Saturday, May 11, 2013

Load Out's Part 2: Shelter

I started talking about load out's awhile back. For whatever reason I sort of forgot about it. In any case TEOTWAWKI Blog's discussion of shelter options for a "bug out bag" got me back to it. Maybe instead of going through a whole kit I will just talk about sub systems. In any case here we go. Shelter is important first so you can avoid dying from exposure and second so you can get quality rest.  Getting quality rest is important so you can be at your best to deal with whatever is going on.

What I carry for shelter in the field is 2x poncho's and a standard issue EWCS Sleep System. I've talked about the sleep system before. They are not the cheapest thing out there for a sleeping bag but the combination of ruggedness, utility across a wide range of temperatures and value they are a really good option. Standard prices seem to run about $200 though they occasionally show up gently used in the $50-75 range. 

Typically when I bed down at night here is how it goes. 1 poncho gets wrapped around my ruck and gear to keep it dry in case of rain or morning dew. The other poncho is to wrap around myself over the bivy. Maybe a bit belt and suspendersish but this setup has kept me dry and comfortable in really nasty weather.

If I have more time or am going to be someplace for awhile 1 poncho is tied to a tree or something to make a little shelter. To support this 1 poncho has some short pieces of 550 cord on the corner grommets. Some folks include a tent pole or two so they can make a shelter even if trees or significant brush are absent. Personally I do not bother though if I lived someplace where trees and such are absent that could change.

The system described works pretty well to around 15 deg For so sustained lows. Colder than that and it starts to get sad. You really want some sort of shelter, ideally with insulation, that you can heat up when it gets cold like that. It could be a tent, a debris shelter, a snow cave or a building. Depending on where you live this might be a significant consideration.

The two reasons I can see myself going to something heavier like a tent are if I am going to be staying someplace for awhile or if it's really cold out.

I would stick with this general theme regardless of budget. If money was tight you can delay the bivy. A poncho (also useful for it's intended function) or tarp of some sort will work to cover up your sleeping bag. On the higher end I've wanted a Swack Shack for awhile.

What is your shelter plan?


Commander_Zero said...

A buddy of mine has the Kifaru ParaHooch and it's a fair 'emergency' shelter. Its really a 'just in case' kind of thing but it packs VERY small and provides okay protection if you get caught out for a night when hunting or fishing.

I've been very curious about the GoLite ShangriLa 3- person tarp/tipi. Here's a link to a blog with some reviews...

Also, the military issues a one-man tent...made by Catoma, I believe. Perhaps they dont issue them any more or not to your specific group, but they look promising.

Chris said...

I've done a lot of backpacking in a variety of conditions and had good luck with the Peak One and REI brand series of 3-season tents.

In Alaska in the late fall and early spring we did some camping in a 3+ season REI "Arete" and that works well.

They are much heavier than a poncho, obviously.

Anonymous said...

I carry a Wenzel Current (well, mine's a Starlight, but Current's the current name)which is, even after a box of dye, fabric paint, and a DWR rewash, an extremely cheap, small, light, and wonderful tent and a USGI poncho for living space when the weather's mildly crappy, for tent fortification when the weather is extremely crappy, and for a cheap (and poor) bivy when the weather is not crappy, I'm lazy, and/or circumstances dictate that I might need to leave in a hurry. My gear usually sleeps in the tent or, if not using the tent, in its own little tent-like set-up utilizing a waterproof pack cover. For sleeping, I use a poncho liner and/or lightweight Slumber Jack twenty degree bag on a closed cell foam mat. That combo (along with food and essentials for three days) all fits in a school type backpack (well, with the mat bungeed to the front) and has (when my job required) kept me comfy on a four degree snowy night in the mountains.

I occasionally ponder ditching the tent for another poncho and some poles like you mention, but I always decide that for the very negligible difference in weight (and no difference in pack space I think) that I'll retain the ability to keep out bugs. It does get a little condensation, but never so much that I can't decide not to care about it. It really is an amazing product that gets absolutely no notice; though, someone must buy them because mine's twenty years old, and they're still cranking them out.

One other thought: I'm only 5'9", so my sleeping bag is a women's model--fits perfectly, and no extra material to pack or space to heat. Other vertically challenged readers may wish to explore the option. And while it might be my imagination, it seems like the "for women" gear is more often on sale.

Anonymous said...

Got a swack shack. Very happy with it. I'd seen their site, but then a buddy of mine showed me the one he bought from them. The site doesn't do justice to the quality. Once I saw it, I bought one.

It's very light and is up and down in minutes. The different ways you can set it up are cool, too.

The bivy has lots of room which is important. I don't worry about bugs. I use deet when I'm out cause I don't spend 24/7 inside a screened tent.

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