Tent Packing: Stuff, Roll, Or Fold?

Tackling the age-old question

At the end of every outdoor adventure, you're confronted with an inscrutable dilemma: Do you stuff, roll, or fold your tent into its stuffsack? Poll your fellow hikers and you'll see everyone has a technique and a reason for why theirs is the best. Challenge them, and you might get a tent pole in the eye.

An informal poll of the BACKPACKER office confirms we're 87.5 percent pro-stuffing. But a lot of our reasoning is unscientific (outside of one staffer who claims to divide his choice—70 percent stuff, 25 percent roll, and 5 percent fold—depending on the tent). One staffer admits, "I stuff (even though I’ve been told it’s better to roll)."

Ryan Dionne of Explore It! went to the source, asking tent manufacturers from every major brand both what they recommend and what they do themselves. Most recommend rolling, noting that the tents come from a factory pre-rolled, and that rolling can save space in your pack. When it comes to their personal life, though, even tent manufacturers get lazy and just stuff it:

Big Agnes: When I’m backpacking I’ll stuff the tent. I usually pack the poles and stakes separately from the tent. When I’m car camping I loosely fold then roll.

EMS: Roll for storage, stuff in the field.

Kelty/SD: I roll my personal tent - it packs better in my pack (less bulk) and looks a little better when set up (I am a tent guy, so I want my tent to look good!).

Mountain Hardwear: Roll, religiously.

MSR: I usually roll my tents, but if they are wet or if I am in a hurry, I just stuff them.

Nemo: I always stuff my tents. It’s faster, easier, and most importantly – better for the tent.

The North Face: I stuff while out and stuff depending on weather. I roll once I clean and put the tent away.

How about you? Are you a stuffer, roller, or folder? Tell us in the poll, and tell us why in the comments!

—Ted Alvarez

Explore-It Blog