6 Useful Tips to Living in a Tent Long Term

Are you considering living in a tent for a longer period of time? Then you'll want to know these 6 tips which will save you a lot of trouble down the road. Not kidding!

It seems like such a crazy and bizarre idea to actually live in a tent as a long-term solution. However, a lot of people actually do it. Heck, I’ve even done it myself a few years back.

Now, if you’re actually serious about this life-changing decision, understand that it’s going to be a challenge.

Honestly, that’s an understatement as there will be many challenges that you’ll face. What we want to present to you is a step-by-step guide that should help you immensely with this major life shift.

Here’s a brief overview of what we’re covering in this post:

  1. Be sure to choose the correct tent
  2. Figure out how you’re going to account for food and water
  3. Location, location, location
  4. Don’t forget about your bedding needs
  5. Remember to sanitize
  6. Stay warm in the winter

Let’s dive in.

1. Be sure to choose the correct tent

Image credits: Kristaps Ungurs

It just makes sense that it all begins with this step as to live in a tent long term, you kind of need to have a tent to live in. Brilliance defined we know. But this becomes important because if you’ve ever perused the market for tents, you know that there are so many different styles and options.

The question becomes, which tent would you want to pick as a long-term solution? This is going to be the most vital purchase you’ll make, and here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • A tent that can stand up to different weather conditions year-round should be prioritized as you’ll have to account for the worst.
  • Look for a tent that’s spacious enough for your needs as, after all, you’ll be living in it.
  • In the winter, you may want to buy a separate 4-season tent. Some 3-season tents can be used for winter camping, but it depends on the severity of the winter that you’ll face. On the contrary, a 4-season tent won’t be pleasant to use year-round when the warmer weather starts to hit.

🏕️ I’ve also written another article on the 13 different types of tents. It might be helpful when you’re choosing a tent to live in.

2. Figure out how you’re going to account for food and water

palm tree seeds at an african marketplace
Image credits: Eva Blue

How to live in a tent long term can’t be discussed without bringing up the issue of food and water supply. Let’s just start with the water supply. There are going to be a few different ways to go about this:

  1. If you wanted to just stock up on bottled water, you could definitely do that. Just because you won’t be living in an apartment or home, it doesn’t mean you can’t go to the grocery store when you need to.
  2. If your plan is to tent in different campsites for extended periods of time, you might be able to get one with water included.

As for food, it might not be as hard as you think. While it’s not as if you’ll have a fridge, freezer, oven, microwave, and all the appliances that you have the luxury of using at home, you can still get creative.

To heat and cook meals, you can buy dedicated camping stoves (or even frying pans) to get the job done. Heck, you can even find creative ways to boil water that you probably wouldn’t have thought of at home. Additionally, you could even purchase a portable cooler (and bags of ice to go inside) to allow you to store certain foods for limited days.

In other words, a trip to the grocery store could still lead to you choosing many items you would at home. Just know that buying in bulk will be a lot harder, though you still could avoid taking grocery trips every single day.

3. Location, location, location

inside tent with campground in the background
Image credits: Scott Goodwill

Where you plan to live in a tent long term is just as essential as asking how to live in a tent long term. Understand that different laws and regulations may be in place depending on where you want to stay.

Whether you want to buy a piece of land, camp at different campsites, or even live on someone else’s property, you need to properly research and know if what you want to do will be legal. The easiest way will be to just call around for campgrounds that will allow you to tent for extended periods of time.

However, it’s not just that. Consider the physical location (in the world) you’d want to try and live this way. Different parts of the world will experience different climates and different climate challenges. Do you want to deal with extreme heat for several months out of the year? Do you want to have to account for colder weather with the possibility of snow and ice?

These are significant questions to ask yourself and answer. Finding a location with optimal cell service (and possibly even internet service) is probably also going to be important for you. Research this to death as you’ll want to be prepared as to live in a tent, you’ll kind of need to have a place to do it (at all times).

4. Don’t forget about your bedding needs

an oragne thermarest mattress on grass
Image credits: Rick McCharles

While we guess you could just take your box spring and bed mattress with you to sleep inside of your tent, those will take up a lot of room. And seeing how space will be of ultimate importance, it’d probably be best to avoid this route.

So, what are your options going to be then? Well, to save money and space, you could opt for an inflatable mattress. You could buy a memory foam mattress, but just know you won’t be able to deflate it to save space when you’re not sleeping on it (or laying on it). Of course, you could also just purchase a sleeping pad for support from the ground.

Regarding pillows and blankets, it’s going to be whatever you prefer. From sleeping bags to quilts to traditional comforters to blankets, go with whatever you want. The same goes for pillows. Just know that whatever you choose, your space is going to be limited (regarding storage).

5. Remember to sanitize

little to no water dripping out of shower head
Image credits: Unsplash

We’re going to go out on a limb and say that many people probably fear this the most with the idea of how to live in a tent long term. Being able to shower and bathe whenever you please are some of the biggest perks of having running water.

Needless to say, when camping in a tent, you’re not going to have access to such luxuries. But that doesn’t mean that you should just nix bathing as… yeah that can’t be an option. Yet, where does that leave your options then? Well, you have a few.

  1. One option is to buy a dedicated shower tent for showering. All you’d need is a water supply and then you could take showers whenever you wanted to.
  2. If you’re living in a tent at a campground, you may have access to the local showers in the campground.
  3. Many gyms will allow you to shower for free so, if all else fails, you could just go this route.

Now, sanitizing goes beyond just worrying about your body. Your resources, such as your clothes and dishes, will also need to be cleaned, washed, and dried. For clothes, you could either hand-wash and dry them on a clothesline (when applicable) or just utilize a local laundromat.

For dishes, hand washing and drying will probably be the easiest. You could even invest in a camping sink to make the task even easier. Which, on that note, never forget that there’s probably always a camping alternative to devices and tools that you use daily.

🚿 I’ve also written another article on the best tent showers. You might want to look into buying one if you’re planning on living in your tent long-term.

6. Stay warm in the winter

green tent with light inside it
Image credits: Sam Marx

Technically, the idea of how to live in a tent long term may not include winter, cold-weather camping. It all depends on your location but if winter climates will be experienced, you need to specially prepare by remembering the following:

  1. As was mentioned earlier, the right tent is going to be vital. There are dedicated, 4-season tents that will be optimized for the winter. Yet, if you want kind of an all-in-one-tent for all seasons, you can pick a 3-season model. Just ensure it’s weatherproofed and built to handle moderate snow and ice. If you’re going to experience severe winter weather, a 4-season tent is going to be the safest choice, though.
  2. Buying a tent heater can do wonders in the winter. Yes, you’d have to have a place to store it inside your tent during the off-season (or in a storage unit if you have the funds). However, keeping warm when the weather gets cold is a lot harder in a tent than in an insulated home. On that note, check out our list of the 10 best tent heaters for cold-weather camping to give you an idea of what you could possibly get.
  3. Proper bedding becomes even more crucial during winter camping or tenting. A traditional mattress with a comforter on top may not be enough for those cold winter nights in a tent. This is where specialized sleeping bags and sleeping pads can be vital as both can provide much-needed insulation for your body.

Final thoughts

It’s important to mention that we didn’t cover ALL the challenges you’ll face. We didn’t feel like creating a 10.000-word post and, let’s face it, you probably wouldn’t have wanted to read that large of an article anyway.

What we wanted to do was present some of the largest challenges and ways to combat them. No doubt about it, living in a tent isn’t going to be for everyone. It sounds nice and dandy (and can be a much simpler and cheaper way to live during these struggling times), but it’s not going to be easy.

So, we’d answer the question of how to live in a tent long term with a few simple words. BE PREPARED. Using this guide as a starting point should get you pretty far. Just understand that minor inconveniences that we didn’t address will more than likely rear their ugly heads. However, good luck to all of you planning to take the step!

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Tyler Jones

Tyler is much like a swiss knife. Even though he has a degree in Computer Science, he knows almost everything there is to know about camping. He has been writing for HeadlessNomad since 2021 and has contributed with over 100 articles. If you have an outdoor-related question, then Tyler much likely knows the answer.