20 comments on “Shelter: Why Tents Suck

  1. Tents are a pain to carry and set up, but have a few advantages if you have a young family. If you have family who aren’t ‘outdoorsy’ (you know what I mean), sleeping on the ground where bugs ‘n weather can get to you without going through fabric is hard on their brains. Especially when staying overnight and sleeping – the zippered door has some comfort for them. I can remember sleeping some summer nights, and hearing a small ‘ticking’ sound – turned out to be migrating tarantulas walking on the outside tent fabric. Watching their shadows move about was entertaining – not so much for those non-outdoorsy people (it can’t get in – right?) :^)

  2. I picked up a lightweight hammock, tarp and tree straps. I can be set up in a few minutes. If I hang the tarp right I have 360 degree visibility. It all fits in a molle waist pack. I have a few extra tree straps to hang gear so it isn’t on the ground.

  3. Which might be a good reason to teach that ‘young family’ to sleep under a tarp now, and lose some of their irrational fear before SHTF, and not during a move to a safe place. An introduction to bug juice might also be in order. Possibly even some wild plant identification, such as Yarrow, which has bug repelling properties when the flowers are rubbed on the skin.

    When in the tent, the young family and spouse might well be out of the reach of various crawlers, but they’re blind, they cannot get out fast without destroying (cutting through) the tent, and are basically relying on not being discovered as their only effective defensive measure.

    It might be more efficient to spend money on a good bag (Wiggy’s) and a good 10X10 or larger tarp like the Snugpak or Aqua Quest rather than a tent and educate the young ones in appreciating nature.


  4. Just as quick to tear down. I have full cold weather bags if need be and other tools to rig a warmer sleeping arrangement. I like the portability of keeping the bare minimum in the waist pack though. I try to keep things modular. I’m not military or leo so I try to set up my gear for what fits in my particular area. Your articles really help people like me. I take your information and tweek it to fit me.

  5. Pingback: DTG: Why Tents Suck | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  6. The answer to cold weather hammock camping is a quilt (still looking like a sleeping bag sort of) suspended just under the hammock. The fact that your body isn’t compressing it makes it stay warmer. You can even get away with a short one, like the middle third of your body or so. Of course you would also have the normal sleeping bag inside the hammock. Another thing you can use is Reflectix as a pad inside the hammock.

    The trick to fast hammock setup is have everything fastened together in a kind of sleeve that resembles a snakeskin. You suspend the ends of it, and then pull back the sleeve to reveal everything. Then you tether out the rain fly. These setups are pricier than your basic hammock.

    The closest I’ve got to a fast setup is I have the paracord already attached to the rain fly. I sewed my own fly out of Marpat nylon from the fabric store, with loops made from a broken ratchet strap I found on the road, and then I Scotch guarded the crap out of it.

    Gutter spikes make decent stakes, if you don’t have time to fashion some from sticks. If you don’t have loops or if the grommet comes out of your tarp, you can roll up a small rock or acorn in the corner of the fly and tie paracord around the resulting knob.

  7. As S.B stated Hammocks are the way, and here in Florida we don’t worry about the 1 week of winter we have. Hammocks are very comfortable, cool and dry during our 51 weeks summer with its strong thunder storms. A good poncho doubles as a rain cover and sun blocker.
    Hammocks are defiantly the overlooked camping shelter.

  8. Been using the issue G.I poncho for a hooch now for 25 years w bungi cords. Set it up low and it gives you the ability to observe, shoot and EnE 360 degrees. As an 11b scout we often snapped our hooches together while in an admin scenario. Light, quick to set up and cheap. Still using it on elk hunts here in Montana. Shot more than one elk from my sleeping bag using this set up. Thanks for the post, all the way!

  9. Pingback: Shelter: Why Tents Suck – Pt II – Siting & Effective Knots | The Defensive Training Group

  10. great info based on real world experience as always….

    The scenario laid out is for hasty/temp shelter, and a tarp works like a champ, can be used longer term as well. We made tarp cities, in a patrol/base camp setting…Otherwise, we used our ponchos, one the heavy rubber version, and the lighter nylon, both served us well, and when properly configured were perfect shelter…Always had bungees wrapped around the frame of that bitch ALICE for quick set up….

    I have a buddy who swears by Kifaru kit, found here…. https://store.kifaru.net/tarps-c19.aspx

    I still use my poncho for shelter today when camping and stalking trout in WNC, albeit strung over my hammock, as my 50 yr old bones don’t like being on the ground anymore and i can sleep like a baby in the hammock…

    Thank you for the salient insight…

  11. Tarps are less effective in desert environments where you may not have trees for sticks and convenient tie points. Also the desert I spend a lot of time in the wind comes up really hard in the afternoon. I’ve had a lot of sun-shades blown away, torn up, or toppled.

    I’ve used the same $50 two person tent for 10 years, it sets up in about 5 minutes, probably faster than you can rig your tarp. It weighs about 4 pounds and his very compact when stowed. It keeps bugs out. With the rain layer off it provides 360 views, including the stars. It keeps me very dry with the rain-tarp on.

    It’s not a tactical tool, it’s not cammo, but it’s a very efficient camping tool.

  12. So tactically, you carry light…no snivel gear…woobie perhaps and no bivi bag system since it is too heavy, cumbersome, and unsuited for cold weather. Not to argue, I always thought the individual shelters were quite clever in intent and design. But, its hard to argue with experience. Mission equipped makes sense. Re hammocks…I read somewhere to use a ground pad in the hammock webbing to help insulate the sleeping bag from drafts. I like the inside info given on this site….to at least stimulate creative alternatives.

  13. First, thanks for stopping by! Yes, you try to stay light as you can, but ‘no snivel gear’ can be costly as well. I’d suggest you get the best gear you can, in terms of ROI on cost to comfort. Example: Woobie – the USGI one sucks compared to Wiggy’s. Wiggy’s provides a much better insulation (meaning warmth) factor than wool, even when wet. Individual shelters have their place; I have a waterproof Wiggy’s bag that I keep as an option if I can’t put a shelter up, but remember, everything is a trade off in weight and purpose. I don’t use hammocks, as to me (YMMV) they’re restrictive for movement, and I prefer being on the ground, but if it works for you, great!

    Thanks for the kind words, too!

  14. Tents do trap you and make you blind. Years ago I was backpack camping with my 10-year-old in a heavily wooded wildness area, of course with a two-person, zipped-up backpack tent. A full moon that night contributed to my light sleep and to my hearing what sounded like something on two feet approaching tent and stop. I could see the shadow of a guy as he circled around the tent and got between the tent and the moon. He was alert, too, I guess. As soon as he heard the safety on my PPK click off, he walked away. But the feeling of being trapped and blind in that tent has not gone away!

    PS: I carry more of a gun now, too.

  15. Good article; looking forward to the rest of it.

    For your consideration, Wiggy’s Freedom Shelter: waterproof tarp/shelter, poncho (fits over ruck), bivy (if desired; has mesh air vents at face and feet), litter = many uses. I stripped mine of the poles and mosquito net so it weighs 2.5lbs. It’s expensive, but buying each gear individually adds-up too. Also carry an inexpensive Grabber Space Blanket ($15 – 7’x5’ – 12oz. – olive). It’s waterproof and reflects heat and IR. Good ground cover or heat reflection or additional shelter.

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