Today you’re going to learn how to fold a tent because it’s really important when you just have to get up and go. If you mess it up, you can ruin it, and you won’t be able to use it again. I’ll give you full instructions for each type of tent, so I’m making sure you’re covered.
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, and you won’t have to spend hours on it.
And that’s exactly what I plan on showing you today. I’ll discuss how to put away different sorts of tents, keeping in mind that each different model requires a different packing process.
Instructions on How to Fold Different Types of Tents
If you are new to camping or haven’t folded a tent before, you might need a little practice before actually going camping. Set up your tent, then try packing it away a few times, following our instructions, until you get it right.
The type of tent you own counts because shape, weight, and fabric can influence the way you need to hold your tent.
Folding the Large Pop-up Tent
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, as it has thinner fabrics, which makes it lightweight and compact.
Even if it is easy to set up, is more difficult to fold back, and how you do it is very important for it to last you longer. It doesn’t have thick or resistant fabrics, so it can get ruined faster.
Follow these steps to make sure your large pop-up tent is folded properly and you end up with a compact and neat tent.
1. Make sure the tent is clean
You need to make sure there aren’t any dry mud, grass, or insects inside it. You can’t do this once you’re home, because that can damage your tent. Pine needles can get inside your tent fabric and then rip it.
To clean your tent, simply 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.
Wait for it to dry before putting it away if you don’t want to end up with a moldy tent.
2. Packing the poles
You have to start with the poles in the front, 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 only have to place them up and over the already folded upper poles. Make sure that at the end of this step, you’re holding all four poles in one hand.
3. 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.
The top poles should rest on the back of your hand. Stretch 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.
4. 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. They’re quite flexible, 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.
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.
Use your knees in order to make sure that your tent isn’t inflating itself back up, then slowly push it inside the carry bag.
Folding 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.
If you’re looking to buy a light tent, see my article on the best ultralight tents, to help you pick one.
1. Clean it all up
There shouldn’t be any debris inside the tent, 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.
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.
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.
2. 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 central part and then pushing it onto the ground. With your hand still holding it firmly on the ground, do the same with the other side.
3. 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.
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, and get your knees in there, unless you want the tent to pop back up.
4. 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.
Folding the Cabin Tent
The cabin tent is so big it can fit about a dozen people, so you’ll have to deal with more equipment, a bigger bulk, and more rugged materials.
It also means that poor packing leads to trouble when transporting it, so follow the steps below carefully:
- Wipe the inside of the tent so there aren’t any pine needles or dirt.
- Clean it with a piece of wet cloth, especially any stains
- Make sure it’s dry before packing it.
- Go to each pole and stake and undo them.
- Place the tent on the ground, and spread it into a rectangular shape.
- Grab one side of the tent and place it on top of the other, symmetrically.
- Go over the folded tent so that you flatten it, removing all creases and remaining air.
- Repeat the procedure, folding the tent in half again and again, until it’s shorter than the length of its storage bag.
- 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.
- Gently push the tent into the bag and zip it up.
Folding the Backpacking Tent
This tent model is popular because of its weather resistance combined with its low weight and compact measurements.
You have more equipment, as it is more resistant, as well as a rugged fabric, though it is not as big as that of a cabin tent.
- Clean the tent, wiping off any dirt, debris, or grass.
- Clean all possible stains with a moist, soft cleaning cloth.
- Wait until it’s all dry.
- Take out all the pins and stakes you’ve used to set up your tent and place them in a bag.
- Take down all the tent poles, folding them carefully.
- Place it on the ground, in a clean space, with the entrance facing upwards.
- Grab the sides of the tent and move them to the center, one by one.
- Make sure the fabric isn’t crumpled or there isn’t any air inside, by smoothing it out.
- Roll the tent securely and tightly, using your hands and your knees if you have to. Wrinkles, lumps, and air are your main foes, but take the time to wipe out any possible grass or debris that might have stuck to the bottom of your tent.
- 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 enough room you can also add the poles, but not the stakes or the pins because these might puncture your tent.
Folding the Dome Tent
The dome tent provides more space which is great for group camping. You’ll have about three poles that go through the top part of the roof in order to ensure the extra space.
They’re generally windproof, so you might experience some issues with the fabric when you’re trying to get rid of the trapped air. The fabric is soft and easy to deal with in terms of wrinkles.
- Make sure the fly sheet is straight.
- Fold the flysheet vertically, keeping its outer part tucked inside it, as many times as you need.
- Grab the edges of the fly to meet the closest pole.
- Fold the edges of the fly to the center.
- Grab the top part of the flysheet and roll it up.
- Grab a piece of rope or elastic band and tie the fly securely.
- Spread the tent on the ground, making sure the zippers are closed.
- Make sure the canopy is flat, laying any excess roof material on top of the back door.
- 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.
- Grab a side of the tent and move it to the center. Repeat for the remaining three sides.
- 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.
- Make sure the tent is rolled very tightly, taking the time to smooth out possible wrinkles and remove any trapped air. Use your knees.
- Place the tent inside the bag, and close it tightly.
Tips and Tricks
These are a few tips and tricks on how to make sure your tent is folded just right.
- Each tent is different, and I’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, if you still have it.
- If you don’t have the manual do a Google search for the exact brand and model of tent you have, and you might find it, and in it the instructions on how to fold it.
- 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.
- Make sure your tent is clean and aired, before depositing it for a year, read my article on how to clean your tent easily, to make sure you do it right.
- Fix any problems before storing it. You can find out how to fix a tent zipper in my article.
I’ve taken you through a series of detailed instructions on how to pack your tent, so I’m confident that you learned a few things today.
Now you can apply these instructions even if your own tent is a bit different than the ones above. And don’t forget our tips and tricks section.
What are some of the issues you’ve experienced with tent packing? Tell us more in the comment section below.
Daniel is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.