How to Fold a Tent and Extend Its Life (Dome/Cabin/A-Frame)

We all have experienced it: we are trying to put our tent back in the bag that comes with it only to find out the bag is too small! Don’t worry, in this post we will show you how to fold a tent and fit it back into it’s original bag. Be it Dome, Cabin or A-Frame style, we’ve got you covered!

Checked the prices of a good tent lately? Unlike some electronics, they aren’t going down, are they? Like much of your other outdoor gear, you must know how to get the most wear for the dollar you spend on your favorite pastime of camping.

Often, the price of a tent reflects its utility and durability. However, even the highest quality tents can’t survive poor maintenance and care. From how you store your tent at home to how you handle it in the elements, particular maintenance steps – including how you fold it – can extend your tent’s service life.

Do This Before You Use Your Tent For The First Time

Let’s say you just purchased a new tent, one that proves light, roomy and resilient. You know because you have either read the reviews or know fellow outdoor buffs who own or owned the same product. Once you draw it from the bag or box, pull out the manual, no matter how much it dents your mountain-man or woman-of-the-wilderness pride.

At the same time, make a mental note of how the tent is folded as you turn back each flap. The creases will provide a map for a while but they will eventually disappear. Get used to the memorized regimen now and it will likely stick to your busy mind as indelibly as the combination to your bicycle lock.

If you mimic the original folds as closely as possible, you will not suffer the nightmare of repeatedly pulling its dangling bulk from its bag to do it all over, which is especially miserable on a rainy or bitterly cold day.

Also note the style of your tent—e.g., dome, cabin, lean-to or A-frame. Each requires a different touch when it comes to folding or packing.

Do This Before You Start Folding Your Tent

  • Before folding and packing your tent, however, make sure it is as dry as possible. Rainy days might result in some captured moisture but you can mitigate the problem once you get home. Immediately find a dry spot to spread it out and preferably hang. Save the folding and packing for the next day or whenever it is completely dry. Do not hang it under a bold, lasting sun.
  • A small hand brush or portable handheld vacuum, should you be car camping, works fine to expel debris from the floor that found entry from your boot or sandal tread. Tiny needles from trees, pea gravel or sand can rub deleteriously into the fabric of your tent and compromise its resilience to the weather on your next camping trip.
  • Also, to make sure it is completely dry, keep the tent up as long as possible while packing other camp gear. When taking it down, make sure to group your pegs or stakes, guy lines, footprint and poles accordingly to eventually pack inside the tent. This will make everything easier to stuff inside the bag.

Steps To Fold and Pack a Dome-style Tent

This style often sells for its quickness and ease of pitching. A lot of backpackers choose lightweight dome tents and they often serve the children of car campers well. Despite their easy setup, however, getting them to fit back into their bags is another matter. They must be folded in a precise manner to not only fit the bag but protect particular functional portions of the tent.

Step 1: If your doors are of mesh, you can either leave them unzipped or zipped. If not entirely of mesh, the doors should be left open to optimize entry of air.

Step 2: If your tent is new enough to retain its original folds, simply follow them. If not, begin folding with the objective of starting from a squarish, flat tent, free of air pockets. If you must fold some edges in to attain a square shape, fold corners in a triangular fashion at the edges; the same with window flaps or doors.

Step 3: If your poles collapse, place them just inside one edge or the other of the flattened tent, along with your fly, footprint and stakes.

Step 4: Begin rolling where you placed the poles and other accessories. Roll a third or quarter of the tent at a time while maintaining a squarish or rectangular shape. You are not rolling it as you would a sleeping bag. You are maintaining a geometric pattern.

Step 5: Place it in the bag and pack it somewhere in the vehicle where sharp objects can’t make contact and it can breathe a little—free of any moist items.

Folding and Packing a Cabin Tent

Because these family tents are so big, they pose a greater challenge when fitting back into the bag or box. More material simply equates to a tougher fit. These tents especially rely on your memory of original packing folds. Make sure you practice in your backyard a couple time before taking a cabin tent to campsite.

Step 1: Repeat Steps 1-4 of folding up a dome tent with one exception: First fold a cabin tent in half, not thirds or quarters. Then proceed to fold in another half, if possible, before resorting to rectangular folds.

Step 2: After your final fold, place the box or bag alongside the tent to make sure the latter is not too long or wide to fit inside its package. If length and width are not equal, refold the tent.

Step 3: Once folded, wrap the tent’s guy lines around the roll to make it more compact for fitting into its package.

Folding and Packing a Lean-to or a-Frame

Everything about these tents are rectangular, from the box to the setup. Therefore, they are inherently easier to fold and pack than other tents. Moreover, some lean-to’s come without a front wall. You simply pitch them with the back to the wind or rain. (Minimalist campers simply pack a heavy duty tarp to attain the same effect and ease.)

The only nuance in folding may occur when your A-frame or lean-to tent consists of very short vertical walls below the A-shaped walls.

Step 1: Again, follow steps 1-4 of the dome-tent instructions. If the tent features stunted walls around its perimeter, fold each short wall inward, equal to the height of the short wall (usually not much more than few inches). You should still end up with a square or rectangle.

The Oddball Designs

Especially if you backpack, you will encounter some unconventional tent designs on the market, perhaps mutations of the aforementioned, common designs. For instance, MSR once came up with a model called the Element. It posed several inherent triangular folds. No matter the model or design, simply apply the same main tenets: Remember how they were originally packed and maintain a squarish or rectangular pattern while folding.

When Camping Season Ends . . .

A couple of easy maintenance steps at the end of each camping season help to lengthen the life of your tent.

Step 1: If your tent retains some stubborn stains or pitch marks from woody debris, use a gentle soap (Nikwax and other brands sell specific products for cleaning tents and other outdoor fabrics) to carefully scrub over the spot(s).

Step 2: If your tent suffered an abrasion or tear, you can find kits to repair such damage in the original package, at camping retailers and online. Repair such damage before storing the tent in the off-season.

Step 3: When storing your tent, keep it in a dry, cool place away from sunlight and sharp objects. Don’t pack a lot of other gear or a heavy item on top of it. It should breathe just fine inside the factory provided bag and be ready for adventure come spring.


If you keep our tips in mind, folding your tent and fitting it back into its bag should not pose a problem anymore. Now get out there and enjoy your camping trip! In case it’s raining check out these tips on how to set up a tent in the rain.

How to Fold a Tent and Extend Its Life (Dome/Cabin/A-Frame)

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