SHTF Shelters in Winter Weather

So, you’ve decided that you have no other option than to bug out in winter weather.  That means you’re going to have to shelter during rest.  To do that, you need to understand what you need to do/have to stay alive without a fire if you’re not in a semi-secure (meaning remote where there’s a good chance nobody else who means you harm is located) area.

No fire?!?!?!?!

Yes, it can be done, and can be done quite handily.  I know; for about 8 years (in my 50’s), I would go to a very, very cold forested area in a very, very northern area, and practice what I preach.  So, that said, and, of course, YMMV, depending on where you are located.  Fires are wonderful, and you should have them whenever you can, but sometimes they’re a distinct disadvantage, especially if you find yourself in a situation where you can be targeted by entities that do not have your interests in mind.

Have you ever heard the saying, “Win if you can, lose if you must, but by all means…..CHEAT!”  Well, it applies here.  Don’t think about doing the ‘Spartan Survival’ method – use anything you can to give yourself the edge of making it through and not losing strength and drive because of the cold.

First thing, besides what you’ve chosen as a winter sleeping bag, vapor barrier (that which you put on the ground under your sleeping mat), and sleeping mat is, simply, a wind tarp (basha, poncho, etc) and some 550 cord to lash it to whatever concealment you’re going to use.

Next, you need commercial hand warmers.  Personally, I prefer the 12 hour models that are about 4X4 inches and are air activated.  I carry about 2 dozen in my SHTF BOB for winter.  Simply, once your shelter is built (a simple tarp shelter to keep the wind off you – wind will rob you of your body heat – tents SUCK because you’re blind and they hold moisture inside….), you set up your sleeping bag (vapor barrier, sleeping pad, and bag on top of all) and activate one hand warmer and toss it in the bag while you finish you’re other ‘camp chores’ (securing your equipment, camouflaging your position (no matter if you’re rural, sub-urban, or urban) and setting up for sleep time (security watch if you’ve got more than you – food (get some fuel in your furnace right before you go to sleep – you’ll stay warmer!), and elimination (you want to urinate as much as possible before you turn in…you do not want to get out of your bag before you have to because you’ll lose residual heat in your bag, and if it’s REALLY cold (Zero f or lower), you won’t get it back before you get up for your watch or for the day.

Bottom line is this:  All you need is a wind break (a tarp will do nicely if you can set it up), a good sleep system, your personal sleeping clothes (clean socks, a good set of under armor/poly-pro long johns specifically for sleeping, a head covering (fleece cap w/face mask or similar), super light gloves (silk glove liners come to mind – I use them and they’re great!), and something to cover your gear.

And, there you go.


14 thoughts on “SHTF Shelters in Winter Weather

  1. anonymous

    And a snack of chocolate for body fuel helps stay warm too – you have to keep the furnace stoked to work. Nuts and chocolate are even better.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. brianhill

    Well, this is all true. One time, in the Peter Sinks area of Logan Canyon (look it up if you want to see cold), we couldn’t get our snowcave up (not enough wet snow- only dry snow that doesn’t pack well). So we ended up on the ground. We built a snow wall to stop the wind. Luckily, we had a fire as well (not a SHTF situation). But the air temperature was about -10 that night. We made it- cold, but not frozen.

    Liquid water – from sweat, meltwater, condensing breath, etc, is ALWAYS your enemy when trying to stay warm in sub-zero conditions.

  3. Defensive Training Group Post author

    Hey, thanks for stopping by and for the comment. Once it gets below zero, man it is flat out cold! Wind deflection, as you described (whether snow wall or lean to type shelter) is what it’s all about….along with, of course, getting dry clothes on.

  4. Ray

    “Bugging out” in winter is suicide to save yourself. In order to survive for more than a few days in a temperate zone or colder winter you MUST HAVE . Shelter that can be heated, large enough to store you, your group and ENOUGH FOOD TO SURVIVE THE WINTER. You CANNOT “buggout” and survive for more than a few days to a few weeks, using the contents of a rucksack. A few really tough, well trained and motivated people MIGHT survive after the freeze dry’s and MRE’s run out. But children, females over 40 and elders will all have a very poor outcome . The minimum cold weather food intake for everyone would be 2000 to 3000 Cal. a day per person, just to survive, and the intake demand would increase drastically as the temp. dropped. Under Arctic conditions it can approach TEN THOUSAND Cal. Per day per person. NO ONE can carry that kind of load on their back. Only luck, and lots of that could save you. Then you would have the next winter…,and the one after that. But anyone “bugging out” with anything under 2000 POUNDS of food . WILL be thinking about who to rob or kill and eat within weeks. During the Yukon gold rush the RCMP required all of the migrants to carry ONE TON of food into the gold camps with them. ONE FOURTH starved to death, and all of them suffered from mal-nutrition and scurvy by breakup. “Bugging out” is suicide.

  5. Defensive Training Group Post author

    Hey Ray, in any situation, bugging out is a last resort to be used when staying in place is certain death. Sure, you can die when you’re ‘out there’, but there’s also a chance (as you point out in your comment) of staying alive. If you’ve judged the result of staying in place as death, then the people involved are most likely going to hit the road. Further, the post wasn’t about long term anything or the detailed planning and requirements to take a large family comprised of very young, female, and elderly with you; rather it was simply being able to make a quick shelter with a tarp. As far as carrying a load on your back, ever hear of an Ahkio or Jet Sled with a harness? I’ve done that many, many times for days on end in sub-arctic, heavy snow and deep cold environments. Additionally, your calorie count per person is for arctic or sub-arctic conditions, not temperate or southern tier.

    While I understand what you’re trying to get across, you also intimate the thought, ‘you’re gonna die if you do this, so don’t learn the skills because they’re worthless.’ That’s where you and I disagree, because all survival skills increase the odds of living.

    Thanks for taking the time to provide another perspective.

  6. Ray

    Well.. Bugging out is suicide. Your sled and you CANNOT carry enough food to get YOU ALONE, through a winter. Standard capacity military sleds can carry around three weeks food maximum if they carry nothing else BUT food. ALL” bugging out” based on “leave or die” is in fact a permanent condition. By your definition you can’t return. I base my Cal. count on the US Army nutrition guidelines for a normal healthy human left outdoors 24/7 under “high stress” conditions. The WO-4 that did the study and wrote that FM 30 years ago is my mother. So my cite is correct from that standpoint. She worked in the Army Nutrition Program and US MRE program for 25 years. She was one of the Nutritionist at NATEC that developed the MRE. Every gallon of fuel, every magazine of ammo, reduces the food that you can carry by that weight. Your dependent’s CANNOT move “filled to capacity” sleds any distance at any speed . Nor can you. Moreover both cold wet, and cold dry environment’s + even limited hunger weaken the immune system of even the strongest person who is forced to forgo shelter. Because the condition is a “diminished return” equation you can actually calculate the time that a person can remain in a high stress environment before that collapse . Even without combat you begin to see environmental casualty’s within days. With children and elders. Study’s from European refugee camps in the 1990’s show children and elders start to die within a few days, and the death toll increases with every day they remain out doors without adequate shelter and food . Tarps are not adequate shelter. Tents only provide limited shelter IF equipped with stoves or heaters. Ok. So I might survive the winter under a tarp by the campfire ,with my dandy TECH fill woobi eating rabbit shit and craw dads. But my wife and my kid won’t. So what would be the point. You have the same handycap as all the rest of the “preppers” do. You assume that the problem will be local , temporary , and that help and resupply will be available “sometime”. In other words your “buggout” plan is based on luck. Overestimation of your and your families ability’s , and pure wishful thinking. “Bugging out” is wishful thinking at it’s best, and a suicidal fantasy at worst. Let me pose this question: If 25 to 75 MILLION people. Or only 10 thousand, or hell , only 2000. “Buggout” to the nearest national forest, armed to the teeth, with 2 to 5 weeks food. What will they do when that food runs out? What will you do? And before y’all answer , remember that 1/3 of all the “Mountain men” starved to death every winter. Ever hear of the Donner party?

  7. Defensive Training Group Post author

    Ray – we’ve had this discussion before: DTG is not a ‘tit for tat’ environment where argument/debate that doesn’t add to the conversation is allowed. This ain’t WRSA, and you don’t have the bandwidth to comment anything. My blog, my rules. The rules are simple, and are posted at the comment block. Obviously, your opinion (on many things) varies from mine, and there’s no problem with that. The problem is your denigrating, demonizing, or otherwise contemptuously commenting on a post, some one else’s comment, and so on. You are simply combative to anyone else other than yourself. You’ve been temporarily banned before from this blog for the exact same thing.

    For the record regarding your latest comment:

    – You ‘assume’ what others know and don’t know from a couple of paragraphs on a simple subject – not a good thing.
    – You also don’t know jack about others’ plans – you rely on your assumptions to make unsolicited judgements, which are, by and large, wrong as well as arrogant.
    – You don’t like helping others learn, rather, you seem to like tearing every idea/opinion down, and that’s not what this blog is about.

    Now, you can certainly go start your own blog and post whatever you want. However, if you’re going to comment here, you can either add to the conversation in such a manner that helps others learn (by not ridiculing anything you don’t agree with or providing facts/information that shows (again, without contempt) a better way, or you can keep your thoughts to yourself.

    End of discussion.

  8. brianhill

    Great response, DTG. Look, DTG is telling everyone IF you have to do ‘x’….., here’s a good HOW to do it. I get the same sort of stuff on one of my youtube videos- haters coming out of their caves, telling me I’m doing it all wrong, this will never work, look at all the safety violations, blah blah blah. Yeah, if I wanted ‘safety’, I’d just listen to the gub’ment, and turn myself into one of the internment camps…..

    Happy posting, DTG.

  9. DOM

    Thanks for writing about these things, DTG. Growing up in NY, my father would take my brother and I to the Adirondacks to hunt. We would hike in about 8 miles and stay in a lean-to or under a tarp. Getting out of the wind was the object. We would be there for about 8 days. We hiked about 5-10 miles a day (we called it hunting), eating lunch in the woods.
    The last time we all did that was 1987, with my 55year old Dad. I remember because he said “pretty good for a 55 year old”. We never had him up there again. We never read any manual that told us how we couldn’t do that… Next year, I will be there with my teen boy, who loves the outdoors more than me. A thank you to ray is in order. Because of him, I’ll be taking my boy out this month (and the next and next) with any of his friends that want and sleeping on the ground and navigating around Northern Michigan.

  10. Defensive Training Group Post author

    Thanks for stopping by, and you are telling the facts about the Adirondacks! I was stationed at Griffiss AFB in the early 80’s and did a few ‘day trips’ into them during winter.

    Let me know how the trip goes!

  11. Donk

    I travel regularly all over the Southeast by car traveling as far as 450 miles from home (a very long walk). I have played with all manner of Get Home Gear configurations. I have since drastically gone as super ultralight as I can regarding shelter, Wiggy’s bag (only in winter), pack, stove, water filter, spare clothes, etc. What I cannot rationalize is ultralight food in the amount of calories it will take to walk home. I have studied edible wild plants and doubt that will do it. I have studied trapping and feel like the time required to catch anything is better spent being on the move home. I understand packing Datrex bars, home-made dehydrated meals in ziplok bags, peanut butter, etc. This issue of packing enough calories really concerns me and any positive input is appreciated.

  12. Defensive Training Group Post author

    MRE (or other brands of sealed packs that have a long shelf life) peanut butter should take create of you. 1/3 fat, 1/3 protein, and 1/3 carbs make it almost a perfect food.

    Added: Thanks for stopping by!!

Feel free to comment! Debates are welcome, so long as they add to the discussion. Ad hominem attacks, accusations, uncontrolled vitriol, thread hijacks, personal threats, or any comment that otherwise detracts from DTG's stated mission will not be approved or posted. Repeat violators will be banned.

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