> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Prepping on $40 a Week: Shelter



Prepping on $40 a Week: Shelter

A soldier hunkers down during SERE training.
Image from defenseimagery.mil.
Shelter is one of those things where you can go in a huge variety of directions--full blown tent, ultralight tent, tipi, hammocks, tarps and many permutations of them. Heck, you can go with no shelter at all if you've got the proper tools, knowledge of building survival shelters and some time--or if you can rely on existing shelter.

We surveyed the tribe on our Facebook page (like us, we're going to do a give away at 1000 likes!),  and it turns out tarps and tents are tied for your top choices for bug out shelter.

A big part of your shelter choice will be informed by where you live--Montana is going to be different than Arizona. So, take the recommendation here with that in mind. Personal preference also comes into play, big time.

Shelter is also one of those "might use" items in a BOB, too. Your plan #1 is probably not going to be to hunker down in the woods somewhere. Shelter that you're going to pack with you is only typically going to come into play if there's no viable pre-existing structure that you can hunker down in--no friend's/family's homes, no hotels, no nothing. If I've got a working vehicle with locking doors, I'm probably going to hunker down in that before I strike camp somewhere, too.

And really, we're talking about bugging out--getting away from danger as quickly as possible--not a luxurious back country camping trip. You'll want to be moving as fast and as long as possible, and only stopping and holing up if you have to.

Of course, we're planning for the worst case scenario here, so having some kind of shelter in your pack is a prudent thing. I'm sure you're creative enough to think through scenarios where there may be zero viable pre-existing structures AND you've been forced to abandoned your vehicle--and most of these are going to be really bad, wide scale scenarios. 

Field manual examples of poncho shelters.
Because it's a "might use" item, I try to keep my bug out bag shelters lighter weight and multipurpose if at all possible. If it's useful beyond sheltering me from the elements, then it's that much more worth the weight.

Our recommendations for budget shelter--the good ol' army poncho--is one of the most multifunction pieces of kit around.

Why the poncho?

Few pieces of kit are more multipurpose than the ol' USGI Poncho. The fact that it's a poncho is actually a fairly big deal, as it shelters you while moving in wet weather. Try that with a tent. And, of course, it works well as a tarp for setting up camp.

The poncho is good for a lot more than that, too. As a large, strong, waterproof piece of material, there's lots that you can do with it. Here's a few ideas:
  • Improvised float/raft
  • Hammock
  • Foundation for a stretcher
  • Drag bag/carry bag for hauling stuff
  • Blanket roll or pack
  • Rain catch
  • Ground cloth
  • Sleeping bag/"ranger roll"
  • Camouflage hide/blind
Uses are limited by your imagination. Purpose-built tents generally have one use--a shelter. I won't argue that a tent or similar shelter will generally give you a better sleeping experience, though. If you're set on having an enclosed tent, I would still consider having a poncho as a backup, gear shelter or to serve as an actual poncho.

Soldiers using a poncho as a hauler/raft and loving life.
Image from army.mil.
Surplus ponchos are quite sturdy, made from ripstop nylon. If you get holes/rips, they can be patched easily enough with gorilla tape. Nothing too complicated.

At around 1.5 pounds, .mil ponchos are a bit on the heavy side when compared to ultralight sil-nylon ponchos, but they get the job done and are good more more than just keeping you dry.

There are some junk knock offs out there, so try to find the real deal USGI poncho, which are getting harder to find. Check for the tag. Expect to pay around $30. Army surplus stores and eBay are your best bet. There are a bunch up on Amazon, but I'm unsure if any are legit mil spec quality.

You will need some cordage to hang them up, and paracord is a pretty good choice here. You'll want cordage anyways, so 100 feet of paracord makes up our other recommendation for the week. Around $8 from Amazon.

Cost: Around $38 for a mil surp poncho and 100 feet of paracord.
Bank: Add $2 to the piggy bank, bringing us to $22.36

If you've already got shelter...

Do you have emergency shelter in your vehicles? Army ponchos and reusable space blankets make great emergency options.

Practice pitching shelters is helpful - experience is a win.

How about primitive/bushcraft shelters like a debris hut? Sigma 3 Survival Schools  on YouTube has some great videos on primitive shelters - worth a watch! Dave Canterbury has some excellent stuff too, as usual.