Camping | Guides

How to Live In A Tent Long Term

Living off the grid is becoming increasingly favorable to some people, whether it’s to reconnect with nature, to live minimalistically or even just to test your survival skills. 

Living long term in a tent has both its advantages and disadvantages, and isn’t right for everybody. The best way to live in a tent long term is to make sure you are extremely well prepared for anything to happen. 

Preparation

As with any trip, preparation is key to a successful venture. Living long-term in a tent is no exception to this, as the amount of preparation you do, the easier the trip will be. If you’ve never camped in the short-term before but are considering camping long-term, make sure to get some practice under your belt! One of the best ways to prepare for a camping trip is through trial and error, as only through your own experience you’ll be able to realize which items are essential and which ones you can live without. 

Think About Your Goal

The goal of your long-term tent stay should be at the forefront of your mind. Whilst staying in a tent a couple of times a year may be thrilling, long term tent life is a completely different experience, with its own pros and cons. It’s a big commitment to make and should be thought about and discussed in advance before any preparations are made. 

Think About Location

The first thing to consider when contemplating long term tent stays is where you’ll be planning on pitching your tent. Thinking about your location can give you a better basis for preparations. When thinking about location, it’s good to consider the weather, shelter, natural structures, amenities and what the location is like throughout different seasons. For instance, the base of a cliff may seem like a smart place to camp as a natural windbreaker, but it can quickly turn dangerous in heavy rain. The places you choose to pitch your tent can have a direct impact on your experience.

Additionally, consider if you’re planning on camping out in bear country, as your precautions may have to change drastically if there are any risks associated with bears in the area. 

Think About How Long You Want to Stay Off the Grid

If you’re not planning on making tent living a permanent adjustment, think about how long and what time of year you’ll be out in the elements. This can help you figure out your quantity of supplies, and gives you an idea of what the weather conditions will generally be like. The equipment you may need may differ depending on how long you intend to live in a tent, including the tent itself. Don’t forget, it’s always important to pack extra supplies such as additional nonperishables just in case of emergency. 

Are You Staying in One Place?

If you plan on relocating your tent frequently you could need to take extra precautions and carrying equipment to make the transitions easier between pitching sites. Certain equipment, such as trailers, are necessary for carrying gear around frequently as opposed to a one-off. 

The tent you choose can also depend heavily on whether you plan on keeping it in one place or not, as some tents are made to be set up and packed away quickly and are more ideal for travelling and relocating. 

Think About Wildlife

As mentioned previously, the wildlife you’re likely to encounter in certain places may deter you from entering them – especially as a part of a long-term camping trip. Bears, wolves, mountain lions and even smaller pests like scorpions and snakes can pose a very real threat to you and your campsite. 

If you’re planning a trip of any sort- regardless of whether it’s short term or long term- be aware of the natural wildlife in the area and plan accordingly. Bear canisters, bear spray, and practicing bear-safe food habits are essential when camping in bear country, regardless of how long for. 

Leave No Trace camping dictates the use of reusable equipment and minimising waste. If you’re planning on staying out in the wilderness long-term (or short-term!) make sure you look after your surroundings and leave the area exactly as you found it. This means correctly disposing of any waste, using a designated fire pit, and respecting your surroundings by not interfering with wildlife. 

Equipment

Your equipment’s going to differ greatly between short term trips and long term trips. More supplies will be needed, and you’ll have to make more preparations in case any accidents or emergencies occur. 

Food and Water

Food and water may arguably be the most essential thing to pack when camping. If you’re planning on camping for the long-term, the food you choose to take with you may differ from the food you’d pack if you weren’t staying for long. For instance, nonperishable items are of utmost importance due to their long shelf life and easy storage. You may struggle to keep a cooler cold if you’re living off the grid for extensive periods of time, so be aware that refrigerated items are unlikely to be of particular use.

If you’re camping long-term, the food you bring with you will be depleted very quickly. In that case, there are multiple options available. Some people who live off the grid prefer to hunt and fish for food, or make their own gardens for farming. Others, however, prefer the ease of just taking regular trips to supermarkets to stock up on supplies. 

Water may prove more difficult to collect, as most, if not all, water in the natural world may contain dangerous microbes and bacteria. As a result, any and all water you drink should be purified beforehand, either through a purification straw or with purifying tablets. You could also use a collapsible jerry can to refill your water from water fountains in the nearest available vicinity, either a campsite ground or further afield. 

First Aid Kits

First aid kits are one of the most important things to keep in a bag when travelling, either for the long term or short term. First aid kits can get you out of a variety of sticky situations, from cuts and bruises to more serious injuries. For long term stays away, it’s more important than ever to have more items compiled for your first aid kit. Make sure all the items inside your first aid kit are in date and replace them once they go out of date. 

A basic first aid kit should include at least the following:

  • Bandages
  • Bandaids 
  • Antiseptic Cream
  • Gauze Padding
  • Sling Bandage
  • Painkillers
  • Cough Medicine
  • Sore Throat Medicine 
  • Eyedrops /  Eyewash
  • Antihistamines
  • Medical Tape
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Disposable Gloves

It may be wise to pack more equipment, especially if you’re spending a lot of time in the wilderness. It’s also important to take into consideration any prescription medications you may be taking and the condition that they need to be stored in. 

Tent Repair

Tents may be becoming more and more durable, but there is still a chance that they may spring a leak or become damaged over extended periods of time. As a result, it’s important to carry a repair kit with you just in case your tent becomes damaged and you need a quick fix. 

Kits can be purchased for patching canvas tents, and it’s always a good idea to keep a supply of seam sealant for your tent’s rain flys and seams to waterproof it further.

Amenities 

You’re going to want to make sure your tent is comfortable, and certain amenities can be used to add to that comfort without adding too much weight to carry. For instance, a camping bed that is elevated is both functional and practical, as items could be stored beneath it, thus saving space. 

Additionally, there are ways to stay comfortable inside your tent without blowing your budget, including ways to heat a tent without electricity and stay cool inside. Added blankets, sleeping mats and sleeping bags are a few of the many ways to keep yourself comfortable while camping.

Hygiene and Sanitation 

Compost is your friend and, thankfully, camping toilets can be used to generate it. There are plenty of ways to make your own camping toilet, but there are also different models on the market which do the same job. 

Showers and washing can also be achieved using campsite facilities, but there are kits available to buy for solar off the grid showers which may be useful if you don’t intend on staying in a campsite.

Rainwater collection is also a great way to maintain a level of water which can be used for simple things such as brushing teeth and washing hair. This water may not be entirely clean, but it will certainly be a useful resource when you don’t want to use any other options. 

Making Space

Living inside a small space can become hard, especially if you have both day-to-day equipment and emergency equipment to account for. There are storage solutions available for tents, but there are also some hacks which can be used to keep your living space within the tent clean and tidy. 

  • As mentioned previously, using an elevated bed enables you to store items beneath it, and saves a lot of floor space, too!
  •  Some tents come with pockets on the inside of the structure. These are useful for knick knacks used within the tent, such as lights, and other personal products. 
  • Tents also usually have at least one hook hanging from the ceiling, and this can be utilized by having hanging storage coming down from it. 
  • Boxes are great as they can have items placed inside them, and on top of them. 
  • If your tent has a porch, use it!
  • Keeping a bag of wet/dirty clothes and a bag of clean clothes separately will keep them much more organized. 
  • Keeping items which are similar or commonly used together in the same bag or storage container helps keep your tent tidy and you’ll know exactly where to find things. 
  • Some items, such as food, may need to be kept away from the campsite. These items can be kept inside bear canisters or hung from trees. 
  • Hanging items from trees is a reasonable way of storage if the items are waterproof. If not, you can also keep them outside with some tarp as a cover and hope for the best.
  • Tarp is great as it can keep you dry while camping, but can also be used to create makeshift shelters for your items too. 

Protecting Your Belongings

With no alarm systems, tents are easy to invade and steal from. While there aren’t many people who would want to steal from a tent in the middle of nowhere, there are opportunists about. And, luckily, there are ways to combat this. 

One of the less effective options is to lock your tent up from the inside, which may deter an opportunist, but not an individual who is particularly determined. An alternative to this technique is to purchase a lockable box, preferably a strong one, and keep it tethered to a tree or other natural structure. You could also bury your valuables and dig them up later on, but that method is fairly risky.

Electricity

If you aren’t fully committed to living completely in nature, there are ways to generate electricity while you’re spending some time in the tent. Solar generators are the best bet, as they can be powered up without the need to be charged from the mains. Their main downfall is the length of time it takes for one to charge, along with the fact that they won’t charge as well during days that aren’t sunny. Your other option is to buy a generator and use a public outlet to charge it up whenever needs be, but this could become tedious and you’d have to wait with the generator as it was charging (which could be hours). 

Choosing a Tent

How you choose your tent depends entirely on your circumstances. Including location, amount of time you plan on using it, how big it needs to be and whether or not you plan to move it around or leave it up. 

The location where you plan to put your tent can decide what type of tent you need to invest in as certain types of tent are better for different terrain. For instance, a bivy tent wouldn’t be particularly useful in an area which frequently receives rain, as they aren’t a very weather-resistant type of tent. It’s important to research what tent is the most suitable for the type of terrain and area you are camping in. Additionally, each tent has a rating from 2-4 seasons. These ratings are an indication of how many season’s weather the tent can withstand, with 4 season tents being the most reliable as they are built to handle more extreme weather such as snow and harsh winds. If you’re not planning on staying in a tent in the winter, it might not be worth investing in a four season tent, as they can become expensive. 

The size of your tent is mostly a choice based on preference, but if you have a lot of equipment to carry and store, a larger tent may be more suited to your needs. 

How portable your tent is depends on whether or not you intend on moving it once it’s set up. Smaller tents are, of course, easier to reassemble and disassemble when needed, and they are easier to carry from place to place. Pop up tents are the best option for a portable tent, due to the short set up time. However, you would be sacrificing a lot of space within the tent and some of a tent’s durability, as some of a tent’s durable nature is decided by the poles which are used to support the structure, and some of the more portable tents lack a substantial amount of support.

How Durable is Your Tent?

Having a tent up 24/7 is bound to test the limits of its durability. If you’re buying a tent specifically to use during long term camping trips, it may be worth spending more money on a tent that is much more durable and weather resistant than some of the cheaper alternatives. This could save both money and time in the long run, as constant repairs can be draining both physically and to your wallet.

Cooking

Cooking whilst camping is a chore that always seems to go wrong, even just a little bit, regardless of how many times you’ve done it before. 

Of course, the easiest way to cook whilst camping is by using a portable grill or gas canisters, but they will eventually be depleted if you’re planning to camp for a longer period of time. In that case, it’s best to build a campfire and maintain it. Keeping a campfire going can be tough, but if you put in the prep work, it should ease the workload. 

When camping, make sure you begin collecting suitable materials to build your campfire with. This includes dried wood, dried twigs and sticks, and dried grass. Keeping these materials dry is essential, and on rainy days they may even need to come into the tent for protection. A lighter or matches will also eventually run out, meaning it’s good to have an alternative fire starter. The act of cooking over a campfire isn’t much different from cooking over a gas canister or portable grill, but there are different methods of cooking different foods, and some foods which aren’t suited to the technique. 

Keeping Your Tent Cool or Warm

Being able to keep your tent cool or warm when needed plays a big part in how comfortable you can get. Tents have a habit of being too warm in the day during a sunny spell, and too cold in the night. 

Additional blankets and clothing layers are great when trying to warm yourself up in the tent, whilst creating a shelter over the tent in order to produce some shade is useful for staying cool. 

Take a look at our guide about insulating tents to learn how to keep them warm, especially during cold winter nights. 

Dangers of Long Term Tent Living

At the end of the day, there isn’t much difference between living in a tent and a house providing you’re prepared enough. Most dangers can come about through nature itself, as opposed to the camping lifestyle. 

Harsh Weather

Dangerously harsh weather is a recipe for disaster when you have no substantial cover over your head. Phenomena such as hurricanes, tornadoes or flooding can pose a substantial risk to anyone camping. Thankfully, there are usually warning signs for this kind of weather, and, with warnings, it should hopefully give you enough time to evacuate to safety.

Harsh Conditions

We’ve already discussed keeping your tent cool and keeping it warm, but sometimes the temperature can reach dangerous levels (especially in winter months). This means that, unless you’re highly prepared, you could run the risk of hypothermia or other conditions relating to cold weather. Cold weather can make it harder to source food and water as well, meaning it may not be an ideal time to camp for the long-term.

Illness or Injury 

Sudden illness or obtaining an injury can be detrimental to your living situation if you’re camping for the long term. This could be anything from injuring yourself while in the wild to developing an illness. 

Wild Animals

Depending on where you’re camping, wild animals can become a bother. Whether they’re relatively harmless and insignificant like mosquitoes, or more dangerous like bears. Researching the kinds of wildlife that live in the area in which you’re planning on camping long term can help you decide whether the area’s safe to inhabit or not.

Final Thoughts

Long term tent living is certainly a viable option and great for opening your mind to new adventures and possibilities. Long term tent living can, however, be dangerous without the correct equipment and amount of preparation. Long term tent living isn’t a choice that should be made on a whim if possible, as you need to prepare for every possible situation you may find yourself in. 

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