Seminar: Shelter & Warmth

This seminar provides information about basic shelter including tents, bivys, emergency shelter, sleeping bags, sleeping pad, and hammocks. When most people prepare vehicle emergency kits they often forgot about warmth and shelter. The first item that everyone should add to a vehicle kit is a first aid kit. The next item should be water. The next item should be shelter. For this seminar “shelter” refers to items designed to protect you from the elements. You may have food and water but if you cannot survive the night then all other preparation is irrelevant.

Shelter is critical! If you cannot survive in your environment all other preparations items are irrelevant. There are vastly different elements for shelter depending on your situation. For home preparedness your home or car could be your main shelter. For the outdoors you might use a tent, bivy, or improvised shelter. Shelter also includes items to retain warmth such as blankets, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. Start with some basic, small, low cost items.

Seminar Introduction

Shelter includes items to protect you from the elements such as:

  • Tent, bivy, space blankets, tarps, or other protection from the environment
  • Warmth including sleeping bag or blankets
  • Sleeping pad

Types of Shelter

  • Home: Your home can normally protect you from the elements but what if the inside temperature drops to the outside temperature? Could you keep warm using warm blankets or a sleeping bag? If you have a generator is it connected properly, in working condition, and do you have sufficient fuel? If you home was damaged could you keep warm? If disaster struck and the windows were broken are you prepared? You should also proper illumination in the event of a prolonged power failure?
  • Vehicle: A vehicle can provide shelter if your home was severely compromised or if you were stranded on the road. I have slept in the car on road trips when I did not want to pitch my tent or sleep through bad weather. When sleeping in a vehicle you will need to keep yourself warm using blankets or a sleeping bag.
  • Tent: When sleeping outside do you have a tent or bivy to provide shelter? Be sure that your tent or bivy is in good, working condition and make sure that fabric and seams are well sealed. A bivy is basically a covering for your sleeping bag that provides protection against moisture and insects. Bivys are normally not very comfortable but they are small and lightweight.
  • Field Shelter: In “worst case” situations you may find yourself outdoors without proper shelter and you must create a shelter with available materials. This situation is more for the hardcore survivalist sites and I will defer to those sites for more information.


Your home is your main shelter but you should be prepared if your home is compromised. These situations could include power outages, ruptured gas lines, or structural damage. 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. Be sure to have warm blankets or a sleeping bag for each person.

  • Good: 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

Basic 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.

  • Lightweight plastic rain ponchos are inexpensive, small, lightweight, and effective
  • A heavier rain suit in your vehicle kit will provide better protection and many of these fold into a small packages
  • A warm waterproof coat is a good item to include in a vehicle kit
  • It is a good to have a few extras of these items to help those who are less prepared
  • Occasionally (every year or two) unpack items, inspect them, and repack them to make sure they are in good condition

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. Be sure to have one or more space blankets in your vehicle and hiking kits.

  • Include one space blanket bivy per person in your vehicle and hiking kits — these are small, light, low cost (about $15), and effective.
  • Hiking and vehicle kits should include a lightweight space blanket. 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.
  • Include 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.

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.


These are extremely useful items that you should keep in vehicle and hiking kits.

  • Sun screen will help protect your skin from the burning effects of the sun
  • Insect repellant can help protect you from insect bites, zika virus, malaria, etc.
  • Bear spray should be carried if you go hiking in bear or cougar country
  • Paracord is extremely useful, high-strength cord that can be used for a variety of purposes
  • A loud whistle can be used for signaling