Getting Started: Shelter

Shelter is required to protect yourself from the elements. Start with some basic, small, low cost items. For home be sure to have warm blankets or a sleeping bag for each person. In your vehicle kit include both heavy and light space blanket and space blanket bivy (details). In your hiking kit include a space blanket bivy and (optionally) a lightweight space blanket. Costs: heavy space blanket about $20, lightweight blanket around $5, bivy around $15. If you can only afford one then buy the bivy.


Can you stay warm in your house if your home heating system fails and the inside temperature becomes the same as the outside temperature? Have some basic items readily available in your home.

  • Good: [Home Kit] Warm blankets, jackets, gloves, and hats or caps.
  • Better: [Home Kit] Warm sleeping bags and pads.
  • Best: [Home Kits] Generator with sufficient fuel to provide power if utilities are unavailable.

Weather Protection

Your hiking and vehicle kits should include items to protect you from the elements. You can lose lots of body heat being wet so protecting yourself is of very high importance. You may want to have extras of some of these low-cost items.

  • Good: [Vehicle/Hiking Kits] Include these items to help protect you from the elements:
    • Lightweight plastic rain poncho: These are inexpensive (less than $5), lightweight, small, and effective. If you add heavier rain gear later keep these lightweight ponchos in your kits since other may need them.
    • Gloves: Waterproof work gloves can protect your hands in bad weather.
    • Warmers for hands or body can be nice additions. Be sure to store these in a container that protects them from accidentally being activated. Rotate these items periodically and make sure that they have not expired.
  • Better: [Vehicle Kit] Add a heavier rain suit to your vehicle kit (about $20 – $40). This will protect you for longer periods of time in the event that you are stuck. Many of these fold into a small package that is easy to store.
  • Best: [Home/Vehicle/Hiking Kits] Have a warm waterproof coat to protect you from the elements.

Space Blanket

A space blanket is an extremely lightweight survival blanket made from lightweight plastic with a heat reflecting coating. These can literally save your life in almost any weather condition.

  • Good: [Vehicle/Hiking Kits] Include a space blanket bivy in your vehicle and hiking kits. These are small, light, low cost (about $15), and effective. Include one bivy per person.
  • Better: [Vehicle/Hiking Kit] Add a lightweight space blanket (about $5) to both your hiking and vehicle kits. These can retain body heat, act as a cover, and the reflective surface can serve as a signal. Having a space blanket in addition to a bivy gives you more options and allows you to share the extra blanket with someone who is less prepared.
  • Best: [Vehicle Kits] Add a heavy duty space blanket in your vehicle kit. It can retain body heat in the cold, deflect direct sunlight, and serve as a general tarp or shelter. Place the silver side towards you to retain heat and put the silver side out to reflect heat (less than $20).

Sleeping Bag & Tent

Sleeping bags and tents can protect you from the elements including cold weather and rain. Be sure to select a sleeping bag with the proper temperature rating and have a liner or warm clothes if temperature drops below the temperature rating of the sleeping bag.

  • Good: [Home Kit] Have a sleeping bag or very warm blankets available for every person in your house. These should be warm enough to protect you from the outside cold air. If you lose power for an extended period of time then these must keep you warm if the inside of your house falls to ambient temperature outside.
  • Better: [Vehicle Kit] Have a winter rated sleeping bag ($30 – $200) ready in your bugout bag should you have to evacuate. Always bring a warm sleeping bag when going on road trips.
  • Best: [Home/Vehicle Kit] Have a tent for road trips and for your home kit. A tent can shelter you from the elements, retain heat, make outdoor nights much more comfortable. Your vehicle can also protect you from the elements. After purchasing a tent be sure to seal the seams, waterproof the rain cover, and assemble the tent multiple times. It is not fun assembling a tent for the first time in the dark.