Should You Stuff Or Fold a Tent?


should you stuff or fold a tent

After an eventful camping trip, you are exhausted and can’t wait to pack everything up and head home. The dismantling and packing of your tent take up so much time. Many campers swear that there is no difference if you roll, stuff, or fold your tent. But, is this the right approach? Should you stuff or fold a tent?

Most tents come with some sturdy materials, and solid fabric. There could be little or no difference in terms of the damage that your tent is subjected to even if you stuff it into a bag. So you can stuff the tent if folding is not a viable option for you sometimes.

The reason that most people prefer folding a tent or even rolling it, over stuffing is simple- it is neater. Even when you buy a tent, it comes neatly folded or rolled. Many tent manufacturers would vouch for rolling a tent, because it comes packed as a rolled one, and could fit easily into the stuff sack when it is rolled properly.

Some issues you may face in folding a tent is, it could cause a strain on the stitches of the fabric around the corners of your tent. But this is only if you are extremely hasty with your folding and pull the tent taut with every fold. Again, there could be creases along the fold line. This greatly depends on the material that your tent is made from. 

If you are an avid camper, then stuffing could prove beneficial. This is because of a few reasons.

  1. It will save you some time since you are going to be pitching it again in a short while.
  2. You can avoid damaging the material by folding it multiple times. 
  3. You can pick it up easily from the bag and set it up at the next campsite.

If you are packing the tent just before it rains, stuffing is a quicker way to ensure that the tent does not get wet before it is packed. Stuff the tent, the rainfly, and the groundsheet into the bag so that you can get them out in that order when you are setting up your tent the next time. 

We would say, stuff your tent when packing it at the campsite. Once it is cleaned and ready to be stored away, loosely fold and roll it up to store it away neatly. 

What if the tent is wet – fold or stuff?

Fold the tent and rainfly so that any remaining water will drain off. Stuffing it is not a great idea, as water could pool in the flysheet. 

However, if it is raining heavily, and you are exposed to the rain while folding your tent, it makes no sense to lay the tent on wet ground and smoothen it out while the wet branches, twigs, and mud stick to it. In this situation, stuffing your tent into the stuff sack and getting back to your car is the best thing to do. 

If you have a rainfly, then pack that separately because it could be wet while your tent is relatively dry. If you pack both together, chances are you will have a tent with mildew even though it was dry when you packed it. 

Once you are home, take the tent and flysheet out of the bags, dry them out completely, and store them away after you have cleaned and dried them. 

Should you compress a tent before packing?

Compressing a tent is not the best of ideas. You can compress it for a short period. But it is not recommended to use a compression sack for a long time to compress your tent. 

If you live in a place that has restricted amounts of space for storage, folding or stuffing your tent for storage may not even be an option. You would resort to folding it tightly and packing it away in a compression sack, to save space. 

The problem with this is that any coating that you used to protect your tent from the elements- waterproofing, weatherproofing, and so on could wear away because of the compression. 

If you are packing it away for a few days, it will not be an issue, but if it is going to be over a few months, then you might have a tent that needs some tender loving care when you take it out of the compression bag. 

If you have to pack your tent while hiking and need to put it into your backpack, then a stuff sack may not be your best bet. At this point, compressing your tent is the only way to put it into your backpack. 

Compressing a tent is a viable option while traveling. It is not something you should resort to if you are storing it away for a few months, because it could lead to the delamination of the fabric.  

How to pack a tent to make it smaller in size in a stuff sack?

The best way to pack a tent in a stuff sack is to fold it and then roll it into a compact shape. Here are some steps to pack your tent away after your camping trip. 

Step 1: Close the vents. Though this may seem like a logical thing to do, some campers forget to close the vents after having pulled out the stakes. So, the logical first step towards dismantling and packing our tent away is to close the vents to keep them in place during folding.

Step 2: Pull out the stakes. Again, you might be saying, duh, I knew that. But there is always a method to the madness. Do not pull out all the stakes in one go. Pull out the ones that hold the rainfly and are away from the direction of the wind first, while the others stay put. 

Step 3: Divide the rainfly in half to fold. Pull off the rainfly from your tent, if you have used one. Divide it in half, lengthwise. This helps you to fold it easier. Fold it again in half after you have smoothened out the creases, and made it as flat as possible, and close it from one corner to the other. Fold it over again and set it aside. 

Step 4: Remove the tent from its poles. Starting from the sides, remove the tent from its poles. Remove the poles once you have unclipped the tent. Pack the poles away in their stuff sack or bag while your tent is still held to the ground by the stakes. 

Step 5- Remove two stakes from the tent. This way, even if it is windy, you don’t have to deal with a fly-away tent. Fold the tent lengthwise in the same width as the stuff sack. Place the rain fly on the folded tent. Then roll the tent and the rain fly together. 

Step 6- Put the tent into the stuff sack. Since the tent is rolled and ready to go into the stuff sack, pick up your stuff sack and push the rolled tent in, just like you would a pillow into a pillowcase. 

What is the proper way to store a tent?

Storing a tent is very important in many ways. You do not want to pull out a tent that is moldy and smelly when you reach your campsite, do you? 

Once you are back from your camping trip, clean out the tent. This is easy enough if you can spread it out and look for any branches or seeds that have stuck to the fabric. Then, fold the body of the tent. Most people recommend dividing the length of the tent into three and folding each part into the next. Once it is folded, roll up the tent loosely, starting from one end to the other. 

It is also a good idea to fold or roll your tent differently each time you do. This is because the tent might be stored away for a long period. You do not want permanent creases to cause a tear in your tent when you finally pull it out for the next trip. 

If your tents are going to be stored for a long time, then stuffing the tent could be better than folding it, as there are no creases. Do not keep the tent in the stuff sack that it originally came with. A wire mesh bag or an old pillowcase could do well for storage. You could also use a hanger and hang the tent away in a closet. 

The most important factors to keep in mind are before storing is: 

  1. Make sure your tent is dry before storing it away.
  2. Keep it clean before you fold or stuff it. 
  3. Whether you are packing or folding it, make sure it is loose. 
  4. Store the tent in a cool, dry place. Do not store it in a damp spot or in your attic or basement, where it could get damp.

Should you stuff or fold a tent – It depends, sometimes folding is better and in some situations, stuffing could help. But there is no harm to your tent by folding or stuffing either.

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