If you find yourself outside in the wilderness and it is getting dark, you best have access to some shelter.
Whether that is a natural shelter like a cave, a wood shelter built from sticks and leaves, or a 3rd option is to carry a shelter with you in the form of a tent.
Shelters are vital for survival, regardless on if it is a planned survival weekend trip into the mountains or if you are in a legitimate emergency.
The very basic need in a survival situation is to maintain your body temperature, and when you are not moving especially at night you will need the shelter to stay warm, stay dry, and have a safe place to rest.
What can classify as a survival tent is a broad spectrum, and will depend a lot on the location, climate and how long it is likely to be needed for.
So, for the purposes of this article, this is how I define a survival tent:
A survival tent must fit into my bug out bag.
It must be light enough that I can carry it in my bug out bag, and I could walk all day through difficult terrain with all my bug out bag gear.
It must be able to withstand rain and wind for 72 hours at least. The conditions you expect to find yourself in plays a part here. For example, there is very little chance I will find myself in a situation where I am in a severe snowstorm.
So, I do not need a true four-seasons tent for artic conditions. But it is likely it will get fairly cold, and there will be a high chance of rain in the winter.
It must be big enough for me, so a 1- or 2-person tent. I generally class 1 person tents as just for me, and 2 person tents as for me and my gear. I am quite a large male, so 2 man tents never fit 2 people.
I do have a family, but I do not carry 1 tent for the family, we all carry our own tents in our own bug out bags. This spreads the weight, but it is also important in case we get split up.
In a true survival situation, you will be happy with whatever you have. But generally, I like a survival tent to be low profile, and to have a small footprint so it can be pitched in as many locations as possible.
Colour again isn’t a deal breaker in a survival situation, but if I can choose, I am likely to go for dark greens or camo for stealth purposes.
In true SHTF emergency situations you are likely to be in more danger from other people than wild animals, so ideally you would want to remain unseen and be able to pitch in a range of remote and private areas.
I want something that is quick and easy to set up regardless of the weather conditions and terrain.
A good test is if you can put it up with cold hands in a few minutes.
You should always practise putting the tent up in real world conditions, its not the same as just throwing it up in your garden.
I must admit I am a bit of a collector of tents, so I have a lot of them, and I love testing them out. The below list is all tents I have used, and they are either in my families bug out bags or are stored in the shed.
This is an excellent all round survival tent, and everything I am looking for in an emergency shelter.
It packs up really small and is easy to pack into my bug out bag.
At 3.34 pounds, it is lightweight and keeps the total weight of my bug out bag at a reasonable level.
The Lonosphere is waterproof to 5000 millimetre which is more than enough for what I will likely need, and I would be very unlucky if I were in conditions where the waterproofing would fail.
The tent also comes factory seam sealed. It is also made from RipStop material, so I have full confidence in it in high winds. I have been out in it in 40mph winds with 60mph gusts and I felt totally safe.
Whilst this is a 1-person tent, it is designed to be a 1-person tent with space for your gear. So, you are not struggling with gear around you while you sleep, and you don’t have to leave your gear outside in the elements.
I love the color, it is a very stealthy natural green. And unless someone is looking for it, or stumbles across it then it is likely to remain unseen especially in wooded areas.
It is also super low profile, so it doesn’t stick out on the horizon. But considering how low profile it is, it is still fairly easy to get into and you have reasonable room to move about inside.
Set up is relatively easy and with a bit of practise takes no more than 5 minutes. But it does set up like a standard tent where you have to peg it out and use guylines.
It comes with 2 poles, a larger front pole, and a smaller back pole. These are easy to click together and erect the tent.
Here is the best of the rest.
More of a very nice backpacking and thru-hiking tent, that could easily double up as a survival tent if needed.
It is quite narrow so you it is just for you, your gear with have to stay in the vestibule. The vestibule is also quite narrow, but if all you have is your bug out bag then that should easily fit in.
At 4 pounds it is light-ish but is at the top end of the weight range that I would be prepared to carry. Cost wise it is very reasonable for the quality of the materials used.
It is a great choice if you are in more mountainous terrain, where flat pitches may be few and far between, and where you could expect some challenging weather conditions.
Designed for 1 or 2 people who have found themselves in peril. Where you set it up in minutes, jump in and try to retain body heat for as long as possible.
This is not necessarily for you to feel smug as a survivalist or prepper, this is where you just want to get through the night.
This is obviously very lightweight, and it is literally a posh foil blanket that you can pitch with the provided paracord.
I actually keep one of these in my car at all times, and I always take one with me on day hike even if I am just intending to be out with the dogs for an hour.
This product falls into the category of I hope I never have to use it, but if I do need it then I am very glad to have it.
A true survivalist option here, one which will help you regulate your body temperature until you can find help or be found.
It can be pitched with pegs and rope, and it is aluminium coated, so it retains body heat. It is basically a tent version of a foil blanket.
I think this is very reasonably priced and should get your through the night, but I like a survival tent in my bug out bag that is suitable for 72 hours. So, I like a bit more comfort.
It is ultralightweight at 1.6 pounds, and I have used it in light rain and breezy conditions, and it worked fine. I would be nervous in strong wind and rain though.
If a survival tube tent is too luxurious for you! And you want to go even more basic, then an emergency sleeping bag is about as basic as you can get.
The titan is my favourite space blanket I have tried, there is plenty of room in it for me, and it doesn’t feel like it would rip apart if I turned over in my sleep and rolled over a twig.
It is ultralightweight, and you could actually just stuff it into your back pocket on a dog walk. Just in case of a random SHTF moment. I have actually used this as part of my EDC (everyday carry) before.
Similar in style to the Lonosphere in that it is more than a basic emergency survival tent, but it isn’t a roomy living tent.
What I like to about this over the lonosphere is that it pitches in two. Whilst this makes it slightly harder to pitch, it does have its advantages because if it is a warm night you can actually just use it as a mesh tent.
If you are expecting a colder or rainy night you can pitch the outer too.
Even though it has an inner and an outer it is still light and packs up small. The condensation can be a problem when the outer is used, which can be a problem with a lot of 1 person tents.
Condensation can be a huge problem especially if you use down clothing and sleeping bags, so it is something you need to factor into your purchase choice.
Thru-hikers can get a bit of a bad rap but a lot of what they need can double up quite nicely as a survival tent. They need a tent that is lightweight, durable, and can fit in a backpack.
This is very expensive, but it is a very good tent. And if you want a bit of luxury in your survival tent then this could be an option for you.
What I like about thru-hiking tents are that they can be pitched just using one trekking pole, or you can buy a tent pole for it.
This gives me options in case of failure, I always have 2 trekking poles on my bug out bag. So, I have 3 chances to pitch my tent, the 2 trekking poles and the proper tent pole.
At 0.65 pounds without the poles and pegs, it basically weighs nothing as far as I am concerned. And because it is a thru-hiking tent it can withstand some brutal weather, just ask anyone who has used it on the PCT.
Tents have been used for shelter for thousands of years, and in todays modern world some of the tents available are breath-taking.
You will definitely be able to find a survival tent that is suitable to your needs and within your budget.
The hardest part is actually establishing what you need your survival tent for, what the likely climate could be, and the terrain you are likely to encounter.
And what you class as survival is probably the hardest decision you will have to make; do you want the most basic tent shelter to stop you from dying or is a survival tent actually more of a planned minimalist wild camp.
These things will shape what actually are the best survival tents, so whilst you have hopefully found my article helpful at the end of the day you will have your own individual needs and circumstances.
These must be considered, and the best survival tent is the tent that best suits your own person circumstances.