Camping can be a great way to get outdoors and enjoy nature, but if you’ve never tried outdoor sleeping without a tent, you might not know what to expect.
For many people, the idea of spending a night sleeping outside without a tent sounds like an arduous and uncomfortable experience.
However, there are actually a number of ways to make this kind of camping trip more comfortable and enjoyable.
In this blog post, we will discuss some tips for sleeping outside with no tent, as well as some suggested activities you can do while enjoying the great outdoors.
So if you’re interested in trying out camping but don’t want to invest in a tent, read on!
CAN YOU SLEEP WITHOUT A TENT?
If you are thinking of spending the night outdoors with no camping tent then you should have some tent alternatives ready to be as comfortable as possible.
Remember, you will be exposed to the elements so you need to take some kind of sleeping equipment to stay warm and safe.
Consider a sleeping gear that will provide insulation and element protection such as a bivouac, a sleeping bag with a sleeping bag liner, or a sleeping pad with some coverings for extra warmth.
COWBOY CAMPING AND CAMPING TENT ALTERNATIVES
If you have forgotten to bring your tent with you to camp or you deliberately choose not to bring one, there are various options for sleeping outside.
The no tent camping sleeping options mentioned below require almost no effort. This means that you will have all the time to engage in the activities that took you to camp in the first place.
1. SLEEPING ON THE BARE GROUND
This is one option that you can consider for a tent-free camping trip. Find a nice spot on the ground and lay there for the night.
This option, however, is only viable if you are absolutely sure that it is not going to rain. It can get quite frustrating when the heavens open up and you are in the middle of nowhere without suitable shelter.
You are also exposed to other elements such as wind and cold so sleeping on the bare ground will only work on a warm night.
Other things that you have to be on the lookout for include animals and bugs coming into your resting spot as well as other humans.
The advantage of this option is that you don’t have to carry a lot of sleeping gear. It will ensure that you don’t have a lot of weight on you that may slow you down or make you tired.
2. USING A SLEEPING pad
Having a sleeping pad or mat is one of the best ways to sleep on the ground if tentless camping.
A simple sleeping pad is just enough for you to enjoy a comfortable night under the stars. Most of these mats self-inflate and are quite comfortable.
When laying up a roll-out mat for the night, find a level sleeping area that is free of rocks and tree stumps. Lay your mat and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
However, you need to choose your location carefully as you don’t want a sleeping area that is exposed to wild animals or insects.
Make sure that it is not going to rain on that particular night as you may only have the clothes on your back and a blanket. These are not enough to protect you from the rain.
Sleeping pads are not that heavy and carrying one in your backpack as you explore the outdoors is not difficult.
You won’t use a lot of effort to lay the mat up for the night and roll it back in the morning when dawn breaks.
3. BIVY BAGS AND SHELTERS
Bivy bags and shelters are great alternatives to tent camping providing extra protection from the elements.
A bivy sack includes a weatherproof bottom where you will set your sleeping bag and a tent-like structure that will shield you from the elements all night long.
Most bivy bags are light and compact so it makes them easy to carry around. Setting them up is easy and you won’t struggle when taking them down either.
You can zip the sack up when it starts to rain to ensure that you don’t wake up wet and soaked. Such shelters, however, offer you very little room to maneuver so you may not be as comfortable while you sleep.
A bivy sack can also get quite claustrophobic in there and this is something that you have to consider if you hate tight spaces. If you are interested in this option you can also opt for a bivy tent that is very similar.
4. SETTING UP A TARPAULIN
Tarpaulins are the latest craze in lightweight backpacking at the moment.
They are compact and light just like a bivouac but with the added advantage of being able to offer a lot more space for moving around.
They offer several setup options for campers. You can leave them freestanding or erect them with hiking poles or branches.
The tarp will protect you from the rain to ensure that you are dry throughout the night. Tarpaulins, however, are not as effective as tents as you are still exposed to wind, animals, and bugs.
5. USING A HAMMOCK
You can also use a hammock as an alternative camping shelter when you are on a camping trip in the backcountry and need a place to rest.
In tropical areas, hammocks are often used as the primary sleeping accommodation because it is usually much cooler and more comfortable than sleeping on the ground.
But you can also experience hammock camping in non-tropical areas to spend a pleasant night outside without a tent.
It can be easily set up among two trees and provide a comfortable sleeping in the wilderness experience, not the same as sleeping on the hard grounds.
A hammock can be folded so you will be able to carry them in your backpack.
6. SURVIVAL SHELTER
If you don’t have anything that would make your outdoor sleep pleasant and safe you can build yourself a survival shelter.
This isn’t the easiest way to stay protected but it is worth it when you expect rain to come.
You can build a type of frame or ridgeline and add sticks to the sides. The easiest way to build a shelter is to grab some strong sticks and put them around the tree so they form a shelter.
Then grab leaves and other dry material to make a roof. Leaves are a wonderful insulating material so make sure to add them to the ground where you will be laying.
If you decide to make a survival shelter consider these three rules:
- Insulation from the cold ground
- Enough cover from the sides to have protection from the wind
- Enough cover on the roof to stay protected from the rain or snow
IS COWBOY CAMPING SAFE?
When it comes to sleeping under the stars you should know that it is safe whenever you are prepared.
If you are planning on sleeping without a tent, then there are some extra things that you should bring with you on your camping adventure to stay safe while cowboy camping.
For example, sleeping bags and weather-appropriate clothes will help keep you warm and dry in case of rain or snowfall overnight. Bringing a flashlight or a headlamp will keep you from stumbling around in the dark.
If you are going out into the wild then you should know that there is always a possibility for danger, but as long as you prepare well by bringing essentials such as water and non-perishable food items, along with other appropriate equipment to make yourself comfortable overnight, you should be fine.
What temperature is too cold to sleep outside?
Sleep without a tent in cold weather can be dangerous. The human body heat is around 37°C and when it gets colder than that, the risk of hypothermia increases.
Hypothermia is a condition in which the body’s core temperature drops below 35°C and it can be fatal if not treated promptly.
Sleeping outside in cold air with temperatures below the freezing point is not recommended as it increases the risk of hypothermia.
If you must sleep outside, make sure to have a warm sleeping bag and wear warm clothing. Try to find a sheltered spot out of the wind and protect yourself from the elements as much as possible.
HOW DO YOU SET UP A COWBOY CAMP?
To set up a cowboy camp you will need to find a flat, open area large enough for your bedroll and the space you will put carrying supplies.
Packing materials help insulate you from the ground but are not absolutely necessary. Ensure that the area is safe to spend the night in.
If there is no flat, open area available, create one by clearing sharp rocks and debris from a high spot. Using a rope, pinch the sides of your bedroll to increase privacy and insulation within your cowboy camp.
WHAT IS CAMPING WITHOUT A TENT CALLED?
It is called a bivouac or tent-free camping. It is an improvised campsite that hikers and backpackers set up when they need to stop and set a campsite right away due to the bad weather.
It is a temporary encampment without tents. Bivouacking describes the act of sleeping outdoors on an open area on the ground, possibly with a blanket or under some type of cover (a tarp), in a sleeping bag or a bivy sack, or perhaps without any protection at all.
You can opt for this sleeping style if you want to enjoy the feeling of sleeping under the stars, with the warm breeze brushing against your face.
You can also do bivouacking if you are forced into an overnight situation without a tent; for instance, after getting lost in the middle of nowhere.
WHEN IS BIVOUACKING NOT RECOMMENDED?
Bivouacking is not recommended in cold and wet conditions; it is not a makeshift substitute for a tent.
If you are forced to sleep outside without a tent, there are better options than bivouacking such as making use of heated shelters.
IS IT SAFE TO SLEEP OUTSIDE WITHOUT A TENT?
Generally speaking, it is safe to sleep outside without a tent if you protect yourself from the elements and animals.
Consider the next tips so you won’t sleep with one eye open.
SET A CAMPFIRE
Having a campfire is important in many ways when bivouacking.
The heat from the fire is no doubt one of the main reasons why somebody would want to have a campfire when bivouacking.
The warmth from the fire will keep you cozy in your sleeping bag or when having a meal.
It provides light for cooking, a fuel to purify water, and also for finding your way around in the dark without getting lost.
A camping fire helps with keeping animals such as wild boars away from your campsite. It can also be used for signaling if you are ever in a rescue situation so make sure you have it.
Tip: Never leave a campfire unsupervised as it can spread to the forest!
DON’T EAT WHERE YOU SLEEP
Choose a spot where you will eat but it should be away from the place you sleep.
Wild animals have excellent smell and can smell the food from very long distances so never eat where you intend to rest as you don’t want to jeopardize your life.
If you want to know what is the best way to protect your camp from bears check the article about storing food in a bear country.
STORE AND SEAL THE TRASH
Also, always store trash after you eat and seal the trash bag so the smells won’t attract any unexpected guests. Leave no trace and you should be just fine.
Always clean the place where you have been, as it is one of the golden rules of camping etiquette.
There is another thing that I should mention regarding safety. When you will sleep outdoors without a tent you will be exposed to hypothermia.
So, it is important to take care of warm clothing and an insulated shelter that will protect you from this medical emergency.
HOW TO KEEP BUGS AWAY WHILE CAMPING WITHOUT A TENT?
As you won’t have a camping tent to protect you from the outside world, it’s incredibly important to take measures to prevent bugs and insects from biting you.
Bugs can carry terrible diseases and give you all sorts of illnesses in addition to just being annoying. Luckily, there are many different ways that you can keep them away without having a tent or shelter:
- Camp in a high and dry place (avoid water!)
- Use bug sprays or creams
- Essential oil-repellent (natural bug protection alternative)
- Wear bug-repellent bracelet
- Set a campfire
- Use (citronella) candles and lanterns as a bug-repelling solution
- Pack a mosquito netting
How can you camp in the winter without a tent?
If you don’t have a tent and want to camp in the winter, you’ll need to find some other way to keep warm. Sleeping under the stars might be romantic, but it’s not going to keep you very warm.
Here are some ways to stay warm when camping in the winter without a tent:
–Find a sheltered spot: Look for a place that is out of the wind and protected from the elements. A good spot to camp in the winter is under a tree or in a ravine.
–Build a windbreak: If you can’t find a sheltered spot, you’ll need to create your own. Use whatever you can find to build a wall that will block the wind. Things like branches, rocks, and snow can be used to build a windbreak.
–Make a fire: A fire is one of the best ways to stay warm when camping in the winter. If you can’t build a fire, huddle close to someone who can.
–Wear warm clothing: Dress in layers of loose-fitting, warm clothing. Wool is a good fabric to wear as it will keep you warm even when wet.
–Use a sleeping bag: These bags are made to keep you warm in cold weather. If you don’t have a sleeping bag, use whatever you can find to insulate yourself from the cold grounds. Blankets, coats, and even newspapers can be used.
–Eat before bed: Eating a warm meal before bed will help to keep your body temperature up throughout the night.
–Drink hot beverages: Drinking hot beverages throughout the day will also help to keep your body temperature up.
CHOOSE YOUR TENTLESS SLEEPING ARRANGEMENT
You don’t need a tent to be able to enjoy your outdoor stay as there are various options for sleeping outside without a tent.
Which is your favorite sleeping gear when it comes to sleeping without a tent? Maybe you’re an old-fashioned bivouacker.
Or maybe you prefer cowboy camping, with a thin sheet of fabric and a soft blanket for protection from the ground below.
No matter what style of overnighting in nature appeals most to you, I can help make sure that all your gear matches up so that there’s no need to worry about forgetting anything important on your next outdoor adventure.
Think about the no-tent camping options and choose a sleeping arrangement that you see as the most friendly to your personal needs.