For some, bugging out involves only what you can carry in a small backpack and isn’t really meant for lengthy treks. For others however, bugging out might resemble an extended camping trip involving weeks of hard travel and the need to setup and take down a fully equipped camp. For those who will have a lengthy trek ahead of them, a tent is a valuable, portable shelter that can offer protection from wind, storm and snow as well as a buffer between predators both animal and human. Since the needs of a prepper bugging out can differ from the day camper or even the serious backpacker, let’s look at the options available and see what you might need in the event that you had to bug out.
Basics of choosing a tent
There are a few essential questions you have to answer regardless of the quality, cost, or type of tent you plan on using. How many people need to shelter in a single tent? What kind of environment will you be subject to? What secondary features (extra moisture venting, additional doors, vestibules to shelter boots and shoes) do you need? The answers given to these can help narrow down your choice of tent greatly so let’s examine each a little more closely.
How many people per tent?
Generally speaking, the occupancy rating for any tent made for 2+ people should read like this: “This tent will hold X people snugly and without much extra space”. No room for extra gear, no room for a small child generally, etc. As such, unless you are truly working to avoid adding any extra weight at all it is usually recommended to add one “person” more than the maximum number of occupants you plan to have in your tent.
You don’t want a nice summer tent with plenty of loose mesh to release hot, humid air when you’re in the middle of a blizzard! Generally speaking the average camping tent is a “3-Season” affair, designed for mid-spring through summer and into mid-fall before the winter snows and bitter cold settle in. These have enough mesh and loose spaces to allow hot air out, but also sufficient insulating properties to keep you nice and dry in a downpour or warm when the first fall frost hits.
For those who live in places where you might need to bugout in a foot or 3 of snow, 4-season tents might be more your speed. These are made to shed snow when possible, or to resist the additional weight if not, and are designed to maintain heat as much as possible. They are also better for areas that suffer from constant harsh weather of any kind, making them better for very rainy or windy places too.
The extra features
Some tents include extra vents for bad weather in order to remove some of the humidity your body produces even if the outside is hot and muggy or still and freezing. If you plan on bugging out in more mild climates these may be unneeded, but for those who will be out in harsh weather you will appreciate the comfort such vents bring.
If you’re heading out with a partner or two, a tent with multiple doors can be attractive for several reasons. For one, being able to head outside at night for a call of nature without disturbing anyone’s rest is a major plus. For another, multiple doors offer multiple escape routes in case you should come under attack from one direction.
The vestibule is a common “extra”, but some tents offer larger ones than others. These are just extensions of the waterproof tent material that make a nice “porch” for you to step out in when it’s raining or snowing outside. Aside from being able to sit outside without getting drenched, vestibules also assist you in keeping your shoes and other gear dry even if they don’t fit in the tent which makes for a much more comfortable walk the next day.
Types of tents and shelters
Here’s a simple list of the most common types of shelters that people use, along with their strengths and weaknesses:
- The tarp. Basically a sheet of waterproof material, sometimes including a floor but usually not. This is easy to carry, usually fairly durable, but does little to protect you from driving rain, wind, bugs, or other threats. On the plus side, you can set these up with minimal impact and setup time making them very easy to use.
- The ultralight. This tent is 100% focused on minimizing weight while still offering a small room for you to sleep in. Largely made of mesh and very thin walls, an ultralight is not suitable for any kind of harsh weather, but they will help keep some bugs off of you. Not very good for the average prepper mainly because they’re so delicate, which means that anyone not used to using it will have a tendency to rip or tear it while setting it up or sleeping.
- The three-season. AKA The standard camping tent, the three-season design is the most common kind of tent you’ll see just about anywhere. Unless you’re dealing with accumulating snow, heavy winds/rains, or need an extremely light shelter this is your best bet.
- The 3+ season. Basically a three season tent with a few additional supports, vents etc to make it more suitable for early winter or very early spring. The middle road between a three season and the extreme durability of the 4 season variety.
- The 4 season. As you may have guessed, this tent is made for the heat of summer and the frozen heart of winter. Equipped with extended venting, rugged supports, and a strong design, the 4 season is among the most durable style of tent.
- The “Bivvy” sack. This is essentially a large and durable sleeping bag, which usually includes some manner of mesh or other material to guard your face from bugs. The quarters are extremely tight compared to even a small single person tent, but you also carry your sleeping bag and tent all in one waterproof system. Technically there are multi-person bivvy sacks, but they should only be used if you test it beforehand to ensure that you and your partner fit in a very tight enclosure.
With this essential information, you should be able to choose the best tent for your needs regardless of how long you plan on bugging out or the environment you will encounter. Just make sure to test any tent before a disaster occurs so that you know it’s ready for use!
Any other tips on selecting the proper bugout tent? Let us know in the comments below!
This article first appeared at Prepared For That: Survival Bugout Equipment: Choosing the Proper Tent