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Epic debate: Stuffing vs. rolling tents

August 20, 2009
    The age-old debate of how to care for a tent never seems to stop.

    During an unofficial poll, answers seemed split down the middle on whether to roll a tent or stuff it when packing it either for the off-season or between camps.

    Many of the most adamant answers were from people who were die-hard stuffers. Others, like me, heard both sides of the argument, saw substance in both and still didn’t know what to do.

    So instead of staying in the dark, I went straight to the people who ought to know – tent designers at some of the most well-known tent manufacturers in the world.

Explore It!: Do you recommend stuffing or rolling your tents and why?

Big Agnes: I say do what suits you. Be cautious of poking the tent with pegs, poles, twigs or what have you. – Chris Pottinger, tent designer

Eastern Mountain Sports: I prefer to roll when stored, so as I roll I clean off any debris on the tent that can damage the materials. Plus it is better for the coatings to have the materials be as flat as possible. I will stuff in the field to be quick. – Tony Roina, equipment sourcing and product engineering director

Kelty/Sierra Designs: It is best to roll/stuff/fold your tent a different way each time. This way you will not create permanent creases in the same place of the tent. A good way to store your tent is to fold the body of the tent in thirds length-wise. Drape the rainfly over the folded body so that no part of the rainfly is wider than the folded body. Lay the collapsed poles and the stakes across one end of the folded tent. Loosely roll up the tent from one end to the other, rolling it around the poles and stakes. – Phil Mesdag, product manager

Mountain Hardwear: Rolling, it’s better for the tent in appearance and for the long-term wear and tear on a tent. – Sean McDevitt, designer

MSR: Some will argue that rolling a tent repeatedly will form permanent creases and will lead to the weakening of the fabric. I have never met anyone who can fold and roll their tent the exact same way every time. When you need to save space in or on your pack, roll the tent. If you are caught in a storm and you need to quickly pack your tent up or if space is not a concern, then just stuff it. – Dale Karacostas, tent and shelter product director

Nemo Equipment: I recommend stuffing tents. Tent fabrics have a lot of technical coatings to keep them waterproof, breathable (in some cases), UV resistant, and have other specific properties. Repeatedly creasing your tents along the exact same fold lines will stress and wear out those technical properties faster than other parts of the tent. Stuffing your tent ensures randomness so that you aren’t ever stressing out the same areas, and it also gives moisture a better chance of escaping. – Suzanne Turell, product design director

The North Face: Not as much care goes in to stuffing and can often result in catching and tearing mesh, poles getting stuck into mesh or tent body, etc. If you look at a brand new tent in the stuff sack, they are usually folded and rolled up tight. The poles and stakes are almost always in the middle of the fabric. This is also good practice for backpackers if you are going to store your poles with your tent. – Scott McGuire, equipment product director

Explore It!: Does it depend on the type of tent or the material?

Big Agnes: No. Not really.

EMS: Nope, but sometimes keeping polyester flies and nylon floors away from each other are better when wet. This is why I stuff separate in the field. Nylon color can migrate onto polyester when wet.

Kelty/SD: This goes for any fabric type.

Mountain Hardwear: No.

MSR: My experience is limited to lightweight backpacking tents, but I believe that this would hold true for most backpacking tents.

Nemo: There is no tent, to my knowledge, that doesn’t even try to be water resistant/proof. As long as you have coated fabrics, creasing and stressing of fabrics is always going to be an issue.  With a folded tent, you might have a slightly smoother looking tent when you first pull it out of the bag to set it up, but when you are talking about shelter function comes first.

The North Face: For a super light tent, I recommend folding and rolling. It keeps the mesh “inside” and away from the dirt that may remain on the floor. It also makes one more cautious and aware of the dirt, debris and care needed on the tent as it is stored. If it is an expedition tent, it is bomber.

Explore It!: Are your tents sold stuffed or rolled? If opposite of what you recommend, why?

Big Agnes: They are loosely folded then rolled. It’s a clean presentation to the customer.

EMS: We roll them at the factory.

Kelty/SD: Our tents are sold rolled.

Mountain Hardwear: They come rolled. I don’t think anyone sells tents stuffed.

MSR: Our tents are sold rolled. This is so that they take up the least amount of space in transit as well as look nice and crisp when they are set up for the first time.

Nemo: Our tents are sold rolled because this offers the neatest presentation for customers when they are making a purchase decision.

The North Face: The North Face tents are rolled, which is easy care in the factory.

Explore It!: Do you stuff or roll your personal tent(s)?

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.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2009 7:38 pm

    Thanks for doing this, I’ve been a tent roller (one tent is over 10 years old and doesn’t have any crease issues) but now I won’t feel so bad if I need to stuff when in a hurry.

  2. August 20, 2009 7:50 pm

    Great research! I think the answer is that it really doesn’t matter. Go with preference, but be wary of the delicate parts.

    Depending on how well the tent fits in the sack, I tend to fold a little then stuff it.

    Again, great job.


  3. Anonymous permalink
    August 20, 2009 9:55 pm

    I’d say it doesn’t really matter in the field. Although I prefer to stuff, because its faster and you don’t have to put the tent back on the dirty ground after you’ve shaken it off.

    At home — I prefer treating my tent like a sleeping bag. I take it out of it’s stuff sack, clean it off, let in breathe for a day, then loosely store it in a pillowcase.

    • Reyhaneh.S permalink
      September 24, 2013 2:36 am

      Thank you so much for the idea of using a pillowcase rather than the original tent bag! Never came to my mind to do so.
      Thanks again!

  4. chris ammon permalink
    August 21, 2009 2:06 pm

    REI tweeted this great post, and I’m happy to find your blog. Your syndication doesn’t seem to be working. The link to RSS is broken. I’ve tried subscribing via Firefox and Chrome, and even searched your blog for a feed using the Sage RSS reader plug-in. No luck. Can you help me out please so I can keep reading? Cheers. -Chris @chrisammon

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