Camping Without a Tent: Expert Hacks for Newbies

To most of us, camping without a tent probably makes as much sense as hunting without a weapon.

Nonetheless, plenty of campers who enjoy roughing it in the wilderness have proven that this is possible and, in fact, enjoyable.

They have also been studying how to best approach their tentless camping excursions so that modern-day ultralight backpackers like us will have something to model our future trips after.

So, how do you go camping with no tent? Let’s go over the guide below so you’ll know how to prepare for your next adventure.

Camping Without a Tent Guide

Tentless camping isn’t for everyone, but if you’re determined to give it a try, it’s vital to keep in mind the following:

1. Tent Alternatives

You have got to have at least some sort of temporary shelter to settle in to as soon as night comes, right?

In this case, since tents are out of the question, you only have your sleeping bags and the nearest available natural structure to where you are setting up camp.

This would usually be a rock overhang, cave, or some other dwelling that can offer some form of protection.

Of course, you can choose to pack your own shelter with you, too. Some tentless campers pack ultralight tarps or bivy sacks that serve as tent alternatives.

These tarps are typically set between two fixed areas, like two trees or large rocks, and arranged so that they shield the small space where you settle in for the night.

In this way, you don’t have to worry about getting rained on as you rest.

2. Creepy Crawlies

In your time in the backcountry, you will encounter a bevy of campsite critters that will make your skin crawl.

It is not just the bugs you have to worry about, either. Depending on what location you’re camping in, there can also be bears, coyotes, and snakes.

How do tentless campers deal with these animals? It is not nearly as complicated as what you’re thinking.


If you are dealing purely with bugs, a mosquito net would be more than enough to keep them at bay. Anything similar that can easily hang off trees will do, too.

If winds are strong enough, then you don’t have to bother with any kind of netting because it will be blown away easily along with the mosquitoes.

Legless Creatures

On the other hand, for creatures that slither, you will want to wrap a bivy over the open portion of your sleeping bag to keep them from slithering inside.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution for keeping animals at bay, a bivy and mosquito net should get things done for most campers.

Large Critters

For the bigger critters, you can employ other proven and tested strategies for repelling them. 

Furthermore, the method for handling large animals will usually depend on the camper, because doing so would need some form of knowledge about the animals in question.

This ties into your awareness of how to react if these creatures were to make an appearance at your campsite.


What tentless campers usually consider most dangerous is venturing into bear country.

While this is partly true, standards for camping food, such as bear-proof containers, make these types of adventures safer.

It is highly unlikely for a black bear to make its way into your campsite unless it can smell the food you’re bringing.

Nonetheless, if you are making your way to bear country, aside from following the standard for camping food, make sure to pack bear spray, as well.

This should afford you extra protection from these animals as you complete this leg of your trip.

camping without a tent

3. Beating the Weather

How are you supposed to cope with the elements with only tent alternatives?

It is a fair question to ask, given that you do worry about these things even on a regular camping excursion.

As mentioned, the tarp used for tentless camping has multiple functions. This time around, it can serve you in the same way a rain fly would on a traditional tent.

Some ultralight backpackers swear by two tarps, one which they wrap above them between two trees, and another which they place on the ground for added protection.

Of course, you can just opt to use one since that would usually be enough to keep you from getting soaked in most cases.

Then, there are campers who bring hammocks into play. They use the hammock to hold them above ground in case they don’t have a second tarp.

If they do, then they use the second tarp to keep their feet dry as they step off the hammock. 

Is It Worth It?

Camping without a tent has reached levels of incredible ingenuity, thanks to some experienced ultralight backpackers.

These individuals have gone as far as to deconstruct conventional tents and come up with designs that have allowed them to take advantage of a traditional tent’s specific functions.

Using tent poles and rain flies, these modern-day campers have brought more comfort, convenience, and enjoyment into what was previously known as a daunting and hassling venture.

With these additional lightweight camping tools at your disposal, protection from the weather would be easier.

Tentless camping may seem difficult at first, but as you learn more and more about it, you will realize that it isn’t much different from regular camping.

Plus, once you have tried it out successfully, you will experience a whole other side of camping that’s less prohibitive.


Of course, as great as tentless camping is, it also isn’t something you can do without a bit of research.

The safest way to proceed with this kind of venture is to arm yourself with knowledge on how to handle the elements, creatures, and other factors that can stand in your way of a fulfilling tentless camping experience. 

If you are looking to become an ultralight backpacking enthusiast in the near future, then make sure to do some ample strategizing for self-protection.

Once you’re confident you have done so, you should be able to experience the true essence of tentless camping in your chosen backcountry location.