Best Lightweight Shelters - Tarps VS Hammock - Tent Innovation

Any survival expert would tell you that one of the first things you need to look for when you're out in the wild is shelter. You won't last too long in the woods if you don't protect yourself from the elements.

Creating your own sturdy shelter using whatever you find in the woods is one option, but it that would take too much time and energy, not to mention the inconvenience of having to build one every time you move around. The next best thing is to carry one around while you're trekking through the wilderness.

If you're picturing a turtle carrying its home on its back, it's not quite the same. Modern technology has made portable shelters small (when folded up) and lightweight enough for you to carry them around comfortably inside your survival bag.

If you look inside a survivalist's bug out bag, the first thing you'll see is some form of shelter. It could be a one or two-man tent or a tarp that is specially made for providing shelter in the wild. These portable forms of shelter are lightweight and don't take up as much space in your bug out bag as you would think, making them a survivalist's dream.

Tent Vs Tarp: Making the Choice

The choice between a tent and a tarp has sparked much debate among hard core preppers and survival hobbyists. None of these shelters are perfect. Each type has its own pros and cons that you need to consider before choosing one to stuff into your survival bag. Here is a comparison of the two types to help you decide:

Tent-Hammock Hybrid

If you've ever gone camping, you know how tricky pitching a tent could be. For a survivalist, trying to figure out which pegs or poles go where is a waste of time - hence, the invention of the Surface to Air Shelter (SAS), more commonly known as a Tent/Hammock Hybrid. This innovative one-man tent also doubles as a hammock for when the ground is too rough or too sloped to sleep on.

The Pros

  • Unlike a regular hammock, the tent poles can be used horizontally to allow you to lay flat on your back as you sleep. 
  • It is made out of lightweight and breathable material that makes zipping yourself inside the tent/hammock more comfortable. The material is also water resistant to protect you fro the rain.
  • The hammock/tent hybrid was designed for easy set up.
  • The ability to zip the hammock/tent up provides good insect protection.
  • You have all the components you need when you buy the hammock/tent. There's no need to purchase additional tools and supplies to be able to use it.

The Cons

  • Despite being made out lightweight material, the SAS contains components that may add weight to your bug out bag.
  • SAS hybrids can take up a lot of space in your bug out bag. If you plan to stuff your bag with other essentials, you may have to carry your tent/hammock separately.
  • Tents worth buying and SAS hybrids are quite expensive.
  • Aside from providing shelter, there is no other use for a tent/hammock hybrid.
  • The SAS is designed to hold only one person at a time. If you're out in the wild with a friend or with family, you would need one SAS per person.

See more: Camping Cove has a wonderful Tent/Hammock Hybrid called the Rock Hopper, and you can see its details here. And here's an interesting (and funny!) video by KCHappyCamper demonstrating how a hammock tent is used:

Tarp Shelters

If you want to make the most out of the limited space inside your bug out bag, a tarp shelter should be right for you. With a little bit of ingenuity, this reinforced sheet of plastic can do more than just provide you with shelter.

The Pros:

  • Tarps are cheap and easy to find. You may have to spend a little bit more if you want a tarp that gives added protection from heat and UV rays. 
  • Tarps, especially those made to be used as shelters are lightweight and folds up perfectly to fit inside most survival bags.
  • The typical survivalist's tarp can accomodate more than one person at a time.
  • Tarps can be set up in many ways. You can lay it flat on the ground, pitch an A-framed tent, or use it as a poncho.
  • Packing it up is just as easy as setting it up, making it ideal if you need to move to a new location fast.

The Cons:

  • Tarps don't come with the components you need to convert it into a shelter. You would need to figure out what you need and purchase them separately.
  • Tarp shelters are usually open and do not provide any further protection from creepy crawlers and flying insects.
  • Tarps provide very little protection against extreme weather conditions.
  • If you're a newbie in the survival game, you might have a hard time pitching a tarp into a tent.
  • If you pitch your tarp into a tent, you will most likely sleep directly on the ground - unless you don't mind the excess weight of carrying a sleeping bag.

See more: Despite its cons, there are also many durable tarps you can use to make that lightweight shelter. Meanwhile, in this video, Phillip Griffiths shows us how to convert a simple piece of tarp into a simple, yet effective shelter in no time:

And the Winner Is...

The debate about whether tarps or tents make better lightweight shelters is a question of convenience vs. comfort. Tarps are great when you need to bug out in a hurry. It's lightweight and takes up very little space in your bag, making it easy for you to just pack up and go. On the other hand, tarps may not be a good idea if you plan to - or need to stay out in the wilderness for an extended period of time. Tents, especially ones you can convert into hammocks, do not just provide shelter and keep you dry and comfortable at night, they also provide protection from insects that can cause more than discomfort in the long run.

Still Can't Make a Choice?

Pros and cons considered, choosing between hammock/tent hybrids or tarps can still be quite difficult. The decision whether to go with any of the two options being compared depends on a number of factors. Survivalists must consider the terrain and the environment the shelter would most likely be set up in, the weather patterns in a particular area, and how often one plans to use the shelter.

When the going gets rough, however, a true survivalist won't have any second thoughts in taking both. Having both a hammock/tent and a tarp with you can give you more options depending on what situation you find yourself in.