So You’re Thinking About Going Floorless?

Wyoming BHA Board Member, Scott Reekers

In life there are trends that rise and fall, bell bottoms, hair bands, and of course the soon to fall skinny jeans on teenage boys. I work with teen-agers for a living and it never ceases to amaze me what “New” recycled looks pop-culture comes up. The hunting world is no different and sorting through what is the current trend, and what is long term real world gear can be frustrating. The latest trend is floorless shelters.


Floorless shelters have been around for many years in wall tent form, but with tougher lightweight materials they are gaining traction across the backpack and hunting world. With the better materials and light-weights it only makes sense that they would catch on.   If you are thinking of hitting the woods with a lightweight floorless shelter, there are some things that you should know:

  1. Bugs aren’t as big of an issue as most people believe. If you pitch a floored tent on top of an ant-hill, there will be ants inside, plain and simple. The same is true for a floorless shelter, pick your campsite wisely and bugs won’t be an issue.
  2. Water won’t come in your shelter, as long as you don’t pitch the floorless tent in a depression. Small depressions in the ground gather water, and floorless or not, you and your gear will get wet. All shelters are designed to drain water away from the inside, but if the center of the tent is lower than the stakes, plan on having water underneath your bed. One trip into the Wind Rivers as a teen it rained the entire hike in. I pitched my tent in a hurry in a small depression and found that my floored tent was acting like a water bed. It took a full day of sunshine to get my sleeping bag dry. Pitch your shelter in the proper place, regardless of floor and life is much better.   Water flowing through or under a floorless shelter is a non-issue if you choose the right spot to pitch it.
  3. Ultra-light backpack hunting is in and let’s be honest it makes sense as none of us are getting younger. Floored shelters tend to weigh more and are sometimes a pain to pitch with more than one pole.   Running poles for a tent in the dark isn’t an easy task, especially in the places where they cross. Simplicity and lighter weight is always a good thing. Floorless shelters are often very simple, very light and much easier to pitch.
  4. Wood burning stoves make floorless shelters comfortable in all 4 seasons. Three deer seasons ago I shivered by myself in a small dome tent waiting for the sun to come up. The tent was a garage sale special that served me well for several years. However, it wasn’t possible to heat it without a stove jack, and the floor in place. My argument against camp fires was the smell of smoke scared game. The buck in the picture was taken 3 days into deer season, less than a quarter mile from our tipi with the stove roaring for the morning coffee and heating water for dinner.
  5. Many floorless shelters can be pitched in multiple shapes and forms which makes it easier to find a spot to pitch the shelter. Where I hunt for mule deer is steep and unforgiving with a limited supply of flat ground to pitch a shelter of any size. Tarp style floorless shelters can be pitched in the tightest of areas or even pitched well above ground in warm weather. Many of the tipi style floorless designs now come with options for smaller pitches, or can be pitched taller with steeper wall angles in tight areas.

Most companies offer floorless shelters with bug screens at the doors to help ventilate and generate airflow during the warm months while keeping the mosquitoes out. Know the insects in your area it shouldn’t be an issue to find spots to pitch your shelter that aren’t going to produce swarms of bugs on top of your sleeping bag.

Bugs aren’t an issue in the colder fall weather because, well, their short lives are ending. The colder night temperatures in the high country send them to their dormant state for the next 6 months and they won’t be finding their way into your sleeping bag.

If you still aren’t sure look into a nest or bivy, both of which can be used as an emergency shelter on trips away from the main camp. They can also be used for planned trips away when the animals are just a little farther from camp than planned!

All of these factors show why lightweight floorless shelters are in and more than the trend of the year. If you decide to go this route rest assured that you won’t be like a 14 year old in skinny jeans who just realized they are no longer cool.

What's your favorite floorless tent?  Please share below. Or if you're just now thinking of going floorless, be sure to support one of BHA's sponsors: Seek OutsideKifaru, or Titanium Goat.

About Scott Reekers