Temporary shelters for survival
You already have a primary shelter… your house, your apartment. You may have one or more secondary shelters… your garage, your workplace, your fitness club, Aunt Judy’s place. That is good. You have options.
What if all of your options suddenly aren’t there?
In a disaster, housing can be hit hard. Where you live may be damaged or destroyed, or you may evacuated and not allowed to return for some time. Your secondary shelters could be unavailable to you for the same reasons. What now?
Tarp. This is the simplest kind of temporary shelter. All you need is an 8-foot by 10-foot tarp and some tie-downs. You can stretch the tarp from some trees, between two cars, or any other place you can find to do it. Add a 25-foot coil of rope, four metal poles that telescope for easy carrying (or four posts of wood or bamboo or another sturdy material) and four or more tent pegs plus a mallet to drive them into the ground… and you can put up your shelter on just a small piece of flat land.
A tarp helps keep the sun and rain at bay, although it is far from perfect. In windy rain, you might have to reconfigure the tarp so that it is at a 45-degree angle, between you and the elements, but still providing some shelter. The good part is that you can move the tarp around as conditions change. The bad part is that it is an incomplete shelter, and does not do a great deal to keep you warm. On the other hand, you don’t have to worry about ventilation for a heat source, although you will want to make sure the heat source does not set the tarp on fire, especially if wind is whipping it around.
There are too many types of tarps to list them all. Take a look at what is available in the stores near you. Or on line… but I like to touch and feel the exact material they’re made of. Wally Mart alone has probably several dozens of kinds. You want to make sure the tarp will be completely waterproof, even after being in the sun for a while. You want a tarp that is very sturdy, won’t get ripped easily, but is not so stiff that you can’t use it or fold it easily. Very heavy but pliable plastics are fine. Plastics with some sort of fabric base is even better, as long as it is waterproof on both sides.
Your tarp needs grommets, which are metal rings pressed into the fabric. The four grommets at the corners should be reinforced against tearing out. It would be nice if all the side grommets are reinforced, but not absolutely necessary
Think about what color is going to be best for your situation. If you want to be found, a bright orange is perfect. If you do not, colors to match your surrounding environment would be good. If sun is a problem, consider a tarp with an aluminum or other reflective coating. I’d suggest black for heat if you are in cold country, and there may be some use to that if you have to wrap it around you in a real emergency situation, but tarps just are not good for warmth.
There are also such a wide spectrum of tie-downs that I can only point out some things you might want to think about. Their length… who knows what you are going to need? But 12 to 18 inches makes sense to me. Thick rubber-like material, usually black, is standard. Those have S-hooks at both ends, so you have a variety of ways you can use them. One end goes into your grommet, and one grabs on to whatever you are using to hold up the tarp.
For instance, you can put two cars close to each other, open the windows a crack, and hook on to the windows, being aware that you can’t put too much force on the windows or they will break. Or open the doors and hook on to the top of the doors. Or whatever you can find on a particular car that you can hook onto. Yes, it will certainly scratch the car’s paint, and probably gouge the metal, or worse. You have to decide if the shelter is worth doing some damage to the car. To me, it’s a no-brainer.
I think it’s a good idea to normally carry a 25-foot coil of rope in your car, strong enough to do some heavy-duty work. You never know when you’ll need it. A 25 or 50-foot coil of less-heavy weight, say 1/4- inch nylon, comes in handy for other things… like securing a tarp when tie-downs are not enough. It would be prudent to learn some knots. There is an absolutely fantastic knots site with animation that shows you how to tie just about any knot you will need in just about any situation. It makes learning knots easy. I’m very impressed with it. AnimatedKnots.com
I suggest learning at least the Square Knot, the Round Turn and Two Half Hitches (much easier than it sounds), Timber Hitch, and the Clove Hitch. All of those are found on the Scouting page, but it’s fun to browse around the site and see the others. I like the Rolling Hitch a lot, and for Search & Rescue, the Bowline is essential.
Poles can be anything you think is good for a pole. 8 feet in length is optimum. If you can find good, sturdy telescoping metal poles where each section sits inside the other until you are ready to use them, that would be very handy. Just be sure they stay telescoped when extended. Otherwise they are less than worthless and will probably harm your tarp, and possibly be very dangerous to you. But they’re easy to carry.
You might want to keep some non-telescoping poles where you can get to them in the worst of circumstances. You can use things you find during an emergency or after a disaster to use as poles… or maybe there won’t be anything you can use. That’s why it’s good to have your own emergency things. There’s no telling what things will be like until the time comes.
You can get tent pegs and an appropriate mallet at Wally Mart or on line. Get ones that are appropriate for your area. Metal ones for hard ground with lots of rocks. Anchor type, or additional anchor pieces, if it is likely that you will be on sand. Plastic ones… well, actually never get plastic ones unless they are exceedingly heavy duty. Most break, bend or splinter relatively easily.
Keep a roll or two of duct tape handy for emergency repairs, and as a backup for tie-downs and rope.
I keep everything to put up my tarp in the trunk of my car. If I’m home when an emergency happens, it’s there. If I’m traveling, it’s there. I think that’s a good idea.
Tarp Plus. You have one tarp over you. Why not ha
ve another tarp under you? It will keep you off the ground and out of the dirt. It can be a little helpful when it is raining, but much more so after it has rained, when it can provide a barrier between you and the wet earth. It will make you feel more comfortable. You can sleep on it and have a warmer sleep. Good reasons to have one. If you buy the same kind and size as the upper tarp, you can use it in case the upper one gets damaged.
Okay, why not get six tarps, so you can use them for top, bottom, and four walls? Well, you could. I don’t know if you want to do that when you could just get a tent. That’s next.
Tents. Like tarps, there are more tent options than I can even start to talk about. I’ll try to keep it simple. Sturdy. Waterproof. Has a floor, also waterproof. Big enough for the amount of people you have, or get more than one tent. Easy to put up. Don’t even consider a tent that takes a professional to figure out. There is always an instruction manual somewhere in the packaging. No one has hassled me when I dig in and find it right there in the store. That should tell the story. If it is many pages, don’t even bother. Some are so easy, one page does it. I like those.
You should consider your environment in all four seasons. Plan for the most extreme weather. Most tents designed for extreme cold will also work when the weather is clement (that’s how the British talk about a mild Spring day). But some coldweather tents may not be suitable for Hawaii. Be sensible, and try to project yourself into that tent on a stormy night.
Remember that the heavier it is, the sturdier it will probably be. But the heavier it is, the harder it will be to carry if you are suddenly without car. In a perfect world, you would have all sorts of tents, for all kinds of situations. But like as not, you will get just one. Do some thinking, and give it your best shot, and don’t worry about it. Whatever you do is incredibly better than doing nothing.