camping in warmer weather so it has thinner fabrics, which makes it lightweight and compact.

Pop Up Tent

You might mistakenly think that a tent so easy to set up and so compact can’t be packed wrong, but it’s not the case. In fact, since it doesn’t have thicker, more resistant fabrics it can get ruined faster. And even if it’s compact, to begin with, poor packing will make it bulkier. So folding it implies:

  1. Making sure the tent is clean

That means you need to make sure there isn’t any dry mud, grass or insects inside it. You might assume you can do this once you’re home, but that might actually damage your tent, with stuff like pine needles getting inside your tent fabric then ripping it.

Cleaning the Tent at Home

To clean your tent, you simply have to tip it over so that the dirt and grass fall down. After that, get inside it again and wipe its floor with a moist cleaning cloth dipped in baby soap or in a delicate detergent. Once that’s done, wait for it to dry before putting it away if you don’t want to end up with a moldy tent.

  1. Packing the poles

This one is easy. You simply have to start with the poles in the front, so go in front of your tent. Now stretch your arms so you can reach each pole, then pull them into each other.

Do the same with the bottom poles, which are located at the outside edges of the tent. You won’t have to fold them into each other, so that might seem easier since you only have to place them up and over the already folded upper poles. However, make sure that at the end of this step, you’re holding all four poles in one hand.

  1. Flatting out the tent

You have to start by placing the tent on its side but keep the poles firmly in your hand too. Now, slowly put the open side of your tent on the ground.

Tent on the Ground

The next thing is that the top poles should rest on the back of your hand. This can be done if you’re stretching your hands, whilst they’re still holding the poles, to get to the top parts of the tent and bring them together. Now place the tent on the ground and make sure it stays flat.

  1. Folding the tent

The best part of all this is that you have a pop-up tent with very light poles, so you won’t need to struggle with folding them. Besides, they’re quite flexible too so there’s no chance of breaking them in the process.

At this point, once you’ve folded the tent in two, it should look like two circles. Of course, you have to place one on top of the other to continue your folding process.

Folding a tent

Now it’s time to put the tent into its storage bag, so make sure you apply enough force to keep the tent folded and unable to pop back up. You can use your knees too in order to make sure that your tent isn’t inflating itself back up, then slowly push it inside the carry bag.

The Beach Tent

This is a sort of pop-up tent too, but it’s smaller than the previous model. It’s also intended for warmer weather, so you have to make sure its fabric doesn’t get ruined due to poor packing. So you’ll have to:

  1. Clean it all up

There shouldn’t be any debris inside the tent here either, even if you feel that a little sand can’t do much harm. So simply tip the tent in order for the sand to come out.

Beach Tent

The tent floor might have also gotten wet because you’re using it on the beach, so the sand might be sticking to it instead of falling out. So use a soft cleaning cloth to wipe the inside of the tent, maybe with a sprinkle of soft detergent too, but wait until the tent is perfectly dry to continue the folding process.

  1. First fold

Go in front of the tent door, and you’ll see a pole that’s placed between the two sides of the tent above the entrance. Grab the two sides there, but make sure you leave the door open.

Now, press the two sides together on the ground. You start by taking one of the sides from its center part and then pushing it on the ground. With your hand still holding it firmly on the ground, do the same with the other side.

  1. Second fold

You now have something resembling an oval, so now you should turn your tent on its side. Basically, you have to turn the oval upside down and apply pressure on its top side so you get a figure 8.

Folding Beach Tent

You probably guessed the next step: figure 8 is made out of two circles, so you should bring them one on top of the other. Just make sure you’re applying enough pressure, get your knees in there two unless you want the tent to pop back up.

  1. Packing it away

The poles of a beach tent are pretty flexible, so they won’t break. That means you will have to keep a secure hold on them before tightening them with the elastic band.

Once you’ve wrapped the tent with the elastic band, you can gently push it inside its storage bag. Make sure the poles are securely tucked inside the bag too, then close it up until your next use.

The Cabin Tent

From the delicate pop-up tents, we’re now moving to a true giant of tents. The cabin tent is so huge it can fit about a dozen people, so you’ll have to deal with more equipment, a bigger bulk, and more rugged materials.

Cabin Tent

It also means that a poor packing leads to troubles transporting it, so follow the steps below:

  1. Wipe the inside of the tent so there aren’t any pine needles or dirt inside it. Clean it with a piece of wet cloth too, especially if there are stains, but make sure it’s dry before packing it.
  2. Go to each pole and stake and undo them.
  3. Place the tent on the ground, spread into a rectangle shape.
  4. Grab one side of the tent and place it on top of the other, symmetrically.
  5. Go over the folded tent so that you flatten it as much as you can removing all creases and remaining air.
  6. Repeat the procedure, by folding the tent in half again, lengthwise as many times as necessary until it’s shorter than the length of its storage bag.
  7. Once that’s done, grab the narrow side of the tent and fold it tightly, making sure the fabric isn’t crumpled and that there isn’t any air trapped inside it.
  8. Gently push the tent in the bag and zipper it up.

The Backpacking Tent

Once we’ve tackled the two extremes, let’s discuss a popular tent model too. This one is really appreciated because of its weather resistance combined with its low weight and compact measurements.

Backpacking Tent

However, you’ll have more equipment to ensure this resistance, as well as a rugged fabric, though not as big as that of a cabin tent.

  1. Clean the tent, wiping off any dirt, debris or grass. Clean all possible stains with a moist, soft cleaning cloth and wait until it’s all dry.
  2. Take out all the pins and stakes you’ve used to set up your tent and place them in a bag so you don’t lose them.
  3. Take down all the tent poles, folding them carefully. Now you only have the actual fabric left.
  4. Since you’ve already cleaned this fabric, you can place it on the ground, in a clean place, with the entrance facing upwards.
  5. Grab the sides of the tent and move them to the center, one by one. As you do this, make sure the fabric isn’t crumpled or that there isn’t any air inside the tent, by taking the time to smooth it out.
  6. Once all the sides are folded, roll the tent securely and tightly, using your hands and your knees if you have to. Keep in mind that wrinkles, lumps, and air are your main foes, but also take the time to wipe out any possible grass or debris that might have stuck to the bottom of your tent.
  7. Tie the tent with a rope or an elastic band to make sure it stays folded and put it in its carry bag. If you have room enough in this bag, you can also add the poles, but not the stakes or the pins because these might puncture your tent.

The Dome Tent

Unlike the backpack tent, the dome tent provides more space which is great for group camping. You’ll have about three poles to do away with that go through the top part of the roof in order to ensure the extra space.

Dome Tent

Besides, they’re generally windproof, so you might experience some issues with the fabric when you’re trying to get rid of the trapped air. However, the fabric is soft and easy to deal with in terms of wrinkles.

  1. Make sure the flysheet is straight.
  2. Fold the flysheet vertically, keeping its outer part tucked inside it.
  3. Repeat this step.
  4. Grab the edges of the fly to meet the closest pole.
  5. Fold the edges of the fly to the center.
  6. Grab the top part of the flysheet and roll it up.
  7. Grab a piece of rope or elastic band and tie the fly securely.
  8. Spread the tent on the ground, making sure the zippers are closed.
  9. Make sure the canopy is flat, laying any excess roof material on top of the back door.
  10. Now move to the vestibule and fold it over the tent, with its upper part on top. Disregard this step if you don’t have a vestibule, obviously.
  11. Grab a side of the tent and move it to the center. Repeat for the remaining three sides.
  12. Place all the poles, pegs and the fly sheet on top of the tent one by one, rolling the tent a bit each time you add a new piece of gear.
  13. Make sure the tent is rolled very tightly, though, taking the time to smooth out possible wrinkles and to remove any trapped air. You can use your knees too.
  14. Place the tent inside the bag, and close it tightly.

Tips and Tricks

Now that you’re here, we’re going to reward you by sharing a few tips and tricks on how to make sure your tent is folded just right.

  • Each tent is different, and we’ve given you some very general advice up till now. So in order to respect the very particular set of needs of your tent, read the user manual – that was a no-brainer, right?
  • Do a Google search on how to fold down the exact brand and model of tent you have. If there are any issues or specific tips, you’ll find them out from the other users.
  • If it’s your first time using the tent, follow the fold lines. After all, the tent was already packed when you bought it, so there are already some creases where it’s been folded.
  • Don’t just forget your tent in the air-tight carry bag for a year if you’ve packed it with some debris or moisture still inside.

Tent

Final Thoughts

Are you a tent folding expert now? We sure hope so. We’ve taken you through a series of very detailed advice on how to pack your tent, so we’re confident that you’ve at least got the gist of it. We discussed a few types of tents too, so now you can apply that advice even if your own tent is a bit different than the ones above. And don’t forget our tips and tricks section.

So when you’re getting a panic attack before packing your tent, keep in mind the reasons why you should fold it as best as you can. Speaking of which, what are some of the issues you’ve experienced with tent packing? Was this article helpful, or are there any other particular info we can discuss further? The comment section awaits below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jerry Mueller

Jerry Mueller

Jerry ‘Boy Scout’ Mueller spends 99% of his time camping or teaching others how to live in the wild. He became an Eagle Scout which is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting division when he was 17 and after that he still lives the scout life. Jerry always plans neatly every trip, takes leadership very seriously and if you listen to his tips and stories, you can learn tons of useful things.