The Bug Out Tent

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

It was time to check my bug out bag once again, so I dug it out of the closet. I do this from time to time, just to make sure that everything is still in good condition, to change out food items that might be getting old, and to review what I’m carrying.

Seems like I’m always making changes to my bug out bag, adding and removing items as my survival plans change and grow. Part of those changes come from new items hitting the market, but most come from changing ideas. It seems like I’ll never reach that point of perfection, as my ideas of what perfection is keep changing.

I’ve probably read 100 bug out bag lists through the last few years; seeing what others are saying and comparing it to my own list. I’m always trying to learn more and I recognize that other people have good ideas too. Just because I write about survival doesn’t mean that I know it all.

But I also try to think things through on my own, looking for new ideas that will make survival easier. Sometimes, that helps me catch things that others have missed; even things that I’ve missed in my own preparations. When I find those things, I make the necessary adjustments, adding them to my equipment and supplies.

That’s how I got to thinking about a tent. I did some backpacking back in the day, and I never made a debris shelter or a lean to. I know how to make those shelters, along with a number of other simple shelters; but my backpacking trips weren’t about survival, they were about seeing the beauty of God’s creation. I didn’t want to have to take the time to build a shelter and end up missing a beautiful sunset.

So I asked myself, why don’t I have a backpacking tent, as part of my bug out bag? You can buy one and two man backpacking tents that weight less than two pounds. They come in their own stuff sack, so you can strap them outside your pack. That way, they don’t take up valuable space that you need for food.

A backpacking tent can be erected in a matter of minutes. If you’re really slow and clumsy, it might take you a whole ten minutes to erect one. But a shelter made out of natural materials will take an hour or more to construct. So which is better? Clearly, the tent.

The time and most especially the energy you’ll save, using a backpacking tent instead of building a shelter makes it worth carrying along. But you want to make sure that you buy the right sort of tent, so that it will provide you with what you need. Look for:

Weight – The number one thing you want to look at is the weight of the tent. Generally speaking, the lighter the tent is, the more expensive it is too. But weight is an issue, especially when you realize that you have to carry it.

Size – Obviously you’ll want a tent which is big enough for the people who have to be inside it. Tents are rated for one, two, three or four people. That means there is enough floor space for that many mummy bags, not that you can walk around in the tent.

Canoe or Bathtub Floor – If a tent is made with just a basic floor, it can fill with water, soaking you, your sleeping bag and your gear. Canoe or bathtub floors are waterproof and wrap up the sides of the tent several inches, protecting you from water puddling on the ground.

Freestanding – Most tents need to be staked to the ground. But if you’re on hard or rocky ground, it’s hard to find places to pound in those stakes. A freestanding tent, which doesn’t need tent stakes will allow you to set it up anywhere, even on top of a parking lot.

Carbon Fiber Tent Poles – Most backpacking tents use flexible fiberglass poles, which are set up in an arch or dome configuration. But carbon fiber poles are stronger. If you can get them, there will be less chance of them breaking on you.

Tent Cover – Tents are made to be water resistant rather than waterproof. If they were waterproof, the condensation from your breath would make them wet on the inside. But water can still seep through a water resistant fabric. The solution is to have a tent cover, which acts to keep the rain off of the tent itself.

Typically the tent is strapped to the top of your backpack, with a rain cover thrown over it and the pack. Part of this is that you want your heavier items towards the top, rather than the bottom. Putting your tent on top leaves the space below the pack for your sleeping bag, which is usually lighter.

So, maybe you need to take another look at your bug out bag and make sure it’s ready to go. While you’re at it, think through what you’ve got for shelter. You might just find that you’ll be better off with a tent, rather than trying to make something on the go.

In the mean time, keep your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

– Dr. Rich

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