What to Carry for Use as an Emergency Shelter

Any time you’re out in the wilds, you should make sure you can keep yourself provided with the basics of life support. It doesn’t matter what you have planned or when you expect to be back – things can go wrong, and before you know it you’re facing the prospect of a night in the woods with nothing but what you’re carrying. Depending on the weather, that might not be a big deal – a warm summer night isn’t much of a challenge – but throw in rain and a cold wind and things quickly get a lot more serious. You should never head away from civilization without some way to start a fire, but shelter is even more important.

Without shelter, you can be in a whole lot of trouble pretty quickly. Weatherproof clothes will keep the rain off you, but it’s always better to avoid it landing on you in the first place. Wind will strip away your body heat and the more barriers you can set up the better. If you can create a space the weather can’t get into, you’ll be a lot more comfortable – and in an emergency your chances of survival will be higher.

BlanketObviously, if you have a tent with you, that’s as good as shelter gets – so set it up and crawl inside. Most experienced hikers have done this at some point when the weather got too nasty for them to keep going. Not all outdoor activities involve a tent though. If you’ve been out duck hunting or geocaching, or sailing a dinghy, and something goes wrong – what then? You’re stuck, you might have to wait hours or overnight to get rescued, and the temperature is dropping. That’s when you need something that can be tucked away in a pocket or pack, but will help you stay warm when you need it.

The simplest, lightest and cheapest shelter you can get is a survival blanket. These only cost a few dollars, they weigh a couple of ounces and they fold down to not much bigger than a pack of cigarettes. They’re amazingly effective though. It’s just a sheet of tough, lightweight plastic with a silvery coating that reflects body heat. It’s also waterproof and windproof, and wrapping yourself in one will make an incredible difference. Larger ones are often taped into a bag so you can crawl inside, giving even better protection, and they might have one side silver and the other orange for high visibility to rescuers.

A step up is a military poncho. These are heavier, up to a pound or more, but they’re also larger and a lot more robust. They can be folded in half and used as emergency stretchers, or hung between two trees with 550 cord or bungees to make a fast but effective shelter. In fact, they’re so effective that some lightweight backpackers carry one instead of a tent.

Other options include Gore-Tex bivi bags or tunnel tents, but again these add weight and bulk. It’s up to you how much you’re willing to carry. The main thing is to have something that will keep the elements off you when it’s needed, and to know how to use it. Sort that out and you’ll be a lot more able to survive whatever the world throws at you.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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