Originally posted on 1 June 2016.
Bottom line first: As the title indicates, DTG is no fan of tents for survivalist or mobile NPT scenarios that may require sheltering from weather. Look at the graphic above: Do you think the occupants saw/heard this guest coming into their camp? Of course, the photo indicates this was a ‘simple’ camping trip, and other factors are sure to be present that drew the uninvited guest in to check things out, but the main point is the apparent haste in which the occupants left the tent….and all their belongings because they were blind to their environment.
Another reason we don’t recommend any tent, to include individual ‘bivy’ shelters are due to the logistics involved: Shelter is hauled on your back. Any shelter that has rigid support structure (poles or springs, such as ‘instant’ pop-up shelters/tents) tend to make the load being carried unbalanced (more or less), and once set up, blocks vision, restricts movement, or retains moisture from condensation, or all of the foregoing. Don’t agree? Try your small signature tactical tent in deep winter, and when you settle in for the night, turn on a flashlight and watch your breath rise to the ceiling, freeze, and begin to drift down as micro-snow. You may find in the morning that your sleeping cap is covered with a thin layer of “snow”, as well as the top of your bag. This is not speculation – yours truly has had this happen.
Additionally, this post is not about hiding one’s IR signature, either. Different subject; different tools; different employment of the tools available for an entirely different purpose. I’m sure you can find plenty of other sites available that will provide more than enough justification necessary to validate the purchase of their $200 tarp with a reflective liner. Most likely with various camouflage patterns to meet your specific needs. If that’s what you’re after, this is not the post for you.
This post is also not about sheltering when you know or have reason to believe you’re being actively hunted. Another entirely different subject where different tools and methods are employed for an entirely different purpose. The frame of reference here is simply sheltering in the elements to (in no particular order) rest, dry out, eat, hydrate, perform hygiene, etc.
The focus will simply be:
- Tarp Shelter Purpose
- Optimum Size & Weight
- Shelter Siting
- Knots to use
- Setting it Up
- And whatever else crosses our minds on the subject.
Tarp Shelter purpose: Simply put, a shelter is to get you out of the sun/wind and rain/snow. As most know, that’s where the debilitation of your physical condition occurs is in the elements. You can stay cooler or warmer, dehydrate less, and become much more comfortable if you have a tarp shelter big enough to get you out of the elements. Here’s what you need:
Tarp Shelter, 550 cord, basic knot knoweldge (trucker’s hitch, figure 8, and Prusik will do nicely), your field knife or tomahawk (to make stakes), bungee cords (if you’re going 1st class), and wind consciousness.
Optimum Size & Weight: Again, bottom line: Ideally, no more than 3 pounds and size should be 7 X 8 feet, and completely waterproof. It has to be large enough, ideally, to shelter you, your personal defense carbine, and your ruck. If your ruck is guaranteed to be waterproof, you can leave it out if needs be, but if not, you don’t want to carry the extra weight from the material becoming saturated. If you’re alone, or each in your group has their own, you can use your poncho if you have one. Below is a picture of a student shelter with a standard issue Woodland pattern poncho. Note the mandatory ‘goose neck’ to keep out water. And yes, the ruck, hawk and carbine belongs to the student, who wanted to show them in the photo.
As to size, there are a group of newer shelters, such as the Aqua Quest Defender (shown below) that are about 10X7 feet, and have all sorts of great innovations like up to 20 loops around the perimeter and even one or more loops on the center spine. They are a bit spendy, but you get what you pay for. This one weighs in at just over 2 pounds, but has the tried and true woodland pattern. So far, I really like mine – it works very very well!Another great one, if you’re traveling in a team of two or three at most, and distribute the shelter building load among yourselves, is any 10X10 ft waterproof tarp, such as the Snugpak All Weather Shelter, as sold here by Great Lake Survival and weighs about 2 pounds. I’ve got one and used it regularly until it was edged out by the Aqua Quest. So much so that each time I hit the bush on a training run, it was ‘home.’ Very nice, and when not with a partner, it’s like having a mansion. I can make my fire right at the edge without endangering the tarp so long as I keep the fire at a reasonable level to heat my food or water for coffee. The image below is only one configuration possible.
If you like MARPAT, and you shop around, you can get almost new USMC Field Tarps, with Coyote Brown on one side and MARPAT on the other. It’s bigger than a poncho, has no hood, and is solid. It’s a bit heavier at about 3 pounds, but some folks swear by it. I have one of these as well, and have used it with no complaints, other than the additional weight. Here’s one set up in the ubiquitous ‘shelter half’ configuration.
One feature you want to look for, especially if you’re going to get an individual sized tarp, is the ability to snap them together (did we mention that your team needs to have standardized equipment? Here’s one more reason why) in order to make a larger shelter when appropriate. It’s a nice capability to have available, but not essential for efficient sheltering.
Next time: Shelter Siting, cordage, and knots that lend themselves to efficient set up and tear down.