Is It Legal to Live In a Tent on Your Land? Or Not?!

Welcome! This article contains affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you.

Over the years, houses have become more expensive. With the skyrocketing cost of living, more folks are looking into alternative housing solutions.

For that reason, mobile homes and living on the road in recreational vehicles (RVs) have become popular alternatives. Van life is probably one of the most popular and modern alternative ways to live. But what about living in a tent on a piece of land that you own?

Is it legal to live in a tent on your land? Or are there rules and regulations for camping in your yard?

Keep reading to learn more!

Yellow tent setup in the backyard next to the shed.

In the United States, it is illegal for individuals to live in cars, tents, or other items not deemed suitable for human dwelling. These housing standards exist even if you are on your land. You will need either a structure with a building permit or possess a camping permit.

Depending on the exact state you are residing in, it is possible to acquire temporary camping permits that can get renewed every month or year.

The finer details of camping on your land in a tent vary by geographic location and other regulations.

relaxing by the tent in the backyard green lawn
Your local council government is the key to legally living in a tent, RV, shed, or any temporary or permanent domicile. Building code and campground law come into play. Your local regulations regarding campsites and tent dwellings vary wildly from MassachusettsAlaska, to Hawaii! Check your local ordinances. And – ask with a smile and upbeat attitude for the best results!

Can You Legally Camp on Land That You Own?

Depending on where you live, it may be legal to camp on your land if you apply for and receive the correct permits. Every state has policies concerning living off the grid while on your property, so it’s vital to do your research.

In Alabama, for example, temporary campsites (including those on your land) need to be inspected by the health department to verify various factors, such as sewage and whether there are water usage channels. Also – what sorts of cooking facilities are present?

You might also get asked about any safety precautions you’ve taken, how long you plan to camp there, and for more information on the precise location of the campsite.

Can You Live in a Tent Permanently?

In most public places, living permanently in a tent is not allowed. It is illegal because tents do not meet the strict requirements that cities and counties have created to designate what types of living situations are deemed suitable for human dwelling.

However, if you are occasionally putting up a tent in the backyard so the kids can have fun or because you have some additional adventurous house guests, it will probably be okay. You will only start to run into issues with city ordinances and nosy neighbors if the tent camping becomes a permanent fixture.

Here’s an interesting spin. You can live in a tent (temporarily) on public land. Sometimes!

For example, on National Forest land, or plots of land owned by the Bureau of Land Management, you can legally live in a tent for upwards of two weeks. The two-week limit may be reached by consecutive nights of camping or through several separate visits. (There are small fees.)

After two weeks, the camper must move out of the area beyond a 25-mile radius.

Read More – Starting a Homestead With No Money! Our Full Guide!

Can You Live in a Camper on Your Land?

That depends. Some cities discriminate between tents vs. campers. For example, living in a tent in your backyard is probably illegal. The reason is that tents do not satisfy the parameters that most city ordinances have created regarding safe human dwellings.

On the other hand, it is probably legal to live in a camper or recreational vehicle (RV) on your land.

There are rules for living in a camper or RV as your primary residence on your land. The vehicle or lodging must conform to standard building codes for residential buildings. Every city will have its ordinance requirements, but there are many similarities.

If you plan to make a camper or RV your primary residence, a city inspector will probably have to approve the situation. They will likely double-check the following.

  • The camper or RV has heating and cooling
  • There is no mold or mildew
  • Adequate defense against rodents and insects exist
  • The windows open and close properly
  • The RV domicile has smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Electrical power
  • Potable running water
  • Operational toilet and access to the local septic tank or city sewage

Some cities will have stricter rules while others will be more relaxed. Typically, smaller and more rural towns have more relaxed ordinances. In small towns, most city ordinances may only get enforced when complaints from neighbors get lodged and logged.

Larger and more metropolitan cities have much stricter rules. Some neighborhoods do not allow people to live in campers or RVs because of their appearance. These limitations are doubly true for areas with home owner’s associations.

Read More – 13 Affordable Housing Options for Homesteaders!

Do You Need Planning Permission for a Tent?

The short answer to this question is – it depends.

For the occasional tent camping with the grandkids? You do not need planning permission. However, if you plan to have people living in tents for an extended period, especially as part of a camping business, you may need planning permission.

Glamorous camping, also known as glamping, has become a popular business model, especially in scenic locations. Rules also change depending on where you live. Take a fun sample in the UK – where glamping is popular. Tents or campsites that have plans to be open for 56 days out of the calendar year or more require planning permission.

However, tents that will be open for 56 days of the calendar year or less do not require planning permission under permitted development rights. Permitted development rights are a national grant of planning permission. They allow a predefined selection of structures (or structural changes) to made created without applying for planning permission.

backyard camping with yellow tent at night
You have options other than glamping in your backyard! There are also tons of local campsites. Many of them offer free registrations! Legally camping in rural, backcountry, and remote campsites will make it easier to avoid nosey neighbors. Or angry park rangers!

What Kind of Tent Can You Live in Safely and Legally?

When it comes to living in a tent, there are endless options. Deciding on what variety of tent you want to live in will depend on the following.

  • Local weather and time of the season
  • Number of people living with you
  • Extra space you need to store your things
  • Desire to be able to stand up fully
  • Duration of time you plan to spend living in a tent

One of the best tents you can live in is a yurt. A yurt, or ger, is a collapsible circular tent with an interior wooden structure. The tent’s exterior is typically some variety of heavy-duty fabric or animal skin.

Yurts originated among nomadic groups living in the steppes of Central Asia. They are still used today as the primary type of housing in countries like Mongolia. In Western countries, backyard yurts are now the rage as a modern kind of camping.

Yurts are perfect for living in during the winter. In the center, there is room for a stove and chimney. Around the yurt is ample space for sleeping quarters and storage areas. The circular shape of the yurt is not only ideal for easy set-up. It also helps trap heat. The circular shape is also deceptively strong.

camping chair and tent in backyard
Here are a few more tent tips! Try avoiding black bears. And raccoons – even in your backyard! Store food at least 100 yards away from your tent. Also – when setting up your tent, make sure to choose a high ground. The flatter – the better. Avoid setting up on a slope! Downward inclines make it easy for your tent to flood. No fun when you’re trying to stay warm. And dry!

Can You Survive Winter in a Tent?

Living in a tent during the winter introduces some additional obstacles. It will require some extra planning, but it is possible. If you consider living in a tent during the winter and want to thrive (and not just survive), consider the following.

Choosing the right tent will make or break your winter camping experience. You will need a four-season tent constructed with durable and insulating materials. The best winter tents are water repellent, fire retardant, and resist mold and mildew. For winter camping, the tent needs to be bigger than you expect. You must be able to accommodate the extra gear winter camping requires and have room to dry articles of clothing.

You must pack the correct winter gear to survive in a tent during the winter. One of the essential items you will need to bring is a wood-burning stove. Most winter tents get designed to accommodate a stove and chimney. The wood stove is not only crucial for keeping you warm. The woodstove will also help dry out clothes, sleeping bags, and shoes. It will also provide a hot cooking surface.

Besides a heat source and plenty of fuel, you will need an insulated sleeping bag or cold-weather sleeping bag, extra clothing layers, and cooking supplies and utensils.

Food storage during winter camping is superlatively vital – especially if you are camping in bear country. It’s also important to remember that you will not have a refrigerator to keep your food fresh. But the good news is if the temperature is cold enough, your food will stay chilled (and avoid spoiling) anyway!

Camping in a tent during the winter is fun, but there is some additional work you will have to do to be successful. Most extra maintenance revolves around managing the snow (if any). It’s important not to let snow accumulate on the top of the tent.

The snow can soak through, or worse, collapse the tent. Other crucial chores involve storing your food items correctly, managing the stove, and water filtration and purification.

Read More – Frugal Living Tips for Homesteaders!

Best Tents for Backyard Camping and Glamping Trips

Camping in your backyard is a ton of fun! We also love camping when fishing, hiking, backpacking, or exploring.

But choosing the best tent for your outdoor expedition is tricky.

We penned a list of the best tents to help make your glamping and hiking adventures comfier. And convenient!

We hope you enjoy them – and happy camping!

  1. Eight-Person Wenzel Klondike Water Resistant Tent with Convertible Screen

    If you're going to spend time outdoors glamping - you may as well give yourself plenty of room! This massive T-shape tent fits eight people comfortably and has mesh screen vents for airflow. It has polyester materials and polyurethane waterproofing. Perfect for backyard excursions, camping, hiking, fishing, and more. The tent proudly hails from the USA - and the reviews are mostly stellar.

    Get More Info

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    06/08/2024 11:44 am GMT
  2. Two-Person Waterproof Family Tent | Ciays

    This waterproof tent is lightweight and has stakes to secure it from the wind. It's also one of the most affordable tents we could find - while also having surprisingly positive reviews. The tent isn't that spacious, but it fits two full-sized adults without cramming. It's approximately 87-inches long, 61-inches wide, and 46-inches high. The tent also features two mesh sides with a big window. You get a good breeze - and more circulation.

    Get More Info

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    06/08/2024 11:48 am GMT
  3. Two-Person Four-Season Camping Tent | GEERTOP
    $145.99 $117.99

    If you want a small but warm tent that can keep the snow, rain, and wind at bay, here's a good choice. The tent flysheet is a strong polyester - and the doors have double layers. It also has a snow skirt to help funnel snow and rain away. The oxford fabric floor sheet is also waterproof. The tent isn't that big - but the interior fits two full-sized adults. The size is approximately 78-inches long, 55-inches wide, and 41-inches high. It's also extremely light - and only weighs around seven or eight pounds. Perfect for mountaineering, hiking, and adventuring.

    Get More Info

    PAID LINK - We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    06/08/2024 05:43 am GMT


If you are like many people, you love tent camping – so much so that you’ve even considered living in a tent for an extended amount of time. Living in a tent is affordable. Plus, you are often able to do so in beautiful outdoor places. However, you have to sacrifice some of the luxuries of living in an apartment or house.

Sadly, contrary to popular belief, you cannot pitch your tent in any place you choose. In most cases and most states in the United States, you cannot permanently live in a tent. You may find that city and county ordinances prevent people from living inside tents for extended periods.

Tents are not usually considered fit for human dwelling. At least, not according to building regulations and town codes anyway! However, that doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy tent camping temporarily or as a way to cut down on living expenses for a few weeks in the summer or even temporarily while you’re building your homestead.

Check with your local town or city planning board to learn whether living in a tent on your land is legal and to figure out if it’s right for you.

Read More – Let’s Build a Backyard Yurt! Step by Step!

Similar Posts


  1. Wow. It’s illegal to live in a tent you have on your own land??? You need permits to build small house on your land??? America really is not a free country huh.

    1. @Sita, Sadly you are right. I am sickened by America. They only make expensive ways to live and when you try to live a simple life its illegal. How backwards.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *