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 that have lists of the best survival tents. However, a lot of these ignore the fact that everyone’s needs are different.
In this guide, I’m going to give you my top picks for survival tents by function.
Then, I will break down how to figure out what you actually need from a survival tent.
Table Of Contents
- Top Survival Tent Comparison
- Survival Tent Reviews
- Types of Tents
- What to Look for in a Survival Tent
Top Survival Tent Comparison
MSR Hubba Hubba
|Lightweight||2||3lbs 7oz||Good all-around tent for most situations.|
Big Agnes Copper Spur 3
|Lightweight||3||3lbs 14oz||Good all around tent for 3 people.|
|4-Season||3||10lbs 12oz||The ultimate winter tent|
|Lightweight||2||4lbs 9oz||Heavier but more affordable|
Alps Mountaineering Tasmanian 2
|4-Season||2||7lbs 7oz||One of the most affordable winter tents
Free Soldier Tarp Tent
|Tarp||2||2.5oz||Lightweight solution for people who have survival skills|
|Tube||2||2.4oz||Cheap and better than nothing|
Survival Tent Reviews
MSR Hubba Hubba Tent 2P
MSR is one of the leading backpacking gear manufacturers. This is one of their most popular models and is, in our opinion, the best survival tent in the lightweight category. It has a decent-sized footprint, and the dome shape gives you extra headroom.
Another nice thing is that the tent uses clips to attach to the frame. Most other tents have poles that have to be threaded through the tent. The clips make it very easy to set up in emergencies.
Person: 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 | Poles: Unified hub and pole system
- Easy setup
- Good protection against elements
- 2 vestibules
- Fairly small for two people
- Not much headroom
- Fairly pricey
The Kelty Salida 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.
For such an affordable tent, the Kelty Salida is well designed. It has a vestibule for storing gear, easy setup, and the bottom is thick. Yes, it will be bulkier, but the size is impressive; you could even squeeze 3 people into the tent or 2 adults and 2 children.
Person: 2 | Footprint: 30.5 square feet | Waterproof rating: 1800mm |
Denier: 70 denier bottom with 3000mm coating | Height: 43 inch
Vestibules: 1 (10 sq. feet each) | Weight: 4lbs 9oz | Poles: 2 pole design
- Very affordable option
- Under 5lbs
- High weather rating
- Durable bottom
- Ample size for 2 people
- Heavy compared to other options
Marmot Thor 3P
If you are a serious outdoors person and want to try winter camping, this is a great tent. It is designed to stand up to the harshest conditions, so you stay warm and dry regardless of snowfall.
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.
Person: 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 | Poles: 6 pole design
- Best protection against elements
- Lots of headroom
- Versatile – can use just the fly for summer camping
- Pricey investment
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.
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; however, 3 people could easily fit in a survival situation.
Person: 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 | Poles: Aluminium hub and pole system
- Very affordable for its class
- Light for a 4-season tent
- Lots of extra features
- Sides aren’t steeply angled, so snow might build up on it
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL
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.
I like this tent so much because it is incredibly lightweight but still provides excellent protection against the elements.
Like the MSR Hubba Hubba, the Copper Spur also uses clips for attaching the tent to the frame poles.
The only issue I have with it is that the material feels relatively thin. Be careful before setting it down on jagged rocks.
Person: 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 | Poles: Hub pole design
- Nice size – ample headroom
- Good protection against elements
- Easy setup
- Thin material
- Fairly pricey
Free Soldier Tarp Tent
Choosing a tarp is confusing because they range from big pieces of plastic to fancy camo-styles that cost a fortune.
This one 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 is the loops on the ends and also down its center. That means you can make an A-frame shelter and other designs easier without sagging occurring.
Person: 2 | Weight: 2.5oz
- Small size – easy to carry
- Has loops in various locations for a more straightforward setup
- Requires skill to set up
Life Tent Emergency Shelter
Bear in mind that no tube tent is going to offer lots of protection against the elements.
However, as far as tube tents go, the emergency shelter by lifetent is one of the best ones. It doesn’t rip as easily and traps body heat well.
Person: 2 | Weight: 2.4oz
- Very cheap
- Very portable
- Quick setup
- Minimal protection
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 types of tents because you choose 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 survival tents:
- Tube tents
- Tarp tents
- Lightweight tents
- 4-season tents (winter tents)
Tube tents are 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 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 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 seal off the ends. So, expect critters to get into the tent. Likewise, some rain is probably going to get in.
If you try to seal it off (basically using it to wrap yourself into a sausage-like structure), you’ll get more protection. But, if it is cold out, then condensation will build up inside 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 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 benefit from being very portable, which is why many people put them in their Bug Out Bags.
- Incredibly light
- Very cheap
- Tear easily
- No “doors”
- Not breathable – condensation buildup is a significant 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.
A tarp tent isn’t actually a tent. They are big sheets of waterproof canvas, Tyvek, or other materials set up as an emergency shelter.
Now it is possible to make a survival shelter without any supplies, such as a lean-to. However, it is a LOT easier and faster to create an on-the-go shelter out of a tarpaulin than debris. They do an excellent job of trapping body heat, and they are a lot warmer than any temporary debris hut you could make.
There is a lot of debate about which is better for survival situations; however, there are pros and cons to each option. The main benefit of the tarp tent is that it is a LOT lighter than a standard tent.
It 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 survival tent.
- Very easy to carry
- 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
- Minimal – no extra features like pockets
You’ll notice that I do not include standard camping tents as an option for a survival tent. That is because traditional camping tents are very heavy. A 2 or 3-person tent will probably weigh over 10lbs.
It simply isn’t practical to lug around a huge, heavy tent in a survival situation. Imagine trying to run 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 render your car useless. Or any number of things that would make your vehicle useless. Thus, you must have a portable tent for survival!
Compared to tube tents and tarp tents, lightweight tents (also called backpacking tents) offer much 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 are suitable for 3 seasons. You will have a hard time finding a 4-season because those tents require thicker (and thus heavier) materials.
- 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 one if you don’t have advanced-level outdoor survival skills. For example, if you’ve never slept in a makeshift shelter or don’t know tricks like making a raised-platform bed in the wilderness, you’ll want the extra protection these tents offer.
If 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 the best option for staying alive when bugging out in cold weather.
How does a 4-season tent differ from a 3-season tent?
Winter tents are made from thicker materials and more robust frames that can withstand high winds and snowfall. Their sides are angled so that snow will fall off of them. 4-season tents also have vents that prevent condensation from building up in the tent.
Compared to 3-season tents, 4-season tents are a lot heavier. This 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 “best” survival tent solution.
You’ve got to trade off warmth with weight.
Read our guide to the best budget four season tent if you want to know more.
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) and the correctly rated sleeping bag.
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!
- 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 and poles 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 freezing 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
Many of the things you’d look at when choosing survival tents are the same as what you’d look at for choosing a backpacking tent. However, some features – like pockets and headroom – aren’t nearly as important when selecting a survival tent.
Here are the main features that you need to consider:
- Suitable for your climate
- Single wall or double-wall
- Suitable for other uses
If you plan 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 emergencies.
Roadblocks, 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 body weight. 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
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, 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.
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 essential when choosing your shelter!
Waterproofing is usually done by painting layers of coating over the material: the more coating that is added, the more weatherproof the tent will be.
Here’s the problem: The more coating 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 ratings aren’t always better.
To make sure you get a survival tent that 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 that 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 avoid flooding.
Single Wall vs. Double Wall Tents
If you are looking for a standard camping or backpacking tent as your survival 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 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
- 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
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 significant 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 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.
What do you think is the best survival tent? How’d you pick it?
Leave a comment
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.
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.
so i personally think that big tents are good to use because they can be used to store stuff in such as gear an other stuff that you might need to survive so then for a hiking boot you don’t need a special boot you could use sneakers or some rubber boots or steal toes. those will keep your feet warm so if they get wet then they will be like wearing a cinder block on your feet so some advice for you is too try not to get them wet because you will regret it after a while.
Big tents are good for shelter and storage but they are also heavy. As with most things survival it involves a compromise depending on your own particular situation.
Poor married couple buy a EUREKA Timberline 4 person tent. First campout on the banks of the Mississippi river in Iowa. STORM, high winds (gusting excess of 60 mph) lightning, violent downpour, and worse. The next morning large coffee pot deployed to great visitors from all the other camps that were flattened by the storm. Spend hours showing off the 1 of 2 tents still standing.
Moral of the story: Where you pitch the shelter is as important as what shelter you select. Car parked to windward next to shelter was key to outcome.
True.. this tent is on the large side for a BOB, BUT if you are bugging out in a group of two or more it should be a consideration on selecting a shelter. You can always get the 2 or 6 person version to suit. In a pinch one can always skip the tent and travel with only the fly and poles which weighs less than a comparable tarp and has its own support system.
PS: This was merely the first time it weathered a storm. Over the next 20+ years ( and many repairs to the floor through wear) it withstood many such storms without a single failure.
I totally agree! The “how to select a tent location” is a separate post which needs to be written — especially considering the large number of people who die while camping every year because of “stupid” mistakes like having their car roll on them, widow-maker trees, lightening… :/
Excellent article, thanks.
One thing I have noted over here (in the UK) although our tents tend to sometimes be a bit smaller anyway, some manufacturers tend to stretch the ” for x people ” a bit…
As in it will support 4 but only if you don’t mind it being like a sardine tin.
To be fair they do generally want their tent to have a higher person capacity though as it sounds better.
The advice I was given was as I’d want a 2 or 4 , to buy a 4 or 6 instead.
I think “across the pond” as such over there the market is different so you’re likely to get something more suitable anyway. Those who are from say the USA or Canada who have visited the UK will know what o mean by “everything is smaller” cars, roads, food etc 🙂
That same rule applies across the pond too. I don’t think it’s necessary to jump up two people sizes though (unless you are very large or everyone has tons of gear which will be inside the tent). Instead, I jump up one size: A 4 person tent is really for 3 people. A 3 person tent is really for 2 people. Etc.