Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Simple Shelters

Last week, I talked about the basics of shelters, what makes them work, and what to look for when establishing one. This week, we'll take a look at a couple very basic shelter setups.

Both of these shelters start with the same base: a waterproof tarp. I prefer using 8x10 tarps for shelters, because they're large enough to provide good cover, but small and light enough to be easily packable. For an even more compact piece of kit, an 8x10 square of heavy-gauge plastic would perform almost as well, at the cost of a slight decrease in durability.

The first shelter is a basic tent or lean-to. This is a place for the paracord that we've all talked about in the past to shine. The basic lean-to is mostly useful in warmer conditions, but built up properly, it can provide lifesaving shelter even in very cold temperatures.

A basic lean-to.  Image from www.cleversurvivalist.com
String your paracord between two trees or other supports; high enough to fit under, but low enough to be snug. Drape your tarp across the cord, and anchor it to the ground to give it strength. In warm weather, this may be enough shelter, especially if you keep the area inside relatively tight as smaller shelters retain heat better. If need be, light branches or other foliage can be used to insulate the shelter, as well as insulating your body and bedding from the ground. Building the lean-to with the open side facing some manner of wind break will also make a huge improvement in heating and protection from the elements.

If you lack supports or paracord, a simple "burrito" shelter works quite well. This is exclusively a warm-weather shelter, useful 6-8 months of the year in Utah, but potentially a 12-month shelter in southern California or Florida.

Start by centering your sleeping bag in your tarp.  You want roughly a one-foot overlap at both the head and foot of the bag.  If you happen to have a sleeping pad as well, place it on top of the sleeping bag at this point.

 Fold one side of your tarp over the top of your sleeping bag.

Fold the other side over to match.

Flip the whole assembly over, and tuck the portion below the foot under the burrito roll.

The overlap left at the head of the bag provides a sheltered area for your head, boots, and other small gear.

The only insulation provided by the burrito shelter is that of your sleeping bag, so be sure that the bags you buy are rated appropriately for the conditions where you live and travel. While it does a rather admirable job of keeping out modest amounts of water, heavier storms will intrude on it, but they intrude on virtually all impromptu shelters and even some tents. 

A burrito can also be made using larger tarps; they just need to be folded down to roughly 8x10 or so. The tarp I used to demonstrate this shelter was 10x20, and simply happened to be the most convenient tarp I had. It worked very well.

Stay warm and dry out there!


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