By the author of Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City and The ULTIMATE Survival Gear Handbook
Being exposed to the elements automatically turns humans into survivors, whether in the wilderness or in the city. Unlike most animals, we aren’t naturally equipped to handle bad, extreme, or changing weather efficiently, nor to remain duly concealed/protected from predators and other threats. That’s why knowing how to build a shelter in a variety of environments is so important.
I’m not talking just about rain, sun, heat and cold, people or wild animals: even insects and bugs can foist absolute hell. Outdoors, we are at risk and invariably suffer. Perishing becomes just a matter of time, depending on the fluidity of conditions.
Our gear and resources can also get lost or degrade rather quickly if not protected: food spoil, drinks get contaminated, stuff damaged, carried (or taken) away, and so on. Therefore, being properly sheltered is perhaps one of the most critical and defining situations in a person’s life. It’s certainly so during emergencies and evasions.
Building shelter is an essential skill.
Shelter is one of the “basics” of survival and must be a priority. Everyone talks about bugging out, leaving to the woods, or being on the road, but without the “how,” this is just fantasy. And shelter is a big part of that “how.”
People living in regions of extreme conditions or areas prone to natural disasters must give this even more importance. Especially if an emergency evacuation is in the plans (and it should). As a skill, it can help improve our situation at home, too, in case heating or power goes off (creating micro-climates), or if the roof gets damaged by a storm, for instance.
Wandering the streets and observing the homeless (and living like one) is survival training, I learned a few ways people improvise shelter in the urban environment. I’ve also practiced outdoor activities for most of my life, and most techniques come from the military and outdoor activities such as mountaineering, camping, backpacking, etc.
I strive to keep learning and sharing my experiences. The main lesson is, whatever the circumstances, every prepper should know a few basics about sheltering. There’s no need to go complex or fancy. However, there are many options and variables, so consider this an introduction.
Fantasy versus reality in shelter building
Let’s begin by destroying some myths. When it comes to survival, fantasy can get us injured or killed. Forget about building a fancy lean-to tent in the forest (much less a log cabin). Especially if you’ve never tried it and are trying to evade a disaster or some other danger. It can be done, sure – but is not nearly as easy as seen in movies and time-lapse videos.
Beyond the multiple skills needed to properly handle the materials and tools, it can be intensively energy-and-time consuming, and those are two vital resources. It‘s not without risks, like cuts, poisoning, insect bites, animal attacks. Stay with what works. There are plenty of functional options available. Even wrapping yourself with some plastic and cardboard or using a poncho can be effective.
Shelter building in the wilderness
First is finding the best spot, and that doesn’t mean a killer view of lush vegetation. Physical characteristics play a key role in picking an adequate spot to pitch a tent or tarp, hang a hammock, or stake a bivvy. Be pragmatic: protection and safety are the priorities. It’s not camping, forget about comfort.
It takes some time and experience to properly find, scan, and evaluate the best site to build or improvise a shelter. It’s not rocket science, but we do learn a few lessons the hard way, which often include waking up wet and cold in the middle of the night during a storm or watching our gear float in a mud puddle or get washed away. Or robbed.
A few things to pay attention to: terrain inclination/formation, vegetation, accessibility. Scan the surface: is it grass, rocks, sand, mud? Does it nest insects, spiders, other animals? Check uphill for rocks, accumulated snow, debris. Analyze exposure, proximity with a water source, concealment. Look around and think of all things that could go wrong if the conditions change.
Another aspect to take into consideration is safety. This includes a lot of variables, so it’s hard to go into detail. Overall, try and be aware of other people, animals, natural hazards (falling trees, poisonous plants, rocks, flooding lands, fires, lightning, insects, etc.).
Specifically, when it comes to being safe from others, secluded and isolated places may look like the best option (for instance, during an emergency or lawlessness). But “in the woods,” we’re on our own. No bushcraft skills? Find a middle ground and take measures to be as concealed as possible, stay vigilant, and be prepared to defend if necessary.
Shelter building in the city
As I say in my street survival training book, it’s much easier to find shelter in the city than in the wilderness. Towns are a “collective” of shelters: lots of structures can serve that purpose. But again, it’s just not there for us to simply access or use. It can be tricky and have consequences. But some items, tips, and concepts from the wilderness can be applied in the city as well.
It’s common nowadays homeless using camping tents. Some sleep in a city or NGA shelters. And old trick: cardboard boxes are plentiful and free and offer decent insulation from the cold and wind, though not from water and insects. Old carpet tiles, discarded blankets, plastic coverings, and various recyclables are also widely used to improvise protection. All stuff that can be added to your shelter, too.
Building overhangs, empty parking lots, and other more-or-less protected recesses at abandoned or for-rent commercial places are “natural barrier” makeshifts. Some homeless sleep under bus stop covers. Others build more-or-less “fixed” cabins out of used wood boards, plastic, or other material to get some longer-term shelter from the weather.
Be extremely careful when looking for a place such as abandoned buildings and houses. Some places might be already “taken.” Even decent homeless will be weary and defensive when it comes to their turf, especially if they have families around. There might be addicts or even criminals hiding, and this presents an obvious danger.
It took time for me to get comfortable and feel safe sleeping in the streets. I’ve tried many strategies, and admittedly I wasn’t really safe: unless we’re concealed in a place sheltered from elements, we’re not really protected from threats, pests, or the elements. But we do get used after some time and develop tricks to improve the situation.
General considerations for choosing a shelter type and strategy
Before opting for this or that type, a few things must be considered. Study the weather, terrain, and vegetation in your region. If the plan includes bugging out, do the same for your path. Choose the equipment weather rating accordingly. Take into account the needs and limitations of individuals and the group. Is it going to be a single overnight or a multi-day trip?
Portability is another important yardstick: weight and bulk must be considered. Ease of use too: the best piece of equipment is the one you can carry with you and doesn’t require too much time, specific knowledge, or bodybuilder’s muscles to deploy. Each has its pros and cons.
Most shelters will require extras for better protection, improved comfort, and/or increased insulation from elements. Think rain and snow, wind, drafts, insects, the ground, etc. The most common extras are bug nets, insulating mats, groundsheets, and sleeping bags. These can be used in various forms for most types of shelter presented below.
Finally, during an evasion, setting up camp in or around villages or towns along the way means staying closer to resources and support, but safety may be an issue depending on the situation. Being in the woods without proper knowledge and specific skills can be even more dangerous, as said before. The best strategy should be decided based on the overall context and personal situation.
(For more information on emergency evacuations, make sure you check out our free QUICKSTART Guide on the topic.)
The most common options for shelter-on-the-go
I’ve used all of these in a great variety of conditions. This is a primer. There’s just too much information and possibilities. I left off the extras (sleeping bags, etc.), but I go into more detail about some of these and lots of other emergency gear in my book on how to build EDCs and emergency (and bug out) bags, available here from The Organic Prepper Learning Center.
Tents have evolved a lot in the past few decades. They come in all shapes and sizes and use lightweight, durable, water, and weather-proof materials throughout, they are easy to assemble and take down. I’ve switched hammock and tarp and bivvy tents years ago and never came back, but I’ve slept many times in parks, under bridges, and pass ways using my old tent.
Tents are great for beginners and those planning to drive cars during evasions. Some models are extremely compact and lightweight, the top ones weighing ounces and made of super high-tech materials. Most people will be fine with consumer-friendly models. One or two-person tents usually offer the best weight-size-price ratio.
Pros of tents: ease of use, decent protection, and privacy. They’re also roomier, more so than bivys, which can be quite claustrophobic and warm. Bag and gear can go inside, which is a huge plus in any situation. They’re also freestanding, requiring just a few anchoring points, a groundsheet, a mat (XPE or other) for ground insulation, and a modicum of comfort.
Cons of tents are bulk and weight (esp. 3+ person capacity), lots of parts (more lose or break), difficult to clean and dry and assemble/disassemble time. Water and dirt can (and do) get in, no matter how careful we are. Tents also require groundsheets and some insulation otherwise. They can be very uncomfortably to lay or sleep.
Tarps and ponchos
The tarp is the simplest, most straightforward shelter for any occasion. It can be improvised in many forms, almost anywhere, with little and common stuff. Just tie a piece of plastic, fabric, or canvas to trees, stones, stakes, or other anchoring points, and you have a roof. That’s enough to protect some from rain, dew, and snow.
A poncho can do the same and be pitched as a tarp (or serve as ground cloth). As always, there’s a lot more to it. If not properly assembled or improvised with flimsy materials, you can find yourself and your stuff unprotected when most needed. Wind can rip it or blow rain sideways… in short, a lot can go wrong, and it’s usually in the worse times. Believe me, I know it.
To avoid that, opt for a decent tarp (or poncho) made from ripstop fabric such as nylon or polypropylene (a.k.a. SilNylon and SilPoly when treated with silicon/TPU for increased waterproofness). These are relatively lightweight, compact, inexpensive, and can be repaired. Eyelets and timeouts add robustness and facilitate installation, which is usually made with stakes of some kind, and guylines (cords).
Keeping it taut helps with wind, water, and snow. Lower equals less wind/more protection; higher means more ventilation and room. Knowing a few knots (trickier) or using cord locks of various kinds (easier) is required to pitch a tarp decently and swiftly. As for size, a 6,5’x9’ is good for one person and gear. A 10’x10’ flat (square) tarp is the standard and allows for multiple pitches (the traditional “A” frame is easiest and can shelter two or more).
There are literally hundreds of options of all kinds, sizes, and colors available at online stores, for as little as a few dozen bucks or as much as over a hundred. Opt for discreet colors. No need to go overboard with this. It’s just a tarp. Check if it’s best to have one for everyone, or each individual in your family/group should have their own tarp.
The term comes from bivouac, or temporary open-camp. One person, bivvy-style sacks and tents are common in the military and UL backpacking but serve well for survival due to simplicity and versatility. Sacks are basically waterproof “body bags”: they add heat and protect from splash and wind, but a tarp is required to stave off precipitation.
Bivvy tents are roomier and more versatile but heavier and bulkier. As with other items on this list, there are hundreds of options available, from cottage to industrial. Look for weatherproofing, also weight, and size. Be sure to pick one with mesh uppers: bivvys can get really hot really fast, so breathability and ventilation can be an issue, especially in warmer climates.
The low profile can be camouflaged into the vegetation, a huge plus in dangerous areas and situations. This also helps with shedding wind, a bonus when it’s cold. Must be careful when choosing the site, though, or it can get flooded if it rains. And always use a groundsheet (Tyvek, Polycro, heavy-duty trash bag, etc.).
One of the main advantages of hammocks is being suspended. No need to find an appropriate (i.e., relatively clean, dry, and flat) spot to lay a tent or bivvy – though it requires stout and spaced-out trees or other structures to hang. We stay away from crawlies but remain vulnerable to flying insects.
Other advantages are low weight, packability, simplicity, and comfort (if you know how to hang it: there are rules and good practices). Some models have integrated bug netting. Others require separate mesh enclosures or “socks.” Or, just have some good repellent with you (which you should, anyway).
Hammocks also require extras like suspenders and straps, a tarp (regardless of weather – you should always consider an overhead), an insulating mat, or under quilt to protect from cold drafts, splash, and even insect biting through the fabric. Yes, even during summer: the temperature drops significantly in the woods at night, and wind can rob body heat fast.
Mylar tents and bivvy sacks are a staple of emergency response and preparedness. These are lightweight, efficient (reflect 90%+ of body heat), can be waterproof, protect from the sun and heat, are compact and inexpensive. But most are not durable and won’t make for a middle (much less long) term emergency shelter.
Mylar is also noisy, which is bad if we don’t want to draw attention and monitor the surroundings at the same time. If you want others to see you (i.e. rescuers), opt for a high-vis color: orange is the standard. Some brands offer the traditional dark olive or even camouflage print.
Some tents are two-person, others accommodate only one inside. Triangle-tube tents are easy to set up, require minimal cordage and skills, and are highly effective to protect the top and bottom. Consider using these if your emergency plan requires provisional shelter for only a few nights, and weight and bulk are an issue.
Lots of people camp and live in cars, trucks, buses, trailers, RVs. I did thorough research on “living in a car” for my book and came up with some really interesting findings. Anyway, this is much more common in developed places, and this is related to safety reasons.
In countries or areas with high levels of criminality, it can be a risky proposition. I’d say thanks to Thirdworldization and all the crap that’s been hitting the fan even in the most unsuspected nations, it’s bound to become reasonably common but at the same time unsafe in most places.
Final thoughts on shelter building
Whatever type of emergency shelter you opt for, practice. Unpack, familiarize yourself with the parts, read the instructions, watch videos. Test in your apartment, backyard, a park. Better yet, go camping, backpacking, trekking.
This should be the rule for each and every piece of emergency equipment and procedure, if possible, in various conditions. Even the simplest solutions and strategies can fail, in the worse time, and certainly if we’ve got a lot in our hands and minds to deal with.
Get good at it before you need to.
What kind of shelters do you prefer?
Have you practiced building shelters? What kind of shelters do you tend to favor? Have you found some that just don’t work? Let’s discuss it in the comments.
Fabian Ommar is a 50-year-old middle-class worker living in São Paulo, Brazil. Far from being the super-tactical or highly trained military survivor type, he is the average joe who since his youth has been involved with self-reliance and outdoor activities and the practical side of balancing life between a big city and rural/wilderness settings. Since the 2008 world economic crisis, he has been training and helping others in his area to become better prepared for the “constant, slow-burning SHTF” of living in a 3rd world country.
Fabian’s ebook, Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City, is a practical training method for common city dwellers based on the lifestyle of the homeless (real-life survivors) to be more psychologically, mentally, and physically prepared to deal with the harsh reality of the streets during normal or difficult times.
You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor
I’ve done debris huts and tepee types that are ok. Lean toos are kinda worthless because of our wind here. In fact the wrong tent is a pain in our wind.
A discussion that came up recently in the family was the difficulties in RV and camper living in a family dynamic. It’s not easy with emotions. After an event it goes ok kinda like a honeymoon period and folks stay together because of fear or safety but the longer it goes the harder it becomes.
I can relate to the “pain in our wind.”
I was “primitive” camping (that is what the park service calls their primitive camp locations, far away from the RV camp, or park and camp sites, just a pre-placed fire ring out in a remote area), when the wind shifted, the temp dropped and I knew bad weather coming. Picked up the pace, got to the site. Setting up a tent when the wind is howling by oneself is not easy. Got the rain fly secured just in time as the first big thick drops of rain started.
“the difficulties in RV and camper living in a family dynamic”
you could go old-testament patriarch, keep family cohesion that way.
Which Old Testament family that didn’t kill one another would that be? 😂
Nice story dude. Should it be the genocidal Abraham, the abandoner of Ishmael or should we bring non-god emperors into the mix?
Take a tip from a large family in a small house. Playing bossy arse patriarch will sink your ship faster than anything. That is not cohesion but simmering resentment that will blow up in your face.
Diplomacy, listening to everyone’s needs, fears and yes desires(meeting what you can without risk) and pulling them into the mindset that they are vitally needed smooths over many rough spots. Obviously there may be a person or a situation that will require an unmovable hardline stance but but for the long term diplomacy and group involvement will take you miles farther.
The most common primitive permeant shelter built in most of the world, is a made of earth and wood.
Adobe buildings or mud and sticks structures are common.
In some locations people are known to dig into the earth and live underground. There is a great advantage to this, as earth based shelters require less heating and retain cool temperatures longer than most above ground wooden or stone structures.
Since after SHTF most heating will be wood fired stoves. This is a big consideration as gathering and splitting wood is a time and energy consuming project. So the less you need to gather and use the better. When coupled with a ” rocket” type stove designed heating system, the advantage is even greater.
Many homeless seek shelter in underground structures, often in storm culverts. But that leads to a lot of problems and deaths when the rains come and flood them. They are also hard to heat. Cardboard and makeshift housing are also common, but also hard to heat and are a fire danger.
Temporary shelters are great for short term or mild climates, but real SHTF is not a temporary thing.
How many does it take to dig out a underground shelter?
How long using manual tools? Assuming modern excavation equipment is not available.
If those people spend most of the day digging, who is doing the work to provide them with food? Water?
Where do they sleep while the underground shelter is being built? Is that “temporary” if it is six months to a year? Or even longer?
What if the SHTF occurs in late fall or even winter in a higher latitude and the ground is frozen?
Can they build a “rocket” stove then, when they have not built one prior to SHTF? After all, do not build it right, they can asphyxiant themselves in a very enclosed underground shelter.
Soddies were built in the Great Plains in the USA by farmer families. Party because with the winds in the plains tents were almost useless. Often the tent-wagon cover was the first roof.
So basic tools and willpower they could be done before winter as that was needed as part of “improvements” required for their land claim. Not to mention freezing to death otherwise 🙂
If you’re bugging out without a planned destination, you’re a refugee. Don’t be a refugee.
If your burned out of your home and have to flee I hope you have allies to retreat to. Extra stored supplies there would also be a good idea.
A friend of mine had an 8X 16 foot shed for his bug out but we found some tweekers lived in it. So, after cleaning up the mess and REMOVING the Windows and Doors as well as burying the replacement emergency supplies under the shed a few years ago now he has that shed waiting and so far, little sign anybody tried to visit it.
The shed looks abandoned and uninhabitable, but under it is all you need to restore it, including the box stove for heat.
An underground structure could be party done and supplies hidden to finish it both quickly with a tarp roof and better later as time is available. A structure that looks useable is very likely to be IN USE when you arrive.
“Temporary shelters are great for short term or mild climates, but real SHTF is not a temporary thing.”
I get what you’re saying.
I’d ask you this: if you were in a war zone, let’s say.. Ukraine! And you were trying to get to another place, like..Poland! Would that qualify as a real SHTF situation? If that meets your stringent requirements for a real SHTF situation, would you go a couple miles look at the wife and say, “stop honey, I know it’s March, but we got to dig like gophers for the next few days. This is a real SHTF deal here.”
Or, would you like to have a tent,tarp,bivvy, friggin’ umbrella to escape the elements until you could go punxatawney phil on the world.
I’d have to vote bugs as being the #1 nuisance and uninvited pest for a comfortable nights sleep. My preference is for my hammock and insect net for reasons of comfort and speed assemble and to pack up but I was impressed by a friends choice of primitive shelter during a week long winter survival course. I opted for a lean to which took hours and much energy to build. He, however, scraped up a huge pile of oak leaves in a sheltered part of the forest and crawled in, toasty warm all night. His fire was smaller and away from the ‘shelter’ and he may have brought hot rocks in with him to enhance the warmth. As Fabian wrote in his book, it is important to get uncomfortable and practice. This is not only for what we experience and learn but from what we can glean from others we meet and observe. Community is important and the streets or a shtf situation may not be our community of preference but it may be the one we are thrust into, so learning to interact and respect the experience of others (no matter what cards life has dealt them) may be a significant game changer.
“ I’d have to vote bugs as being the #1 nuisance and uninvited pest for a comfortable nights ”
100% absolutely agree with you Barnabas. My vision of Hell is a place infested with mosquitos and bugs and no repellent or bugnet around. Can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t read can’t do nothing in such a place, only go mad.
In my experience, most people ignore the level of discomfort and threat that insects and crawlies pose to us, in the wilderness but also in the city. And few have even the slightest idea how these proliferate when SHTF.
I live in a tropical country so you can imagine the quantity of insects of all kinds that exist everywhere here. It’s hard to describe. You do get used to the suffering and discomfort, but it’’s suffering and discomfort all the same.
Even when we’re dead tired, dirty and trashed, it’s hard or even impossible to cook or sleep with mosquitos all over us. So we must take all measures possible to avoid them if we want to stay sane. Hammocking without bugnet? Impossible.
I tell everyone going out to train with me to always carry bug spray and sun protector, because these two things can really turn life into hell quite easily. I leave my pistol and even my food behind, but never those two lol.
Is there a reason you didn’t include the debris hut? if you’re looking for a temporary shelter where you don’t want to be easily located, a debris hut works well. A properly built one can even be waterproof.
I wanted to offer advice on more practical options, Cygnet. There are just too good and varied options out there, for not much money nor weight/bulk. Gear is quite advanced and convenient these days IMHO.
I’ve built my share of debris huts and indeed they work. If you know how to build them, that is. But I was young and it was all fun, even the bruises and insect bites didn’t bother much. I’ve had quite a few collapsing over me too, usually in the middle of the night or during peak storms. But even that was fun. Kinda.
But you’re right, they work. I’d go for a DIY shelter if staying in one place for a week or more is an option. Then I could justify the energy and time invested.
But I know from experience that’s something most people wouldn’t manage to even start, much less conclude with efficacy. Certainly not without specific tools (+weight) and also some serious cordage.
I guess we can agree that’s a more or less advanced bushcrafting skill. Good to know we can do if necessary, like starting a fire with a ferro rod or tie some knots. But today I prefer my tarp (or bivy). And my lighter. lol.
When I started packing in Alaska I worked for a crusty old master guide who lived more life on the ground than on an elevated platform for a bed. And that is fact. I did the math. He told me once (old-timers only say things once, so pay attention) “..tents work fine if you take care of them, but the worlds worst cabin beats the worlds best tent.”
I’ve owned and used for months all the great tents. Barney’s, kodiak canvas, msr, cabelas, etc. IME, Rocky (my master guide)was right. Even with high-tech fabrics and synthetic polymer carbon-fiber reinforced Kevlar stitching and four season breathable mold resistant doo-dads, an abandoned cabin with a hole in the roof beats tent tech. No contest.
I always have one of my tents in my car/truck. In a sheep hit fan situation, I will use one of my tents..until I find a cabin.
I have camped in various conditions to include rain and snow.
A three day canoe trip and it rained the whole time.
An exercise in Maine, in FEB.
Another exercise in Gagetown Canada in early MAY. No snow, but we would have to break a thin layer of ice off the water bowls to shave.
Training at Camp Geiger, North Carolina. Dusting of snow.
A long weekend camping trip at Chicot State Park, Louisiana. Cold enough for freezing temps, no bugs or alligators. I hate bugs so I would camp intentionally in the winter.
Right equipment/gear, right attitude, camping in inclement weather is doable, even comfortable.
If it ain’t raining, it ain’t training!
I have that SnugPak bivvy. It is great.
Is a two or three person tent better?
But for UL camping or a bug out situation, light weight, small packed space, hard to beat.
1StMarineJarHead, great insights as always. Thanks.
I love my Snugpack Ionosphere. It’s not the lightest bivy out there but it’s versatile, easy and fast to deploy. And so tough I expect it to outlive myself.
As I say in my book, years ago I switched from tents to hammocks and tarps. My current setup is amazingly light and comfortable too, setup takes less than 2 minutes. But I’ve been training a lot with my bivy tent lately.
It’s considerably more discreet and that’s a big, big plus for safety. I’ve spray-painted the rainfly into camouflage. It disappears in the vegetation.
1stMarineJarHead did you have your family with you in these cold weather training sessions?
Was anybody with you sick or injured?
I’ve done plenty of military “camping” in nasty weather (including artic) as well as bicycle camping and open sailboat camping (almost a canoe). Not something my family might enjoy.
Wife is an officer.
She took SERE training during the winter on purpose.
She was not with me at the time, but yes, she has had training.
We did not have a MOS for medical. But we did have Navy Corpsmen.
Recognizing my lack in medical training, I took a EMT-B course and became a certified EMT. Then I took the NOLS Wilderness EMT course.
I don’t think enjoyment is the point. Would they rather death for comfort?
GhostViking Lack of decent shelter will kill you. It’s in the rule of 3’s for a reason.
3 minutes without air
3 hours without shelter
3 days without water
3 weeks without food
Temp shelter is good for the moment, anything long term requires long-term thinking and effort.
BUT needs are different so no one solution works for all. For example, in my area of NH AC isn’t an issue FL folks’ different needs, that difference means something, so different areas different shelter.
That said 1stMarineJarHead made the comment about rocket heaters being a danger “Can they build a “rocket” stove then, when they have not built one prior to SHTF? After all, do not build it right, they can asphyxiant themselves in a very enclosed underground shelter.”
Any fire in a very enclosed underground shelter can asphyxiant you. As an EMS we’ve found homeless folks dead from asphyxiation in tents from their little jetfuel camping stoves. Fire eats up O2.
So, he is correct but lack of heat in my area will kill you soon enough even if you have a 4-season tent and all military grade CW gear. My Field Hospital unit in Korea did a LOT of hypothermia work at the DMZ.
I suggest folks look into the Crimean Oven used in the Crimean war by hospital units and later in the better Union Civil War hospitals. Fire is outside the tent and run through the ditch in the floor of the tented area with flat stones or tin with dirt on top to protect feet and a chimney again outside on the other side of the tent. The fire heats the soil for a POOR MAN’s Version of a Rocket Mass Heater. One good burn gives hours of heat. Also, you can cook on the outside fire.
This sort of rocket stove would work for any SHTF shelter even an underground one without O2 depletion dangers.
Rocket stoves work very well with green pine and other junk firewood.
An additional benefit is the efficiency of the unit when time, energy and maybe even firewood might be a problem compared to a fire pit or such. One good hot burn kept my SHTF hobbit hovel warm at -12 degrees outside temps all night last year. Also nice with a HOT Burning Rocket Stove the lack of smoke compared to cruder wood fires.
Enjoyment? Hot drinks and warm up tents are done for the military for morale reasons. Stands to reason that family might like the idea they will have something aside from a tent to survive.
If being an armed nomad is your plan, I hope the family is willing and most importantly ABLE to keep moving and then portable tents and such are your thing. But as some of us have older folks, children and the probability of injuries (even a simple twisted Ankle) a more fixed shelter is needed.
Praying you and I don’t really need this sort of information. But I did enjoy spending a long weekend building my underground Hobbit Hovel with my wife and hand tools. The roll of HD sheet plastic is the ONE Thing (Almost the One Ring) that made it doable. It’s not huge more like a large 4-man tent worth but gives you shelter now so you can build a bigger one later (if you have more plastic sheeting).
Well I have a bit of everything…old school canvas shelter halve (scotch guarded), fly halve , and military ponchos. Even have the old wooden poles for the shelter halves. Have also spent time in all climates. Always have used the lean to style, but modified. When cold have used a combo of Gortex Bivvy sack, woobie, light or medium bag. Which I have enough for my whole family. Also have lighter versions of sleeping bags. Use a Ranger Roll when the weather is moderate. Also have a Snug pack jungle bag (aka – super woobie). Lots of 550 cord and caribiners.
It’s all about the location where you set up. I agree…bugs are a pain…especially in the jungle. Cold….bugs not so much. Desert …like in the middle of no where…usually no bugs, had a friend get dragged in his mummy bag by coyotes in 29 Palms. So pick what you are comfortable using and are familiar with. Longest time living in the wild was 100 days for me. Favorite add on- plastic 3 gallon bucket. Washing, bathing, etc. and of course the “Shammy Towel” and micro fiber towels. And remember when washing – face, feet, and the private parts (in that order).
I imagine some large building roofs could make for a nice place to sleep in dry weather. Especially if surrounding structures are lower than the one slept on. Fires would have to be kept low to prevent smoke signature from being spotted, as well as odor.
We live in high humidity hot locale, so hammocks are favored, When bug netting is spread below hammock to create an air space, insects are discouraged. This does increase insulation as dead air space a bit. Definitely agree with overhead cover, sun really does increase discomfort in hot environment. Canvas rather than plastic, as in wind plastic is very noisy. A pity as plastic tarps are far lighter than canvas or PVC which are even heavier.
When a vehicle can be hidden, that makes for a possible shelter too, especially in winter time. Cancel door latch feature so as to reduce noise.
Old school jungle hammock. Spent many a night in one. Not the lightest but tough as nails!