While there are a myriad of different shelter options for general backpacking, backpack hunting often requires a more specific set of needs. For warm, dry climates or early season trips at lower elevations, you can get by with very little in the way of shelter and still be comfortable. For more harsh conditions the benefits of a well designed tent or shelter quickly become apparent, and less substantial options can put you in an uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situation. This article will look at shelter options for both solo and group users and offer some suggestions for different hunting environments.
The bivy/tarp system
While a tarp alone can provide the necessary shelter for some environments (particularly with a water resistant sleeping bag fabric), an ultralight bag cover like the Rab Ultra bivy adds a great deal of weather security. It weighs 6.7 ounces, and provides very breathable water resistance. If more significant precipitation is expected, a light Integral Designs bivy sack like the Micro or South Col offers the waterproof breathable protection of eVent.
One of the biggest benefits of using a bivy sack system is the ability to take shelter with you on day hunts from camp without a significant weight penalty. This provides a great deal of security, safety, and flexibility, particularly for solo hunters.
Using a roomy tarp shelter like the Integral Designs Sildome or Silshelter in conjunction with the Micro bivy offers great weather security, flexibility, and covered space to sort gear for just over 2 lbs total. Similarly, the GoLite Shangri-la series of shelters offers an easy pitch and numerous options.
There are a number of bivy sacks that perform well enough on their own, but for anything more than a very fast, focused, trip, they lack essential features that make backpack hunting more efficient and enjoyable.
Three season tents
When conditions are moderate, a three season tent can offer the feel and some of the benefits of a tent without a significant weight penalty. They breathe well, keeping condensation to a minimum, keep sleeping gear clean and dry, and provide covered cooking/storage space. Big Agnes Seedhouse Superlight tents offer two and three person options for under 3 and 4 pounds respectively. For a more vestibule space and only a little more weight they offer the Copper Spur series. The Terra Nova Voyager Superlite provides more than enough room for two, and a large vestibule for about 3.5 lbs.
Four season tents
When heavy weather and high winds are expected, there is no substitute for a strong four season tent. With recent design improvements, there are a number of excellent options that weigh half as much as their predecessors.
Some may be surprised to read that a quality 4-season tent can easily increase internal air temperature 10-20 degrees or more by retaining user body heat. This can allow the use of a lighter and more compact sleeping bag system. The Hilleberg Nallo GT is a shining example of technical tent design. It has an enormous 23 sq. ft. vestibule for sorting gear and cooking, and the ventilation system is very effective. The Big Agnes String Ridge 2 is another great option that offers a free-standing design, ample vestibule space, and a roomy feel in the interior. It shares a similar ventilation system with the Hilleberg Nallo series. The Terra Nova Superlite Quasar offers doors and vestibules on each end, is very light, and is fully free standing. Each of these tents is made of high quality materials, will withstand incredibly strong winds and heavy snow loads, and is under 6 lbs.
The ability to rest and re-fuel your body plays a large role in your effectiveness as a hunter. By employing a shelter system that meets your specific needs, you can maximize efficiency and spend more time and effort pursuing game.