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Living in a Tent: A Guide for the Adventurous

Is it possible to live in a tent full-time? Yes, but it takes thoughtful preparation and planning.

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Is it possible to live in a tent full-time? Yes, but it takes thoughtful preparation and planning. Before you commit to full-time tent living, it’s essential to understand the benefits and challenges of this alternative lifestyle.

I have decades of experience hiking and camping and have researched and learned from others’ experiences living in a tent full-time.

Whether you’re considering this lifestyle change for financial, health, environmental, or personal reasons, we hope this guide will help you make a more informed decision. 

Key Takeaways

  • Living in a tent full-time can be a liberating experience, but it also comes with many significant challenges.
  • Before making the switch, it’s essential to understand the benefits and challenges of this lifestyle and prepare accordingly.
  • This guide will provide the information you need to decide whether full-time tent living suits you.

Readiness for Living in a Tent

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Living in a tent full-time is not the same as camping for a short time. It requires a lot of preparation and planning and a willingness to give up some of the comforts and conveniences of modern life.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Are you willing to give up some of the comforts and conveniences of modern life?
  • Do you have a plan for your work, income, and expenses?
  • How will you deal with the weather, wildlife, and safety issues?
  • What are your goals and motivations for living in a tent?
  • Do you have a legal, safe place to set up camp long-term? 

Answering these questions will help determine if you are ready for full-time tent living.

I recommend camping for an extended time, especially in the winter, to get a feel for living in a tent year-round before committing to it. 

Off-grid living

Living in a tent full-time often means living off-grid, which requires additional preparation and planning. Off-grid living means being self-sufficient and relying on alternative energy sources like solar power. It also means providing your own food, water, and other necessities.

If you are considering off-grid living in your tent, make sure you have a plan for all your basic needs. This includes food preservation, water treatment and storage, waste management, and emergency preparedness.

Comfort and safety

Living in a tent full-time can be challenging regarding comfort and safety. Make sure your tent is spacious, durable, and insulated, and invest in comfortable furnishings to make your tent feel like home.

Lay down carpets to soften the ground, invest in a warm and comfy bed, and ensure you have the necessary amenities. 

Regarding safety, be aware of the weather and wildlife in your area and take necessary precautions. Make sure your tent is properly secured, and invest in a good-quality tent that can withstand extreme weather conditions.

Consider building a tent platform to pitch your tent on to reduce the risk of flooding. 

Benefits of Living in a Tent Full-Time

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Saving Money

Living in a tent full-time can save you money on housing expenses. You also won’t have to worry about maintaining a home or paying for repairs. Instead, you can focus on enjoying your surroundings and living a simpler life.

Living Sustainably

Living in a tent full-time can help you live a more sustainable lifestyle. You’ll use fewer resources and produce less waste than in a traditional home, which can help you lower your carbon footprint and reduce your environmental impact.

Experiencing Nature

One of the most significant benefits of living in a tent full-time is the opportunity to experience nature. You’ll be able to enjoy the beauty, diversity, and healing power of the natural world every day.

Whether camping in a national park or living off the grid in the wilderness, you’ll be able to connect with nature in a way that’s impossible in a traditional home.

Developing New Skills

Living in a tent full-time will also help you develop new skills and become more self-reliant. You’ll need to learn how to set up camp, cook over a campfire, and stay warm in cold weather.

You’ll also need to learn how to find food and water, navigate the wilderness on hikes, and deal with emergencies. These skills can help you become more resilient and independent and can be valuable in many different areas of life.

Many people live a nomadic lifestyle by participating in the WWOOF community (not sponsored, but I find it a very intriguing idea).

Having More Flexibility

Living in a tent full-time can give you more flexibility, mobility, and freedom to travel and explore. You won’t be as tied down to a specific location or a traditional job, so you can explore new places, meet new people, and experience new things without worrying about the constraints of traditional living.

Challenges of Living in a Tent

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Facing the Elements

One of the biggest challenges of tent living is dealing with the weather, especially in winter.

You’ll be exposed to the sun, wind, rain, and cold temperatures.

To protect yourself from the weather, you may need to invest in high-quality gear, such as a sturdy tent, tarps, waterproof clothing, and warm blankets.

Coping with Pests, Bears, and Potential Threats

Living in a tent means sharing your space with various creatures, including insects, rodents, and other animals.

You must protect yourself and your belongings from these pests using bug nets, ant traps, and bearproof containers to store food. 

Lacking Amenities and Facilities

Living in a tent means you’ll have to give up some of the amenities you’re used to, such as electricity, plumbing, and internet access.

You’ll need to find alternative ways to meet your basic needs, such as using a portable stove for cooking, carrying water from a nearby source, and using a battery-powered device for communication. 

Limited Space, Privacy, and Security

Living in a tent means having limited space, privacy, and security if you live with others.

To make the most of your living space, you must be creative and resourceful, such as using storage containers and multi-functional furniture.

You’ll also need to find ways to protect yourself and your belongings from theft and intrusion, such as using locks and alarms.

Limited Income Opportunities

Tent living full-time may mean you’ll need a different job to make money. Unless your job is remote via the internet or you plan on hardcore off-grid homesteading, you’ll need to figure out how to make income.

I think working with a WWOOF host is a potential and interesting source of income while tent camping full-time.

Living in a tent may also involve legal, social, and personal issues. You may need to obtain permits and follow regulations to camp in certain areas and face stigma and isolation from others.

Most public land only allows for 14 days of camping, although this may be less in certain areas. You’ll also need to cope with the emotional and psychological challenges of living off-grid, such as loneliness, boredom, and stress.

Many long-term tent campers report having difficulty dealing with anxiety when they transition back to traditional living in a city, at least in my research.

Preparing for Living in a Tent Full-Time

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Choosing the Right Tent

  • Size: Make sure the tent is spacious enough to accommodate all your gear and provide enough room to move around comfortably.
  • Durability: Choose a tent made of high-quality materials that can withstand harsh weather conditions, especially rain and snow. 
  • Ventilation: Look for a tent with good ventilation to prevent condensation and keep the air fresh inside. 
  • Weight (optional): Consider the tent’s weight if you plan on carrying it for extended periods.

Finding a Suitable Location

  • Safety: Choose a campsite location that is safe from natural hazards such as floods, landslides, and falling trees.
  • Legality: Ensure you can camp in the area and obtain the necessary permits or licenses.
  • Convenience: Follow leave-no-trace principles and choose a location that is easily accessible and close to a reliable water source. 
  • Privacy: Look for a secluded spot away from roads or hiking trails to enjoy peace and quiet.

Securing Water

  • Location: Locate a nearby water source such as a river, lake, or spring.
  • Filtration: Bring a water filtration system to ensure the water is safe to drink.
  • Storage: Store enough water for emergencies and unexpected events.

Establishing Essential Systems

  • Electric: Create a plan for running and charging your devices and appliances, such as a portable generator or solar panels with a battery system.
  • Internet: Get a portable Wi-Fi hotspot if you need internet.
  • Heat: Your heating needs will vary depending on the season and your camping location. Make sure your heater is safe indoors in your tent.
  • Hygiene: Plan how you wash your hands and take showers or baths.
  • Trash: Plan how you will dispose of your waste, whether grey water, sewage, or trash.
  • Nutrition: Plan your camping meals, consider how you will obtain food, and store perishable items such as a cooler or portable refrigerator. Learn how to dehydrate your food for shelf stability to reduce the need for refrigeration.

Wildlife Awareness

  • Learn about the animals in the area and their behavior.
  • Store your food and trash properly to avoid attracting animals.
  • Keep a safe distance from wild animals and never feed them.

Being Prepared for Emergencies

  • Have a first aid kit and know how to use it.
  • Bring a backup shelter, such as a tarp or emergency blanket.
  • Know the emergency procedures and evacuation routes.

Insulating and Keeping Your Tent Warm and Dry

  • Use a groundsheet to prevent moisture from seeping in.
  • Use a rain fly to protect your tent from rain and wind.
  • Bring a tent-safe heater or warm clothing to stay warm during cold nights

FAQ

How do you get electricity in a tent?

You can use solar panels, batteries, generators, or power banks to generate and store electricity in your tent.

How do you get internet in a tent?

You can access the Internet in your tent using a mobile hotspot, a satellite phone, or public Wi-Fi.

How do you wash clothes while living in a tent?

You can wash clothes in your camp area using a bucket, a sink, or a river. Dispose of the grey water according to LTN principles. Many towns have laundromats, and many larger private campgrounds have laundry facilities.

How do you make money in a tent?

You can work remotely, sell your skills, create content, or work with WWOOF or other temporary gigs.

Is it legal to live in a tent permanently?

The legality of living in a tent in the USA depends on where you want to pitch your tent and for how long. Jurisdictions have different laws and regulations regarding camping on public or private land.

Some states, such as Missouri and Tennessee, have passed statewide bans on sleeping on state-owned land, making it a misdemeanor or a felony to do so. Even on your land, you may face zoning laws, building codes, or homeowners association rules prohibiting long-term tent living.

Dispersed camping is usually allowed for 14-16 days on public lands such as the Forest Service or BLM. Camping longer than the stay limitation set by each forest (usually 14 days) is prohibited per Title 36, Chapter II, Part 261.

Does WWOOF sponsor you?

No, Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) does not sponsor Outdoor Footprints. I do find their organization and mission intriguing for long-term travelers. I have not participated in a WWOOF program or with any of their hosts. Please comment below if you have any experience you’d like to share.

Sources

Guidelines: Camping on Public Lands by the Bureau of Land Management

Article: Nonrecreational Camping on National Forests Law Enforcement Perspectives by Cerveny and Baur

Case Study: New Mexico couple living in a tent with family by Business Insider

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AUTHOR
Daniel Borkert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Outdoor Footprints, a website that tells you everything you need to know about camping and hiking. He is an avid outdoorsman with almost four decades of experience in hiking, camping, caving, and fishing. Daniel loves to involve his wife and kids in his outdoor pursuits and inspire other families to do the same. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his family and an energetic Boston Terrier named Zion.

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