How To Pick a Survival Tent Made Simple

survival tent how to choose

Best Survival Tent Choices

When I was 15-years old, I had to sleep in a survival tent for two days. It happened over the summer during a canoeing trip along the Chippewa River in Wisconsin.

At the time, I was with a small group of guys from the military school I attended. Along our planned route on the Flambeau tributary, we were slated to stop for a few nights in a cabin.

But things didn’t go according to plan.

That’s because during our stay, a tremendous downpour made the old wooden structure we were going to stay in completely unsafe. Unbeknownst to us, dry rot had previously set in and had caused the support beams to power.

Talk about a dangerous situation.

Thankfully, we had packed several survival tents with us, which was a requirement per school policy. As any outdoorsman knows, unplanned emergencies can happen in a heartbeat and you need to be ready.

survival tent basics
Survival tent basics

Survival Tent is a Must

Ever since that time, I’ve always kept a survival tent at home along with an emergency kit nearby. That may sound silly for someone living in Chicago but it’s true.

You may be wondering if survival tents really have a place in the modern world? My answer to that rhetorical question is yes – big time.

Data listed on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website suggests 2016 had one of the highest number of natural disasters for the United States, totaling a whopping 103.

Compare that with 1960, where the disaster tally came out to 10. But if you look at the numbers, each year the numbers have been climbing.

All of this is happening at a time when climate change is a very real concern and severe weather events are becoming more frequent.

Just think about how many devastating tornados have hit the Midwest in recent years. And who can forget hurricane Sandy that pummeled parts of the East Coast?

My point is that all of us need to be prepared in case of a sudden emergency that forces us out of our homes. That’s why one of the most important resources you can have at the ready is a survival tent. On a related note, having a survival backpack also matters.

I’ll level with you – knowing stored a tent in your home for quick access will provide serious peace of mind. Should something terrible happen that causes you and/or your family the need to bug out, you can feel confident knowing you’ll have some place to go.

I keep my tent in a storage closet. It doesn’t take up much room and is very easy to get at. Once in a great while, I also take it with me on cabin trips up to the Northern Woods of Wisconsin. I guess I still feel paranoid about what happened so many years ago.

survival tent emergencies
Survival tents are a must now a days

A survival tent is just as it sounds – a tent that is designed to help you survive over the short term. Think of it as a temporary resource that has many different functions.

Below is a short list:

  • Short term shelter
  • Central gathering place
  • Protection from elements
  • Safe, dry place to sleep
  • Make shift home
  • Family command post

When it comes to a survival tent, less is way better than more, regardless of what you might see on television or movies. If your tent is too big, it will be difficult to store.

Your first priority is to choose a survival tent that has a high degree of utility. Function always trumps style. That’s why you want to pick something with simple features.


Survival Tent: 7 Important Features

Survival Tent Feature #1: Size

Obviously, the size of your survival tent is going to greatly depend upon on how many people will be in it. If you have a big family, this may mean you need one large tent, such as the Core 12 Person Instant Tent featured below. See Amazon for a great price.

survival tent large
Large survival tent

But remember, when disaster strikes, there’s often little time to prepare. This is why it’s critical for you to create a plan in advance. At a moment’s notice, you may need to reach for your tent(s).

If it’s just you, a small shelter will do just fine. But if it’s you and family members – and perhaps a pet – think bigger. Current estimates suggest the average American family size is around 4 persons.

Survival Tent Feature #2: Quick Setup

The second feature is the ability to quickly set up your tent. The last thing you want to do in a crisis is to spend precious time fumbling around with complicated gadgets and direction guides to set up shelter.

survival tent
Think quick set up with a survival tent

The more stakes you have to drive into the ground, the more time you’ll consume with set up. In truth, it’s all about how the tent is constructed as opposed to the number of ground spikes.

Survival Tent Feature #3: Light Weight

A lightweight tent is critical when thinking of survival. That’s because you’re likely going to be lugging around other types of gear, including meals ready to eat (MRE’s), lanterns, and hopefully, some type of self-defense weapon like a survival knife.

msr fury tent
The MSR Fury tent is a great choice for emergency shelter

Your situational awareness abilities are already going to be challenged. And cognitive skills that allow you to do simple tasks will be stressed. That’s why I think having something like the MSR 2 Person Fury is a smart choice. Check Amazon for price.

Survival Tent Feature #4: Water/Windproof

Storms and other natural disasters usually strike in waves. For example, the rainstorm that made the Wisconsin cabin I mentioned unsafe to stay in was followed by several more days of rough weather.

3 person survival tent or storage tent
Make sure your survival tent is water proof

Your best bet when selecting a survival tent is to look for something that is waterproof and windproof. All of the tents mentioned here meet that criterion however, I am particularly fond of the Toogh Waterproof 3-Season Tent. It’s easy to set up and is designed to withstand even the ugliest of storms. Check Amazon for cost

Survival Tent Feature #5: Storage

One of the things I was glad we had on that canoe trip along the Eagle River was a small storage tent. This allowed our group to put life sustaining supplies in a central place without taking up room in our sleeping tent.

survival tent storage
Don’t forget a tent for storage

You may hear different things on the Internet but all I can tell you is having something smallish works best. After all, you will be creating something temporary that will shelter you and/or your family over a several day period.

The tent shared above is a basic two-person product by the folks at Poco Divo. It’s waterproof, windproof and roomy. See Amazon for pricing.

FYI: Some tents come with a built in storage areas. The decision to get something separate will largely depend upon your needs and the other criterion mentioned above.

I’ll also say that if you are in bear country, give thought to a specialized container designed to protect food from animals.

Survival Tent Feature 6: Flooring

Depending upon the terrain and weather conditions, you may need to have ready additional flooring for your main survival tent. This makes sense is the ground is wet or if the threat of heavy rain is on the horizon.

Here’s a quick video replete with sound effects of rain falling on a tent. It may sound nice but it’s also a reminder of why waterproofing is important.

An easy remedy for this is to pick up a tent flooring product. I like Brucell’s brand because it’s made from Oxford cloth that is waterproof. If you shop for something like this, make sure the flooring fits the dimensions of your tent. Click to see Amazon’s pricing.

Survival Tent Feature #7: Tools

Most tents will come with a standard set of gear for assembly. Here, I’m talking about stakes and maybe attached rope. But in my experience, stakes can quickly become lost in the rush of the moment.

survival emergency tents
Extra tent tools never hurt

It doesn’t hurt to have a bag of additional stakes just in case something gets misplaced. While you are at it, it might be helpful to pick up a tent mallet and drop it into your main survival tent bag so that it’s ready to go.

Survival Tent Supplies

Obviously, you are going to need a number of supplies as part of your survival strategy when setting up a tent shelter. I could probably list out three dozen different items here and the list would still be incomplete.

To make things simple, I’m going to talk about the biggies. If you want something more comprehensive, I encourage you to either create your own list and keep it nearby your tent or consider picking up a copy of Build Your Perfect Bugout Bag by the folks at Betterway Books.

Survival Tent Essentials

  • Medications in waterproof container
  • Meals that are ready to eat (MRE’s)
  • Survival knife
  • First Aid Kit
  • Mobile Phone
  • Sleeping bags
  • Water in jugs or canteens
  • Flashlights
  • Waterproof matches
  • Flares
  • Toothbrushes with toothpaste
  • Lanterns
  • Ponchos
  • Energy bars
  • Warm clothing
  • Multi-tool
  • Emergency credit card
  • Water purification tablets
  • Pet food
  • Rope
survival tent information resources
Survival tent supplies

Thoughts on Survival Tent Supplies

If you live in a small space, you may need to reflect on your supply list with care. This is particularly true in urban settings where closet space to place bug out items may be at a premium.

There are options, however, even for city dwellers.

One product I highly recommend is made by Ready America. It’s an emergency 4-perspon backpack that comes with many of the supplies mentioned above and then some.

What I like about this kit is that it has the basic essentials. This can be easily placed next to your emergency tent(s). Should it ever be necessary, all you have to do is sling it over your shoulders, grab your tent and get out the door. Check Amazon for price.

I also want to emphasize the importance of a survival knife. This particular tool may be critical to you and your family’s ability to stay alive.

There are many reasons you’ll need a specialized knife but the main ones include: 1) self-defense, 2) food preparation and; 3) cutting and whittling activities.

There are more guides on survival knives on the Internet than I can shake a stick at. All I can tell you is that it is in your best interest to get one.

Personally, I have a CDS-Survival MOVA-58 stainless steel outdoor hunting knife. I like it because it has a blade length of 5.7 inches.

It also has a cocobolo wood handle that is sturdy to touch. And it comes in a genuine leather sheath with sharpener stone and firesteel. See Amazon’s price for this knife.

Survival Tent Final Thoughts

You may never have to reach for your survival tent or accompanying supplies. In fact, I sincerely hope you don’t.

But I can tell you from experience that unexpected things do happen. From a psychological standpoint, emergency situations often take people by surprise, leaving them in a mental haze.

You can have peace of mind knowing that you have taken the proper steps necessary to keep you and your family safe by putting together a survival strategy that includes tents and many of the items discussed above.

Remember folks – life happens.


PS: It’s a good idea to practice setting up your emergency tent each year as part of a comprehensive “prep drill”. I do it each summer and always learn something new.


Federal Emergency Management Association. (2017) Disaster declarations by year. Retrieved from the web at:

About John D. Moore 391 Articles
Dr. John Moore is a licensed counselor and Editor-in-Chief of Guy Counseling. A journalist and blogger, he writes about a variety of topics related to wellness. His interests include technology, outdoor activities, science, and men's health. Check out his show --> The Men's Self Help Podcast