Sleeping away from base-camp requires a tent or a “bivy” – a combination tent/sleeping bag.
There are thousands of tents and bivys on the market and I’ve reviewed most of them and you need to understand hi-tech tents so you can easily eliminate 99% of them.
The biggest problem a tent/bivy faces is your breath – not bad breath but the water vapor you expel with every breath. This water vapor amounts to a LOT of water condensing on the inside walls of the tent; I’m guessing that up to 1 quart/liter of water condenses on the inside walls of the tent each night per person. Hence, the walls of your tent must “breath” – allowing all that water vapor escape outside of the tent is no easy task – Gore Tex can’t do it. This is done with “no-see-em” mesh, and most of the tent has to be mesh or all that water vapor will condense at night and dribble down the inside walls into the floor of the tent.
Of course rain will easily flow into the mesh and into the tent – hence a rain cover must sit on top of the tent to keep rain from running into the tent and allow water vapor to exit the tent.
Some structure is needed to hold up the tent and keep the rain cover off the tent, so basically there are 3 layers to ALL modern tents/bivys:
1) Tent is the innermost layer and is made up mostly of mesh
2) Supporting structure is outside the tent; the tent clips onto the frame
3) Rain cover is the outermost layer and lies on the frame
Add to this 2 tarps are needed:
1) Ground tarp
2) Floor tarp
The ground tarp is first spread out over the bare ground and prevents rocks and sticks from puncturing a hole in the tent base. The tent is erected over the ground tarp and the ground tarp must be slightly smaller than the footprint of the tent – in fact you will see the term “footprint” used for this tarp. If the footprint is larger than the base of the tent then it will gather rainwater and dew which might leach into the floor of the tent.
Once the tent is erected, the floor tarp is placed on the floor of the tent to protect it from shoes and objects puncturing a hole in the floor of the tent, this tarp must be larger than the floor of your tent so it comes up the sides of the floor walls about 3+ inches.
The term “3-season” refers to a tent used in spring, summer, and fall and NOT winter. In your part of the country this might be just fine – you don’t really have sub-freezing temperatures or heavy snow collapsing the tent. A “4-season” tent is basically a 3-season tent with a stronger supporting structure that will not implode with 2 inches of snow on the roof, withstand howling winds of blown snow, and zippers and equipment that works in sub-zero temperatures with a frozen ground.
Please notice that the modern tent is NOT an insulating device where it’s 70 degrees F inside and 95 degrees or 5 degrees outside. The inside temperature of the modern tent is expected to be the same temperature as the outside of the tent – the modern tent simply insulates you from rain and wind but NOT temperature. Additionally ALL water vapor expelled by the folks inside the tent is vented outside – every gram of it or it will condense on the tent walls and run down into your sleeping bag.
If it’s cold outside and you want to sleep you need a sleeping bag that insulates your body from the cold of the tent. The sleeping bag has the same problem of venting water vapor from your skin but it doesn’t have to deal with all the water vapor you lungs out through your mouth and nose. Gore Tex type fabric sewn into the sleeping bag allows water vapor to escape from your body into the tent and the tent vents that water vapor outside of the tent. The sleeping bag’s purpose is to keep you warm.
If you want heat inside your tent then you simply bring along an infrared propane tent heater that will warm the items in the tent and NOT the air and keep you warm as toast. Infrared warms your skin, sleeping bag, and anything else in the tent that the infrared rays shines on. The infrared rays shining on the outside of your sleeping bag will find its way deep inside the bag and warm your skin and allow you to sleep in comfort.
Insects are kept out of the tent with the mesh and floor openings that extend upwards a few inches. This is very important where poisonous insects and snakes can get you as you sleep at night.
One of the biggest decisions you must make is to decide if your family must evacuate your house and travel to another location – if you plan to stay at your house then the tents can be a 2-person or smaller tent but if you plan to move then each tent must be larger – depending on the number of tents bought.
Fabric color is very important to picking a tent. For normal car camping a bright yellow or orange allows others to see your tent in bad weather or at night. However, in a survival situation you want your tent to blend into the background as much as possible; you don’t want bandits to find you. If tried to incorporate the tent color into my selections but it was hard.
I’ve reviewed thousands of tents/bivys and have a number of recommendations for you that follow in other articles.