How to live in a tent long term requires a multi-part answer. These are selecting the right tent, finding a legal location to pitch your tent, security in a tent, and the mechanics of living in a tent.
How to Live in a Tent Long Term
Living in a tent long term isn’t just a matter of going to your local outfitter and purchasing the components of your tent home. The considerations are divided into sections for ease of consideration.
1. Selecting the Right Tent
The right tent is situationally dependent. If you plan to travel, as in long-term hiking or biking, then you will want a small, lightweight tent that’s easy to backpack or place in your bicycle panniers.
If you’re planning a semi-permanent set-up, then a canvas tent, possibly in one of the traditional patterns for nomads such as the tipi used by the native American plains dwellers, or the yurt which is used on the steppes of Russia.
Or you can use a gold-rush style square canvas tent, such as was employed by several different military branches.
Regardless of which tent you select, it needs to repel water, hold in warmth, be fire-resistant, and be big enough to stretch out comfortably at minimum.
2. Finding a Location for Your Tent and Setting Up
It’s not legal to pitch a tent just anywhere. If you’re traveling, make use of backpacking or biking maps that show legal locations to pitch a tent.
For your safety, register your location with parks or trail managers. If you’re planning a longer stay, camping on a friend’s property, on land you have purchased, or on a long-term commercial campsite are preferred options.
If you’re camping on public land, check the park or reserve regulations for the length of time allowed for camping. Many public land or parks limit the amount of time you can camp in one location.
3. Security in a Tent
Neither ripstop nylon nor canvas is as secure as a house. With only fabric walls around you, you’re vulnerable to thieves, vandals, and predators of all sorts.
Camping near a secure location such as a friend’s home, other campers, or in a commercial location where there’s security are your best options.
If these aren’t possible, buddy up with someone with whom you can trade off keeping watch, have a well-trained dog, set up security alarms, or set up your tent in a tree.
Never leave valuables in a tent. Keep small items such as personal documents, cash, credit cards, and mobile phones on your person at all times. You can use a money belt, belt pouch, or pocket garment for this.
4. Mechanics of Living in a Tent
- Set up your tent on a mound or a platform. Place a waterproof ground cloth under the tent, even if it has a built-in floor. If you’re camping in a specialized location, such as a tree or in the mouth of a cave, make sure that your location isn’t already being used by someone else, such as a wild animal. Erect your tent according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use extra guy lines and extra tent pegs to fasten it securely. If you have a canvas tent, season it (that is let it sit through at least one rainstorm if at all possible) before moving your belongings in.
- Plan for the weather. If you’re in a seasonally warm area, you’ll want a tent with options for opening windows or doors to allow airflow. If you’re in a seasonally cold area, purchase a “hot” tent, which is one that is rated for having a stove placed inside it. Make note of prevailing winds. If possible, place your tent where there is a windbreak to help protect it from strong gusts. Avoid camping on hilltops or in valleys, since both present hazards during storms.
- Lift your bed off the ground. This might be a hammock on a frame, a standard camp cot, or a DIY arrangement using tree branches either as a twig bed or simply as a mound of the brush.
- Have a food cache separate from your sleeping area, or keep all food in tightly sealed containers. Avoid eating inside your tent. Food inside your tent will attract all sorts of creatures, ranging from ants to bears. Better to lose a food stash than to lose you and your family to foraging wildlife.
- Keep leaf clutter and other debris cleared away from your tent. Keep all water and other liquids firmly covered. This will help prevent ticks, fleas, mites, mosquitoes, and other small nibblers from feasting on you. It’s also a fire prevention method.
- Designate a bathroom area, and refrain from doing as the wild bears do in the wood. Whole books have been written on this topic alone. But cover up or seal in your droppings. Your waste can be attractive to a variety of things, including disease-causing bacteria. Keep your bathroom at least 200 yards from any water supply.
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle is a golden mantra for camping or any lifestyle. But if you have waste to which you cannot apply the three R’s, bag or contain it securely to prevent critter foraging and unsightly clutter.
- Have a way to bathe. Far beyond social acceptability, keeping your skin and hair reasonably clean helps prevent parasite infestations and infections. Cleanliness promotes good health.
- Keep your tent swept out and organized. You don’t need to be able to do surgery in your tent, but it should be at least as clean as your average household bedroom. This will help prevent losing small, vital items, such as cell phone chargers.
- Communication. Fortunately, we live in an age of portable communication. Your average modern mobile phone can be a lifeline, or it can be a way to let friends and relatives know that your wild-living experiment is still ongoing and operational. Some phones, with the addition of a Bluetooth keyboard, can even function as a computer. This will allow you to write, enroll in school, carry on a business, or entertain yourself at a moderate cost.
- Power. Solar generators, mechanical generators, or gas/heat-powered generators can be used to power up your camp. Keep in mind that many of these items are expensive and are attractive to thieves. Give strict consideration to security for your camp.
Nomadic humans have lived in tents for centuries. There’s no particular reason why you, a modern human, cannot also live in a tent.
With that said, plan well. It’s not like living in a portable house.