What do you think of when I say camping? If you ask me I think of a camping tent first.
However, camping isn’t limited to this type only so in this article I will explain ways on how to camp without the main protection gear that is generally used by outdoor enthusiasts.
Are you a minimalist adventurer who likes to go in the wild without special preparation and gear? Maybe you have big expenses this month and you can’t buy a decent family tent.
This article is also for you if you were camping with a tent but the storm tore it so it isn’t usable anymore.
Read on and you will know the ways on how to camp without a tent in the wild and stay safe and protected no matter the weather.
Is it safe to camp without a tent?
First, I should say a few words about camping without a tent that is the main gear of most of the people who take it with them for outdoor safety and a place to sleep.
The main purpose of a tent is to protect you from elements and animals and to provide you a dry sleeping space.
Camping in the wild where animals live
When you go outdoors, especially in the wild, you have to take care of your safety and comfort.
Forests, for example, are a natural ecosystem for many wild animals and by camping in their area you are interfering with their daily activities and rhythm.
A tent gives some kind of animal protection. When being inside it, the tent will protect you from bugs and mosquitoes as the majority of tents have a mesh that stops them from entering the interior and provides air circulation (stops condensation).
Will a tent protect you from a bear?
Can a tent protect you from the bear? Well, it depends. If you stick to some basic rules regarding camping in a bear country then you can avoid encountering a bear.
Use zip bags to store trash, store food in a tight container, and keep the place clean and odor-free.
In this case, you can avoid a bear from coming to a camping place and sniffing around your tent. In general, bears are afraid of us and will run away if they see us.
So, is it safe to stay outdoors without a tent? The answer is yes as you can protect yourself in different ways and make sure that you stay dry and comfortable all the time.
In the next lines, I will list and explain how you can have a wonderful time in the wild no matter that you didn’t pack a tent along.
So, you didn’t take a tent with you. The first question that should pop up in your mind is where will you sleep and how to protect yourself in case of precipitation and wind.
Here is the equipment that will come in handy.
Using a tarp
I love using a tarp each time that I go outdoors since it is so versatile to use. A basic tarp can be hanged among the trees and you get a roof over the head.
You can use poles, ropes, or guy lines and spread a tarp in a way that will provide you shelter. It won’t protect you from the creatures but it will offer protection from precipitation and sunrays.
If you have a clear sky you can use a tarp under the sleeping bag or sleeping pad to avoid sleeping on dirt and to protect your gear from tear and wear.
There are ultralight tarps that you can easily store in your backpack so it is great to have one.
The sleeping bag is a piece of equipment that can serve for sleeping comfortably and protection from the elements. You have different ones that you can use in warm and cold weather. It is insulating so you will feel warm inside.
If you choose this option, it is best that there isn’t any rain or snow since these bags have an opening for the head, meaning that your face is exposed to the elements.
However, you can still opt for it. If you use a tarp over it or some other cover you can fall asleep without worries of getting wet.
If you don’t want to sleep on the wet and cold ground you can use a hammock and place a sleeping bag in it. This is killing two birds with one stone.
A bivouac sack or a bivy sack is also one of my favorites as it provides an efficient protection shell from the elements. This waterproof minimalist shelter is light, insulating, packs small, and can be set up fast in different terrains.
It is a piece of sleeping gear that doesn’t need any pitching as you just unroll it and fall asleep. Some of the bivouacs have an internal pole over the head section to provide an expanded headspace and a better camping experience.
You can put your sleeping bag inside a bivy to have a fully waterproof sleeping system. This way you will be prepared for the worse.
A bivy sack is a basic piece of equipment for minimalist outdoorsmen, cyclists, climbers, and ultralight backpackers.
And here we have hammocks. A hammock is a piece of cloth or canvas that you tie around objects (trees) to provide a dry resting place.
It is easy to set up and use. All that you will have to do is to tie each side to a tree or some other firm object to have a secure bed.
The gear is perfect for those of you who have back problems since it doesn’t burden the spine.
Even more, it will take the pressure of the spine so you will be able to fall asleep without any pain or discomfort. It is also a perfect match for you if you deal with insomnia.
If you opt for this sleeping gear you will avoid crawling creatures (snakes, ants, spiders, etc.), and have a comfortable and deep sleep due to the gear’s construction.
Due to the hanging construction, you will avoid sleeping on wet and/or cold ground which is a huge benefit.
Emergency blanket (Mylar, thermal or weather blanket) is another minimalist gear that I recommend using while experiencing tentless camping.
Its main purpose is to reduce heat loss while you are exposed to the elements. So you can wrap yourself in it to stay warm when the temperatures are not to your benefit.
However, it isn’t meant just for this purpose. The blanket is a multipurpose outdoor product that you can use in many ways.
You can use it for melting snow, as an SOS message, to carry small items, to warm food, create a sling, use it as a compression bandage, and for many more useful ways to survive out there.
It can be of great help if you fall into freezing water or if someone is going into a shock too.
Build a survival shelter
If you want to go extreme you can also build yourself a shelter using what nature has to offer. This option demands some survival skills and logic.
How to build a survival shelter?
Here are a few general tips on how to build a survival shelter.
Find a good windproof location that will also serve you well in case of a storm. The whole point of this shelter is to make an A-frame with logs or branches where you will be able to rest.
Grab some logs and branches from the surroundings and place them in a rectangular shape (A-frame) to have a covered place to sleep. Now insulate the ground by placing some debris and leaves on.
When you have enough branches or logs that form a stable structure you can put insulation material on.
Take some time and “dress up” your frame with leaves, branches, and moss. If you want to have a reliable shelter make sure that you build a 4-8 inches thick insulation roof.
Where to sleep if you don’t have any protection gear?
If you don’t have any weather protection equipment you have two options: building a survival shelter or finding a cave or some other natural barrier that will serve as an emergency shelter.
Here are a few cave shelter basics that will come in handy if you are forced to spend a night in a cave.
Cave shelter basics to consider
Before you set your sleeping bed inside make sure that the cave or a rock wall is secure and that the rocks aren’t falling down to injure you. The next thing to do is to find out if there are any animals living there.
If the place is free of animals see if the ground is dry. You can still sleep inside if some part of the cave is wet. Find a dry place where you will set up your sleeping system.
When you find a perfect place your next task is to grab some leaves to insulate your bedding.
Go outside and gather as many dry leaves as you can so you will sleep on the padded ground. Use them also to cover yourself and insulate the body so you won’t get hypothermia.
Other useful and effective ways to survive
Camping without a proper tent can be demanding and I don’t recommend doing it as a beginner camper. If you still decide to do it prepare yourself and the gear you will need.
Here are some useful tips that will help you to maintain goodwill and the right camping spirit even without the main shelter.
Set a campfire
While you will be without a tent as a shelter it is clever to set up a campfire to keep you warm and to stop animals from coming near you. Set it close to your sleeping place but not too close.
A campfire isn’t meant only for warming up and spending a warm night out there but also for cooking dinner and drying your wet clothes from the hike in the rain.
If you are not a fan of cooking for long hours or you just want to eat what nature has to offer, I suggest that you find out how to get nutrition in the wilderness.
There are some poisonous plants like poison ivy or poison oak that you must know of and avoid and this also applies to some mushrooms.
Clothes and shoes
Some people dry their clothes in the vestibule of the tent or even inside the sleeping area. You won’t have this option so you should prepare your clothes and shoes carefully.
When it will rain you won’t be able to jump in a tent so it is clever to pick a few pieces of waterproof pants and upper body clothes to stay dry while you hike and pick your firewood.
Pick a good pair of waterproof shoes or boots so you will walk through the terrain unburdened.
Protection from the creatures
As you will be camping and sleeping with minimal gear you should take a bug repellent. A tent has a mesh that prevents bugs and other creatures inside but you will have to improvise without one.
Spray your sleeping gear with the spray and put some on you. Don’t spray your face with it unless it has natural ingredients (avoid DEET chemical that is poisonous).
You can also put a few drops of lemongrass, peppermint, or tee tree etheric oil on your hands and apply it to your face and other body parts that are without clothes.
Storing your gear and equipment can be a problem as you don’t have a tent as your main storage place. Gear should be stored in a dry place. You will have to find a way to have your stuff dry all the time.
What I recommend is to put your gear under the tarp. This is an easy way to keep it dry and secure.
Use ropes and poles and set the tarp so the rain can’t reach the equipment. Don’t forget on rainwater; use something to lift the gear (logs, branches, etc.).
If you don’t have anything handy beside you then you can store it in the cave or under a rock wall.
Enjoy as a minimalist camper
Minimalist camping demands survival skills, knowledge, and good preparation so you can enjoy your camping adventure as anybody else who is camping with a tent.
It has nothing to do with luxury camping. If you decide to camp without a tent consider the outdoor gear that I recommend as an alternative and use the tips to have a pleasant trip.
If you didn’t camp like this before you can do it in the forest near you so you can go home if the situation gets worse and you didn’t find an optimum solution. Remember, practice makes perfect.