I have recently discovered the lean-to, a shelter with three walls. It seems considered as a shelter with more proximity to the nature.

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I have some worries though, regarding the wind and the warmth. I suppose it is usually set up so that the windier sides match the walled sides, but I am afraid it is not very isolating overall and that the temperature is very close to the outside temperature.

I plan on sleeping in closed shelters for all my trip but one night in a lean-to so I am wondering what to pack, apart from my sleeping bag, a mattress and a reusable emergency blanket in case I am cold during the night.

I will be hiking in October in Quebec. According to historical temperatures, I expect it will be 0-5°C outside and I have a sleeping bag for about 0 to -5°C.

My question is, do I need a tent to sleep inside a lean-to, or any other gear on top of my sleeping bag?

  • Look up the expected temperature for October in Quebec, and compare with the temperature rating of your sleeping bag.
    – user2169
    Jul 16, 2014 at 1:27
  • I updated my post, but I expect to know whether I should protect from the wind, and should I consider the temperature inside is the same as outside
    – Vince
    Jul 16, 2014 at 5:33
  • You can sleep inside it, if it get's too cold just set the lean-to on fire and sleep beside it, don't forget to cover yourself with the emergency blanket, just in case
    – Kyle
    Apr 8, 2016 at 13:03

4 Answers 4


IMO you totally don't need a tent. Plenty of people, including me, prefer to sleep out under the stars even if there's no hut. It can be difficult to sleep with a wind blowing across one's face, but that won't be happening inside the hut. It's also off the ground, so you won't be losing heat into the dirt.

Yes, the temperature inside will be the same as outside. Your bag is rated for colder temperatures than you expect, but if you're worried about being too cold, you could bring long underwear, which will also help you to stay comfy in the mornings and evenings around camp. Bring a wool beanie, too. I don't think an emergency blanket is going to be very useful in boosting warmth.

  • 3
    I've slept in similar shelters here in NZ, including a couple of occasions where there was snow on the ground. With 3 sides covered, wind is not really much of an issue. I have a good down bag so sleeping was not an issue - the coldest bit was sitting around before going to bed. However, as Ben says, you should be sleeping with a warm hat on. Jul 17, 2014 at 1:46
  • prefer to sleep out under the stars even if there's no hut — do you mean even if there is a hut? As phrased, it seems odd.
    – gerrit
    May 14, 2021 at 13:39

That lean-to in the link looks like it would shelter from all but the most wind driven rain. If you pack a cheap vinyl poncho that should take care of most situations. They are light enough that you can pack a second.

What is the temperature rating on your sleeping bag? 15F/-10C will probably be more than warm enough. If you are carrying a summer bag, you can supplement it with a sleeping bag liner.


A hut like this should at least be dry and reasonably sheltered so you might get draughts but not direct driving winds. This means that you can afford to focus on warmth rather than more general shelter if you are confident that you can reach a hut every night.

In this sort of context down sleeping bags are attractive as they offer excellent warmth and comfort for low weight. Their downside is that performance drops off sharply when they get damp but if you pack it in a drybag or heavy duty plastic bag during the day and have a soft screen for any wind driven rain you should be fine.

If you are sleeping in even the most basic huts you can certainly do away with a tent and, if you want, put some of that saved weight and bulk into a warmer sleeping bag.

If you are worried about wind driven rain getting into the hut the best option is to baffle the door with something like a panel of parachute silk, eve with only 3 sides to your shelter you won't need a fully waterproof tarp.

If you can use an open fire outside the hut then you have the option of either heating some rocks or sand and bringing them into the hut as central heating or putting the embers from your fire in a cooking pot to do the same thing.

Similarly leaving a candle to burn overnight can take the edge off the cold if there aren't too many draughts.

In the absence of anything else placing your pack across the threshold of the door will cut out low level draughts a lot.

If it is permissible to use open fires a slow burning fire with a reflector can be very effective in heating an open shelter.

Ultimately comfortable sleep is a lot to do with personal preference and it is worth getting a sense of how warm you feel in a given sleeping bag before you go on a long trek.


For a lean-to:

  • Sleeping bag - And other sleeping items for warmth.
  • Ground pad - The floor of the lean-to will chill you almost as quickly as the ground. Also it protects your sleeping bag from dirt, etc.
  • A tarp - This is for hanging across the door if needed to block wind and/or precipitation.

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