Putting the tent up is actually pretty easy. Especially dome tents. And taking them down isn't too bad either. But putting them back in the bag is another story. In this post, you'll learn how to fold a tent like a boss – and put it back in the bag – just like when you bought it.
How to Fold a Tent Like a Boss
You’ve been out in the wilderness for days. You are one with the wild. You can’t remember the last time you washed your hair and you feel like you might want to stay here forever.
But then you think again about the hair washing and how a shower might be nice. Also you have work tomorrow. And your food rations are down to a can of baked beans and an onion. It’s time to go.
As you pack up camp, fill up the bin bags and load the car, the tent stays up. Why?
Because it’s the most annoying thing to take down.
This mysterious piece of equipment arrives to you perfectly packed into a tiny space, it’s packaging states “packs so small!” and “so easy to assemble” but whenever you come to take it down, it never fits and you can never quite remember how it packed down so small in the first place.
Well worry no more because I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this hard. No matter what size, shape, and type of tent you have, you can pack it.
This post is divided into four sections:
- Tent Folding 101 (jump to section)
- How to fold a dome tent (jump to section)
- How to fold a cabin tent (jump to section)
- 13 tent care tips (jump to section)
Rainy day? Here's how to setup your tent in the rain.
How to Fold a Tent: 5 Steps
There are some basic rules of tent folding that apply universally. These rules are as follows:
- Clean the tent before packing and ensure that it is dry. If the tent is wet then it will get moldy. If you must pack it wet, make sure you unpack it as soon as you get home and dry it out.
- The tent must be folded so that it is slightly smaller than the bag
- Roll the tent poles into the tent
- Use a tie to keep the tent rolled tight
- Eliminate lumps and wrinkles to minimize unnecessary bulk.
How to Fold a Dome Tent: 11 Steps
This Australian bloke has a great no fuss approach to folding a dome tent.
He quite rightly argues that if you have three separate items to put into a bag it is going to be much harder to make them fit than one together. Below the video is the step by step process.
Watch on YouTube
- Clean the tent: Remove all dirt and/or food from the inside of the tent as well as any belongings so the tent is clean and clear.
- Remove any tent pegs from the ground: Ensure that all your tent pegs have been collected and placed in their bag, then place this in the pole bag.
- Remove the fly poles: Take any poles out of the flysheet and fold them up into the pole bag.
- Lay the flysheet out inside the tent: Ensuring the flysheet is dry and clean, lay it out on the inside floor of the tent as flat as possible.
- Open all the tent doors: This will ensure that any air inside the tent will escape rather than becoming trapped.
- Remove all the tent poles: Remove all the poles and place them folded back in the pole bag.
- Fold the main tent: Ensure that all bits of the tent are within the main edges. You should now have a square that contains the flysheet as well as the tent itself. Lie the pole bag against the edge of the tent roughly equal distances from each end. This will provide you with a reference as to where you should fold your tent. Take one edge and fold in so that the fold is in line with the edge of the tent pole bag. Then take the other edge and do the same, so that you have a long rectangular shape that is no wider that the pole bag.
- Remove all the air and flatten out: Go over the tent removing any creases, air pockets, and generally making sure it is as flat and neatly folded as possible.
- Roll the pole bag into the tent: Place the pole bag at one end of the tent and start rolling the tent up around it, as tight as is possible. Ensure you are rolling it straight so that one end does not become thicker than the other. You can use your body weight to roll tight and remove the air as you go.
- Tie it all up: Once you have it nicely rolled, tie two lengths of rope around each end (you should have some from original packing). The Aussie bloke recommends putting loops at one end of each piece of rope to then loop the other end through and pull for extra firmness.
- Put it all in the bag! Voila, it’s done! The tent should go in the bag with no trouble at all.
More reading: Guide to Winter Camping Tents
How to Fold a Cabin Tent: 10 Steps
Cabin tents are generally quite substantial. They usually have multiple rooms and spaces and you can generally stand up straight in them.
Fitting them back into their bag is a particular challenge because the bags are generally tight and there is more material to fit back in so doing so correctly and without errors is vital.
Watch on YouTube
- Remove the stakes: Remove all the stakes from the ground surrounding the tent so that the tent is no longer tied down.
- Remove the poles: Remove all the poles from the tent body.
- Lay the tent flat: Lay the tent out flat on the ground and ensure that it is either in a square or rectangular shape. If there is a flysheet, place this also within this shape in a flat and tidy manner.
- Fold the tent in half: Once you have flattened out the tent, fold it in half over itself. Take time here to iron out any kinks, air pockets etc, and ensure again that the tent is nice and flat.
- Fold the tent in half again: Fold the tent in half again so that it is a long rectangular shape now, once again taking the time to flatten it out and tidy it.
- Check the length of the storage sack against the folded tent: If the storage sack is the same or just longer than the short edge of the folded tent, this is fantastic. If the tent is longer, you will need to consider folding again. You want to try and end up with a tent that is folded to almost the same length as the storage sack.
- Fold the long rectangle by a third: Fold one third of the tent over itself.
- Roll tent poles into tent: Lay the tent poles at one end of the folded tent and begin to roll, using your body weight to keep the roll really compact and ironing out air pockets and uneven areas as you go.
- Use the ties to secure the rolled tent: Tie them up so that it stays tightly rolled.
- Place it in the bag: If you have done everything right, the tent should fit snugly in its bag!
Need a tent? Check out our Ultimate Buyers Guide to the Best Family Camping Tents
13 Tent Care Tips
Let's go through some basic tent care tips. These tips will ensure that your tent has a maximized life and you don’t have to go out every other summer and buy a new one. The absolute basic rules are:
- Always read the directions: Even though tents have lots of similarities, they are all slightly different so it is important to familiarize yourself with your particular tent and hold on to the instructions.
- Be gentle with zippers and poles: These are the most sensitive bits of your tent and should be handled with care at all times. Once they are broken/lost they are incredibly hard to repair/replace.
- When breaking down poles, start in the middle: This evenly distributes tensions along the cord.
- Regularly clean your tent and ensure it is dry when stored: This should be an obvious one but dirt and water can lead to mold and mold is bad. You do not want mold. It smells nasty and can be harmful to your health.
- Thoroughly air dry your tent when you have returned from a trip: Even if it has not been wet, it is worth doing this after the end of every trip, to ensure the tent is thoroughly dry.
- Consider storing your tent in a looser container at home: Although packing the tent in its bag is important for trips, consider putting it into a larger container for storage at home, for example, a pillow case, to allow air flow through the fabric while it is being stored. Make sure it is not being stored in a damp or moist location.
- Never machine wash your tent: It is important to clean it but do so with a sponge and some gentle soap, and not in the washing machine. This will break down important coatings on the material.
- Check the waterproofing and repair if needed: Over time, your waterproofing may become compromised, particularly around the seams. You will need to check what material your tent is made out of and then repair appropriately. It will generally be a water-based seam sealant for polyurethane tents, and a silicone sealant for silicone tents. If your tent has a small hole in it, you can also repair it as you would a bike inner tube, with repair tape.
- Consider using a footprint/tarp: Even though tents are waterproof, if it is very wet then a tarp underneath will ensure that your tent is not damaged by excess water. It will also protect it from any stones or thorns penetrating your tent which can damage it and make it no longer waterproof. Trust me, as someone who has had this happen, it is no fun and you won’t realize it until you are using your tent in very wet conditions. Then you will wake up in the middle of the night and all your belongings including your sleeping bag will be wet.
- Avoid leaving your tent set up in direct sunlight for long period: UV rays will damage your tent by degrading the fabric.
- Leave boots outside the tent: Boots can carry foreign objects that can puncture your tent or dirt that will degrade it over time. Only go into your tent in socks or bare feet.
- Do not leave your dog unsupervised in the tent: I don’t know what your dog is like, but my dog likes to dig, roll, scratch… you get the picture. If they’re unsupervised they could be up to anything which could include damaging your tent. Also take the time to check their claws are clipped short before you go away to minimize the chances of any punctures to your tent.
- Store food and toiletries in a closed container: Leave food or personal fragrance items in a secure container on the outside of the tent or in the vestibule. Keeping these kind of items in the tent can be too tempting for little (and big) animals who may try to chew through your tent material to get to these items, leaving you with a hole in your tent (and an animal in it!).
Thanks to REI for some of the inspiration of these tips.
More reading: How to stake a tent properly
Now you have the knowledge, you should be able to go camping and impress all your friends with your tent folding skills!
There is nothing better than coming to the end of a relaxing weekend knowing that you are not going to have an hour-long battle with your tent to get it back into the bag.
Now head out into the wilderness (and no matter what tent you have) knowing that you have the ability to get it back into its teeny, tiny bag.
Dena Haines is a co-founder and blogger on GudGear – and is working to make it the best resource for outside gear. She also blogs about travel at Storyteller.Travel and photography at Click Like This. Dena is partner at Storyteller Media, a publishing company she started with her husband, Bryan.