Use Our Guide to Choose the Best Survival Tent

One of our most basic survival needs is shelter. While there are plenty of ways to make your own survival shelter, the reality is that most of us would be a lot better off keeping a tent with our survival supplies.

There are a lot of sites which have lists of the best survival tents. However, a lot of these ignore the fact that everyone’s needs are different.

First  I’ll give you my top picks for tents by function.

Then, I am going to break down how to figure out what you actually need from a survival tent.

Top Survival Tent Comparison

TentTypeSleepsWeightVerdict
Top Pick

MSR Hubba Hubba
Lightweight23lbs 7ozGood all-around tent for most situations.

Big Agnes Copper Spur 3
Lightweight33lbs 14ozGood all around tent for 3 people.

Marmot Thor
4-Season310lbs 12ozThe ultimate winter tent

Kelty TN2
Lightweight24lbs 9ozHeavier but more affordable

Alps Mountaineering Tasmanian 2
4-Season27lbs 7ozOne of the most affordable winter tents

Free Soldier Tarp Tent
Tarp22.5ozLightweight solution for people who have survival skills

Survival Shack Shelter
Tube22.4ozCheap and better than nothing

Survival Tent Reviews

MSR Hubba Hubba Tent 2P

Top Pick

MSR is one of the leading backpacking gear manufacturers. This is one of their most popular lightweight tents, and for a good reason. It has a decent-sized footprint and the dome shape gives you extra headroom.

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MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Lightweight Backpacking Tent

Another nice thing is that the tent uses clips to attach to the frame. Most other tents have poles which have to be threaded through the tent. The clips make it very easy to set up in emergencies.

Specifications

Sleeps: 2 | Footprint: 29 square feet | Waterproof rating: 1200mm
Denier: 30 denier bottom with 3000mm coating | Height: 39 inch
Vestibules: 2 (total of 17.5 sq. feet) | Weight: 3lbs 7oz

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Easy setup
  • Good protection against elements
  • 2 vestibules

Cons

  • Fairly small for two people
  • Not much headroom
  • Fairly pricey

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Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 3

This is the tent that I use for backpacking with my family. It also doubles as our survival tent in our summer Bug Out Bags.

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Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL Tent, 2 Person, Grey/Orange

The reason I like this tent so much is because it is incredibly lightweight but still provides great protection against the elements.

Like the MSR Hubba Hubba, the Copper Spur also uses clips for attaching the tent to the frame.

The only issue I have with it is that the material feels quite thin. Be careful before setting it down on jagged rocks.

Specifications

Sleeps: 3 Footprint: 41 square feet | Waterproof rating: 1200mm
Denier: 20 denier bottom with 1200mm coating | Height: 43 inch
Vestibules: 2 (9 sq. feet each) | Weight: 3lbs 7oz

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Ample headroom
  • Roomy
  • Good protection against elements
  • Easy setup

Cons

  • Thin material
  • Fairly pricey

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Kelty TN2

The Kelty TN2 is one of the more affordable lightweight tents. It is still going to cost a heck of a lot more than a standard camping tent, but those weigh more than twice the amount.

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Kelty TN 2 Person Tent

For such an affordable tent, the Kelty TN2 is well designed. I like that it has two vestibules for storing gear, easy setup, and that the bottom is so thick. Yes, it is going to be bulkier but you could even squeeze 3 people into the tent or 2 adults and 2 children.

Specifications

Sleeps: 2 | Footprint: 27.5 square feet | Waterproof rating: 1800mm |
Denier: 70 denier bottom with 3000mm coating | Height: 42 inch
Vestibules: 2 (10 sq. feet each) | Weight: 4lbs 9oz

Pros

  • Very affordable for lightweight tent
  • Under 5lbs
  • High waterproof rating
  • Thick bottom
  • Ample room for 2 people

Cons

  • Heavy compared to other options
  • Bulkier

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Marmot Thor 3P

If you are a serious outdoors person and want to try winter camping, then this is a great tent. It is designed to stand up to the harshest of conditions so you stay warm and dry regardless of snowfall.

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Marmot Thor 3P Tent - 2017 Model

Another cool thing about the Marmot Thor is that you can use just the fly to make a “bare bones setup.” This cuts the weight down drastically so you can use the same tent in summer camping situations, meaning you’ll get a lot more use out of it if you are also backpacking recreationally.

Specifications

Sleeps: 3 | Footprint: 47 square feet | Waterproof rating: 3000mm |
Denier: 70 denier bottom with 10000mm coating | Height: 45 inch
Vestibules:12 sq. feet | Weight: 10lbs 2oz

Pros

  • Superb protection against elements
  • Lots of headroom
  • Versatile – can use just the fly for lightweight summer camping

Cons

  • Heavy weight
  • Pricey investment

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Alps Mountaineering Tasmanian 2P

Winter tents are usually very pricey. However, the Tasmanian 2 by Alps Mountaineering is very affordable for the protection it offers. It also is very lightweight for a 4-season tent.

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ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 2 Person

I love the extra features on this tent, like the overhead loft where you can put your gear and how it has so much extra room. It is rated for 2 people but 3 people could easily fit for a survival situation.

Specifications

Sleeps: 2 | Footprint: 34.5 square feet | Waterproof rating: 1500mm |
Denier: 75 denier bottom with 5000mm coating | Height: 46 inch
Vestibules: 13 sq. feet | Weight: 7lbs 7oz

Pros

  • Very affordable for its class
  • Lightweight for a 4-season tent
  • Lots of extra features

Cons

  • Sides aren’t steeply angled so snow might build up on it

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Free Soldier Tarp Tent

Choosing a tarp is really confusing because they range from big pieces of plastic to fancy camo-style tarps that cost a fortune.

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FREE SOLDIER Large Waterproof Tarp Multifunctional Outdoor Camping Traveling Rain Fly Awning Backpacking Tarp shelter Rain Tarp(Brown)

The tarp shelter by Free Soldier is a good mix of value and reliability. The material is waterproof and won’t rip, but still thin enough not to weigh you down.

Another nice feature of this survival tarp is that it has loops on the ends and also down its center. That means you can make an A-frame shelter and other shelter designs easier without sagging occurring.

Specifications

Sleeps: 2Weight: 2.5oz

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Has loops in various locations for easier setup

Cons

  • Requires skill to set up

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Survival Shack Emergency Shelter

Bear in mind that no tube tent is going to offer lots of protection against the elements.

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Survival Shack Emergency Survival Shelter Tent | 2 Person Mylar Thermal Shelter

However, as far as tube tents go, the emergency shelter by Survival Shack is one of the better ones. It doesn’t rip as easily and traps body heat well.

Specifications

Sleeps: 2Weight: 2.4oz

Pros

  • Very cheap
  • Lightweight
  • Quick setup

Cons

  • Very minimal protection
  • Requires a pole or rope

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Types of Tents

There are dozens of different types of tents. For example, you’ve got: A-frame tents, Vis-à-vis tents, Tyvek tents, and dome tents.

When choosing a tent for camping and backpacking, it helps to know about all of these types of tents because you are choosing a tent for comfort. By comparison, with emergency prep for SHTF situations, comfort is NOT your top priority. You need to be able to survive!

Thus, you can ignore a lot of the standard tent features when choosing a survival tent.

Based on my experience (as both a survivalist and thru-hiker), I believe that these are the only suitable types of tents for survival purposes.

  • Tube tents
  • Tarp tents
  • Lightweight tents
  • 4-season tents (winter tents)

 

Tube tents

Tube tentTube tents are basically just a ream of waterproof material that has been glued together. Using some rope or a pole, you can prop it open. The shape is actually more like an A-frame shelter than a tube.

Tube tents are meant for bare-bones survival. They aren’t meant for long-term shelter. Because the material of tube tents is so thin, you can expect them to rip or tear within a few days or weeks of using them.

There aren’t any doors on a tube tent and you can’t really seal off the ends. So, expect critters to get into the tent. Likewise, some rain is probably going to get in.

If you do try to seal off the tube tent (basically using it to wrap yourself into a sausage-like structure), you’ll get more protection. But, if it cold out, then condensation will build up inside the tube tent and get you and your survival gear wet!

With all of these limitations in mind, a tube tent is still better than nothing. It could be just the amount of protection needed to protect you from exposure. And I personally find that people feel psychologically better sleeping in a tube tent – even if rationally they don’t provide more protection than a debris hut would.

Tube tents have the benefit of being very lightweight, which is why a lot of people put them in their Bug Out Bags.

Features

  • Incredibly light
  • Compact
  • Very cheap
  • Tear easily
  • No “doors”
  • Not breathable – condensation buildup is major problem if tube is sealed off
  • Minimal – no extra features, just what you need to survive

Why You Would Choose a Tube Tent:

Choose a tube tent as your emergency tent if you don’t have the money to spend on anything better right now.

 

Tarp Tents

tarp tent for survival in SHTF situationsA tarp tent isn’t actually a tent. They are big sheets of waterproof canvas, Tyvek, or other materials that can be set up as an emergency shelter. The lean-to shelter and A-frame shelters are some of the most popular tarp survival shelter designs.

Now it is possible to make a survival shelter without any supplies, such as a debris hut. However, it is a LOT easier and faster to make an on-the-go shelter out of a tarp than debris. Because tarps do a good job of trapping body heat, tarp tents are a lot warmer than any quick debris hut you could make.

There is a lot of debate about whether a tarp or tent is better for survival situations. There are a lot of pros and cons to each. The main benefit of the tarp tent is that it is a LOT lighter than a standard tent. There are also lots of other survival uses for a tarp.

It basically comes down to this:

Choose a tarp tent if you are confident in your wilderness survival skills. If you aren’t (such as if you’ve never made a debris hut), then you are better off with a tent.

Features

  • Very lightweight
  • Compact
  • Fairly durable – won’t rip or tear easily
  • Can easily be repaired with duct tape or even medical tape
  • Versatile – many ways to set up tarp shelters
  • Minimal – no extra features like pockets

Why You Would Choose a Tarp Tent:

Choose a tarp tent if you are confident in your wilderness survival skills. You should know how to set up a tarp shelter to protect against rain and cold.

 

Lightweight Tents

lightweight tent for bug out bag

You’ll notice that I’m not including standard camping tents as an option for a survival tent. That is because standard camping tents are very heavy. A 2 or 3-person tent will probably weight over 10lbs.

It simply isn’t practical to lug around a huge, heavy tent in a survival situation. Imagine trying to run away from a gang of thugs while carrying 10lbs on your back (in addition to the weight of all your other survival gear). The thugs would easily catch you and steal your tent.

Here is where you will probably say, “But I plan on bugging out by car!”

Standard tents are fine if you are bugging out by car AND everything goes according to plan. But what if your survival vehicle breaks down and you have to set off on foot?

Or EMP blasts renders your car useless. Or any number of things which would make your car useless. Thus, it is really important that you have a lightweight tent for survival!

Compared to tube tents and tarp tents, lightweight tents (also called backpacking tents) offer a lot more protection. They can be completely sealed off against rain, wind, and critters. They usually have venting, so you don’t have to worry about condensation either.

Most lightweight tents are suitable for 3 seasons. You will have a hard time finding a lightweight tent which is 4-season because those tents require thicker (and thus heavier) materials.

Features

  • Suitable for 3 seasons
  • Under 5lbs
  • Provide full protection against rain, wind, and critters
  • Ventilation prevents condensation
  • Durable – most will resist tearing fairly well
  • Pricier than other tents

Why You Would Choose a Lightweight Tent:

Choose a lightweight emergency tent if you don’t have advanced-level outdoor survival skills. For example, if you’ve never slept in a tarp shelter or know tricks like making a raised-platform bed in the wilderness, you’ll want the extra protection these tents offer.

 

Winter Tents

winter tents for survivalIf you are a very skilled survivalist, you might know how to use a tarp or tube tent to trap body heat and survive even in the dead of winter.

But, let’s be honest here – it is going to be very hard to stay remotely comfortable in one of those cheap tents. You’d have to set up a stove inside the tent, and that can lead to fires or carbon monoxide poisoning.

So, if you aren’t one of those ultra-skilled survivalists, then a winter tent (4-season tent) is what you need to stay alive when bugging out in winter.

How does a 4-season tent differ from a 3-season tent?

Winter tents are made from thicker materials and stronger frames which can withstand high winds and snowfall. Their sides are angled so snow will fall off of them. 4-season tents also have vents which prevent condensation from building up in the tent.

Compared to 3-season tents, 4-season tents are a lot heavier. This obviously presents a problem if you think you’d have to flee while carrying a 4-season tent in your Bug Out Bag.

It just goes to show that there is no “perfect” survival shelter solution.

You’ve got to trade off warmth with weight.

Be warned that even a 4-season tent isn’t going to keep you warm in winter survival situations. You’ve got to get your body off the ground using thick winter sleeping pads (Amazon Link).

Other survival gear is also a must for bugging out in the winter.

So, think realistically about what you’d do if you have to flee in the dead of winter!

Features

  • Better at trapping body heat
  • High waterproof rating
  • Vents prevent condensation from building up in the tent
  • Steeply-angled sides so snow will fall off the tent
  • Strong frames to prevent the tent from collapsing under the pressure of snow and wind
  • Guylines so you can stake your tent so it won’t blow away in the wind
  • Heavier because of thicker material
  • Can be costly

Why You Would Choose a 4 Season Tent:

Pricier and heavier than other options, most people probably won’t want to buy one of these winter tents. However, if you live somewhere with really cold winters and are sure you’d bug out instead of hunker down, then a winter tent might be the only thing that keeps you alive.

 

What to Look for in a Survival Tent

A lot of the things you’d look at when choosing a survival tent are the same as what you’d look at for choosing a backpacking tent – like size, waterproofness, and weight. However, some features – like pockets and headroom – aren’t nearly as important when choosing a survival tent.

Here are the main features that you actually need to consider:

  • Weight
  • Suitable for your climate
  • Waterproofness
  • Single wall or double wall
  • Venting
  • Suitable for other uses

 

Weight

If you are planning on bugging out by car, you might be tempted to get a larger tent. But larger means heavier! As we’ve talked about many times here on Primal Survivor, you can’t rely on your vehicle during emergency situations.

Road blocks, theft, mechanical failures, or EMP blasts could render your vehicle useless. Thus, you must be able to carry your survival tent.

Hardcore backpackers know that your pack should never weigh more than 15-25% of your bodyweight. With bug out bag weight, you should cut it down even further because you might need to run with your pack on.

Even if you are keeping things minimal, a tent can quickly add weight to your BOB. Even though they cost a heck of a lot more, it is really worth it to pay for a lightweight tent for survival planning.

Aim for under 3-5lbs per person.

 

Suitable for Your Climate

tent season rating

I pray that, should I ever need to Bug Out with my family, it will be in summer. However, we don’t get to choose what season disasters occur in so we need to be prepared for all weather situations!

Tents are rated as 2, 3, or 4-season. A 4-season tent won’t necessarily cost much more, but it will weigh more. A lightweight 4-season tent is going to cost a heck of a lot more.

It is worth noting that no tent by itself is going to keep you warm in the dead of winter. To survive in a tent during winter, you have to get yourself off the ground using a foam matt. There are also other tricks to staying warm during winter camping, like using tea lights to heat the tent (yes, it really works!).

Tip: To reduce weight from your Bug Out Bag, consider making summer and winter versions. Then you can keep a lighter 2 or 3-season tent in the summer BOB.

 

Waterproofness

tent in the rain

One of the worst things that can happen while trying to survive outdoors is getting wet and not having anything dry to change into. Getting wet can lead to hypothermia, which in turn can lead to your death. So, yes, waterproofness is important when choosing your shelter!

Waterproofing is usually done by painting layers of waterproof coating over the material. The more coating that is added, the more waterproof the tent will be.

Here’s the problem with that: The more waterproof coating that is added, the thicker and heavier the tent will be. As gear-maker MSR points out here, thick materials are often prone to ripping and cracking. So, higher waterproof ratings aren’t always better.

To make sure you get a survival tent which can handle heavy storms (but not necessarily Biblical floods), look for:

  • Waterproof rating of at least 1000mm: This means that the tent can withstand 2,000mm of water on top of it before it starts to leak. In other words, it will stand up against most storms.
  • Two-layers: Two-layer tents have an inner vestibule and a rain fly which goes over them. These are much more reliable against rain. The downside is that they are heavier and take longer to set up than 1-layer tents.
  • High-denier floor: The floor is where most tents have problems with water leakage. To prevent this, quality tents have floors made out of a thicker material. The floor material should extend up against the wall of the tent to prevent flooding.

 

Single Wall vs. Double Wall Tents

If you are looking for a standard camping or backpacking tent as your survival tent (as opposed to a tarp or tube tent), then one of the first features to look at is whether you want it to be single or double wall. The extra wall of a double tent is called a “rain fly.”

I personally prefer double wall tents. While they do add more weight and bulk, they are much more reliable against rain.

They also trap body heat better while still allowing for venting so condensation doesn’t build up.

Single Wall Tents

  • Lighter
  • Faster setup
  • Not as good at protecting against rain
  • Condensation often builds up inside
  • Poorly trap body heat

 

Double Wall Tents

  • High level of protection against rain and elements
  • Venting prevents condensation buildup
  • Often have vestibules where you can keep your gear
  • Heavier and bulkier
  • Take longer to set up

Venting (Condensation)

condensation on tent

If you do any serious backpacking, then you already know why venting is important. For those who don’t, here’s the gist of it:

Let’s say you buy a cheap tent made out of a plastic-like material. Yes, the material is completely waterproof – but it doesn’t breathe. There aren’t any windows or other vents in the tent, so the tent gets really hot and stuffy.

When you go to sleep, the tent traps all of your body heat inside. Because the temperature outside is cooler, condensation builds up inside the tent. The condensation collects on the top of the tent and then starts to drip down.

Next thing you know, you’ve got drops of condensation coming down on you while you sleep! You wake up in a puddle. Not only are you wet, but so is all of your gear! If the weather is really cold, that could quickly lead to hypothermia!

Condensation is one of the major downsides of tube tents, Tyvek tarp tents, and cheap single-wall tents.

Seriously – don’t underestimate how much condensation can ruin your chances of survival!

 

Suitable for Other Uses

One important consideration when choosing any tent is whether you can use it for anything else. For example, I go camping with my family very often (it is fun and it teaches them valuable survival skills).

If you can get some more use out of your tent, you’ll feel better about spending more money on it, put it to use, and feel comfortable sleeping in it if you ever have to sleep in it.

Do you have a survival tent yet? Which one and how’d you pick it?

I’m Jacob Hunter, founder of Primal Survivor.
I believe in empowering people with the knowledge to prepare and survive in the modern world.

More about Jacob here.

Leave a comment

  1. Excellent advice. I have a Double walled tent which should be suitable to get me to my intended destination. One night use should be sufficient.

  2. If you chose a tent the double wall is best and there are some lighter double walled tents out there, however I use a tarp to add a third wall, as this will make for a dry, dry situation in a storm, no doughs, if you do set up correctly.

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