Camping is one of our favorite outdoor activities and it’s one of the best ways to get outside for some forest bathing and rejuvenation. If a weekend getaway or family camping trip isn’t enough, perhaps it’s time to consider living in a tent year round. There are many benefits to doing this, such as saving money, cutting back on your carbon footprint, living healthier, simplifying your life, and having the ability to travel to and live in extraordinary places.
Many camping tents are not suitable to be a long term camping tent, so what factors make a viable option? Number one is quality because a tent that’s going to fail you won’t do you any good. Weather resistance is also essential, especially since you’ll be exposed to the elements like strong winds, heavy rain, bright sun, and maybe even cold weather. Third, picking a tent that’s the right size will help you feel more comfortable and ‘at home.’
The perfect tent for long term camping will balance all these qualities with a good price. First, think about your plans for your full time tent living such as where you intend on camping, what seasons you would like to camp in, and how many people will be going with you. If you want to camp in cold temperatures, you may consider getting a tent with a stove jack so you can have a wood burning stove to keep warm. If you’re only going to live outside in ideal conditions, then a stove jack may not be required.
We’ve put together a list of the best tents for long term camping so you can pick the best one for your plans. They offer a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and best uses, but they’re all high quality and built to last. If you want to live in a tent full time then you’ve come to the right place.
6 Best Tents to Live in Full Time
These are our picks for the best tent to live in full time:
- White Duck Alpha Wall Tent – Editor’s Choice
- Kodiak Flex-Bow – Portable Canvas
- Vagabond Rooftop Tent plus Annex – Best for Overlanding
- Fernweh Canvas Bell Tent
- North Face Wawona 8 – Modern Camping Tent
- Kodiak Grand Cabin – Multi-Room Tent
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Editor’s Choice – White Duck Alpha Wall Tent
White Duck makes some of the top canvas tents currently available on the market and they offer free shipping and a lifetime warranty on all their products. Their Alpha Wall Tent is easily one of the most livable tents you could possibly buy and we’ve selected it as our Editor’s Choice for many reasons.
As we’ve mentioned before, weather protection is one of the key elements of a good full time tent because you’ll be exposed to everything. The army duck canvas on this wall tent is waterproof, mold-resistant, and UV-resistant, plus it’s some of the thickest canvas available. All the seams are double stitched, the corners are reinforced, and the heavy duty frame uses aluminum poles. The front door and windows have three layers for storm protection, and the tent is supported by a proprietary shock-absorbing bungee system to keep everything upright in harsh weather.
Another important feature is space, and there’s no shortage of that in this tent. The door height is 6’6″, so you don’t have to stoop to enter. The center peak height is 7’6″, which is plenty of space for standing upright throughout the entirety of the tent. The specifications below are for the 8×10, which is the smallest size in the Alpha line up, but you could size up for even more space and a higher peak height if desired. It’s also available in 10×12, 12×14, 14×16, 16×20, and 16×24, and there’s an optional front porch add on if you want more exterior space.
Not only is this cotton canvas tent ready for adverse weather, but it can also handle snow and winter conditions as well. There’s a built in stove jack (it also made our list for best tents with a stove jack), which means it’s ready for a wood burning stove to keep you warm in a hot tent all winter long. The canvas material is naturally breathable, so that helps with condensation in cold weather and allows for a natural circulation of air inside the tent.
All these features add up to a really awesome tent that’s ready for everything full time camping could throw at it. It’s high quality, has a spacious interior, and can be used in all four seasons. Plus, the large availability of different sizes means you can pick the best option for your perfect long term camping tent.
- Best Use: Best Overall
- Dimensions: 8 x 10 feet
- Peak Height: 7’6″
- Capacity: 6 campers or two glampers
- Weight: 153 lbs.
- Fabric: 10.10 oz. Army Duck Cotton Canvas
- Frame: Galvanized steel
- Warranty: Lifetime
- Highlight: Quality Canvas tent with a spacious interior and enough space for a single camping stove, making it suitable for year round long term camping.
Kodiak Flex-Bow VX – Portable Canvas
Kodiak canvas tents are some of the best selling canvas tents in America and they’re known for their Flex Bow design that was initially released in 2006. We’ve selected their Flex Bow VX 10 x 14 as a great tent for long term camping for people who want the portability of a camping tent but the strength and durability of a canvas tent.
The Flex Bow VX is exceptionally sturdy and can be setup quickly and easily by only one person. It uses aluminum poles for a strong, stable frame and heavy duty canvas for durability long term. A spacious interior and a 6’6″ ceiling means you can walk around upright, and there are six large windows with no-see-um mesh that allow for lots of ventilation. They can be zippered shut from the inside for weather protection, and the large awning (84 x 78 inches) creates a shaded hang out spot outdoors.
Many canvas tents require frequent treatments to add waterproofing over time, but Kodiak uses a proprietary Hydra-Shield treatment that rarely, if ever, requires re-treating. It’s a silicone, dry-finish treatment that’s breathable, durable, watertight, and mold and mildew resistant. This makes Kodiak canvas some of the best available and it’s definitely built to last.
While it can be used year-round, it doesn’t have a built in stove jack. You could either add your own, or limit your winter exposure by camping in more temperate places that time of year. If you have a less permanent setup for your long term camping adventure, this tent would be a great option. It’s small enough to be portable and can be setup quickly, but is made of materials that are stronger and more durable than a regular camping tent.
Note: this tent is also available in 10×10 if you want something smaller. If you want an awesome Kodiak tent that does have a stove jack, then we would recommend this Cabin Lodge – it’s a similar size, slightly different shape, and is more winter ready.
- Best Use: Moving around frequently
- Dimensions: 10 x 14 feet
- Peak Height: 6’6″
- Capacity: 8 person
- Weight: 79 lbs.
- Fabric: Cotton Duck Canvas
- Warranty: Lifetime
- Highlight: An extremely weather resistant canvas camping tent that’s small enough for a quick setup at regular campgrounds.
Vagabond Rooftop Tent + Annex – Best for Overlanding
If you plan on spending long amounts of time on the road but don’t want to put the time or money into a conversion van, then a rooftop tent could be a great option for you. Roam is an adventure company that never cuts corners and has stellar customer service, and we really love their Vagabond Rooftop Tent plus annex.
Normally roof top tents are quite small, but this one includes a lower annex that can be used as a ground tent for daily activities like cooking and bug-free hanging out.The tent itself sleeps 2-3 people on a 3″ high density foam mattress and can be accessed from a lightweight yet secure aluminum telescoping ladder.
The tent’s frame is made of 1″ aluminum poles that can withstand even the strongest of winds and the fabric is coated poly cotton ripstop that’s ultra durable, strong, and waterproof. Even with the rain fly on, there are PVC skylights built into the fabric so you can still get some light inside the tent. The base of the tent is a diamond plate that provides insulation and is durable enough to be used as a scouting platform when the tent is folded down.
No matter where you find yourself at the end of the day, this tent pitches in just minutes. Just store your shoes in the included hanging boot bags (so you don’t drag dirt into your tent) and you’re ready to sleep on a comfortable mattress under the night sky. This makes it perfect for long term road trips and allows you to always have your tent right next to you ready to go.
- Best Use: Overlanding & long drives
- Dimensions: 56 x 96 inches
- Peak Height: 52 inches
- Capacity: 3 person
- Weight: 130 lbs.
- Fabric: polyester, cotton, and 600D nylon
- Highlight: A rooftop tent that includes an annex and lots of functional space for long term overlanding and extensive road trips.
Fernweh Canvas Tent – Bell Shaped
Life in Tents is a really small brand of canvas tents but they make some of the highest quality and most versatile products on the market. They also have superior customer service, so by shopping with them you know you’re getting the best of the best. They have some really cool bell shaped canvas tents, and we’ve specifically selected their Fernweh 16′ for this list of long term tents.
The Fernweh is a circular canvas tent with a 16′ (5M) diameter. It uses a strong center pole, an A frame door pole, and several smaller wall poles to make a structure that’s been tested to withstand winds upwards of 50 mph. The canvas material is the heaviest on the market (11.5 oz.) and is waterproof, strong, and naturally breathable.
One of the coolest features about this tent is the versatility of the design, which has more features than your average canvas tent. The lower side wall is double layered – canvas and mesh. On warmer days, you can just unzip the windows and door to expose a mesh layer. On hot days, you can roll up the entire side wall to expose a 360 degree mesh layer for optimal ventilation and bug-free air circulation. If you really want to take it to the next step, you can unzip the heavy duty floor and make this tent a canopy to provide shade without blocking a breeze.
This tent is one of the few on this list that does have a built in stove jack for wood stove compatibility, so you can use this tent in snowy and cold winter weather. If you’re interested in more options for canvas bell tents, then check out our post for best bell tents. Otherwise this canvas tent would be an awesome choice for anyone interested in living in a tent full time.
- Best Use: Glamping year-round
- Dimensions: 5M (16′) diameter
- Peak Height: 9’8″
- Weight: 110 lbs.
- Fabric: 11.5 oz. canvas
- Frame: Galvanized steel (center pole and door pole) and aluminum (wall poles)
- Warranty: 30 months
- Highlight: Canvas bell tent that’s perfect for long term tent living year round in a variety of weather conditions and climates.
North Face Wawona 8
If you’re looking for a modern dome camping tent that’s super portable, lightweight, easy to setup, and has ample space for standing upright, then the North Face Wawona is your best option. It’s a car camping tent that could work for three season living in a tent and it’s large enough to sleep eight people or four comfortably on queen air mattresses.
The entire tent measures 14 x 8 feet and has an oversized vestibule with an awning that gives you a drip-free entrance. There’s also an optional add on front porch that extends this space even more by adding 73 square feet, plus it has a peak height of 83 inches (6ft. 11in.). Even without the additional vestibule, the Wawona is a roomy tent and has a room divider to separate it into two different spaces.
As for durability, the tent walls and rainfly are made of 75-denier polyester and have a 1200mm waterhead rating. The floor is 150-denier polyester with the same waterhead, and the poles are made of DAC MX aluminum. They are stronger than previous designs without adding extra weight. You can use the external guylines to secure the tent during adverse weather and internal storage pockets give you places to stash small pieces of gear.
If you want to camp in a tent permanently and avoid cold winter weather, while also having the portability of a regular camping tent that will fit at most campgrounds, then this Wawona dome camping tent would be a great piece of gear for you. Just make sure you also purchase the additional footprint so you can extend the life of the floor as much as possible.
- Best Use: Regular camping tent
- Dimensions: 168 x 96 inches (14ft. x 8ft.)
- Peak Height: 78 inches
- Capacity: 8
- Weight: 24 lbs. 3 oz.
- Fabric: 75D rainfly and canopy, 150D floor
- Frame: DAC MAX aluminum
- Warranty: Lifetime
- Highlight: Modern camping tent that’s tall enough to stand up straight and has a quick setup time for mobile long term campers who want to fit in at campgrounds.
Kodiak Grand Cabin with Awning
Kodiak Tents also made our list above with their portable Flex Bow design, but this Grand Cabin canvas tent is the opposite of portable. That being said, it’s easily one of the best tents for extended use occasions where you want space and durability, as well as privacy and a homey feel. It’s basically a tent house, and it has three separate rooms that can sleep upwards of twelve people. The awning is included and has an optional wall enclosure (not shown above but it looks super cool!) to create a giant screen room that adds on 96 more square feet of bug-free usable space.
The main room is called the grand room and it’s the center room where the main entrance door is located. It measures 11.5 x 8 feet and has a 7.5 foot peak height. To the left and right, there are two bedrooms, which both measure 8 x 7 feet. They are separated by zippered canvas curtains and they each have their own exterior door. Eight large mesh windows provide air flow and use no see-um-mesh to keep out even the smallest bugs. There’s even two gusset windows on the back side of the tent that have their own awning so they can provide fresh air during rainy weather.
The tent walls are made of the same Hydra-Shield cotton duck canvas as the Flex Bow tent above, and this type of canvas rarely has be re-treated to maintain waterproofing. The frame is made of 1″ sturdy steel tubes with reinforced corner braces, and the tent floor is made of puncture-resistant 13.5 oz. vinyl.
This Grand Cabin tent would be perfect for a semi permanent tent that’s used for long term camping. It’s a home away from home and the multiple rooms give the users privacy and lots of space while the strong materials keep it upright in adverse conditions.
- Best Use: Multi-room canvas tent
- Dimensions: 26 x 8 feet
- Peak Height: 7.5 ft.
- Capacity: 12
- Weight: 174 lbs.
- Fabric: Hydra-Shield cotton duck canvas
- Frame: Steel tubes
- Warranty: Lifetime
- Highlight: Three bedrooms plus a large awning make this canvas tent on of the most livable tent options on this list.
Thing to Consider When Choosing a Long Term Tent for Your Next Camping Trip
There are a few factors to take into consideration when shopping for a tent for long term camping: weather protection, waterproofing, livability, size, and setup time.
Part of living in a tent full time is being exposed to the weather conditions at all times. Whether that’s strong winds, heavy rain, bright UV rays, or even snow accumulation, your tent is going to have to protect you from it.
While you can be exposed to strong winds pretty much anywhere, there are some locations that are more prone to experiencing stronger winds more often. This includes coastlines, mountainous regions, and wide open plains. If you’re going to be in any of these places, make sure you take the extra steps to secure all your tent’s guylines and perhaps even consider purchasing stronger tent stakes.
Being exposed to the sun’s UV rays is unavoidable, but if you’re in a really sunny place you could potentially cover your tent with a tarp to provide extra protection. You should also avoid tents that are darker in color, and white tents are preferred. That’s why canvas tents can provide refuge from the sun even on hot days.
If you are going to be in a place that experiences winter weather like cold and snow, then you should purchase a canvas tent with a stove jack. This will allow you to use a wood stove to keep the tent warm, even when it’s cold outside. If you’re going to be in more mild climates that don’t experience winter weather, then the presence of a stove jack isn’t as important.
The most obvious natural thing you need protection from is rain. It would be miserable if any of your gear got wet!. Most tents have decent waterproofing, especially if they are made by good brands like any of the options listed above. If it’s a modern synthetic tent, like the Wawona, you’ll need to check that the waterproofing is enough for your use. Most tents can suffice with a level of 1200mm, which is considered waterproof. You never want to buy a camping tent with a waterhead rating that’s 1000mm or less (this is more frequently seen on off-brand cheap tents).
If you opt for a canvas tent, then it will be made of natural cotton materials but will come with a waterproofing treatment. This treatment will need to be re-applied occasionally, and the frequency depends on which type of climate your exposed to – places with higher humidity and more rain will have to be re-treated more often. The only exception is the Kodiak tents above, which have a special kind of waterproofing that doesn’t typically need to be re-applied, but that doesn’t mean they are resistant to the effect of a high humidity climate.
Year Round Livability
Not only do you need protection from adverse weather, but you also need ventilation in the summer and warmth in the winter. In the summer, you want mesh windows and door(s) that can circulate the warm air while keeping bugs out. It’s also beneficial to have roof vents and a ground vent that can use high-low ventilation to push the warm air out the ceiling. In the winter, you need to be able to close up all the windows but still have circulation using ceiling vents.
Canvas tents are particularly great for year round camping because they offer a natural breathability that you don’t get in modern tents. The white roof keeps it from getting too hot inside the tent but the canvas also holds in heat while limiting condensation in winter. Even more so, canvas tents with a stove jack will make for a more comfortable winter, even if you live in warmer climates.
On a side note, you might consider purchasing a shower tent as well to act as your bathroom and outhouse. This would be an excellent addition to your long term camping gear.
When you live in a tent full time, you also want to have ample space for everybody and everything. A spacious tent is a must-have, but it shouldn’t be too large that it’s difficult to heat or cool. You should also keep in mind where you plan on camping, as larger tents have a bigger footprint that requires more space – space that may or may not be available depending on your location. For example, some campgrounds are adamant that you use the provided tent pad, which typically measures less than 15 x 15 feet. So if you’re going to regularly be at campgrounds, you may need a smaller tent that fits into that space better.
Another key aspect of tent size is the peak height. If you’re going to be in your tent for a few weeks at a time, you don’t want to have to stoop. Your tent should have standing height throughout the majority of the interior space, and it’s even better if the tent has a door that’s tall enough for upright movement. As you can see in the chart below, all the White Duck Alpha wall tents have ample standing height in the doorway and in the interior, even the smallest one.
Some of the larger tents on this list can take upwards of an hour to set up, while the smaller more portable options could only take a few minutes. This is an important consideration and is based on your plans for your long term camping experience. If you plan on moving frequently, such every 14 days (as required by most U.S. National Forests), then a tent that doesn’t take as long to set up would be preferred. If you are going to bounce around every few days, then something quick and easy like the Wawona or Kodiak Flex Bow would be even better.
On the other hand, if you have a place to set up camp permanently or semi-permanently, then you can sacrifice setup time in exchange for a more complex, spacious, and comfortable tent design. Some examples of this include the Kodiak Grand Cabin or a larger White Duck Alpha tent.
Make sure you tent has a durable and heavy duty floor that’s ready for lots of wear and tear. Even with a thick floor, you should consider using the matching footprint to extend the life of the material. This is especially important in tents made of synthetic materials, like the Wawona above. They just don’t have a floor that’s as thick as the canvas ones.
When using a footprint, it’s always best to purchase the matching one. If you make one yourself or purchase a tarp, make sure to adjust the size and shape to match the tent floor. It should line up and not sit under the tent or extend past the exterior walls.
Can you live long term in a tent?
Yes, it’s very possible to live in a tent long term! If you select the right tent that’s built to last, know the law about where you can legally camp, and are willing to embark on that adventure, then it’s very possible with the right planning and preparation.
Will a tent survive 50 mph winds?
This depends on the specific tent you have, but most high quality tents will be able to withstand winds as strong as 50 mph. Most manufacturers who have tested this will be proud of it and will post it in the specifications on the product information page.
Whatever your long term camping trip looks like, we hope you’ve been able to find the perfect tent for you. Whether you’ve gone with our Editor’s Choice White Duck Alpha or any of the other stellar brands on this list, we wish you many fun adventures in the future!
About the Author
Ashley is an adventurous soul who loves all things nature, especially warm sunshine, hiking, wildflowers, and mushrooms. If she isn’t writing content for Know Nothing Nomads, she’s probably in a forest looking at big mountain views and tiny pieces of moss on the side of the trail.