Can Rats Get Into Tents?


Imagine waking up to a rat scurrying around your tent looking for food. Digging through your pack and tearing up gear. That’s one of my nightmares after living through a rat infestation in college. So can rats get into tents and how can I keep them out?

Yes rats can easily get into tents. They can chew through a tent wall in seconds and make their way into your pack looking for food and bedding material. Keep food, trash, and smelly items outside your tent in rodent proof containers.

You don’t want to invite unwanted rats and other rodents into your tent.

How Do Rats Get Into Tents?

You don’t want to wake up to a rat inside your tent. Rats are some of the meanest nastiest little buggers on this planet. They fight and bite their way out of any confrontation. Plus they carry disease and bacteria (think bubonic plague).

It doesn’t matter where you setup camp or pitch a tent, there’s always a chance you’ll run into rats. Rats aren’t just in the cities. They hide in trees, shrubs, under decks, patios, and who knows where else. There’s really no way to avoid them so you’ll need to work on rodent proofing your tent.

If mice can chew through tents walls, then rats definitely can. A rats razor sharp teeth can tear through a tent wall in seconds. It’s even easier for them to get into floorless tents.

How Do I Keep Rats Out Of My Tent?

Keeping rats out of a tent is easier said than done. First you need to think about what rats are attracted to in your tent. They won’t risk their lives for nothing, so you must have something they want if they’re coming into your tent.

Rats are generally interested in getting two things out of tents. They’re mostly looking for food, but they also want nesting materials. Keeping your food out of the tent is 99% of the battle, but rats have learned that sleeping bag filling is an excellent insulator for nests.

You can’t go without a sleeping bag so you have to hope for the best. Rats are food driven so they usually won’t bother with a foodless tent, but they’re unpredictable. Do your best to remove food and smelly products from the tent.

The following tips should help keep rats out of your tent. I’ll break it down into what you should do during the day or night. Just remember that you should never leave food unattended inside your tent.

  • Day: Rats/mice rarely come out during the day, but squirrels and chipmunks are just as bad. Keep all your food secured in a cooler, car or rodent proof bag outside your tent. Never leave your food inside the tent and keep it by your side at all times. That means carrying the food with you on hikes or storing it in the car or locked in a bear canister.
  • Night: Car campers should store their food in the car or lock it in a cooler or bear canister. Backpackers need to hang their food in a rodent/odor proof bag or lock it in a bear canister. Never sleep with your food in the tent. You could end up face to face with an unfriendly animal visitor.

Do They Make Rat Proof Tents

It really doesn’t matter what tent you buy, none of them will be completely rat proof. Rats have razor sharp teeth so they can basically chew through anything. A tent is like tearing through a piece of paper when you think about how easy it is for a rat to chew through the side of a house.

You’re better off spending the time/money on rodent proofing your food supply to draw them away from the tent. All it takes is a good cooler or steel mesh rodent bag (like this one) to protect your food from rats.

Buy a Tent With a Floor

You might want to save some weight by ditching your tent floor, but that’s another deterrent for rodents and insects. A floor won’t keep rodents out for long, but it will temporarily deter them. Plus you won’t have to deal with as many bugs on hot summer days.

Dryer Sheets and Moth Balls

Dryer sheets and moth balls will keep rats away over the course of a few nights, but it won’t work in areas with lots of campers. Rats are afraid of anything that’s new in their environment. So they’ll stay away from a tent that’s surrounded by the chemical smell found in dryer sheets and moth balls.

That will work in seldom used campgrounds and privately owned property, but it’s not going to work in busy camping areas. You won’t be the first person that’s thought to bring dryer sheets and moth balls. Once rats get used to the smell they’ll ignore it and keep foraging.

Rats Are Active At Night

Rats forage for food at night so you’ll need to pay special attention once the sun goes down. You know there’s a serious infestation if rats come out during the day. That means there’s not enough food to feed the swarm at night so they have to forage during the day as well.

Don’t bring your food inside the tent at night. Store it outside in a locking cooler, bear canister, or leave the food in your car. Backpackers should bring a rodent proof bag like the RATSACK that’s made out of steel mesh. Just make sure you store everything in an odor proof container or OPSAK Odor Proof Bag so you don’t draw rats and other animals into camp.

You don’t want to have a bunch of rats scurrying around the campsite. They’re still spreading disease, even if they don’t get your food. Plus rats are nasty! I know that’s just my opinion, but I stand by it.

Watch Out For Squirrels and Chipmunks During The Day

You mostly need to worry about squirrels and chipmunks during the day. A squirrel probably doesn’t send shivers down your spine like a rat, but they can be just as bad. They can become extremely aggressive since most people aren’t afraid of them and often feed them.

You don’t have to worry about squirrels invading your sleeping bag, but you’ll still want to take precautions during the day. Keep all your food outside the tent in rodent proof bags/containers and never leave food unattended. A squirrel can take off with your lunch in seconds.

Squirrels/chipmunks carry all the same diseases as rats and mice. So your food needs to be thrown away if they come into contact with it. Be on the safe side! Throw it away if there’s any doubt.

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