If you need a tent for your bug out bag, there are plenty of options on the market. We will guide you through the criteria to choose the best bug out bag tent.
Many people, including myself, prefer to have a tarp shelter to a tent for a bug out bag. Tarps are much cheaper than backpacking tents. They also give you far more configuration options than a tent, and are much lighter and easier to fit in your bug out bag. They do, however, lack the privacy and protection from insects that a tent offers. Tarps also require knowledge and experience to use properly.
If you don’t have the experience to use a tarp, or you want a more enclosed shelter, then a small tent is the way to go. There are some great tents on the market that are light but will give you shelter in most weather conditions.
Plan How You Will Use A Bug Out Bag Tent
When you are ready to choose the best bug out bag tent, consider your bug out plan first. Your bug out plan will define the requirements for the best bug out bag tent for you. If you plan to camp for one or two nights before moving to a permanent shelter, you will not need a very expensive, high performance tent. If you plan to camp for longer, then a higher performance tent will be best for you.
Bug Out Bag Tent Size
For a bug out bag, size is a priority. A tent for your bug out bag needs to be light and small when packed. Even if you plan travelling as a family group when you bug out, smaller individual tents can be more useful than one larger tent for the group. You could divide a larger tent between bug out bags for each person, but if you become separated, then no one has a complete tent.
An amazing tent that can withstand all weathers is no use if it’s too bulky or too heavy to carry. Even the smallest tents take up valuable bug out bag space. Attaching the packed tent to the outside of your bug out bag may be better than trying to fit it inside. It also leaves it accessible without having to unpack your bag when you come to need it.
Ultralight tents weigh next to nothing, however in some cases these also compromise strength and durability. There are several decent tents below 2kg in weight, which would be an acceptable weight for a bug out bag tent.
Weather and Waterproofing
You can’t predict the weather when you’ll need to bug out, so your tent needs to be able to protect you from wind, rain, snow or sun.
A Hydrostatic Head test is used to measure waterproof ratings for tents. You’ll often see the abbreviation HH and a number in millimetres in the tent specifications. The lowest rating considered waterproof is 1,000mm HH. A rating of 3,000mm HH should protect you from most weather in the UK. 10,000mm HH is the highest waterproof rating, but also means a more expensive tent!
When you want to choose the best tent for your bug out bag, consider your bug out plan. The best tent for you might not be a very expensive, totally weatherproof tent if your plan only needs one or two nights in the tent.
The waterproof ratings for the tent don’t measure wind driven rain, so look for a tent designed to cope with storms too.
Prepping can cost a lot of money! Therefore, cost is an important consideration for all our equipment. This doesn’t mean that choosing the cheapest is always best, but balancing needs against cost is important. How much you should spend on a tent depends on your personal circumstances and your requirements.
If your bug out plan is to spend one or two nights in a tent before moving on to a more permanent shelter, there is no point spending a lot of money on a high performance tent. If your plan requires longer in a tent, it would be worth buying a better tent.
Best Bug Out Bag Tents
I have used many different tents in all weathers. Some of my recommendations are below, including a 1 person 4 season tent, and a couple of slightly larger tents. Consider your bug out plan to help choose the best tent to suit your needs.
The cheapest by far on this list at less than £50, the Vango Soul 100 Tent is actually a great budget tent for a bug out bag. It weighs 1.8kg and packs down to 50cm x 14cm – a good size for attaching to the outside of a bug out bag. This tent stands up well to wet and windy weather. As a budget tent, I would not expect this tent to last a long time if used regularly. Bug out bag tents tend not to be used often, so a budget tent may suit your needs. If your bug out plans only include one or two nights in a tent, then this tent is a great choice.
Cold Weather Tent
The MSR Access is a superb 4 season tent for 1 person. This tent is designed for back country skiers and snowboarders, with plenty of nylon material to retain heat. It weighs around 1.6kg when packed, so despite the added material for weather protection is still light. The MSR Access tent is designed for cold more than rain, but still performs well in wet weather.
The MSR Freelite 2 Ultralight Tent is great tent for a bug out bag. It is a small 2 person tent, designed with a small pack size and light weight (1.3kg packed) as a priority. This tent has 2 doors, making access easier when 2 people are sharing. The weight saving design reduces the headroom, so space inside is limited. The tent performs well in windy conditions, as long the guy lines are well secured. The raised nylon material around the floor corners helps prevent splashback getting inside in wet weather.
The larger cousin of the MSR Freelite is the MSR Mutha Hubba NX tent. This is a three person tent, and sacrifices some weight savings for a sturdier structure than the MSR Freelite. The Mutha Hubba NX is a good size tent for 2 or 3 people, weighing around 2kg when packed. It performs very well in wet and windy conditions. Like the MSR Freelite, the nylon material extending up from the floor at the corners prevents splashback getting inside during wet weather.