Survival Debate: Tent or Tarp

This week on survival debate we’ll discuss the advantages of carrying a tent or a tarp in your survival gear or Bug Out Bag. Do you prefer the comfort of a tent and live with the weight, or do you save room in your bag and go light with a tarp?


Survival Tent


  • Better Weather Protection
  • Protection from Insects
  • Easier to Set Up
  • Self Standing
  • Can be Waterproof
  • See our recommended Survival Tents


  • Heavier
  • Less Versatility
  • More Expensive


Survival Tarp



  • Requires External Support
  • Less Weather Protection
  • No Insect Protection

Middle Ground

The only real middle ground for this debate is taking both, because you certainly wouldn’t want to go without at least one if you could help it. Taking both gives you a whole lot of options, and given how cheap and light a tarp is I am tempted to do that myself.

What if you have a large family or group?

That is a problem that we have been thinking about.  One of the cool products that we found is a dome shelter system that can sleep up to 30 to 40 adults depending on the size of the shelter.

Things to Consider When Choosing Between a Tent or Tarp

  • Number of people in the group
  • The skills of the person using the tent or tarp
  • How far you plan on traveling
  • The weather of the region you will be staying in
  • How long you plan on staying outdoors

Where do you stand?

Personally, if I had to pick one, I would go with a tent. The amount of weather and insect protection you get from a tent really outweighs the weight issue for me. That, and long term tarp camping is just going to be miserable and eventually downright dangerous.

If you take a tent, tell us about it, and why you chose your tent. If you only have a tarp, was that a decision, or just because you haven’t bought a tent yet?

photo by: Chanzi

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.