4 Types Of Backpacking Shelters

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

We’ve already covered in a previous article how to build a debris shelter. This is an excellent thing to know how to do in a survival situation and you don’t have any tools or other shelter options on you. However, who wants to survive with what you have to do instead of surviving with just a little bit of forethought and preparation. It’s amazing how much comfort and morale you can get from just a little bit of planning. With that in mind here’s four different shelters that pack down very small that can make your life much easier.


This one is simple, light, but extremely modular. With just a simple tarp and some cordage you can set up a shelter very quickly and because of how light and packable it is, it’s very easy to stow in a backpack or a truck. There’s many different ways to set up a tarp depending on the setting and climate which makes it a great go-to for 3-4 season shelters as long as theres no heavy snowfall or extreme cold weather.


These are great for ultra minimalists who don’t want to carry around a bunch of extra gear and want to maintain as low a profile as possible. These are essentially just a gore-tex sack that goes around your sleeping bag to protect from the rain. Some options have a single pole to keep the material around your head from draping down onto your face while you sleep. One consideration for these (like any other sleeping spot) is that you must make sure to keep from setting up in an area that’s going to collect water. While gore-tex sheds water like it’s waterproof it doesn’t hold up to being submerged. That said, neither do almost any tents.


While you may be thinking of yard hammocks or the sheets that sailors slept in while in the Navy in the clipper-ship days, hammocks have come a long way with modern materials. Most modern hammocks are made from parachute material and can support a ton of weight while simultaneously weighing almost nothing. They go up really quickly (as long as trees are in your area) and are much more comfortable than sleeping on the ground and even more than some of the cheaper sleeping pads.


This is the one setup that most people are most familiar with. There’s many many different kinds of tents on the market for all different types of price ranges and applications. My rule of thumb is to prioritize what works best for your climate and then try to find a tent that fits your budget while also being lightweight and small enough to fit into a backpack. In northern Minnesota you’d require a true four-season tent an attached fly. If you’re in the southwest and rain or snow isn’t a consideration many people forego a rain fly and go with a simple bug shield tent with ultralight poles. Most of the time the harsher the environment you need protection from and the lighter you want your tent to be, the more expensive it’s going to be. Luckily very high quality tents will last a lifetime if properly maintained.

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