Shelter or Tent?

The Tricorner Knob Shelter, just below the sum...
The Tricorner Knob Shelter, just below the summit of Tricorner Knob (el. 6,120 feet/1,865 meters) in the Great Smoky Mountains. The shelter is one of the most remote structures in the state of Tennessee, being a 9 mile hike from the nearest parking lot. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Appalachian Trail shelters and tents

In January 2012, I posted about whether it’s better to shelter or tent. I’ve reproduced the discussion below. But now there may be a big disadvantage to sleeping in a shelter versus choosing a tent. Hantavirus! This nasty affliction is spread by rodents, especially mice. Mice habituate shelters, and hikers tolerate them.

In the picture above, hikers can hang their food, but they are lying ducks for mice scurrying around during the night. Hantavirus is a severe illness.

Most hiking trails don’t provide shelters. The Appalachian Trail and The Long Trail (Vermont) have many shelters.Hiking and tenting on long-distance trails

They are convenient, but a tent, especially for sleeping, has advantages.

Privacy – You aren’t a stuffed sardine when it gets crowded.

Warmth – A tent with a rainfly is warmer than an open shelter.

Better Sleep – You are not poked, or kicked, or outsnored.

No Mice – Those critters can drive you nuts!

So why choose a shelter to sleep in?

Convenience – Less hassle. No need to unpack and set up a tent; no need to dismantle and re-pack the tent in the morning, possibly in the rain.

Clothesline – Many shelters have them already. Easy to rig up, or simply hang garments from nails and hooks provided. Clothes are protected from outside weather.

Ease – Can sit and lean against a wall to read, journal, contemplate (I’m sore, I’m tired, I wish I had a pizza and beer.)


Published by Ray Anderson

Hiker and writer. Have hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, The Long Trail (Vermont), and some of the Continental Divide Trail. My trail name is "HAMLET." Have written three hiking novels (thrillers). The first one, "THE TRAIL," was traditionally published in 2015. My second hiking thriller, "SIERRA," released Oct 2016. Book three in my AWOL hiking-thriller series, "THE DIVIDE" releases from Turner Publishing 8/18/2020.

6 thoughts on “Shelter or Tent?

  1. Love your posts, Ray! This one is particularly well balanced & answered a question I asked of another blog team (they didn’t respond). Keep it up!

    Have you ever posted anything on the Foothills Trail of SC/NC? I thought I read you live in that general area. That’s the first long hike I’m taking. Have walked most of it already, just not end to end in one shot.

    1. Thanks, Barbara. No, I haven’t done that trail in the Carolinas. I live in Massachusetts, but remember well the AT’s course through NC. Happy trails!

  2. I’ve never slept in a shelter before. The trails we have in the Pacific Northwest tend not to have them, so our options are to bring a tent, or do a day hike. So I’m a little bit surprised to hear that you can get hantavirus this way … I think I’ll stick to my tent!

  3. Although I enjoy the open air and enjoyment of a shelter, I’ve found that at times, there are just too many mice. They’ll drive you nuts if you aren’t in a tent or off the ground.

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