Hybrid shelter: tarp, blanket and leaves

In my bug-out pack, I keep an 8x10 foot tarp and a military issue wool blanket. One of the missions of my latest outing was to experiment with the tarp and blanket to make a quick and effective (warm and waterproof) shelter. The weather was about 33 degrees F and rainy that night, so it was a perfect testing ground.

I chose a beech-oak-hickory forest on a south-east facing slope. The debris was dry on this side of the slopes because it gets more sun, whereas the debris elsewhere was quite soggy from recent rains. I found a small flat section amidst the steep and rocky topography, at which there was a massive fallen oak tree. The space from the base to about 7 feet out seemed perfect to drape my tarp over, and stuff with debris, in the shape of a debris shelter.

I simply draped the tarp over and secured each side with long heavy branches. I tucked the tarp carefully into the bottom end, to avoid drafts. Because the trunk was so large, it would be difficult to sufficiently lace up the open end of the tarp. So I tied a rope tightly around that end, so that the tarp was wrapped around the full circumference. That allowed me to lace shut the ends, loosely.

Seemed like a good shelter support
A little too roomy, in retrospect
Stuffed with debris and ready to be laced shut
I then used the wool blanket to gather leaves and stuff the tarp shelter. It took very little time, on account of the recent fall.

Gathering debris this time of year is incredibly fast and easy. The debris is so fresh and fluffy, not like the year-old, moldy, mostly rotted debris I'd used for my last shelter.

With that done, I just needed to secure the doorway. As an added barrier, I tied my wool blanket around the trunk, underneath the tarp and a foot inward (to protect from rain). That provided a fully covered, but breathable, doorway. The shelter was completed just as the sun disappeared from the sky – totaling less than an hour. A tarp is an incredible survival resource.

The shelter was very roomy because of the large diameter of the supporting log. This was nice on the one hand – I could freely switch from my stomach to my side to my back to my other side. On the other, there was too much loose air, increasingly so as my tossing and turning compacted the debris. It got cold. The inside of the tarp was wet with condensation, so I had to take care not to touch it lest I get even colder.

The cold was not anywhere near dangerous, just enough to prevent falling asleep. 

Between that and the barking dog off in the distance, I didn't get more than a wink of sleep for what was probably 3 or 4 hours. It rained on and off all night, which made me grateful to have a waterproof, if drafty, shelter.

I remembered the emergency foil blanket in my bug-out pack. I removed it from its packaging and began the aggravating task of unfolding a 2x3 inch square into the 4x6 foot piece of foil. On one's back, covered in leaves and with limited space in total darkness, this is not easy. 20 minutes later, I had it wrapped it around me. I warmed up very quickly. I wasn't exactly cozy, but I was able to just barely reach that uneasy equilibrium of warmth which you lose instantly if a square inch of your body gets exposed to the open air.

I finally knocked off for the rest of the night.

My shelter was barely adequate in several ways. Here is what I would do differently next time I build a hybrid shelter when it is cold.

Do not build such a roomy shelter. Instead of using a massive log as the main support, use a slender but sturdy pole, which will allow for tighter construction. Stuff the tarp with more insulation, and have extra on the outside.

Actually make shelter priority #1. Once it's set up, you can explore or travel for food, but you can't relax until you get it up.  

I'd waited until less than an hour before sunset to build my shelter. That worked out fine this time, but could easily create an unnecessary emergency if any unforeseen circumstances arose.

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