How To Pack a Tent For Backpacking

Have you ever planned a trip with your family or even your friends? Whether you’re going on a hiking, camping or even a vocational trip, you’ll definitely need a backpack. To make those trips even more amazing you should know how to pack a camping backpack. You can get the best backpacking tents for tourism

Wrong-way of packing your backpack can lead to overburden, back pain or even an injury. In this guide, we will tell you how to pack a tent for backpacking? which is not known to the majority of adventurers. So, stay with us till the end of this article to find out the best way to pack a tent for backpacking.


Backpacking is an outdoor activity as a method of travel where gear is carried in a backpack. Your backpack must include food, water, shelter, and other essentials. Trekking is another name given to backpacking. In this guide, we will tell you how to pack a camping backpack. Camping trips can range from one night to more than one week.

Weight is a necessary key component when packing a backpack, one of the heaviest items here is a ‘tent’. There are two methods of packing a tent which we will discuss down below!


Following are the types of backpacking:

  • Adventure Travel:

Adventure travel is a type of backpacking, involving exploration or travel with potentially requiring specialized skills through long distances on a vehicle.

  • Hiking:

Hiking is a long walk usually on footpaths or specified trails in the countryside or hilly areas.

  • Trekking:

Trekking is a long arduous journey, typically on foot, although it’s more similar to hiking. The difference being that treks are longer than hikes and have the option to stay on small lodges and mountain huts.

  • Camping:

Camping is an activity for a few days or a week or so, alone or in a small group, sleeping under a tent.

How to pack a tent for backpacking

Backpacking checklist

This article explains the proper weight distribution when the backpack is full. A well-loaded pack won’t shift as you hike with it. Make a backpacking checklist for your backpack to ensure that you’re not missing out on something, this also helps you not to forget things. This will also help you to maintain a record of the trips as well

Your backpacking checklist should consist of the following items::

  1. Hiking shoes
  2. Backpack
  3. Tent
  4. Sleeping bag
  5. Stove and matches
  6. Kitchen supplies
  7. Plenty of food
  8. Water bottles and water-treatment supplies
  9. Weather-appropriate clothing
  10. Emergency and hygiene supplies
  11. Small repair kit

Packing Zones

We can break packing down into three (3) zones/pockets, which are:

  1. Bottom zone: Good for heavy gear which is less likely to be used.
  2. Core zone: Good for medium-sized gear.
  3. Top zone: Good for gear that you might use on your journey.
  4. Accessory pockets: Good for gear that you need instantly.
  5. Tool loops and lash-on points: Good long items such as chains and ribbons.

tent backpacking

  1. Bottom Zone:

Good for heavy gear which is less likely to be used. [1]

  • Sleeping bag (Most backpacks have a compartment for placing sleeping bags)
  • Sleeping pad (Pad that rolls up, it takes less space)
  • Camp shoes

The bottom zone of the backpack should consist of soft gear that creates a kind of shock absorption mechanism that will prevent you from injuring yourself. This also helps to reduce the chances of misbalancing.

  1. Core Zone:

The combined mass of the body appears to be concentrated at the center of gravity (COG). Bulky items at the center of gravity help to create a load that is directed downward. The material can cause the pack to sink if it’s too low. [2]

Soft and delicate items should be wrapped around bulky gear to prevent any unforeseen. These soft items can also be used to fill gaps between bulky gears:

  • Body of the Tent.
  • The base on the tent.
  • Tent Rainfly.
  • Cloth for flooring.
  1. Top Zone:

Bulky trail essentials work well here: [3]

The top zone of the bag must act as an insulation area, to prevent gear inside the bag safe from water particles and moisture.

  • Insulated jacket
  • Fleece wear (jacket, pants)
  • Raincoat
  • First-aid box
  • Water purifier
  • Toilet supplies (trowel, tissue)

People also like to put their tents above all the packs for fast access for example in stormy weather it’s easier to set up a camp when its placed above all the gear

  1. Accessory Pocket:

The accessory pocket comprises lid pockets, front pockets, and side pockets. Some of the backpacks even have a lot of smaller pockets inside to put accessories [5]. This checklist helps you to organize smaller items/essentials in a place.

Some of the most important essentials are:

  • Map
  • Compass
  • GPS
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Headlamp
  • Bug spray
  • Snacks
  • Water bottles
  • Rain cover
  • Identification Card (ID)
  1. Tool loops & Lash-On point:

Following are the items/gear that should be strapped on the outside of the backpack:

  • Hiking poles
  • Tent poles
  • Large sleeping pad
  • Camp stool or chair
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons
  • Climbing rope

Many backpacks have special pockets to hang the gear. Chains, lash patches and straps can also be used to hang gear that can’t be easily carried in places.

Selecting a backpack

It is very important to pack up your backpack properly because that will affect how comfortable you are during your adventure. How to pack a camping backpack? That’s a very good question because if a backpack is not packed properly, you will feel tired. It may increase the chances of injury or even back pain because of improper weight distribution. If we look on the other side, a well-packed backpack can result in consecutive movement and improves your overall hiking/trekking experience. If a backpack is packed efficiently, it can actually fit in a large amount of gear. Layout all your gear on the floor and try to place them in the backpack in a number of ways until you find out what works best for you.

  • Internal Frame Backpack:

Backpacks that have an internal frame are more spacious with an external frame backpack [4]. The space in the internal frame backpack is quite large to fit in a tent. It also helps to keep your bag upright and your stuff sorted out in a single place (we do not recommend over-stuffing your backpack).

The only thing you need to remember is how big of a backpack do you need so that your tent can exactly fit in your backpack. The size of the backpack depends upon the ‘size of the tent’ as bigger tents need a bigger room hence a bigger backpack is required. You could also buy a compression bag to resolve sizing problems.

Packing a Tent inside a Backpack

Method 1: Tent inside the backpack

Your tent should be placed on a flat floor first, the floor must not be wet. You’ll need to completely dry the floor. This can be done if it is placed in sunshine or wind. You can also change your position too. A wet tent not only adds unnecessary weight to the backpack but also wets the bag. It may also cause molds too which may lead to the destruction of gear as well as the backpack.

  • Lay your tent in a flat shape on the ground: With the tent poles in their bag, line the bag up along the side of the tent, not in the center. [5]
  • Roll the tent: Our goal is to provide more support to the tent, so that it doesn’t break. The tent must be rolled properly.

It is important to roll up the tent as straight as possible and the pole bag will help it to provide more support to the base of the tent.

  • Putting a tent in the backpack: The first step is to dry the tent. Packing a wet tent is very difficult. A wet tent not only adds unnecessary weight to the backpack but also wets the bag, which leads to an unbalanced load.
  • Placement of gears: The lightweight items should be placed at the top zone, while the heavier items in the bottom zone [6]. Hiking involves a lot of walking, so the weight ratio between you and your bag must me 10:3 for proper weight distribution.
  • Placement of a tent in the backpack: The tent should be placed in the middle of the backpack this helps to reduce pressure on your back. The sleeping bag should be placed at the bottom zone because it is the last item to be taken out of the bag. It’s up to you to decide the orientation i.e. vertically or horizontally. Horizontal placement can make packing on top of the tent easier while vertical placement can make the tent more accessible/easy when you need to take it out. So, you can use both orientations.

Method 2: Packing the tent outside the backpack

  • Backpack with an external frame for best results: Internal frame has its own advantages and disadvantages while you can definitely use an internal frame backpack, the external frame is specifically built to hold the tent and other items on the exterior side of the bag.
  • Risks of packing the tent on the outside of the backpack: When the tent is on the outside, it’s much more exposed to one should expect more chances of damage from rocks and other sharp objects. Packing the tent outside can lead to more risk of backpack falling. If your backpack/tent contacts with rocks, the sharp edges might ruin the tent. When the tent is inside, it is more likely that it’s safe. But with the tent on the outside, it can fall down without you noticing it, so you won’t have any sort of place to lie down. This might ruin your entire camping experience.
  • Protection from the rain: Tents nowadays are mostly made up of parachute material hence they are waterproof. If any tent is not water-resistant the water seeps into the tent, it could easily destroy your gear and increase the weight of the bag. The plastic bag is used above the tent for extra protection from the natural elements such as rain. You can also use the following things provided in ‘how do I prepare backpack for rain section?’
  • Testing your backpack: When we use compression straps then we can use both external frame and internal frame backpacks. These both will be perfect for attaching the tent to the outside.
  • Attaching tent to the bottom: Placing the tent at the bottom is better than placing it on the top. Tent placed at the bottom will protect you from any possible injury or strain. Placing it on top can unbalance the weight.
  • Use closed-loop ties on your backpack for outside packing: While closed-loop ties work best, you can also use a secure knot for this purpose as well. The holes in the tent are threaded through holes on either of it sides, so if your tent falls down you will notice it somehow, it’s safe this way.

How to Lighten Your Pack?

  • Weigh your gear: You can always use a food scale to weigh your gear. If you wear anything other than usual clothes wear, you’ll often find manufacturer declared weights are off. Track your data in grams is it a universal unit.
  • Organize your gear: Go with the lightest backpack first that meets your needs. Separate all your gears on one side to organize them.
  • Log your gear and its weight for each category: Tent is heaviest in this category; you’ll probably notice that things other than tent are sleeping bags, and packs, that are the heaviest.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. How will I prepare my backpack for rain?
  • Rain covers: Rain cover is a mandatory thing if you’re going to a hill station. This protects your bag as well as all the gears and accessories inside that bag.
  • Compression Stacks: This also acts as an insulator against the rain and helps to protect the gear.
  • Trash Bags: Plastic bags or shoppers are cheap and easily available. They can also help you in case of rain. Place all your expensive gear inside the plastic bag before placing it in your backpack.
  1. How to avoid overpacking?
  • Your tent should be placed on a flat floor first, the floor must not be wet. You’ll need to completely dry the floor. This can be done if it is placed in sunshine. Make different piles to arrange things so that they can be easily placed in the bag.
  • Make two piles 1) Essentials 2) Luxury pile. Now try to eliminate things from the luxury pile and take out compact luggage.
  1. Why does a backpack have so many straps?
  • The backpack has so many straps to make sure that everything is tightened when you’re about to leave for a trail. Using straps helps you improve your overall experience of the hike. Some of the backpacks also have zippers and pockets within.
  1. Roll or Fold clothes?
  • Rolling better than folding as it takes less space to fit in clothes. It is good for T-shirts, pants, but not so good for heavier stuff like blankets. Sweaters or blankets can take up more space when so it’s better to fold them. It’s harder to roll formal shirts, and rolling will cause creases in them.
  1. Where a tent should be placed on a backpack?
  • Your sleeping bag should always be at the bottom of the pack as it can be quite heavy and it’s always the last item to be taken out of the bag. As we know the sleeping bag is always placed in the bottom-most section so its better to place a tent above the sleeping bag or in the middle section.


  • Putting everything right: Lighter items to be placed at the bottom zone, such as a sleeping bag, t-shirts, pajamas. Use the middle zone of the backpack for heavier items like a laptop, cooking essentials or a filter. Heavier loads must be aligned with the backpack to prevent off-balancing. Wrap delicate items with clothes or blanket so that they don’t break or you don’t end up with anything painfully into your spine, this can also injure you. Your backpack must be divided into different zones and gear/items must be placed in them accordingly.
  • Load minimization: Start by making piles of everything you want to bring and consider whether you actually need it or not because the unnecessary load can ruin your hiking experience. You can always cut down a lot of load from luxury pile or extras from the bag. For example, if u have camera equipment with you, try not to bring its protection lid or cover. You can always place them within softer items such as blankets. If you have a metal frame you can remove the heavier part of it i.e. metal frame. Heavier loads help to balance the center of gravity more efficiently. You can also carry two backpacks if you’re traveling on a vehicle. You can use one of them for the essential item (for the hike) and luxury items based on your needs.
  • Compress your load: Rolling better than folding as it takes less space to fit in clothes. It is good for T-shirts, pants, but not so good for heavier stuff like blankets. A compressed load is easier to carry because it can free up more space that will help you to fit more items. The load can also be compressed using the external straps so that it becomes as tight as possible. It’s way easier to hold and place this way.
  • Protect your bag from rain: Purchase a rain cover for your backpack. This protective layer will stop water from damping. Compression stacks will protect your sensitive gear from the inside if the rain really starts. Heavy plastic bags/shoppers are a cheap and simple option to avoid. Load your clothes and other water unfriendly gear into trash bags before packing.
  • Bring two bags: If you’re traveling on a vehicle and planning to go on a hike. You must divide your gear piles. Let bag A be used for essential items and bag B to be used for Luxury items. If you go on a hike or trail you can take essential items bag with you. This way you’ll always be having a luxury item bag with you when you need it.


It needs to be stressed that the tent is much more delicate on the outside. Rain, rocks, and branches pose a much greater threat to the tent than if it were on the inside of the backpack.


In this article, we have helped you understand the basics of packing a backpack in detail step by step. There are two ways to carry a tent 1) externally, 2) Internally. It better to practice your tent making and bag packing skills before going on a trip you are aware of any mishaps.  Both External and Internal packing of the tent have their own pros and cons, it all depends upon the backpack you are using. Carrying too many unnecessary items/gears in your bag may seem necessary at times, but in reality, it only adds up weight. Always take good gear sorting measures and protection measures before going on a trip. If you have any queries or question don’t hesitate to ask us in the comments section. Stay Safe & Enjoy!

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