Power went out the other night and I ventured outside to get an idea of how tough it would be to set up an emergency shelter right then and there if I had to. I should add that it was really raining hard and the wind had to be blowing at about 25 miles per hour. It was really nasty out there. Of course it was, that’s why the power went out in the first place…
I can tell you, just standing in my doorway looking at the weather and reconsidering my plan it was looking very very difficult to get anything constructed before I would be soaked to the bone and shivering with cold. Wind, Rain, and Cold. Right there things are not looking good. It’s not a sunny summer afternoon; it’s winter darkness and cold. Having clothing appropriate for the season stored outside and ready to pull on would have been a huge help. (Note to self…) As it was, I allowed myself the luxury of a nylon pullover that was moderately water resistant but by no means ideal.
Putting together a basic shelter for one person can be done pretty quickly. I took a big blue plastic tarp out of my outside storage bin and was able to get it slung over a branch and tied down with cord in just a few minutes. It was as basic as you can get but still a huge step up from standing out in the rain completely exposed. Now I had to think about making improvements to it and that put me right back out in the elements. Needless to say this little experiment turned out to be much less fun than I expected but extremely informative. I would encourage every reader to try a few test runs of this sort involving various Prepping skills and let me know how they go.
A test run that lets you know approximately how long you’re going to have to expose yourself to the elements in order to create a shelter is very valuable. You need to know that if you’re risking moving from one location to another and in the process getting soaking wet in a cold weather environment that the payoff had better be warmth and fire. Otherwise you’re risking hypothermia, which can quickly lead to death. If you’re outside in average clothing in 40 or 50-degree temperatures you’re going to be cold but probably okay for a little while anyway. Add water to that equation and you’re in serious danger in no time at all.
While we’re talking about making fire I can tell you that even with a lighter in my pocket it would have been very tough to get a decent fire going as everything around me was soaked including my woodpile. I have since built a small frame with a roof around my woodpile and keep tinder in the back where it stays dry. Another great learning from this experiment.
I’ve seen plenty of videos on how to get a fire started, most of them using some primitive method that I myself have found almost impossible to replicate. After an afternoon on YouTube my big takeaway was, “make sure you always have plenty of basic Bic cigarette lighters on hand. I bought a few multi-packs a year ago and have them stashed in backpacks, cars, outdoor storage bins, garage bins, and just about anywhere you can think of that a child won’t stumble upon. While it would be super cool to be able to start a fire just from two sticks, I find it more Prudent and Reasonable to have some modern devices around. Still, with the rain pouring down I couldn’t see how I was going to get a fire started. Maybe after I had my shelter set up but it was going to be a while in any case.
So, to summarize, when I walked out of my house into the storm it was with the intention of getting a realistic idea of how tough it would be to set up a basic shelter in a difficult situation. Well, I can tell you, I found out. But I didn’t find out “the hard way”. I found out on my own terms and conditions and not when life was on the line. And now I have the information I need to better prepare for a time when I may not have the luxury of running right back inside by the fire and pouring a cup of hot cocoa…