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2023 Preparedness - Wednesday Wisdom: Week 40

October 4, 2023

Last week we addressed five things someone just beginning their self-reliance journey should do first. The next month we will dive a little deeper into these challenges.

Outdoor Shelters

If you are outside and need shelter, location is everything. Your shelter should be downwind, on high ground, and far enough away from the water to avoid insects and animals who may be using it. It should also be close to a site clear enough to build a small fire. `Your location should be protected but also easy to exit in case of a problem or to signal rescuers.

A good shelter should be weatherproof, for rain, snow, and wind. Test your shelter by entering it and moving around. Look up to check for light coming through and holes. If you see either of these you have more work to do.

In cold weather or when nights get cold the ground will draw down your body temperature quickly. Your shelter should allow for you to place plenty of insulating material between your body and the ground. Dead leaves, tarps, blankets, Mylar blankets, newspaper, and even the floor mats from the car can be used as ground insulation.

The entrance to any shelter should be kept small and low to keep the warm air from escaping and the wind from entering. You can build a windbreak to go in front of your entrance with sticks and boughs. A windbreak should be far enough away to allow you to enter the shelter without disturbing it. Windbreaks can also be made to be pulled up against the shelter acting like a door. Now it's time to build.

An A Frame Tent:

To make an A-frame tent will need rope or sturdy branches and materials for a "roof". Begin by stretching a rope between two mature trees. If you do not have a rope wedge a branch into a crook in two trees. Fold a tarp, plastic sheeting, or blanket in half lengthwise and place the fold over the branch or rope. Anchor the tarp to the ground using heavy rocks or make stakes out of sturdy branches. If you are using a blanket cover it with Mylar blankets or tree boughs to make your shelter more weatherproof.


The best place to build a lean-to is on the downwind side of a cliff, wall, or stand of trees. Avoid gullies where pockets of cold air will collect. If your house has been condemned you may be able to use the garage wall.

A lean-to can be created by using tree boughs, weeds, bushes, and sticks if stranded or evacuating to a park or wooded area. A sturdy low-hanging tree limb may be used as the main ridgepole if you do not have a sturdy rope. Layer sticks and boughs or anything you may not need for warmth, to provide a thick cover that can keep out the wind and offer weather protection as well. If the weather remains below freezing during the day packed snow can be used to fill in any holes.

If you have skis available, you can use the ski poles to form the framework of your shelter. Plant the poles in the snow and using the traps on the poles secure the skis as your ridge pole. Now you can drape a tarp of pine boughs over your frame. Add packed snow around the base of the poles to keep them stable.

If at home nail a tarp to the side of the house or a nail or zip tie to a fence. Pull the loose side of the tarp away from the house or fence and secure it to the ground using ground staples or rocks.

Create doors at the sides using blankets, other tarps or Mylar blankets.

If your home is not inhabitable but you don’t want to leave, your car can become your shelter. A Mylar blanket over the roof and the windows can greatly reduce the heat. Be sure to leave the windows open an inch or two. If it is winter a candle in a non-flammable container can keep the interior warm enough for a blanket or coat to make it cozy. If you have a pickup place your tent in the bed. Layer blankets, sleeping bags, or even newspapers on the floor of the tent. Cold air moving under the truck will make it cold to sleep without a layer of insulation.

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