We all have our bugout backpacks stored and ready for the off, whether it’s for the first 72 hours, or longer, with everything tailored for our individual needs. We have food, a means to stock the larder, first aid, medicines, water, and more, and, of course, a tent – all ready to set up camp. Portable, versatile and available in different price bands, a tent is the quintessential choice of shelter. But with so many types on the market, what’s the best for when the SHTF.
What to Consider when Buying a Tent
Whilst any tent can keep you protected from the worst of the weather, there are a couple of points to think about before parting with your dollars.
You need to consider how many people you’ll be sharing your shelter with – just you and the dog, or more, and whether your BOB will need much space set aside for shelter items, for example, for an air mattress, or defense items, like weapons. Our advice would be to add one extra sleeping space to the mix, after all, it’s nice to invite a guest ’round!
Another point to think about is height – you don’t want to have to slide around on your belly too much, so maybe look at something that’s crawl or kneel height. For a tent with standing room, it’s going to be heavier to carry, bulkier and require poles.
Whilst you might start out driving, it’s wise to consider the weight and size of the tent bag, just in case. Generally the more room inside, the heavier it is. Most tents list two weights – maximum includes everything from poles to flysheet and guy lines, and the minimum is minus all that extra stuff. Most tents you’d want to consider don’t use poles and a lot of the periphery stuff, so the weight should be minimal.
3 Season vs 4 Season
Designed for spring, summer and fall weather, 3 season tents are lighter in weight, and consequently less costly, than the 4 season versions, which can cope well with the snow, ice and high winds of winter.
It’s important to have decent ventilation otherwise condensation will gather and drip, especially if your sleeping bag ends up touching the tent walls – trust us, that’s not pleasant to wake up to.
Most lightweight hiking type tents, in order to keep the weight and packed size down, either eschew poles completely, design them to double up as hiking poles, or integrate them in the tent fabric, allowing them to snap together ‘pinging’ the tent into shape. This pop-up design is very useful if you’re erecting your tent in the dark.
Some tents include a vestibule, which is a great feature for storage, or trying to brew a drink when it’s blowing a gale or raining.
Here are the reviews of the best selling tents of the year:
Ultra lightweight, with aluminum alloy stakes, this 3 season, 2 person tent is surprisingly roomy (2-3 person would be more accurate), easy to erect, and is reliably weather resistant. The design has been well considered, providing a hard wearing, decently made shelter. All the seams are double taped and it comes with a sealed groundsheet for extra damp proofing. With mess inner walls, it has maximum ventilation, but not at the cost of comfort.
The ‘easy pitch’ poles made erecting this tent, even in torrential rain, easy and quick. As a result of said rain, we know it’s definitely waterproof, and unless setting up in high winds, it doesn’t need to be staked. Packing down into its own bag, it can clip onto your backpack and at under 5lbs, won’t hinder you if trekking cross country.
The micromesh keeps out nasty bugs, and allows a good view of the area outside – you’ll never be surprised, which could be crucial in a SHTF scenario, and with a choice of colors available, you can be as inconspicuous as necessary.
We found the zip, although good and sturdy, was a little sticky, but after rubbing a candle across it, this minor problem was eliminated completely.
Bessport have designed a winner here. A quality build that’s comfortably weather proof, and includes some very useful features, all at a great price.
This 4 person tent is ideal if you have a family to consider, and weighing it at 9lbs, is still light enough to attach to a backpack if necessary. This is a pop-up tent which just snaps into shape in under 1 minute, and although packing away take slightly longer, it’s still quick and easy. Available in several sizes, all running with the same design, it’s a well made tent with taped seams, welded floor, plenty of ventilation, and a decent head height. Looking good so far.
The pop-up design is a brilliant idea – just unpack and there it is, ready for tired children to get some rest, or retreat from the weather, giving you more time to set up camp. As a 3 season tent, it has large windows that roll up for increased ventilation, and a comfortably wide doorway. Coleman’s patented WeatherTec system keeps out the worst of the weather by using an extremely durable plastic welding on all the seams, and with the zips covered by flaps, you and your family will stay nice and dry.
Being freestanding, if you pitch facing the wrong way, it doesn’t take much effort to turn the tent around, or move it to a smoother patch of ground. Very useful.
With no vestibule, it isn’t an issue in the warmer months, but in winter, tracking mud in and out can be a pain.
Coleman have designed an impressive family tent for an incredible price. With pop-up pitching, plenty of space and reliability in all weathers, this tent is easy to recommend.
The reassuringly named Don’t Die in the Woods have designed a 2 person tube tent that’ll fit in your pocket – yes, really! Made from ultra-tough HeatFlex mylar, unlike other ultra lightweight survival tents, this is reusable, meaning you can pitch and pitch again. Waterproof, windproof, light reflective and camouflaged – there are other colors available, it weighs in at an astonishing 9oz. According to DDW, it can also be used as a sleeping bag, emergency bivvy or a space blanket if necessary.
DDW claim this tent is the ‘toughest ultra-light emergency tent on Earth’, and we have no reason to doubt that claim after trying it for ourselves. Using industrial strength paracord, just string the tent up between two trees, find rocks to anchor the corners, and that’s it! If trees aren’t available, tie the paracord around one end and you have a cosy, snug 2 person sleeping bag
We love the simplicity and back-to-basics feel, although it has to be said that the fabric is anything but basic. The NASA designed mylar kept us surprisingly warm and dry, and there’s room inside for two people and gear – it measures in at 8ft long.
We’re planning on having several of these babies around – in the car, in our BOBs and anywhere else we can get to in a hurry.
What’s more, DDW donate 50% of each tent’s profit to conservation charities!
There is a knack to folding the tent up small enough to fit in the tiny bag. It took us a while to figure this out, but once we did, it was simple.
This tent from Don’t Die in the Woods is a must-have in any survival kit. Ultra lightweight, incredibly durable and folds away to the size of a small soda can - what’s not to love!