How to deflate and pack away an inflatable tent

January 28, 2019

You can get some fantastic inflatable family tents these days. Some are massive. It’s amazing how much the inflatable tubes can hold whereas, in the past, we would have had to use heavy steel tent poles.

Why inflatable tents can be difficult to put away

getting them back in their bag can be a nightmare!

As much as we’ve loved many of the inflatable tents we’ve tested, there is one problem with all of them, especially the larger ones, and that’s this: getting them back in their bag can be a nightmare!

When we used to use steel tent poles, we would often store the tent poles separately to the bag holding the tent. This would give a bit more space in the tent bag, and also made the tent bag lighter.

The downside, of course, is forgetting to bring the separate bag of tent poles with you when you go to the campsite!

Of course, air framed tents don’t have many tent poles, apart from maybe a few for porch shelters over the door or canopies, so splitting your tent into separate bags is not possible.

Struggling to pack away an inflatable tent

Packing away an inflatable tent can be difficult

It has always been a challenge getting large polyester tents back in their bag. That’s because air gets trapped inside them.

We’ve covered before the technique of rolling up the tent to get it back in its bag. But with inflatable tents, the problem is a little worse, since you now have air in the ‘poles’ too.

An Eight-Step Process for Getting Your Tent Back in its Bag

Here’s a simple eight-step process that we’ve found helps get an inflatable tent back in its bag.

1. Open all the doors before deflating.

2 - Open all tent doors

This sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many times this simple step can be forgotten in the rush to pack away at the campsite.

Unzip all the doors so there’s less chance of air getting trapped in your tent.

2. Open the valves and let your tent deflate.

3.- Open the air valves

3. [OPTIONAL] Walk the air tubes WITH CAUTION !!

Walk the tubes

This is a technique we introduced this year, and if you do this, I would do so with extreme caution. It could even invalidate any warranty on your tent!

Basically, we take shoes off and carefully walk along the air tubes in the direction of the open valve.

We’ve found this help get the air out of the tubes and check that all the internal valves have been opened. This last step is particular to the Outwell Smart Air range of tents.

In our Outwell Montana 6SA, it has isolation valves. If they’ve not been opened, the cross-bracing beams in the Outwell Smart Air tents will still be full of air. Checking the tent over before starting to fold it is a good check to make sure all the valves are open, and the air can escape.

4. Start folding the tent

4 - Start folding the tent

We used to fold and roll the tent lengthways. However, with inflatable tents, it’s best to roll them sideways towards the open valves.

5 - Fold both ends in

6 - Fold to size

Place your tent bag down next to your tent, and start folding the ends of the tent inwards, until you have a folded tent that’s the same width (or a bit less) than your tent bag.

7 - Check size with bag

5. Roll the tent

8 - Use tent poles

If you do have a bag of some tent poles, place them on the folded tent at the opposite end to the valves, then use them to start rolling up the tent.

The extra weight of the poles will help expel the air.

9 - Roll and squeeze

Roll the tent slowly, stopping at every turn to put some weight on the roll to force the air out.
Continue until you reach the bag.

10 - Keep rolling

6. Re-roll, if required

You might be lucky to get the rolled up tent the perfect size on your first attempt. Chances are though that there’s still a bit too much air left in there.

11 - Unroll

Do a quick re-roll. Re-rolling won’t take very long.

Just unroll the tent, and start again. It will be a lot easier and faster the second time, and you’ll end up with a much tighter tent roll.

12 - Roll tent again

7. Tie up the rolled-up tent

13 - Tie up the tent

When you first opened your tent, chances are there was some straps or ribbon tied around your tent. You did keep these, didn’t you?

You’ll want to use these now to tie your bundle up so it doesn’t come unrolled.

The best tent tie-up we’ve seen has been with the Zempire tents. This was a strap that could be easily tightened to help force the air out of the tent. I might try and make myself something similar.

8. Get your tent back in its bag

14 - Put in tent bag

By now, you should have a bundle that will fit into its bag.

For the Outwell Montana 6SA shown in this photo, we can simply roll the bundle into the bag.

For some other tents, you’ll need to ‘drop’ the tent into the bag….though don’t do that. Instead, start at one end of the tent bundle, working the bag over the tent. When you are over half the way there, turn the tent the other way up, and you should be able to pull the rest of it into the bag.

15 - Job done

Keep Trying

If you follow these simple steps, you will hopefully get your tent back in its bag.

On some days, the tents just don’t want to cooperate!

Don’t get too frustrated though if it doesn’t work the first time for you. It doesn’t always for us.

On some days, the tents just don’t want to cooperate! 😉



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Gav Grayston
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Gav Grayston Contributor

Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

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  1. Massively helpful, thank you!! Didnt wanna store it wet so had it drying over the banisters taking up half the house. Thanks to you its folded away now within 10 minutes ?

  2. This was SO helpful, thank you

  3. Thanks for the instructions. Wish I had watched it before spending a fairly frustrating hour putting my new tent away….just about got it in. Next time I will fold it sideways towards valves ? seems so obvious now lol.

    By the way – do you zip the doors back up after deflation? There is just so much excess material all over the place, it took ages to try and get an even spread of it before folding.

  4. We packed up a few days ago after 12 lovely days in Brittany and were pleased to get it right first time. I also walked the air tubes (shoes off) and lay down and roll length ways much to the amusement of other campers. We don’t have cords to wrap around the tent, so we place the bag over the top of the rolled up tent, then roll the whole thing so that the zip is facing upwards.

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