Camping inevitably involves backpacking, especially if you’re planning a trip deep into the uncharted wilderness. If you plan to “lose” yourself for more than a few hours, that means bringing along some sort of tent and you want to know how to attach your tent to your backpack unless you’re going for serious survivalism.
Unless you’re an exceptionally skilled outdoors person, a tent will give better protection from chill night temperatures or precipitation than most handmade structures.
How to Attach a Tent to a Backpack
So, let’s take a look at the recommended ways to backpack your tent.
1. Stash It Inside Your Pack
Most “how to pack your backpack” articles don’t recommend placing your tent outside your backpack.
The collective backpacking wisdom states that the best way to pack your backpack is as follows:
- Place your filled bladder-type water container in its designated place first if you know how much water you woll bring. Be sure that it’s well stoppered and has no leaks.
- Pack your sleeping bag in the very bottom of your pack, along with any sleeping clothing.
- Pack the soft parts of your tent inside your backpack on top of your sleeping bag. If it has collapsible poles, you can pack those too.
- Pack your food, preferably in a container that will keep odors from leaking out, on top of the tent.
- Finally, pack items you might need quickly on top of your food containers.
Why? This method places the heaviest items in your pack at the bottom of it where it’s not likely to wobble around and throw you off balance.
Unless you have one of those feather-light, teeny-tiny backpacking tents, your tent is likely to be the bulkiest thing in your pack. If your tent is inside your pack, it’s less likely to be snagged on a bush or lost off the bottom of your pack in a difficult climb.
There are disadvantages to this method. The biggest one is that most of the directions state that it’s best to pack your tent while it’s dry.
That is great when you’re getting ready to leave home. But what if your whole weekend has been a wet one? Imagine trying to roll a wet, muddy tent up small enough to fit inside your backpack!
2. Strap It on the Bottom of Your Bag
Many backpacks that have an external frame are equipped with a bottom section specifically designed for your bedroll and tent.
They have two end straps for holding the ends of your sleeping bag and tent but are also equipped with added laces that wrap around these items. This keeps the weight of your bulkiest items at the bottom of your bag but can have the disadvantage of bumping the backs of your legs.
Hiking is all about walking. This can be an uncomfortable way to go unless the bag is designed to rest these bulky items across your hips.
How to Attach a Tent to an Internal Frame Backpack
Many internal frame backpacks have a top section or flap that can be used for packing large items, such as your tent. These zippered top pockets center the weight of the tent across your shoulders.
Depending on how the rest of your load is distributed, this can have the unfortunate effect of making your load top-heavy, which can throw you off balance.
Center Back Method
Another way to pack your tent is to position it vertically down the center back of your pack using the compression straps to hold it in place.
Incidentally, this isn’t a manufacturer-approved method. Those compressions straps are intended to reduce the bulk of your load, keeping it properly distributed.
However, if you choose this method, it’s a good idea to pack your tent inside a compression case. This will help protect it from being snagged as you walk along. Be sure to fasten it securely so that it won’t come loose from your pack.
Bottom Line Recommendations
When starting out, pack your tent inside your pack. It’s the best way to ensure that you will arrive at your first campsite with a dry, clean tent.
When breaking camp, sweep and shake out as much debris from your tent as possible. If conditions are damp, try to protect the inner part of the tent, keeping it as dry as possible.
If you feel your tent is too wet to go inside your backpack, strap it to the back of your backpack using the compression straps or externally added webbing straps. Try to position it as close to the small of your back as possible to place the weight near your center of gravity.
Alternatively, use a waterproof compression bag for packing your tent. This will prevent the “wet tent” problem and enable packing it inside your bag as recommended.
While it might seem an inconvenience to take up space in your backpack with your tent, keep in mind that should there be inclement weather, your tent is your home away from home and your best means of keeping off the elements.
Your Choices for Stowing Your Tent
On top of the load, where it can be supported by your shoulders.
Inside the bag, where it’s protected and unlikely to get separated from your gear.
Strapped across the bottom of your bag. Make sure it is secure so that it doesn’t swing or thump you in the backs of your legs.
Vertically, top to bottom, on the back of your pack, where the weight is distributed.
Practice packing, unpacking, setting up, and taking down your tent several times before setting out on a long trip.
Take short practice hikes around the block, or day trips with family while carrying the pack before trying a longer journey with it.
This will help you select the best, most secure way to pack your tent, and will help you become familiar with the way it will feel.