The First Day of Christmas - Shelter
We wanted to review some prepping staples over the Twelve Days of Christmas and so we will begin with shelter.
Of course your home is your primary shelter – the roof over your head that keeps you out of the rain and walls that keep you out of the wind. But when you are on the move – what would you do if you can’t get home and need to stay out of the elements?
Assuming you don’t have the room for your sleeping bag - the two pieces of kit that we recommend are a Bivy Bag and the military poncho and poncho liner.
The Bivy Bag is essentially a mylar blanket tailor cut as a sleeping bag – the mylar material reflects most of your body heat back at you. The tailor cut means you don’t have to mess with gaps and spaces where your body heat would escape while trying to wrap an emergency blanket around yourself. The bag is both a wind break (prevents loss of your body heat by convection / wind swirling your heat away) and a moisture barrier. But while it will usually keep you out of the rain, your perspiration and more importantly the moisture in the breath will stay inside the bag so you may get damp. Also since it is only a mylar layer, heat will still be conducted away from you at any point that is in contact with a hard surface (like the ground). By itself, a Bivy Bag might prevent you from going hypothermic but don’t expect that you will be warm and comfortable. You may have to sit up to limit conduction. But since they are small and light, they should be an essential in your car or go bag. And if you have a sleeping bag, they can increase the thermal rating of the bag by 5o F.
The military style poncho and poncho liner (or woobie), is the next step up again assuming you don’t have a sleeping bag. If you cinch the poncho hood down you can use it as a tie off point and suspend the hood from any overhead tree or branch with some 550 cord or bungee cord. Peg down the corners and you have a make shift tent. Low to the ground, you won’t have much space that you have to heat up and you can be quite cozy underneath. I used to pile pine needles or leaves on three sides to prevent wind from whipping through.
If you haven’t tried a poncho liner (aka the woobie), I highly recommend this piece of kit. It retains its insultation properties even when damp. It dries quickly and is a great addition to any sleep system / sleeping bag. It weighs just over a pound so super light and with strings along the edges it can be tied into the poncho to make an insulated over or you can just wrap up in it as a blanket.
And if you want to do things on the cheap, you can always fabricate a shelter with a tarp or plastic sheeting, a foam pad (like the egg carton style) and some newspaper (or any paper product). Put down some leaves, pine boughs or other material to keep you off the ground. Fold the tarp and foam pad in half (so you can lay between the two layers and place the newspaper over the top form layer and under the top of the tarp. This will keep you pretty warm and the moisture will be absorbed by the newspaper. The only issue I see with this is if you are spending the time to put these materials together – why not spend a few dollars more and get something designed to keep you warm and dry?
Of course if you have space to pack your sleeping bag, you should do so. Why not have one in your car in the trunk? What type of weather do you expect and get a sleeping bag with an appropriate rating.
Same with a tent: how many people do you want to shelter? What conditions do you expect? And what is your budget? Get a tent for the circumstances you expect to encounter.
But once you have planned out your emergency shelter outside of the home – make sure you have it in a place where you can get to it when you need it. A tent and sleeping bags packed in the attic don’t do you much good when the home is damaged and your emergency supplies along with it.
So for the First Day of Christmas – plan out how you want to stay out of the weather in an emergency. Just like a partridge in a pear tree….
De Oppresso Liber