Pros and Cons to Stuffing (vs. Folding) a Tent

A father and son are taking down a tent in the morning light with forest, mountains in the background.

The debate about how to pack up a tent is age-old, with the facts riddled with individual biases. Here are the facts on the matter.

Stuffing a tent is fast and convenient, and it reduces the number of repeated creases put into the tent. On the other hand, stuffing a tent can end up being bulky, putting wrinkles in the tent, and spreading dirt and moisture to clean parts of the tent. Larger tents are more difficult to stuff.

Let’s go more in-depth about the pros and cons, and then take a look at them overall to see which is the better way to pack up your tent.

Pros of Stuffing

Speed and Convenience

Most people who choose to stuff say that they do because it’s quicker than rolling or folding. When you stuff it, you can forget all about the rough measurements and make sure all the air is squeezed out. Instead, all you have to do is grab a corner and stuff it. It’s as simple as that: no need to think about it, and it’s done quickly.

After you’re all done stuffing your tent, you can spend the extra time cleaning up the rest of your site or heading off to your next destination. It’s a fast and hassle-free way to pack up your tent so that you don’t have to worry about it until your next stop.

Healthier Tent…?

Then there’s the claim that stuffing is better for your tent. The theory behind this is that stuffing avoids putting the same creases in your tent over and over. If you folded it every time and folded it, in the same way, every time, then you would end up with these creases from where the folds were.

Depending on the material of the tent, these creases might be bad for the tent. The creases may thin down the tent and make leaks or holes. Stuffing prevents this from happening because the creases are random instead of being intentionally and methodically repeated.

Nowadays however, most tents are made of materials that can withstand being creased. If your tent is old or cheap, then it might be a good idea to stuff it, but otherwise, it will probably hold up fine either way.

Tent bag on white background. Camping equipment

Cons of Stuffing


The first downside of stuffing is the bulk. When you stuff your tent, there isn’t a solid way to be sure of how much space it will take up, or what the shape of it will be. You might end up with a shape that’s close to what you want, or it might be a random blob. You can forget your hopes of fitting the poles and stakes in the same bag.

For this reason, people who stuff their tents have to find a different place to store their poles and stakes. This can end up taking up more space, and it also means that you have to keep track of everything individually rather than having the comfort that it’s all in the same bag.

Dirt and Damp

The next con comes from when you stuff a dirty or wet tent. Odds are, your tent is only dirty or wet in one spot: part of the footprint might be a bit muddy, or maybe the morning dew made the sides wet. When you stuff a tent when it’s in such a state, the dirt and moisture can transfer to other parts of the tent, which will make it harder to get clean and dry. You might also miss spots that you might otherwise wipe clean prior to storage.


Another downside of stuffing? It makes the tent wrinkly. If the tent is wet when you stuff it in its bag, or you leave it in like that for any length of time, the creases from being randomly stuffed will stiffen, and when you set up your tent, they’ll still be there, plain to see.

These wrinkles won’t harm your tent, but they could make it more difficult to set up by making it hard to find the corners or other key parts of the tent. Is the ease of putting it away worth the trouble it gives you when you’re setting up camp?

Some people also dislike the way a wrinkly tent looks after being set up. The wrinkles go away after a while, but if you like your tent to look nice, that’s another reason to avoid stuffing it full of wrinkles.

Large Tents

Finally, a large tent can be difficult to stuff. A ten or twelve-man tent is wide, and it can be hard to manage all that material at once when you want to stuff it into its stock bag. It might be easier if you have a stuff bag that’s larger than the stock bag, but still, it might end up taking just as much effort to stuff a large tent as it would have taken to fold or roll it.

Which Should You Choose?

Those are the facts about the reasons why or why not to stuff your tent, so how do you use them?

Ultimately, it all comes down to preference. None of the pros or cons are especially dire, but some might be more bothersome for one person than for another person. Some people might not be concerned about the space it takes up. Lots of campers don’t care about dirt or wrinkles. And if your tent is small, you won’t have any problem stuffing it in a sack.

If you’re ever in an emergency situation where you need to get out quick, like in a flash flood, don’t bother wasting time folding and just stuff the tent in a sack

Long Term Storage

Despite that, it’s a good idea to fold and roll your tent before putting it in storage at home. Tents being stored for long periods of time should be clean, dry, and neat. This will prevent dirt from damaging your tent, as well as mold growth.

When you get home from your trip, set up your tent out in your yard on a day when the weather is good. Let it dry out, and get the dirt out by either sweeping it out or turning it over and shaking the dirt out.

John Olsen

John Olsen is a seasoned adventurer with 20 years of writing, public speaking, team leadership, analytics and project management experience.

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