As a grown man that screams like a little girl every time I see snake it’s easy to see why so many people are afraid to go camping. There’s just something about snakes that scares even the manliest of men. Does a tent keep you safe from snakes or can they crawl below and bite you in your sleep?
Can a snake bite through a tent? It’s possible for a snake to bite through a tent, but it’s not likely. Snakes are afraid of humans and they will most likely slither away the minute you set up camp. Even if a snake decides to crawl under your tent they probably won’t bite you.
You still need to be careful even if it’s unlikely for a snake to bite through the walls of your tent. If you see him once he’s still nearby. Continue reading below to learn about how I keep snakes away from my tent.
Can a Snake Bite Through a Tent?
I never really thought about snakes biting through a tent until my girlfriend Jen brought it up. After going on a short morning hike, we were welcomed back to camp by the smallest rattlesnake I’ve ever seen. It immediately darted away and slithered underneath our tent.
After a long irrational conversation Jen brought up the possibility of a snake biting us through the tent walls. I guess it’s possible, but I never thought of that. Every snake I’ve ever encountered has slithered away before I had time to process it.
I guess technically if they did bite at the tent wall their fangs would sink through. Tent walls really aren’t all that thick so it is possible, but highly unlikely. It just doesn’t make sense for a snake to bite randomly at inanimate objects that they aren’t interested in eating.
In my own limited research I couldn’t find any cases of snakes biting through a tent wall. I even called up my states wildlife division to ask what they thought. After an embarrassingly long laugh they finally said that it was highly unlikely.
What About Poisonous Snakes?
Poisonous snake bites aren’t all that dangerous in the United States. We have easy access to anti-venom and snakes found in the USA have slow acting venoms.
According to the CDC there are 4 poisonous snakes in the United States. We have the Rattlesnake, Copperhead, Water Mocassin/Cottonmouth, and Coral Snake. There are multiple subspecies of each which I won’t get into.
Although they are dangerous, poisonous snakebites aren’t usually fatal in the United Sates. You should survive as long as you can get to the hospital within the first 6-24 hours.
Snakes Will Usually Stay Away From Your Tent
When a human walks up and starts setting up camp they usually slither away without ever trying to attack. They understand that humans are way bigger than them, irrational, and therefore risky.
There’s just no reason to attack when they can just as easily slither away. If you corner them or act aggressive they might strike, but chances are low. Snakes just don’t want to be around people so they will avoid contact.
Think about what’s running through a snakes mind when they see a tent go up. It’s a massive structure that they’ve probably never seen before. There’s no prey animals in site and human keeps stomping around.
They just don’t have any incentive to slither under your tent. With that being said I have seen the occasional snake around camp, but they don’t stay long.
Keeping Snakes Out of Your Tent
It can take a really long time to start feeling comfortable sleeping in a tent. Those spooky stories children are told around the campfire probably don’t help matters. I doubt you will encounter a ghost in your tent, but it’s possible for a snake to crawl inside.
You’re much more likely to have a snake crawl into your tent than bite you through the floor or wall. If you’re inside the tent there’s very little chance a snake will enter. It’s just not in their best interest to interact with humans.
However, you could run into problems when leaving your tent for a while. Who knows what’s going to crawl inside a wide-open tent.
Use a Fully Enclosed Tent
You might be surprised that lots of people camp in tarp style shelters that don’t have a floor. These makeshift tents are lightweight and extremely popular in the ultralight community.
They do have one major downside! It can be tough to keep out rodents, insects, and other creepy crawlies. Ever wake up to a strange animal curled up beside you? I think I’d have a heart attack if a snake slithered up alongside me.
I have a serious snake phobia so I need a tent with a floor to feel secure. Even when I use an ultralight setup I still buy a fully enclosed tent just in case. Snakes are cold-blooded so they generally sleep at night, but sleeping with one is not a risk I’m willing to take.
Snakes Can Crawl Into Your Gear
Be very careful when dealing with gear that’s left outside. Snakes are known to crawl inside peoples boots, packs, sleeping bags, etc. They will crawl into any place that’s dark, warm and secure.
Your hiking boots are the perfect habitat for your scaly friend. If you do stumble across a snake in your gear just use a long stick to coax him outside. Keep your distance so you don’t get bit and he should flee eventually.
Shake The Snake Out Of Your Sleeping Bag
Get into the habit of shaking out your sleeping bag before crawling in. Snakes love to crawl into dark warm holes, so they’ve been known to crawl into sleeping bags. You don’t want to crawl inside and come face to face with a snake.
This is usually just a concern in open tent setups, but it is possible in a fully enclosed tent. Snakes can get into very tight and unusual spaces so you never know what you’ll find.
I’ve never personally found a snake in my sleeping bag, but I have found mice on more than 1 occasion. When you find mice there are always snakes nearby waiting for a snack. There’s no reason for a snake to come by without a food source.
To keep snakes out of your tent, work on keeping rodents away. This means eliminating all food sources inside your tent. You might want to consider purchasing a bear canister (like the bear vault) or keep food in a cooler or sealed plastic container.
This will help keep away raccoons and possums as well. You might to check out my other post describing how I keep raccoons away from my campsite.
Just be careful and remember that you’re camping in the outdoors. You have to take the good with the bad. There’s always a chance you’ll run into a snake.
What Should I Do If There’s a Snake In My Tent?
First Off, Don’t Panic! That’s easier said than done if you’re inside with him. Try to get outside so that you can handle the situation without getting bit.
Once you’re outside the tent start off by eliminating places for the snake to hide. Keep a safe distance and try to pull out your sleeping bag, pack, boots, etc. You want to work with a wide-open floor so you don’t lose track of him. Fishing a snake out of your boots or pack is not fun (Trust Me)!
Stay outside of the striking distance and attempt to coax him outside using a long stick or trekking pole. He will be very scared and in fight or flight mode so stay far away to avoid getting bit. If the door of your tent is open he will eventually find his way outside.
What If a Snake is On Top of My Tent?
It’s actually pretty common to stumble across a snake sunning themselves on the top of your tent. Think about how warm the top of your tent gets on a hot summer day. That’s the perfect place for a cold-blooded animal to soak in some rays.
So what should you do if a snake is on your tent? Having a snake on top of your tent really isn’t all that dangerous. You’re more likely to get bit trying to get him off than if you were to just ignore him.
With that being said, there are times when you will have to get him off. Just toss a small rock, pine cone, etc at the top of your tent and he should leave fast.
Would you like getting hit in the head with a rock? I highly doubt it! There’s no need to actually hit him with a rock. Hit the top of the tent a few times and he will leave.
What if I Get Bit?
There’s no excuse to ever get bit if you know the snake is there. You should be taking proper safety precautions by keeping a wide berth. Given the chance to bite or run a snake will always run. They only bite when trapped or startled.
Luckily, most snake bites in the United States and North America aren’t immediately life threatening. Even if the snake is poisonous you usually have at least 24 hours to get to the hospital. If you end up getting bit it’s important to follow proper safety precautions.
- Try to identify the snake so you can tell your doctor what bit you. Attempt to get a picture of the snake to assist with identification and treatment.
- Treat all snake bites like an emergency and get medical attention. I highly recommend treating all snake bites like they’re poisonous. You’re not a professional herpetologist (snake scientist) so leave identifying the snake up to the experts.
- Try not to panic! Try to control your emotions so your pulse and blood pressure stay stable. I know it’s easier said than done, but freaking out increases blood flow and speeds up the spread of toxins.
- Head back to your car and get treatment as fast as you can. If you’re out in the middle of nowhere and can’t get immediate treatment, you need to work on preventing infection. Apply disinfectant and antibiotic ointment and cover up the wound with your first aid kit.
Don’t Do Any of The Following!
- Try to pick up or trap the snake. Never handle a snake that you think is poisonous. Doesn’t matter if it’s alive or dead.
- Seek immediate medical attention. Assume the bite is poisonous and never wait for symptoms to appear. Once symptoms appear you’ve already caused permanent damage.
- Don’t apply a tournique, slash the wound or try to suck out the venom. All this does is increase the chance of infection.
- Don’t take anything that can thin your blood. No alcohol or painkillers like aspirin/naproxen.
- Don’t apply ice or attempt to soak the wound in water.