Tents come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes to suit every camper. Whichever tent you use, there are a few key points that are relevant to all campers when it comes to pitching up and packing down. If you’re still deciding which tent to buy, view our guide to tent designs.
- Pitching a tent: our top tips
- Taking your tent down
Are you about to put your tent up for the first time? Read our tips below to make it an easier process.
1. Check your tent before you go camping. Before every camping trip, you should ensure your tent is in good condition, and you have all of the parts you’ll need to set it up. If it’s your first time, doing a trial run at home is a great idea. Make sure you don’t forget anything with our camping checklist.
2. Read the instructions. Your tent will come with a set of instructions detailing each step you need to take to set it up. It’s usually the same steps, but the order can differ, so it’s always best to double-check you don’t need to do anything specific.
3. Inside out or outside in? Tents are either pitched with the inner first and the flysheet over the top or the flysheet first. This is some of the important information to pay attention to in the instructions.
4. Pack the tent last. If you’re already on-site, this won’t apply but if you’re packing to go camping, make sure the last item to go into your car is the tent. This makes it quick to find when you arrive on your chosen campsite.
5. Check the ground you’re pitching on. You’re looking for level, slightly soft ground with no overhead hazards. Check there’s no litter, stones or equipment like tent pegs left behind by previous campers. These can all damage the bottom of your tent, so you’ll want to do a good check of your surroundings.
6. Lay it all out. Place all of your components on the ground so you can see everything and don’t have to search through the car halfway through pitching up.
7. Recruit a partner. Pitching a tent can be a struggle if you attempt it alone. Make sure you work as a team and accept help if it’s offered.
8. Treat your tent poles with care. Most tent poles are made of aluminium or fibreglass sections threaded with elastic which clip together. When putting your poles together, be careful not to swing them around and make sure you do it on the ground to avoid hitting anyone.
9. Don’t force anything. With most tents, you’ll need to thread the poles through fabric sleeves to form the structure of the tent. Don’t force the poles or you’ll risk tearing the tent or breaking a pole. Some tents have clips to attach the poles to. Take care of every element of your tent, including the door zips to extend its life.
10. Zip your doors before pegging the corners. You need a good amount of tension when you peg the corners of your tent. If you do this with the doors open, you likely won’t be able to zip them up so we’d always recommend zipping up your doors before putting your corner pegs in.
11. Always use a mallet for your tent pegs. Never use your foot to drive tent pegs into the ground, use a mallet or a rock as a substitute. View our guide to tent pegs.
12. Respect the 45° angle. Your tent pegs should be driven into the ground at a 45° angle inward, towards the tent. This helps to prevent your tent from coming out of the ground in high winds or when extra tensions added to it.
13. Get your tension right. As you peg the corners of your tent, you’ll want enough tension to keep your tent secure but not too much that they’re pulling on the pegs. Guy lines hanging from the side of the tent should be pegged out last, to add security in high winds.
Taking down your tent at the end of your holiday can be just as troublesome as getting it up in the first place, especially if you’re sad to be leaving. Here are a few tips for you to use and share with fellow campers.
1. Keep it pegged until the final step. If it’s windy you can leave one or two pegs in the ground, so your tent doesn’t blow away. You could also recruit people to hold the tent down while you pack it away, preventing it from taking off.
2. Accept help. Campers are more than willing to pitch in if you’re struggling, so accept help when it’s offered and know that everyone struggles when weather conditions are poor.
3. Stay organised. If you're feeling pressure to pack up quickly, get everything loaded into the car before you take the tent down. This way, you’ll know that the tents the very last thing and if it takes longer than expected, you won’t have to worry about doing anything else afterwards.
4. Got a peg stuck in the ground? Never leave pegs behind, not only because it’s wasteful, but it can cause problems for future campers pitching on the same spot. If you’ve got a peg that you can’t get out of the ground, use another peg to prise it out.
5. Maximise space in your tent bag. Most tents come with the poles, pegs and tent in one bag. If you’re struggling to fit it all back in, there’s no harm in keeping the poles and pegs in a separate bag to allow the tent more room.
6. Roll inflatable tents sideways, towards the open valves. This helps to get any air out as you roll, making it much more likely to fit back inside the bag.
7. If it doesn’t fit at first…unroll and try again. If your tent really doesn’t feel like it’s going to fit in the bag, unfold it and start from the beginning.
Remember that pitching up and packing down rarely goes to plan the first time. Don’t be disheartened because the more you try, the easier it gets. Got the camping bug? Discover more camping information and things to do.
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