How To Camp/Backpack Without A Tent: A Foolproof Guide

Rilor Staff
Update: August 7, 2020
Table of Contents

Let's get this straight: tents can be cumbersome sometimes, especially if they are big and heavy. Even the most veteran hiker or camper would complain about bringing them from time to time. 

Fortunately, you can always learn how to camp without a tent. This is plausible and commonly done by individuals who want to explore the wild without being restricted by anything. 

Of course, this adventure is not that easy to accomplish. After all, you still require a certain degree of protection every time you are in the outdoors. But if you have the right knowledge and skills, such a feat is quite plausible. 

How To Camp Without A Tent

There are several things that you need to mind if you want to try camping with the absence of a tent. Since you are left with no shelter, you just have to make sure that you can defend yourself from the various elements. 

Check The Weather First

It is crucial that you can determine the weather of the day where you decided to take a tent-free journey. Doing this is quite easy, as there are multiple weather forecasts that you can tune in. 

See if the date and place of your adventure will be sunny, windy, or rainy. You have to prepare accordingly to improve your weatherproofing.

Ideally, you should only have tent-free camping if the weather is fine. Precipitation like rain and snow could make things difficult for you. If you are expecting harsh atmospheric conditions, it would be best if you can bring a backup tent. 

Pick Elevated Areas

 If you are heading out minus your tent, it would be prudent to choose areas that are elevated. The weather might be fine, but you still have to avoid settling on the low-lying grounds. 

Keep in mind that staying in these places can make you prone to unexpected dampness and flooding. These areas are also extremely hazardous when it comes to landslides. Go to elevated and flatlands instead. 

Choose A Ground That Is Quite Forgiving

Of course, you should never just pick any spot as your resting ground. Keep in mind that you don't have a tent; your body will inevitably be exposed to the elements. Therefore, pick your battles so that you won't suffer any casualties. 

Even if you have a sleeping bag with you, it is pivotal that the ground is not bumpy and rocky. They will make things painful and inconvenient. Moreover, they can potentially cause injuries, too. 

If there's no other choice, you just need to clear these pieces of debris. Remove as many rocks as you can and sweep off the ground so that it will be free from sharp objects. 

Bring Insect Repellents

When it comes to backpacking without a tent, one of the biggest nuances that you'll encounter are pests and insects. However, they just don't stay at the level of being annoying. Sometimes, they can become dangerous threats, too. Take mosquitoes, for instance. They can cause dengue and malaria. 

Since you don't have a tent to protect you from these tiny invaders, just bring insect repellents. Specifically, you should get a DEET-based insect spray with 30% concentration or higher. Spray it to your body and equipment. 

Aside from repellents, you can also bring nettings or mosquito tents for extra protection. Other means should be applying your clothing and gears with permethrin spray. It is an excellent means of staving insects away. 

Be careful in using permethrin spray. It is harmful to other animals. 

Wear Proper Clothing

The way you dress in the wild affects your overall camping or backpacking experience. Trust me. Even if you have a tent, you still need to dress appropriately. You can't just casually stroll the forest or mountains with a pair of jeans and sneakers. They will not provide comfort and protection. 

Always put into your mind that you are not with your tent. Hence, you are literally exposed if you are not going to clad yourself with the right outdoor clothing. 

Even if it is humid during the day, the temperature can still fall when it is night time. Therefore, you should bring extra layers of clothes, just in case. Of course, it is necessary that your body is fully covered with comfortable garments so that you are protected from the elements. 

If dealing with cold temperatures, you can do the following:

  • Wear synthetic and wool fabrics, such as polypropylene and polyester. They can insulate heat and wick moisture efficiently. Don't wear cotton clothes. 
  • Your feet, head, and hands should be covered by socks, gloves, and socks. 
  • Clad yourself moderately. If you cover yourself with too many layers, you will overheat. It will cause unwanted sweating. 

Don't Camp Near Water

You don't want the intrusion of insects and bugs, right? Then you should avoid camping near streams, swamps, and lakes. These bodies of water are common habitat for these creatures. If you stay in the vicinity of these areas, you will be swarmed by these tiny pests. 

Also, be wary that animals go to rivers and lakes to drink water. Just imagine encountering a bear or fox while you are about to sleep. 

Bring A Sleeping Bag 

When it comes to tentless camping, it is important that you still have your sleeping bag with you. Otherwise, you will be sleeping in the cold ground, which is not acceptable in any outdoor adventure.

You can rest comfortably if you have a sleeping bag and pad. They can give you convenience and warmth, even amidst the absence of a tent. Since you are completely exposed, it is pivotal that your sleeping bag is fully insulated. Just like I said, the night can get cold, and you need to defend yourself from it. 

Moreover, the sleeping bag should be durable, too. In this way, it will not be prone to being damaged by sharp and blunt objects such as rocks. 

Other Forms Of Shelter In Tentless Camping

You can enjoy learning how to backpack without a tent as long as you know the alternatives. Specifically, tents are not the only form of shelter here. There are other options that you can try, and it is essential that you can identify them all. 

But just like I said, bringing a tent as back-up is a prudent move. If the unexpected happens, you will be able to pitch it right away. 

In other given conditions, the following shelters can supersede tents. 

  • Hammock - The hammock is a great amenity for those who want to camp without their tents. They are great alternatives, especially if the weather is cool and clear. You will enjoy the hammock as it will allow you to lie down while gazing at the stars.

Installing a hammock is pretty easy, too. You just need trees or other platforms, and tie it there. When setting the hammock, make sure that there's sufficient space in your posts. Doing this will enable you to attach the lead lines of your hammock at a 30-degree angle. 

If you are going to have a hammock, I suggest that you pair it with a tarp or a rainfly. They are extremely useful, especially if it rains suddenly. 

You could also bring compact camping pillows for added comfort.  

  • Bivy Bag - A bivy bag is considered as a hybrid of tent and sleeping bags. So technically, it is still not a tent. It still qualifies for any tentless camping. 

A bivy bag or bivy sack is tailored from durable and waterproof material. Therefore, it can still protect you from the elements and insects. However, keep in mind that it is only comfortable for a single person. If you are going to a group, all of you should bring their respective bivy. 

Moreover, a bivy bag doesn't have enough space for gear storage. You will have no choice but to leave your utilities outside. 

Fortunately, you can always stuff a sleeping bag inside the bivy bag. Doing this will enhance the comfort and warmth that you can feel while resting. 

  • Tarps - Even without a tent, as long as you have a tarp, camping or backpacking is still entirely possible. Tarps are pretty useful, especially if you are uncertain whether it is going to rain or not. 

Tarps are easier to carry than tents. Furthermore, they are easy to install, too. Just bring poles, guylines, and stakes so that you can have multiple options for these tarps. 

You can also use tarps as a means of a footprint. They can effectively prevent moisture from seeping in. 


It is possible to camp even if you are not bringing any tent. The basics are there, so all you need to do is to follow them. Of course, you have to be extra cautious to ensure that you will not encounter trouble along the way. Once you learn how to camp without a tent, you will be able to pursue various outdoor adventures minus the extra weight. 

I hope you learned from this guide. If you have additional insights or questions, feel free to drop them in the comment section below. 

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