Next up from shelters is what we sleep in. Up front, know this is entirely temperature range dependent. What works where I am in summer may be way too much for you if you’re, say, in central Texas or central Utah. But put it on your checklist: A good, quality, sleeping bag. Or at least several good, quality components that can make up a ‘taco’ (improvised sleeping bag). If going the commercially manufactured way, the one we recommend is the Wiggy’s FTRS system. Wiggy’s bags actually repel water away from the fibers and provide more real warmth due to the insulation used than similarly or higher priced bags. Here’s a link to Wiggy’s that explains how and why it works so well. His bags are extremely durable, and get better when they’re laundered. An added benefit is that he runs specials on a routine basis if you’re saving your pennies. His bags also come with a pretty robust stuff sack, which, after a liberal application of Camp Dry or other waterproofing spray, will keep your bag nice and dry, especially if you have it stored inside your ruck. Here’s an anecdotal example of a young man purposely soaking his Wiggy’s bag and sleeping in it in winter:
We use the FTRSS over bag for 2 to 3 seasons (it’s good down to +35) backed up with a, “Sea to Summit Reactor Extreme Thermolite Liner.” Until we actually break down and load the main bag, too, we might throw in a ‘woobie’ (aka, ‘poncho liner’). I’ve been asked why don’t I just use the main bag, and the answer is simple: Layering. In summer I might not use anything but my woobie, or if it’s an unusually cold summer night, I might throw on the Sea to Summit and woobie. I like to have the option. About mid-September though, the main bag goes in the ruck. DIGRESSION WARNING: Another nice thing about Wiggy’s bags is that they can be compressed in the stuff sack or your ruck indefinitely and not ruin the pile (meaning the cold rating). It’s all in the fiber used. That means you can keep your ruck loaded up for use most of the time (personally, I take mine apart a couple times a year to inspect for damage and let the sleeping bag air out (my old school habit). I walk with my ruck already packed regularly, so there’s a better chance of something being out of whack. Deep winter is a subject for its own post, so it won’t be covered here, except to say that you don’t want to have to relocate in winter if at all possible. Make sure you’ve got yourself into the best place you can be with plenty of food, water, and warmth. You don’t want to try to spend the winter in something like this….even from just a hygiene perspective, let alone a comfort and day to day living perspective. Sure…it can be done, but it’s a last resort. Which, by the way, you need to be trained in and practice (consistent pattern here, I know….training, practice, fitness, training, practice, fitness) regularly as these skills are all perishable to one extent or the other. End of digression.
If you’re going the quality component method, there are a great many good products out there. It’s your choice. Something that will help you make a choice is to get some good training in survival, which always includes learning about improvised shelters and insulation. And trust me, staying warm is all about the insulation…with a little bit of wind consciousness thrown in. I’ve made and slept in parachute panel sleeping bags with natural insulation and stayed warm enough to sleep, but remember, if this is your choice, you’re going to spend a LOT of time gathering your insulation material, and if everything’s already wet, you’re SOL for that type of set up. To keep dry if it gets wet after you’re in the bag/shelter, you need a couple of FEET of insulation, give or take, with the rule of thumb being MORE is better when trying to stay warm and dry. Check this example out:
That’s why I prefer the commercially available bags designed to keep me warm and dry. Less time needs to be spent achieving resting state. And know that time spent equates to energy expended, and as you’re moving a good distance to your ‘hidey hole’ or ‘fall back’ or ‘retreat’ or…whatever you’re calling it, there is a chance that you may exhaust yourself, depending on your fitness level, distance, and the quality of food and water you have available to you while you’re en route. A great dramatization of someone ‘evading’ is here. Only the first installment is available currently, but as the presenter is vouched for by someone I trust implicitly, and have known of him for some years now, I suspect that it will stay realistic and demonstrate various skills and scenarios you could possibly face while employing your SHTF kit.
As far as what we’ve put together so far, we’re talking quality equipment (what priority are you putting on your life?) which should be the best you can afford. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s not a ‘knock off’ and can do what it advertises, including anything you see here. If you have a problem with the quality of anything we’ve recommended, please, by all means, let us know, because A: we have no interest in the products other than they work and we own them, and B: we will always go to a superior product, test it, and then either talk about it…or not, depending on the outcome.
So, we’ve got boots, socks, packs, hydration, food, hygiene, shelter, and sleeping covered. Next installment we’ll delve into basic clothing. Hint: It ain’t all about the latest and greatest camouflage pattern adopted by our armed forces, either.