Whether you don’t like tents or don’t have one, it shouldn’t stop you from having an amazing trip outdoors. Don’t let the common trend of tent camping dishearten the experimenting adventurer in you! Check out these amazing alternatives to tent camping.
Camping is undoubtedly one of the most preferred ways of reconnecting with nature. Don’t believe us? Well, believe the stats! According to a study posted by businesswire.com, the number of campers who camp three or more times in a year has increased by a whopping 72% since 2014! Damn, that is a lot of camping enthusiasts.
And why wouldn’t it be so? Camping has many proven health benefits– both mental, and physical health tend to benefit from the activity of camping outdoors.
But that’s not all that’s great about camping. Another absolutely amazing feature of camping is the variety in which you can experience this activity. The days of the stereotypical tent and bonfire are long gone. Now-a-days, carrying a tent is not as much a compulsion, as it’s a choice.
Here are 16 unique ways to enjoy camping without a tent.
1. Roof Top Tent Camping
A roof-top is essentially a bed-on-wheels that allows you to drive away and get off the grid any time you want. It is an accessory that fits on the roof of your vehicle, allowing you to sleep on top of your vehicle and leave the internal load-space free. While the preferred vehicles for roof-top tent camping are SUVs, these can be fit on virtually any vehicle.
Advantages of Roof Top Tent Camping
1. Get off the ground. Stay away from animals and bugs, and enjoy the top-view of camping.
2. Quick and Easy Setup. Roof-top tents are easy and quick to set up. You simply go to an epic location, park your vehicle, and deploy the tent. Tents are available in both pop-up and foldable variants.
3. Easy Comfort. Most roof-top tents these days come with built-in memory foam mattresses. Moreover, they’re spacious, they’ve got good ventilation, and a very flat floor to lay on.
Disadvantages of Roof Top Tent Camping
1. Cost. It is indeed a little more costly than regular tents, with all the memory-foam and fitting accessories.
2. Minor inconveniences. If you plan on staying at the location for more than one day, and plan to explore the place, then removing and setting up the tent everyday can be a little tiring.
Types of Roof Top Tents
1. Hard-shell. These roof top tents have a hard suitcase-like shells which are screwed using a crank. One big advantage is the superior protection and simple construction. However, there are big disadvantages in terms of weight.
2. Folding roof top tent. As the name suggests, this is the kind of tent that can be folded and unfolded. The major advantage is the very less packing size and light weight. However, with multiple small parts to be attached, the assembly and disassembly is time consuming.
3. Inflatable roof tent. Unlike the folding roof top tent, this one doesn’t need poles and other metallic components. It uses an inflatable system that maximizes space and minimizes weight and assembly complexity. However, the process is still time consuming.
4. Pop-up roof. It isn’t a roof-top tent in the usual sense. It is more of a liftable sleeping roof.
Comparing The Different Types Of Rooftop Tents
|INFLATABLE TENT||FOLDING TENT||HARD-SHELL TENT||POP-UP ROOF|
|WEIGHT||From 20 kg||Approx. 45kg||Min. 75kg||–|
|PACK-SIZE||Super Compact||Relatively compact, depends on the model||Voluminous||Integrated in the vehicle’s roof|
|SET-UP||10 minutes with an electrical pump||5-10 minutes to unfold and fix||2 minutes to crank up||About a minute to unfold|
|PERSONS NEEDED FOR MOUNTING||1||2||2-3||Integrated build|
|ROAD PERFORMANCE||Hardly any effect||Unstable at high speeds||High increased centre of gravity due to increased weight||No effect|
|SPEED LIMIT||130 kmph||100 kmph||100 kmph||None|
|MIN. REQUIRED PERMITTED ROOF LOAD||50 kg||50-75 kg||100 kg||–|
|EXPANDABLE WITH AN AWNING||yes||yes||Possible for some models||With additional bus-awning|
|BIGGEST ADVANTAGE||weight||space||Solid roof||Easy handling|
|BIGGEST DISADVANTAGE||Set-up time||Driving aerodynamics||weight||price|
2. Hammock Camping
If staying outdoors is more your style, then hammock camping is the choice for you! With different kinds of fabrics, shapes, and styles- hammocks are not only a good resting accessory, they also carry a certain adventurous aesthetic appeal.
Want to know more about this interesting outdoorsy experience? Well, we’ve got you covered. Check out our articles below to get everything you need to know about Hammock Camping.
3. Cot Camping
If you do not like heights or want a sturdy floor to lay on, then camping cots might just be the thing for you. Camping cots are essentially minimalist bunk beds. These have a skeleton of steel or aluminum, and a canvas or polyester pad to sleep on.
Important Features of A Camping Cot
1. Size and weight. Weight is one of the drawbacks of camping cots, especially if your trip is more of an explorative one which requires quite a bit of moving around.
A sturdy steel frame will be around 20 pounds, and an aluminum one will be 15 pounds- which is still about 5 more pounds than a traditional tent.
The size, however, is not as big an issue. The frames are often foldable, and can be carried easily.
2. Comfort. Have you ever found the perfect campsite, set up your tent, and bedded down for the night, only to find that there’s a big, hard lump of dirt right in the middle of your back?
It’s a miserable experience, but it’s an all too common one if you’re sleeping on a basic mat.
A sleeping cot gets you off the hard ground, and onto a smooth, supportive surface. Many cots even padded, or include a pillow for added comfort. All in all, they’re a significant upgrade over most other options.
Another way that camping cots keep you comfortable is by keeping you cool in warm weather and warm in cold weather. Because they’re elevated off the ground, they won’t obstruct airflow, which will improve circulation when your vents are open. When it’s cold, the frozen ground won’t soak up all your body heat.
3. Storage. Okay, you’re probably thinking. So, I’ll be more comfortable. I can get that from an air mattress, and I can take an air mattress backpacking.
You’re not wrong. But there’s another significant benefit to camping cots that you won’t get from an air mattress: storage.
We talked a lot about the size and weight of a typical camping cot. However, once they’re set up, they also save you a significant amount of space.
This is because they sit up off the ground, so you can stow your other gear underneath. You won’t need to keep your backpack in the vestibule or leave it to soak in the rain.
Camping Cot Vs Air Mattress
|Camping Cot||Air Mattress|
|Provide underneath storage space||Must be inflated before use|
|Provide a place to sit and dress up||High risk of damage through tears and punctures|
|Rugged for all weather conditions||Occupy too much tent space|
|Off the ground sleeping||Overnight air leakage|
|Heavy and bulky to store and transport||Portable and easy to store|
|Allows heat loss||Have a bed-like comfort|
4. Tarp Camping
This is perhaps one of the least opted-for alternatives to tents. While a tarp has its advantages in terms of lighter weight, smaller packing size, and greater durability; it is not recommended for camping trips that last for more than one night.
A tarp will only act as a barrier between you and the external weather. It won’t provide any insulation, or comfort.
Another major disadvantage of using a tarp is the work that goes into assembling a shelter using the tarp. You’ll need poles and hooks and extra care while assembling it in order to prevent any untoward accident from happening.
That being said, if you’re going out just for the weekend, then a tarp could come in handy when paired with a camping cot or hammock.
5. Bivy Sack
Hmpf. Some camper must’ve thought; what if I there was a tent, which is also a sleeping bag? And voila! We had the Bivy Sack.
Unlike a regular sleeping bag, Bivy sacks have a special, elevated head cover that is either made of a mesh material and/or the same material as the rest of it.
This is for keeping the bugs out and for shielding the user’s face from sunlight and daylight so they can sleep in if they choose to. They are stored the exact same way as sleeping bags too, in a bag.
These are especially used by hikers because of how well they are insulated. Just larger than your sleeping bag and mattress, bivies are typically constructed of waterproof or water-resistant materials to shield against wind and precipitation.
Originally developed as emergency shelters, today bivy sacks and bivy shelters come in a range of styles.
Traditional, ultra-simple bivy bags—like MSR’s Pro Bivy and E-Bivy—weigh much less than a one-person tent and offer a utilitarian, pure approach for traveling as light as possible.
On the other end of the spectrum, full-featured bivy shelters add a pound or so more to your pack, but include an internal pole for expanded headspace and full-length zippers, offering a small-tent-like experience.
Advantages of a Bivy Sack
1. Less weight. An unbelievably light weight shelter, a bivy ranges from 170 grams to 300 grams only!
2. Packing Size. The ultra-compact nature of bivies makes them a valuable asset when shedding weight. Some stuff down to the size of a burrito (the food kind), disappearing in backpacking bags and small alpine packs.
With a smaller pack you can cover more miles and more easily traverse through technical terrain.
3. Sleeping spaces. And technical terrain is where the bivy shines. Requiring only the length and width of your sleep system, bivies open up campsite possibilities.
Rock ledges, climbers’ nooks on craggy scrambles, snow caves and narrow backcountry spaces too tight for staking out a tent all become available real estate for a night under the stars.
4. Efficiency. No setup. No pitching. No hassle. With nothing to assemble after a long day, nor to break down the next morning, bivies get you back on your route faster.
All that time and energy saved may be devoted to the day ahead. Additionally, these ultralight shelters offer an exceptional weight-to-protection ratio and efficiency.
How To Set Up A Bivy Sack?
- Find a sheltered zone or nook; often popular climbs will feature bivy sites surrounded by rock walls.
- Ensure you’re not setting down in small water channel (pay attention to the contours around you).
- Place the gear you need kept warm at the foot of your sleeping bag.
- Changing out of wet layers before bed.
- On cold nights, place a bottle of hot water in a core zone–crotch or arm pits–for instant warmth.
- Just like camping in a tent, cook a good distance away from your sleeping site.
- Cinch the bivy’s hood down around your face, but avoid breathing inside the bivy.
- A buff or balaclava makes a great lightweight face mask.
- If possible, during the day, turn the bivy inside out and air it out.
- In snow, consider using an ultralight tarp underneath; and two sleeping pads—a closed-cell pad and an air pad—for greater insulation from the ground. See these tips for snow camping.
- Because the majority of your gear won’t be protected, consider a backpack liner/cover to guard against precis.
- Consider choosing a “water-resistant” sleeping bag as extra insurance.
- Use these tips to trade the austere bivy experience for one with a little luxury.
- Check the forecast! And enjoy the lighter pack on your back.
Factors to Consider When Opting For A Bivy Sack
- 1. Terrain
- 2. Weather Forecast
- 3. Bugs and creepy-crawlers
- 4. Hygiene
- 5. Duration of the trip
- 6. Amount of climbing/walking required daily, which in turn impacts the amount of weight of your luggage
6. Hammock Tent
Tree-house lovers, unite!
A hammock tent is the closest you can get to the combination of a hammock, a tent, and a tree house. It is essentially a hammock with a covering tent, that has to be hung by the trees.
It is a very unique experience, and should be on the to-do list of every camper. What makes it even better is that unlike a hammock, which holds only one person at a time, a hammock tent can hold up to 3 people at once!
The only major disadvantage is that it needs 2 to 4 trees, or sometimes even more, to hang a single hammock tent.
7. Sleeping Bag In A Car
This is the most affordable, the most convenient, and by far, the easiest way to camp. All you need to carry is your sleeping bag and other supplies you need. And, all you need to do, is to park your car in an epic location, and snuggle up in your sleeping bag.
While sleeping in your car isn’t exactly free camping, you will benefit from knowing more about it. Check out these articles to get an insight into the precautions and hacks when camping in your car:
8. Teardrop Trailer
This is one of the traditional forms of what is now called glamping. Glamping, or Glamorous Camping, is basically camping with additional amenities.
It is the direct opposite of free camping, in which you rely completely on the supplies you’re carrying.
What Is A Teardrop Trailer?
A teardrop trailer is a mini towable RV. It has a distinct shape- round on one end and tapered on the other. Because of their compact footprint, these RVs are ideal for adventurers who plan shorter trips and want basic amenities when they travel.
They’re also a great option for camping at state and national parks. Campsites here are often small or don’t have as much room to manoeuvre a larger RV, but that’s no problem for a teardrop trailer.
How much do teardrop trailers weigh?
Teardrop trailers typically weigh less than 4,000 lbs. Because of their compact size and lightweight construction, they can be towed by smaller vehicles – think light trucks, crossovers, SUVs, and even some motorcycles.
How much do teardrop trailers cost?
Because of their small size, teardrops are among the more affordable RVs you can buy. Prices vary, but many range from under $20,000 to over $40,000.
Keep in mind that the price is highly dependent on what features and upgrades you choose. You can get everything from off-road tires to solar power packages installed.
Advantages Of A Teardrop Trailer
- Cost of operation. Teardrops are very light and easily towed behind a small car. This can be very economical and much cheaper to haul than a large caravan.
- Camping locations. Trees can cause real havoc (and damage) to large caravans and so they are often stuck in flat, barren spots at campgrounds. Since teardrops are small, they can often take advantage of much more scenic sites.
- Outdoor. Teardrops encourage you to be outdoors and enjoy nature where caravans encourage you to be indoors enjoying luxury.
- Off-site storage. Teardrops fit inside a garage with ease. Caravans often require off-site storage that can get VERY expensive.
- Cost. Teardrops are significantly cheaper to buy than big caravans.
- Maintenance. The larger the rig, the more maintenance you will have and the more money you will spend on upkeep. Teardrops are so easy to manage and do not require much maintenance.
- Resale value. Teardrops tend to hold their resale value very well when compared to pop-up tent trailers and caravans.
9. Tent Trailer
A tent trailer, more commonly known as a pop-up, is basically a tent on wheels. If you want to upgrade from your existing traditional tent, but still aren’t sure about going for a full-blown RV, the tent trailer is just for you.
It is often taken as an introduction to RVing. You have the experience of sleeping in a shelter-on-wheels, but with lesser amenities than in an RV.
Advantages Of A Tent Trailer
1. Light Weight. A tent trailer is lighter than an RV, and thus is easier to haul and tow.
2. Wallet friendly. A tent trailer costs much less than a usual RV.
3. Location flexibility. Many tent sites have size and weight restrictions that RVs don’t fit in. However, with a tent trailer, you can set up your camp almost anywhere.
Teardrop Trailer Vs Tent Trailer
|Teardrop Trailer||Tent Trailer|
|They are typically more expensive.||They are relatively cheaper|
|They are typically more cramped than a pop-up.||They are relatively more spacious than a teardrop trailer.|
|Teardrops have less storage space.||These have relatively high storage space.|
A motorhome, as the name suggests, is a home-on-wheels. It is larger than a usual RV, and has greater amenities and can house a greater number of people.
Class A Motorhome
Medium to large RVs. These are the bus-shaped models. The class spans from alternatives to Class C, built on similar platforms, all the way to extremely luxurious, large coaches called diesel pushers, due to the engine being in the rear.
Class B Motorhome
Camper vans that are based on a van. These RVs are typically the most expensive per foot. They pack a lot into a small space and often are based on a Mercedes-Benz platform. The key benefits are a premium cabin and modest size that makes them more suitable than big RVs for driving to stores, restaurants, and attractions.
Class C Motorhome
These use a cutaway chassis, combining a van cab front with an RV shell that typically includes an over-the-cab sleeping area. Class C can be the most affordable all-in-one models. There are Super C models, very expensive RVs that apply this concept to a medium-duty truck platform.
Class A vs Class B vs Class C Motorhomes
|Class A Motorhome||Class B Motorhome||Class C Motorhome|
|Most space per foot of any motorhome type, thanks to their width and shape.||Not much room inside; usually only sleeps two people comfortably.||Cab area can be relatively cramped due to the “doghouse” engine cover that intrudes into the space on van-based models.|
|Variety of sizes, prices, and finish levels.||Relatively few floor-plan choices.||Wide variety of floor plans.|
|Relatively low fuel economy.||Best fuel economy of any RV; can get up to 20 mpg.||Moderate fuel economy in between class A and class B|
|Prices start around $90,000 and go up to $400,000||Between $85,000 and $150,000||$70,000 to $200,000|
|Typically, six to eight people.||Usually only two people comfortably; sometimes four will fit.||Typically, four to eight people.|
|Sizes can range from about 25 feet long up to 45 feet long, but they are typically around 30 to 36 feet long.||Between 20 and 26 feet long||Usually 22 to 35 feet long.|
Motorhome VS RV Trailer
|Starting price is $50,000||Price Range $20,000 to $30,000|
|Miles Per Gallon: 15 to 20||Miles Per Gallon: 30 to 40+|
|Maintenance is costlier||Maintenance is less expensive|
|Class C Motorhomes are very accessible and compact||Trailers aren’t compact and thus less accessible|
11. RV Trailer
RV Trailers are non-motorized, towable forms of RVs. They are budget-friendly, have high fuel economy, and are great for campers who are new to RVing.
However, with all the assembly complications, these aren’t suitable for trips that involve exploring the location and removing & setting camp again and again. Moreover, these trailers aren’t compact. So, you cannot carry your trailer everywhere.
A van equipped as a self-contained travelling home, they are normally smaller than a motorhome. There is generally no divide between the cab and the living quarters. It has basic facilities for cooking, washing, and sleeping.
Campervan VS Motorhome
|Less expensive||More expensive|
|Less space||Greater space|
|More compact, hence more accessible||Class C Motorhomes are compact and accessible|
|Lesser amenities||Greater amenities|
13. Yurt Camping
If you’re the kind who wants to enjoy the stunning nature without having to sacrifice your comforts of daily life, then Yurt Camping might just be right for you. It is a kind of Glamping, or Glamorous Camping.
Yurts are cylindrical tents with domes that have all the amenities you’ll need to have a luxurious trip outdoors. If you’d like to know more about Yurt camping, check out the article below:
14. Pickup Truck Canopy
This one’s for all the truck owners out there! If you’ve had a truck, you most certainly have had thought of buying a topper for it at least once. Well, if you’re both a truck owner and a camper, get a topper already!
For the most part, there are 2 or 3 options (it depends on the manufacturer):
Aluminium is by far the least expensive option: You can typically buy a brand new aluminium topper with minimal features for $900 or less (installed). However, aluminium:
- Is almost always white, and a lot of people don’t like how a white topper looks on a truck that’s any other colour
- Over time, aluminium toppers (especially the least expensive toppers) tend to look dingy and dented
If you’re not at all concerned about aesthetics (or if you have a white truck) a plain Jane white aluminium topper is a fine choice.
Aluminium is also a good choice if you’re trying to save weight, or if you want a serious commercial topper with features like shelving, locking toolboxes, double doors on the sides, etc.
Fiberglass toppers typically look great – they’re often painted to match your truck’s factory paint job – but they’re quite a bit more expensive than aluminium (it’s hard to find one for less than $1,200 installed – most cost $1,500-$2,000 installed).
Fiberglass toppers are also on the heavy side (they can weigh as much as 200lbs, depending on options), and it’s not as easy to find fiberglass toppers designed for commercial use (although they are available).
Composite/plastic toppers are a relatively new option.
While colour selection is very limited, they’re a good compromise between aluminium and fiberglass, as they offer a lot of the features of aluminium without sacrificing appearance.
Pricing varies greatly on these newer composite toppers, but you can generally expect to spend more on composite than aluminium (but still less than fiberglass). $1,200-$1,800 (installed) is a good estimate, depending on features.
Advantages Of Pickup Truck Canopy
1. Multipurpose and aesthetic
2. Costs less if you already own a truck
3. Great for Cargo Storage
Disadvantages Of Pickup Truck Canopy
1. Can be bulky and takes up garage space when not in use
15. Portable Awning
If you’re looking for something that suits your spontaneous one-day trips to the beach or woods, then portable awning could be the thing for you.
RV awnings are made of two basic types of fabric: acrylic and vinyl. There are pros and cons to both.
- Acrylic fabric allows air to circulate.
- Acrylic awnings are made out of a woven cloth that repels water.
- Acrylic awnings are not water proof, but they generally dry within a few hours of getting wet.
- Vinyl awnings are mildew resistant, but are not mildew proof.
- Vinyl awnings easily collect dust and dirt, which can lead to mildew.
- Vinyl awing are especially susceptible to mildew when exposed to heat and high humidity.
Awnings are good as overhead shelters, but there’s nothing more that they do. These are best when used for one-day trips in combination with camping cots or tarps.
16. Pickup Bed Tent
Pickup bed tents, also known as truck bed tents, are the answer for people looking for a budget-friendly way to avoid sleeping on the ground.
They pop open inside your truck bed, allowing you to use the truck bed as a sleeping platform.
Some truck bed tents don’t have a bottom, while others do. Truck bed tents come in several sizes and can be used with long or short beds. They attach to your bed rails or strap into your fender wells.
Truck Bed Tents VS Ground Attachment Tents VS Rooftop Tents
|Truck Bed Tent||Ground Attachment Tent||Rooftop Tent|
|The biggest disadvantage of truck bed tents is that you can’t use your truck bed while camping. You have to unload all your gear, coolers, and equipment before you can go to sleep, which can be inconvenient if you arrive at your campsite at night.||You don’t have to take it down when you want to drive somewhere. Just unstrap it from your car, reattach the removable wall, and convert it to a standalone tent.||With a rooftop tent, you can camp anywhere. They’re great for overland adventurers who enjoy seeing the world from a higher perspective.|
|Truck bed tents are a great entry-level tent if you’re just getting into truck camping. They’re accessible for the average camper, starting at around $200.||Ground attachment tents are the most cost-effective way to break into car camping, starting at around $200.||The biggest disadvantage of rooftop tents is that their features come at a lofty price. The least expensive tents start at around $800 for a base model. Add in the cost of a canopy, awning, ladder extenders, or simply a larger sleeping area, and you can find yourself spending thousands on a camping setup.|
Advantages Of Pickup Bed Tents
1. These tents weigh in at just 8-10 pounds and take up very little cargo room.
2. Your truck’s tiny footprint allows you to set up anywhere you can drive. There are no ladders or overhangs to worry about.
3. You still maintain a height advantage with protection from ground elements. The sides of your truck bed shelter your sleeping area from wind and wildlife.
4. As opposed to a rooftop tent, you can take the tent down after every trip. This is a great option if you’re camping with your daily driver and don’t want to commit to installing a heavy tent that’s difficult to remove.
Disadvantages Of Pickup Bed Tents
1. The biggest disadvantage of truck bed tents is that you can’t use your truck bed while camping. You have to unload all your gear, coolers, and equipment before you can go to sleep, which can be inconvenient if you arrive at your campsite at night.
2. You’re still just as susceptible to the wind and rain as in a ground tent. You may also have to deal with water pooling inside your truck bed – and in your tent – during a bad storm.
3. Truck bed tents come in a few standard sizes, but they are not guaranteed to be a perfect fit. They are usually not adjustable.
4. They can only be used with a pickup truck. If you trade or sell your truck, you won’t be able to use your tent anymore.
5. You’ll need to buy a bed mat for your truck for comfort purposes.
Frequently Asked Questions
That’s a long list… Here is a quick recap of all the alternatives…
The days of camping being restricted to just a tent and a bonfire are long gone! With glamping and various shelters-on-wheels like yurts, motorhomes, and campervans, the camping experience has changed, and for good!
So, don’t let the absence or dislike of traditional tents discourage you. Happy Camping!