Best Bug Out Shelter For Your Bag: Guide for 2020

Best Bug Out Shelter

Yea! Another backpack post.  Well, I wish I could apologize, but I love this stuff.  If your packs are like mine, they are constantly evolving and being scrutinized.

My G.H.B. that has been in service for about a year, is about to be pushed aside for a bigger and more adaptable unit that can be pushed into the I.N.C.H. bag (“I’m Never Coming Home”) realm.  I am going to try and keep the weight the same, but it needs to be able to carry a better bug out shelter and a sleep system when needed or wanted.  Which brings us to our discussion.

Best Bug Out Shelter: Types and Top Picks

Lightweight vs. Comfort

Best Survival Tent

“Travel light, freeze at night”.  I first heard this particular phrase from John Mosby.  Don’t know who started it, but it is based in truth.  Shelter, clothing, and your sleep system make up the bulk of your weight and space capacity.  So it makes sense to really analyze your gear and be honest as to your needs.

Are you going to be out for 1 or 10 days or open ended?  What is the weather like in your area?  Everyone’s situation is different, so there is no silver bullet and everyone has a different tolerance to discomfort.  So when choosing a shelter remember to consider what you are wearing and what kind of sleep system you carry, they all combine to keep you cozy.


Best Survival Tent

Tents are comfy, but can be heavy and bulky, especially if it is for 3 people. There are some great offerings in the lightweight realm, they can be costly and sometimes on the fragile side.

I would consider a tent weighing 5lbs or less to be your goal.  Anything heavier and I would hope it is for a large group and you can share the pain.  Consider teepee style floorless units.  Easy to set up, lighter, more space, and you can wear your muddy boots in there and cook too.

I have a Black Diamond Mega Light Tent that I love.  It weighs about 3 lbs, 8’ square. 6’ interior height , and not too brightly colored.  It is a lot of tent for the weight and sheds wind, rain and snow easily.  In some buggy climates most people can’t fathom not having a screened-in tent.  I get it.  Keep this idea in mind though, if you are enclosed in a typical tent, you can’t see out and in a bug-out scenario that is a security risk. 

If you are traveling with others it is less risky, since there should be a lookout/sentry/patrol aspect and you should be sleeping in shifts.  If you are alone…

Black Diamond Floorless Mega Light Tent
  • Model Number : 360415
  • The Package Height Of The Product Is 19.05 Centimeters

Last update on 2021-05-12 at 04:12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Also Read: Jarhead’s Bug Out Bag

If you must have a tent, I think it breaks down into 2 main categories, freestanding and not.  Most freestanding tents are 2, 3 or 4 pole in design with corresponding increases in weight and strength.

They are great in the respect that you can unstack them, move them to a better spot, and hold them up in the air and shake out the dirt.  Non-freestanding units tend to be lighter and are usually designed around 2 poles, one at each end of the tent, forming a hooped front entry style (except for those teepee styled ones).

They must be staked out, unlike the freestanding units.  Tents may be the standard in recreational endeavors, but in a true survival situation they may be a boat anchor or death trap. Did I mention that most tents are made of materials that flame up or melt around a fire.  One last positive thing about tents, in really cold windy weather, a good tent can be worth its weight in gold.


Best Survival Tent

Tarps come in every conceivable size, color, and material.  The ability to set them up in gobs of configurations makes them the winner in weight and concealment.  They can block rain, snow, sun and wind.

I have recently acquired an addiction to military poncho shelters called Zeltbahn’s.  Oh man can you lose yourself in this rabbit hole.  Most are canvas which weighs more per square yard, but are far more durable than nylon or rubberized old school military units, which I do happen to really like.

I have Russian and Polish versions that are virtually identical.  Recently Sportsmansguide had the Russians ones for $13.50 each, they are currently out of them but keep your eyes open, they are a steal. My collection also includes Hungarian ponchos with a cool camo pattern and a couple of East German or Czech, the jury is still out, in a rain camo.  The rain camo items are rectangular vs. the pie slice shape of most Zeltbahn’s.  The advantage of these military poncho/tarps is that they are canvas and are very tough.  That alone should make them worth a look.

Also Read: 4 Types of Base Camps

I set one of the Rooskie units up and left it set up outside for a month.  It has been rainy, windy, with days of hot dry weather, so it experienced all but snow.  After an exceptionally hard rain, the underside was dry, no seeping or weeping.  This has made it to my very short list of TEOTWAWKI shelters. In the multi-use category, poncho/tarps are right up there with your fixed blade.

Back to tarps,  nothing beats a silnylon tarp for pack weight reduction.  There are lots of cottage industry American made units out there and that is a great thing.  They are pretty strong for their weight, but the downsides are major for extended survival scenarios.  If they rip, don’t bother with duct tape, silnylon requires a special repair tape.  Sewing up a tether point is less than ideal also due to the nature of the material.  In reality few materials are easy to repair long term except for, wait for it, canvas.

I include US military style poncho’s in this category.  They are excellent options for your pack.  Few items have the multi-use capabilities of this popular item.  The ripstop ones are excellent due to their lighter weight than older models.  Now before anyone starts typing up their blood pressure, those older issue rubberized ponchos are great, but they weigh over twice as much.  If you go the poncho option make sure it has strong grommets on the corners and midline for a better shelter.  If it makes any difference, a poncho is my shelter of choice for my lighter GHB.

USGI Industries Military Style Poncho | Emergency Tent, Shelter, Survival |...
  • MULTI-USE PONCHO: Stay dry under extreme conditions with this versatile rain poncho that features...
  • MILITARY STYLE CONSTRUCTION: Based on field gear technology used by the US Military, this poncho is...

Last update on 2021-05-12 at 04:12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Best Survival Shelter

I really like the hammock option.  Get off the ground in wet and buggy places.  Lightweight, comfortable, and multi-use.  There’s that word again.  Mesh style units can be used to fish with and tarp style ones can gather water or other foods or act as an over head tarp.  Paired with a tarp, you have a versatile shelter.  There are many different styles of hammocks out there.

The latest incarnation is a clone of older jungle hammocks.  Screened sleeping area with a roof made with modern lightweight materials.  The only downsides that I can think of is you need 2 strong points to tie to and in cold to mild temps the air moving under you can make for a chilly night.

Legit Camping Hammock - Hammocks - 2 Person Hammock - Tree Hammock - Double...
  • EASY TO SET UP - Setting up these hammocks is a breeze and can be done in a matter of minutes, even...
  • VERY COMFORTABLE TO SLEEP IN - This 2 person hammock has high quality stitching with plenty of room...

Last update on 2021-05-12 at 04:12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Don’t forget learning to make shelter out of available natural materials. I will not go into building of shelters, because that is another post entirely.  Remember that building takes time, calories and knowledge, so that is why we buy stuff.

Bug Out Shelter in My Bag

My survival packs have ponchos, U.S. military.  I love the Zeltbahn’s and would not hesitate to replace my current poncho for one of them.  Right now tents are for camping, even though I have many great light sturdy options, I can’t get past the ‘can’t see out’ thing.  You can remove the rainfly on good weather days and see through the mesh, so maybe I’m being a snob.

The next thing to creep into my pack is a hammock.  The tents that are staged to go first are Black Diamond Mega and my prized Woodland camo Bibler 2 man.  Todd Bibler made a few of these to try and get a military contract, that fell through, at least that is the rumor, but I met a former employee and bought his, score!  Sorry had to brag about that one, I have yet to see another one.

Here is a list of recommended products:

  • It weighs about 3 lbs, 8’ square, 6’ interior height, and not too brightly colored
  • A roomy 57 inches of useable height
  • Providing 81 square feet of covered floor space
Check Price on
  • Material: 210T high density Rip-Stop Polyester with polyurethane coated fabric
  • Includes waist drawstring which offers an extra 16 inches of adjustability
  • 3000mm water resistance
Check Price on
  • 400-pound capacity
  • 210T nylon fabric
  • Lifetime warranty
Check Price on

Also Read: 3 Things All Bug Out Bags Need

Wrap Up

When choosing your bug out shelter for that pack that just might be your ‘home’ for a while, make an informed decision.  Be honest with yourself about the weight you can carry, day in, day out.  Can your choice hold up to less than optimal conditions?  Can you repair it on the trail?  Is it multi-functional?  There is no silver bullet to answer this question.  Every situation is different, every person has different perceptions of need, that can really affect their attitude in a stressful situation.  Current times can be scary if you are paying attention.  Being prepared can reduce that scary feeling.  Get your kit squared away then help a friend get their pack ready.

Photos By: Pineslayer, Mountain Guerilla, Trek Light Gear

Written by Joel Jefferson

Joel is one of the original founders of After college, he joined the USMC where he served as an (0302) Marine Infantry Officer. Joel is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains. Joel’s hobby is researching survival gear & weapons as well as prepping. Read his full interview here. Read more of Joel's articles.

25 thoughts on “Best Bug Out Shelter For Your Bag: Guide for 2020”

  1. I am going antelope hunting in South Dakota in a few days with my bow and will take a bag with me just in case I have to walk the 600-plus miles back home (EMP, alien invasion, whatever). The shelter I have in the bag is a military poncho that I couple with a Vietnam-era mosquito bar. Camo bungee cords allow me to set up and tear down the shelter fairly quickly.

    The combo is lightweight, blends in well, and safeguards me from biting insects.

    Every decision I make regarding survival gear is always dependent on the tactical situation. If there are no bad guys, I can use a bright colored tent. If bad guys abound, camo poncho set very low to the ground or no poncho, and just drape the mosquito net over me in some nasty patch of briars.

    I appreciate the article

  2. Outstanding article! The backpack is truly evolving. It is our being, if you will, and can never be given enough attention. Thanks again.

  3. I like your set up. That skeeter net is a great piece of gear. I have some Army issued bed nets that have tie-offs. You got me thinking about this, thanks.

    One thing I forgot to include in this post is Bivy shelters.

  4. Hammocks are ideal but I don't sleep well in them. Gortex bivvy, small sleeping bag, and a sleeping pad is about the best combo for lightness and comfort that you can ask for. You will stay dry and warm and really that is all you can ask for when you are out under the stars. Also, if anyone has slept in a hammock on cold weather, you know that the exposed underside of the hammock gets cold really quick – almost feels like you are laying on the cold ground. Jungle environment the hammock is the way to go.

  5. Yea! Another backpack post? Well I'm glade you did. And cannot wait for part two. I'm looking at hammock right now. I'm deciding whether I should go with the EQUIP Travel hammock or The DD from England. But then there is the Freedom Hammock V2 Ultra light from YUKON. It is a work in progress! I want to buy once!
    I also think you hit the nail on the head when you said "Everyone’s situation is different, so there is no silver bullet and everyone has a different tolerance to discomfort." So what I have, may not be what you need!
    So what is in part two?

  6. Love the article, I too have put together a shelter system for my GHB. I work approximately 50 mile from home and my estimated hike in SHTF scenario is at least 3 days. I have a snugpack tropical hammock and have rigged my poncho liner with snaps and shock cord to use as an under quilt for colder weather I also have snugpak stasha tarp, a heavy duty space blanket and a SOL escape Bivvy as well as paracord and a few tent stakes. all of this weighs less than 7 lbs and ihave tested all of the components in 35 degree weather and stayed very warm, I don't have a tent because my goal is to get home and not be camping I can use all of my components in several configurations and adapt them to many locations I may encounter on my hike. My friends wonder why I always carry what they consider camping gear with me,but it's what works for me.

    • Awesome setup up Cory. I too have a 50 mile get home distance. I have been struggling with what type of shelter/sleeping combo that would work in the PNW and that has more than a single use. Thanks for your comment. I am interested in your tested sleeping gear arrangement. You've given me some more stuff to think about.

  7. Great article I do not own a tent.
    A tent is a sack or a box and it limits your ability to observe your surroundings,
    Hikers and campers have been prey for roving individuals, psychopaths and predators since time began.
    During any upheaval a shift in population lack of farming movement of large numbers of people will push game and predators animal and human out of their normal range famine, disease will alter the food chain.

    Sometimes there are no pat answers, away from power, central heating and air conditioning weather is your master if it's flooding you need to be off the ground if it's lightening you want to be away from trees and high ground .wind, hail, snow. sand storms, floods dictate how where and when you will have to move and survive and building or usable materials.
    In other words a hammock in the desert is great but you will need a frame as there are few trees if any.
    Bears climb some species better than others snow drifts and mountains require different gear and how long it will hold up in daily use is a question that begs an answer.

    Most of what I use I made or adapted to suit what my experiences taught me Snakes spiders ticks fleas and leaches mosquitoes and predators, if its not them its loose rock mud bogs quick sand saw grass wait a minute vines, stickers and weather.
    Add in the zombie apocalypse down fall of civilization / breakdown of society or where your fancy new SUV leaves you after the EMP pulse I think some research / due diligence is in order.

  8. Tents tend to have regular forms and outlines, and unless you get one in a camo pattern its color scheme is probably going to stand out. A tarp could be rigged in such a manner that it didn't have an outline that made it immediately obvious it was serving as a shelter, and depending on what color it was might have a reasonable chance of blending into the background. Then there's the question of how much stuff you want to be carrying with you on a routine basis before SHTF just to make sure you have it with you when SHTF.

    Right now I am using a day pack as my EDC bag and outside of an aluminized space blanket I really don't have any shelter in it. I have enough stuff squirreled away in my vehicle that there is an extent to which it is a bug out bag in its own right. I've got a couple of heavy duty tarps and military surplus wool blankets that l keep in it. Back in my apartment I've got a mummy bag and a small tent. As well as a whole bunch of other stuff that I could hopefully just throw in the back of the vehicle.

    If, for whatever reason, the vehicle is not going to be a viable option then things get obnoxious. I've got a bicycle that I could rig up to carry a bunch of stuff on similar to the system the VC used in 'Nam, but I'd end up losing the ability to ride the thing by the time I finished loading all the junk I'd want to take on it. It would also pretty much limit me to reasonable trails as opposed to just striking off through the woods in whatever direction seemed best.

    The obvious worst case scenario is to move out on foot even though I'd end up having to leave so much stuff behind I wouldn't want to think about it. But at least I would be able to head off cross country in pretty much any direction I pleased and stay off roads and trails.

    Note that in a really obnoxious SHTF scenario you would want to avoid roads and trails as much as you could to limit the probability of being ambushed. To that end the heavily loaded bike idea could be something of a liability. You couldn't go cross country that easily, would stand out like a sore thumb as somebody who might have stuff worth taking, and if you overloaded it to the extent I would be tempted to wouldn't be able to go fast enough to guarantee you could run from a threat.

  9. If stranded near a highway in my part of New Mexico there is an almost unlimited supply of highway billboards made of vinyl complete with nylon tie straps, just a short climb and a knife needed . Many different styles to choose from summer mosquito netting style to vinyl tarp cooler weather tent. They are basically just big tarps stretched over a frame held on with ratchet straps in an emergency should make a fair tent.

  10. Good read over all.
    The BIG butt issue is that one can have all the different camo gear, you will still be located with someone with thermal imaging gear which is the sad part.
    The good part is that it's awfully expensive & not to many people have one.
    Choose your gear & spend your money wisely your life will depend on it.
    Night vision vs Thermal vision gear, I'll take the 2nd one thank you very much.
    You can run, but you can't hide.

  11. Got a Bibler myself. An Eldorado. No camo, just bright Toyota FJ yellow (formally known as Hummer Yellow). Love the tent. Bone dry in a thunderstorm. Light enough to pack without concern. And setting it up with the poles on the inside is priceless. Not trouble with the single wall in the desert either.

  12. If you're worried about being found by predators (esp. two-legged), then the light, smoke and smell of a fire will give you away long before someone will spot your tent. A little natural camo, i.e. branches, brush, grasses, etc. will go a long way to hide your camp. In bear country, a camper in a hammock is known as 'hangin bait', you'll understand why when you wake up (if you wake up) with your head in a bear's jaws and your body confined in a hammock! Like many preppers/survivalist, I am prepared in levels: First level is my survival vest which carries the ten "C's"; about 15 pounds with one gallon of water in two canteens including a heavy, military poncho as shelter, basically a 72 hour kit. Second level adds a backpack that attaches to the vest adding about 15-20 pounds mostly calorie-dense foods such as nuts, and a wool blanket and plastic tarp; a 7-10 day kit. Level three covers 10 days to as-long-as-necessary, adding a four-wheel garden cart to carry level two backpack, a three-man tent (okay, a three-midgets-that-are-very-good-friends tent)(or just my gear, my husky and me), and a full-sized duffel bag with more food and tools, and camo netting. If you're worried about night vision or thermal, then go underground (worked for the VC), no night light, have a fire only during daylight hours, at least 100 yards from your sleeping place, in a pit, dousing the embers with water then fill in the pit, all before dusk! Yes, I will be carrying weapons, more at each level, exactly what, I prefer not to say; go ahead, make my day! Good Luck!

  13. Hey, nice article.
    I've used two types of tapes in my short prepping life. An Australian Army Hoochie, a large camouflage tarp that I like because it is fairly lightweight (500grams), they are grommets and loops for attaching rope and using pegs. It also has clips that allow it to be attached to another persons hooch to make a double a-frame. This goes in my Get Home Bag and my primary option for camping.

    For my BOB I use the sea to summit poncho tarp because of it's multiple uses(poncho, tarp, pack cover among other things). It's also very lightweight and versatile.

  14. Overall great article. A few of the posts mentioned and I'm sure prior military guys have used all of the variants from shelter halfs to poncho liners. I use all of em depending on the climate and scenarios. If I'm stalking or tracking game, I use the poncho and liner, if heavy winter comes I throw in goretex bivy for water proofing, and breathable with the poncho and poncho liner. I've gone to the hammock as well. I'll throw this out there. I've set up a hammock in high country with 40 to 50 degree slopes, in thick timber. No trails or detection…the steeper the slope the better. Gravity levels you out. Top part of overhead can lean into slope. When your moving or tactically moving (SHFT) your going to be cold camp, low impact. Don't plan on setting up the Coleman 5 man tent with your bed roll…military tarp is hard to beat and will hold up to camouflage / foliage and abuse. Para cord is your friend….use the natural environment to augment the tent; what ever it might be think natural surroundings.

  15. I forgot on camping tactically if you want or need a fire think Dakota hole. Look it up. Someone mentioned fire during day, (Smoke). Dakota fire hole at night, no light, smoke is masked by night time, you can cover hole with the grass you cut out. Pretty stealthy…..look to military for canteen cups and canteen cooking gear, small light weight and single purpose use.

    • So Trimmer12, is that a question? If so I would have many questions for you first. Weather, terrain, and distance to destination are paramount to the answer. For me blending and weight are first priorities.

  16. I do have a hammock in my level three gear, but it's primary use would be as a fishing net and to help carry gathered materials such as fire wood and/or dry leaf/pine needle litter for bedding. Have you lived in the desert? For a white boy like me, staying out of the direct desert sun is a priority; full-time desert dwellers usually stay mostly covered with loose flowing clothing for a reason! Also, besides the sudden wind storms, the desert cools off quite rapidly at night so maybe a hammock wouldn't be very useful there. A Dakota fire hole does give off some light though not nearly as much as a open camp fire and it's much more efficient (needs less fuel), but it's not a good idea in some areas. Deserts are often quite sandy making this type of fire hole very likely to collapse, and in some woodland areas, underground roots can be ignited by this method; and in areas with a high water table (swamps!) keeping the fire going can be a challenge! A tent does limit your ability to see other people/animals approaching but a few holes reinforced by small grommets or eyelets will (like front door peep holes) let you see someone/thing outside of your tent first! Also, remember, location, location, etc. when placing your tent. Erecting your tent in a heavily wooded/brushy area should allow you to hear them before they see you. You can use early-warning systems but only local materials for them as a bell (for example) tied to a ankle-high string is a dead giveaway that you're nearby! And of course, use local materials to camoflage your tent/shelter! Good Luck!

  17. I have assembled 3.5 lbs of sleep/shelter gear and 1.5 lbs of "extra' clothing (beyond cammies and ball cap) that let me ok walking at 0F, or sleeping ok at 20F, without a fire. This includes bugnet bags, a net hammock that can feed me if need be, a way to go to ground if I can't hang, and all of the items can be worth as ponchos or opened flat like tarps, via full zippers. None of it is affected by its getting wet and it's all useful in summer time, too. It's not the most durable of items, but with care, they will last 2 months of daily use. Bring some repair tape, tho. By day 60, you can easily have walked out of a bad climate, taken much more durable gear from the dead, if it's shtf, or you'll have made a very fine shelter by then and not need much in the way of shelter/sleep gear.

  18. To match my versatilty and warmth, etc, with milsurp gear, you'd have to have 11 lbs of stuff. and a LOT more bulk. Because rain is no issue for my gear, I just fold and roll all of the sleep/shelter gear and un-used clothing, wedge it between the daypack aand the butt-pack where it serves as a pack frame. I reserve space inside of the pack for the taken down rifle, night vision, etc. Most of my setupsr require trekking poles, saplings cut from the woods, etc, but there's ways to use the rifle instead.


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