Context: my protagonist is a single woman travelling on horseback with an all-male company, from whom she has reason to fear violence and would be strongly resistant to sharing sleeping quarters with them. They'll be on the road for a period of several weeks, and can't expect to reach an inn or a town every night. It's early spring in a temperate climate where rain is normal, so sleeping under the stars isn't really feasible.

Edited to clarify: she fears violence but doesn't have a choice about travelling with them, and isn't actually going to come under threat - of the six of them, two would actively defend her and only one wishes her harm, but can't act on said wish. I promise it makes sense in the story!

I wonder if it would be sensical in a medieval-ish fantasy setting for her to have her own small tent rather than have to bunk with them or sleep under the stars. I know that it's possible in the modern day to have a tent sized just for one person, of course, and given the limitations the setting puts on tech this tent might be sized for two people, I just wonder what such a thing would look like in the first place/how it would be constructed.

Can anyone speak to whether such a thing was/would be possible (especially something that would be portable on horseback), and if so what it might look like? I'm feeling a little unsure about arbitrarily sticking the detail in, and have been having trouble with the research myself. If you think it wouldn't make sense, any other suggestions as to how to deal with the situation, other than "she'll just have to share"?

  • $\begingroup$ How many are they ? is there just one tent for everyone ? what about a simple sheet to make a sort of room in the tent ? $\endgroup$
    – Kepotx
    Dec 15 '17 at 8:18
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    $\begingroup$ If she has reason to fear violence from the men, and is aware of this risk, then why is she travelling with them at all? Her reasons for travelling with them in the first place may very well put constraints on the solutions available to her. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Dec 15 '17 at 8:29
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling +1, I would add that a simple tent, even if it's his own tent, can't offer lot of protection. I mean, you can't lock it, if the men really want to hurt her, a piece of fabric won't stop them. And if they are enough, they don't even need to wait the night... $\endgroup$
    – Kepotx
    Dec 15 '17 at 8:55
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    $\begingroup$ "A single woman travelling on horseback with an all-male company, from whom she has reason to fear violence and would be strongly resistant to sharing sleeping quarters with them": this is nonsensical. If she fears them at night she should fear them in daytime too. Men are perfectly able to offer violence during daytime; we are definitely not nocturnal animals. I cannot even begin to understand why a woman would travel willingly with men she is afraid of; from the question I get the impression that she's more afraid of losing her honor than of losing her life. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 15 '17 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ Tent in general is all right, but personal tents were quite uncommon. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Dec 15 '17 at 18:05

Yes, tents for one were usual since Roman times. They were made with big pieces of waxed wool-cloth and they could be transported folded:

enter image description here

She can bring the sticks too and assemble it in a few minutes or get them on the road.

If your company expects to be several days on the road, they are bringing spare horses that carry a lot of food (big horses need more than just grass), water, blankets, spades, ropes...

She, adding her personal tent isn't a big deal. Some blankets can make it more intimate.


If you mean violence as in rape, I would suggest she can tie herself into a kind of very loose sleeping bag blanket with her hands and arms free inside, with daggers. She can ensure her sleeping companions know it, and will wake in time to stab anybody trying to unlace her or cut through her blanket. Of course they might try to knock her out first!

Another idea is to just wear a poncho (again with daggers at the ready) and a very wide hat to protect the head from rain. The private tent (although historically accurate) is a bad idea, it prevents her from seeing others gather or approach.

I would see if she might be able to arrange ropes or netting up in a tree so she can sleep in it without worrying about falling out, again with a hat and waxed blanket to stay dry, and a dagger for self defense. On the ground she can be grappled and pinned or knocked out, I don't think men will try something twenty feet up in the air where a push or a slip might be lethal, and she could plausibly hear them coming and wake up.


If she knows how to build a lean-to, or something as simple as that, she could pehaps sleep, albeit uneasy. If she has no skills in campcraft, it would probably not be a good trip for her. I imagine she would have to bunk with the man she trusted the most, and have a knife at the ready. Either way, it should make for great suspense.


Tents of all sizes and descriptions have been around for a long time. enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

A tent can be poleless (just canvas as rope), the canvas being stretched across a natural depression or between trees, or could rely on a single or two posts (all of which could fit on a horse).

  • $\begingroup$ Those tents look decidedly modern in both design and materials. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Dec 15 '17 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion How so? I see no evidence of nylon or fiberglass. Construction mostly on squares and triangle implies simpler production equipment; mass production makes any shape more or less equal. $\endgroup$
    – user25818
    Dec 15 '17 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ Of those the last looks like something she could reasonably carry/construct on her own, if on a smaller scale. Thank you! $\endgroup$
    – JuliaMir
    Dec 15 '17 at 20:08

A one person tent is normally more than half the mass of a two person tent (something like a square/cube law). If you are set on traveling light bigger tents make sense. Generally also about as much trouble to erect and take down as a two person which can be extra bothersome if the user is less experienced or has no one to hold the other end of stuff.

A one person tent is generally less comfortable than a two person tent. If you are fighting the environment it probably makes sense to work together. Normally stoves don't fit in personal sized tents either which is a big factor if cold is a problem. Height is very helpful in keeping a tent cool, but tall tents with a small footprint are nearly as bulky as tall tents with a large footprint, and might be obnoxious to set up especially if there is any wind.

Tents are not armor. If something bigger than an insect is interested at getting inside it probably can. Against a serious threat tents are worse than sleeping under the stars, because they limit your senses and mobility. They might offer a moment warning as an attacker rips through it, but that isn't any better than setting tripwires or scattering dry twigs to snap under approaching feet.

If there is no need to make a defensible camp sleeping away from the others might be a better choice, it can be very hard to find a sleeping person (who doesn't snore) at night if you only have a vague idea where they are. In any kind of brush or not flat terrain you might walk within a few feet of a bivouac without noticing it. If she walks 100 meters from camp before laying down several men might search most of the night without finding her.


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