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I have friends who say stuffing your rainfly prolongs the life of the tent, because folding waterproof material over and over is going to make it leak. I have other friends who say folding and rolling the rainfly prolongs the life of the tent, because stuffing waterproof material over and over is going to make it leak.

I was wondering if there has been any testing that proofs either of the two camps (pun intended) correct, or that shows that there is not significant difference between the two approaches.

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I keep both my tent layers together. Just remove the poles, roll and push it into the bag -> rapid deployment/packing. Not possible on all tents, though. –  Vorac Aug 29 '13 at 15:16
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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Folding becomes an issue if you religiously fold in the same spot over and over -- say line up the corners all pretty and re-fold. Try this with any plastic, thin metal, etc... fold, unfold, fold, unfold, fold ad infinitum, and it will weaken and fail.

If you fold a different way each time, then you run little risk of this becoming a problem, though be careful of consistent points that folds tend to cross (ie the center of the fly might get folded each and every time even if you start with a different angle of cross fold each time)

Advantages: a fold and roll tends to pack smaller

Stuffing all but guarantees you won't stress the same bit of fabric repeatedly, since the folds are distributed fairly randomly around the tent. However, since the tent doesn't pack down as tight, if you are trying to cram it in to a small space, you might subject each individual fold to higher pressure (possibly a downside)

Advantages: quick

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There is a thread about the topic on backpacker. It doesn't quite resolve the dilemma. Personally I stuff the fly on the outside of my backpack because it is faster. It may also have a chance to breath/dry.

Because packing and unpacking is faster when stuffing, there is a chance that I will get it out to dry for a few minutes in the afternoon if it is wet.

I think the more important factor is storing the fly wet which sometimes the weather does not leave us with much options.

If you fold it, I'd consider not folding it in a too systematic way as to not stress the material in singular areas of the frabric.

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LBell has neatly summarized, that folding leads to smaller pack and stuffing is just faster. I'd like to add some considerations here (being an adept of stuffing).

Sometimes you have to fold (and carefully!) because of a tight bag supplied with your tent or tarp. The bag will be too small to stuff your stuff inside. In this case I'd recommend to throw away your original bag and find a bigger one. Someday you are going to have a really high wind which will make folding hard. Or your tent gets below freezing and accumulates some frost so that a roll will be too big. Or you will be doing it alone with your bare hands exposed to this frost and this wind.

So you will need a bigger bag anyway. Taking this into acount, I see noo reasons to stick to folding when you can stuff;)

As for the claim that stuffing waterproof material over and over is going to make it leak, I have seen it true, but only with really thick, rigid fabrics which produce starp corners. Modern tents are definitely not made of this. Well, at least good quality ones.

From practice, I've got a 10 years old Vaude tent, which was heavily used and stuffed for all its life, and it still almost isn't leaking.

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