How to Live in a Tent Long Term

how to live in a tent long term

Living in a tent full-time can be an incredible experience, helping you get away from the world while learning a lot about yourself. However, it’s much different than your typical camping trip and not something you can decide to do on a whim one night.

Not only does tent living take careful planning, but it is also a significant lifestyle change that those planning to do it must be ready for.

Fortunately, I spent over a year living out of my tent while traveling to various destinations across the United States, and I’m about to share what I’ve learned through that experience in this article.

Below, you’ll receive a complete guide to living in a tent, including preparation steps, pros and cons, and how to decide if it’s the right choice for you.

Complete Guide to Living in a Tent

If you’re going to live in a tent long-term, there are several steps you should take to prepare. Make sure you have the following 10 boxes checked before you head out to your first camping destination.

1. Know the Local Camping Laws and Regulations

Living in a tent is not as simple as throwing your canvas tent down on the first piece of public land you see and calling it a day. There are many laws and regulations around what you can do when camping, even at free campsites, so it’s important to check on those before you go anywhere.

Most public campgrounds require a fee to camp long-term and often have limits for how long you can stay, for example.

2. Choose the Right Tent for Long-Term Living

Your typical dome tent might work for a weekend camping trip, but it is vastly under-equipped for tent living. Instead, you should opt for a large, high-quality canvas tent.

Canvas tents are the best choice for full-time tent camping for a few reasons. First, they are made of thick, sturdy materials, which will help them resist all weather conditions from the cold to the rain. Second, canvas tents have a cabin-like structure, which will maximize the space inside for your belongings.

canvas tent

3. Prepare for the Weather

You’ll be much more exposed to the elements when living in a tent, so you need to be prepared for all possible conditions.

Make sure that you have clothes for both hot and cold weather. Be mindful of where you pitch your tent (not at the bottom of a hill!) to avoid rainwater puddling inside. You should also keep your tent firmly staked at all times in case a sudden windstorm blows in.

4. Plan Out Your Food Situation Well in Advance

Before you decide where you’re going to camp, you should know where you’re going to get your food and how you’ll cook it. If you’re going to buy your food, make sure there is a grocery store nearby. If you’re going to hunt, learn about the local game near your campsite and if it’s possible to sustain yourself on it.

As far as cooking goes, we’d highly recommend a wood stove or other type of camp stove for anything you might buy or hunt. A few pots, pans, and some silverware also wouldn’t hurt to have with you at all times.

5. Invest in a Quality Cooler for Food Storage

Since you likely won’t have a fridge to keep all of your food in, a cooler is the next best option. And since you’ll be highly reliant on it to store food, we’d suggest splurging for a high-quality and dependable option.

The last thing you want is to wake up in the morning to all of your food spoiled, or worse, seeing that a wild animal got inside overnight and ate everything. Buy a quality cooler the first time to save yourself another trip to the store and the trouble of ordering a new one.

camp cooler

6. Have a System for Your Water Supply

Much like food, you need a plan for how you’ll get water, as you can’t survive without it. One idea is to buy several gallons from a nearby grocery store, but you’ll have to get creative if that’s not an option.

You could camp near a lake or river that has drinkable water. You also might want to set up instruments to catch rainwater outside your tent, which can serve as another source to drink from.

7. Make Your Tent Comfortable

Your tent will be your home for the foreseeable future, so you may as well make it as comfortable as possible.

Buy a few rugs to cover up and add style to the floor. They’ll also have the added benefit of protecting you from the cold ground when winter camping.

You should also ditch the sleeping bag and get something a bit better for sleeping on every night, such as a camping cot or a quality air mattress.

Beyond that, a couple of chairs for eating and relaxing outside are a great addition, and a lantern for some additional light at night is also worth buying.

canvas tent inside

8. Check the Boxes on Sanitation

Without a shower and bathroom right inside your tent, you’ll need to find other ways to stay clean. Many public campsites offer showers and bathrooms that are free to use, so you should look for places where that is an option.

If not, you could also pay for a nearby gym membership to serve your sanitation needs. Many offer temporary deals if you don’t plan on staying in the same place for an entire month.

If you’re so far out in the wilderness that neither of these two is an option, then you should at least camp near a river or lake where you can bathe yourself. If you don’t have any options, the dirtiness will likely drive you crazy.

9. Prepare for Emergency Situations

While you certainly hope an emergency will never happen, it’s best to be prepared, especially if you’re somewhere further away from a hospital.

No matter where you go, you should at least pack a first aid kit to treat any minor injuries you might get while camping. Trust us, they happen more once you’re outside full-time than simply camping on the weekend.

first aid kit

10. Keep Your Valuables Safe

Camping tents aren’t exactly known for their security, so you should take extra steps to keep your valuables safe. This is especially true if you’re camping around lots of other people you don’t know.

The first thing you should do is get a small safe to lock your valuables inside. Ideally, it will also be heavy enough that a thief can’t just run off with it, even if it might be tougher to transport as well.

Second, you should lock your tent with a small wire lock when you’re sleeping or away from it. While these steps are not guaranteed to keep the thieves away, they will act as a large deterrent.

Things to Think About Before Choosing a Full Time Tent Life

While you’ll have all the tools you need to live in a tent full-time after reading the section above, it’s important to recognize that living this lifestyle is a big decision. Before committing to it, you should think about the benefits and drawbacks, and if it fits your vision for life.

Do you Truly Want to Live in a Tent?

We know that it’s easy to grow tired of the day-to-day grind of life, and maybe you’ve even been on a few extended camping trips before. However, living in a tent long-term is a completely different experience.

While there are benefits, the changes in your lifestyle from traditional living are massive. That’s why we suggest taking a couple of weeks to test it out before you sell your house or something. It could save you major regret down the line.

canvas tent

Are you Ready to Live in a Tent?

As we just said, long-term tent living is an entirely different experience than even a multi-week camping trip, and it comes with several other items you must be prepared for.

If you don’t already have lots of camping experience, with some in harsher environments, we wouldn’t recommend following this lifestyle.

Even if you do, however, you should still consider how you’ll plan to travel, your food and sanitation situation, and more, as these get harder to handle the longer you live in a tent.

Benefits of Tent Living

With the disclaimers out of the way, we’d love to show you some of our favorite parts about living outdoors in a tent.

You Become an Outdoor Skills Expert

Nothing will teach you outdoor skills faster than living in a tent full-time. You’ll be doing things like pitching your tent, adjusting lines and stakes, fishing, hunting, hiking, and more every day.

During that time, you’ll pick up lots of valuable skills, including many that you can’t easily learn or discover online. If you ever bring your more casual camp friends along for a trip, they’ll be highly impressed at what you can do.

outdoor expert

Mobility and Freedom to Travel

When you live your life in a tent, the only limit to where you can live is how fast you can get there.

So, if you have a car or an RV, then your entire country is yours to explore. You could go see the national parks in the pacific northwest, the deserts of the southwest, and experience the warm weather of the deep south all in the same year if you desire.

Can Live Simply & Cheaply

Tent living will certainly help you save money compared to your normal lifestyle. Several expenses including rent or a mortgage, utilities, property taxes, and more will no longer weigh you down.

When you’re living in a tent, all you have to deal with are costs for food, clothes, transportation, and some one-time equipment costs. A bargain compared to what your average person will spend to live.

canvas tents

Good for the Environment

If you’re an environmentalist, then the idea of living in a tent full-time should appeal to you big time.

It will massively reduce your carbon footprint, as you will use less gas and electricity than you would at home. You also won’t need to use a car very much, if at all. It’s completely possible to rely on public transportation and buses to move destinations when you want to.

Proven Health Benefits

Traditional tent camping offers an incredible number of health benefits that are ramped up even further when you do it full-time. Here are several:

  • Increased physical activity

  • More time outdoors

  • Better sleep

  • Stress reduction

  • Less screen time

  • Relationship building opportunities

Drawbacks of Tent Living

As you might expect, there are also some drawbacks to living in a tent compared to normal life. Make sure you’re prepared to face the challenges below before you choose tent life.

Exposed to the Downsides of Nature

Nature can be a beautiful, but also a dangerous place, and you’ll be exposed to both sides when you’re living in a tent.

On one hand, you’ll constantly have to deal with the weather being not quite right, whether it’s too cold or too hot. You’ll also have to place your tent in places where it won’t be affected as much by the wind or the rain.

You’ll also have to watch out for wild animals. Since your tent will often be full of food, they’ll constantly be looking to get inside and steal some from you. If you’re unlucky, you might also run into a bear or another predator, which could put you in danger.

Sanitation Can be a Problem

We discussed sanitation a bit in the first section, but even if you are always near a gym or public shower at your campsite, sanitation will be more of a pain than at your house or apartment.

It’s annoying to not have a shower and toilet at your immediate convenience, and traveling to find them can get old fast.

dirty hands

Loneliness & Lack of Connection

If you’re living in a tent long-term, you’re probably traveling to different locations fairly frequently, which can make it harder to make new connections. This is even tougher if you’re living alone and can quickly lead to loneliness.

If you go down this path, we suggest finding a like-minded group of campers that you can travel and do activities with. It will make this specific problem much more bearable.

Lower Safety and Security

No matter what you do to keep your valuables safe, a tent will never be as secure as a house. All it takes is a motivated thief with a knife to cut right through your tent walls and they could have free access to your belongings.

Depending on where you’re camping, you might also be on your own in defending yourself. It will be tough for the police to make it out to a remote location in time if you have a sudden run-in with a shady character.

You should protect yourself by carrying a knife or gun, but that won’t guarantee your safety from dangerous situations.

thief

Conclusion

Living in a tent long-term can be one of the most fulfilling experiences of your lifetime, but it’s also a big decision that is not to be taken lightly. Fortunately, you should have enough information to make that decision now that you’ve read our article.

Do you have any other tips on how to live in a tent long-term? If so, please let us know in the comments. Happy camping!

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