How To Camp Without A Tent | 5 Alternatives

Last Updated on 11/12/2021

How to Camp Without a Tent

How to Camp Without a Tent?

The trick with learning how to camp without a tent is to stay warm (fire) and dry (by any means) and also understand that you may have to endure a restless night’s sleep.

In this article, we will be recommending some good tent alternatives, along with their perks and downsides to sleeping with or without a tent. In addition, we will be supplying you with some helpful information you should consider if you decide to go camping without a tent and provide you with other camping ideas that may help.

Can I Really Go Camping Without a Tent?

In certain places, you could absolutely get away with not taking a tent camping but in most cases a tent or shelter is necessary. I once decided to sleep under the stars without a tent on a beautiful night in New Zealand and woke up soaked from the condensation settling in the morning and thought, “never again”.

If you do go camping without a tent then get a fire going while it is still light to help keep you warm through the night. Also, build some kind of shelter to protect you from rain and getting wet as well as to increase warmth and block the wind.

Taking a tent with you when camping is quite a hassle. After all, they can get costly and are also difficult to transport, especially if you don’t have a large vehicle to bring all your camping gear with you. So, if you’re looking for some better tent alternatives to lessen your camping load, or are simply trying to experience what it’s like to go camping without a tent, then here are some tent alternatives for you to try out down below.

Tent Alternatives You Should Try Out

There are plenty of tent alternatives available out there for you to use. From classic options such as tarps to newer alternatives that you can try out, here are some tent alternatives that you should get when you decide to go for tentless camping:

1. Hammock

If you dislike sleeping on the ground because your body gets sore due to insufficient cushioning and such, you may want to try out hammocks. A common go-to choice for tent alternatives, hammocks provide comfort and easy transportation for backpack campers. By combining your backpacking hammock with other accessories such as bug nets, a rainfly, and straps, then you’ll be good to go.

One thing campers may dislike about hammocks is how costly they can get due to the total price of your hammock and its corresponding accessories. Furthermore, not all camping sites may have suitable areas for you to set up your hammock and if you are above the treeline you may struggle to find somewhere to hang. You can however get a hammock with bug netting already sewn in for ease of use and functionality.

2. Camping Tarp

A camping tarp is another go-to choice when camping and is very similar to a tent, except it doesn’t provide full coverage and protection, unlike most tents. Because of this, you won’t be protected from any lurking bugs. One good thing about camping tarps is that they’re much more affordable and easy to transport. Here’s our guide to the best tarps for camping.

Additionally, they provide better ventilation compared to closed-off tents and can even give you a spectacular view of the wilderness too. They’re also much more versatile in terms of setting up as long as you have the proper equipment for it.

3. Bivy Sacks and Shelters

Bivy sacks are weatherproof sacks that you can sleep in with your sleeping bag. They’re small but can provide enough protection from both bugs and the rain. In addition, since they’re made from breathable but durable materials, they’re comfortable to use and can last you several camping trips to come.

On the other hand, bivy shelters are just like bivy sacks, but they come along with poles that provide more space for your other camping items. Because both bivy sacks and shelters are lightweight and easy to transport, they are often chosen for minimalist campers. However, its limited space may be a slight turn-off for campers who need more prominent space for other camping items and gear. In addition, bivy sacks and shelters might be too warm for you to sleep in during hotter weather.

4. Natural Shelters

If you truly want to immerse yourself in the wilderness and experience actual camping in the wild, then you can opt for natural shelters when you go camping without a tent. After all, with enough searching, you can find yourself an empty cave or any other natural enclosure that will offer you some sort of protection.

Furthermore, you can even set yourself up a natural or survival shelter by looking around for some materials lying around in the area, such as logs, sticks, and the like. But of course, one tip you should always consider as a camper is to leave the shelter the way you first found it. So, make sure to clear out your natural shelter before you go.

5. Your Car

Yes, even cars can become perfect tent alternatives, especially if your vehicle has ample space and car seats that can be folded down flat. But even if your car doesn’t allow your seats to be folded down, you can still bring along inflatable mattresses, pillows, and blankets with you for a good night’s sleep. In addition, using your car as a tent alternative gives you the best of both worlds. After all, you already have transportation to bring yourself and your camping items to your camp location, which doubles as your sleeping area.

Camping Without a Tent

Sleeping Outside Without a Tent

While camping without a tent may seem like a fun challenge, here are some things you will have to consider when you decide to camp without a tent:

1. Lurking Bugs

Unfortunately, one of the common problems you will encounter when you go camping without a tent is dealing with pesky bugs. So, to experience a bug-free tentless camping trip, you can purchase mosquito or bug nets so that annoying bugs won’t disrupt you in your sleep.

2. Roaming Animals

While animals are generally not a concern in camping sites and generally prefer to stay away from these areas, there may be chances when you might end up in such a situation. To prevent animals from lurking in your area, ensure that your food and other supplies are properly stored to not emit any odor and attract nearby animals. Make sure to always bring the camping basics with you, such as flashlights, batteries, whistles, and the like. And as long as you’re fully informed and know how to keep yourself safe should you encounter a wild animal on your camping site, you don’t have to worry at all.

3. Changes in the Weather

While you can make use of 60-degree weather forecasts to know if precipitation will take place during your camping trips, it’s never safe to say that rain will never occur during your campouts. So, it’s always best to assume for the worst-case scenarios and be prepared by bringing along with you some camping gear and items that will shelter you from the rain.

Other Ideas for Camping Without a Tent

If you want to go hardcore, you can altogether ditch the tents and any other alternative by doing it cowboy style. Cowboy camping is another minimalistic means of camping where you simply sleep under the stars on the ground, slumped against a tree, or even on a large flat rock. When you go cowboy camping, as long as you have comfortable sleeping bags or any form of bedding and have no difficulty putting yourself to sleep, then you’ll be good to go.

Camping Without a Sleeping Bag

You can also go camping without a sleeping bag or wool blanket if you’re the type of person who can sleep anywhere. We also recommend doing this if you want to make the most out of your camping experience and do cowboy camping, as previously stated above. Particularly in the summer, a sleeping bag may just not be to your liking when camping out during hot weather. So, for the summer, it’s better to bring along sleeping mattresses, quilts, and a ground tarp to keep your beddings dirt-free.

Using a Tent Without a Rainfly

When you don’t have a rainfly to protect yourself from the rain, you can use a camping tarp instead. If you’re able to, you can even ditch the rainfly overall if you’re camping in a place with warm weather to allow ventilation in your camping tent. But if the weather forecast calls for rain during the date your camping trip is scheduled, it’s highly recommended that you bring yourself a rainfly, tarp, or any other gear that will shield you from the rain.


There are a lot of choices for you to choose from should you ever decide to ditch the average camping tent that others use. You can even entirely leave the camping tent and any tent alternative behind by doing it the cowboy way for the ultimate camping experience.

Whatever alternative you decide on, as long as you bring the necessary camping gear and equipment, know what to do in case you encounter problems, and stay fully aware of your surroundings, then you’ll be just fine and get to enjoy a memorable camping experience. Have fun on your next camping adventure!


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This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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