Join Date: Oct 2001
Cooking, changing layers, drying out, and warming up are all made easier with some form of shelter. Even simple protection from wind, rain, or snow can help sustain operations. Unfortunately, some compromises must be made in this area. Tents can be heavy and bulky, while tarps won’t offer 100% protection from the elements and pests. Your choice of shelter equipment will be heavily influenced by your personal preferences and by the predicted weather. Remember that you will be forced to carry your choice with you the entire event. If you have never slept in a bivy or under a tarp, this may be something you want to experiment with before committing to a choice. That said, you may surprise yourself at what passes for ‘comfort’ after walking for 10 hours.
Things to Consider
- Weight / Volume
- When considering your shelter options, the weight and the volume of the equipment should be top of mind. What percentage of your full load is occupied by items that will only be used for a small portion of the event? Tents will always provide the best protection from precipitation, wind, and bugs. However if that tent takes up a third of your pack and adds three kilograms, is it worth it?
- Protection from Wind/Precipitation
- Some shelter choices will isolate you from the weather better than others. Consider what you need based on the forecast and historical data. Do you just need a place to stay dry and keep the wind off of you, or do you need a protected space that is wind, water, and bug proof? Can you get by with less?
- Usable Area
- When you set up your shelter, can you cook under in it? Add clothing layers? Can you reorganize your gear? Keep your pack with you? Are these things you are concerned about? Small bivys or one person tents may not allow you the flexibility to don/doff layers, or you may have to leave them to use a stove.
- Setup / Takedown Time
- If your location comes under fire and you have to retreat, how quickly will you be able to breakdown your gear? Are you going to be messing with poles for 3 minutes while your team tries to fend off an enemy assault, or are you going to abandon your only shelter in hopes of coming back to it later? Short setup and takedown times are ideal because you can react quickly to changing conditions and threats.
- Visible Signature
- It should be obvious that a red four person tent from MEC may be conspicuous in the woods, but even a poorly set up tarp can wave and flap in the trees like a flag. When selecting items to use as shelter, consider how well they can be hidden in the woods or in a field. Are they easy to spot from a distance, even with some camouflage?
- Sleeping Equipment Choices
- Your shelter and sleeping system work together, and so you may find yourself restricted by one or the other. A regular down bag can not be exposed to the rain, and going without any shelter may not be an option if you plan on only using insulating layers as a sleep system.
- Civilian tents are always an option, but a number of manufacturers make military tents for 1 or more individuals. Check out the lines by Nemo Shield, Snugpak, and Litefighter
- Military surplus items such as the Military Sleep System (MSS) Goretex Bivy, the USMC 3-Season Bivy or the Canadian Army bivy are fairly inexpensive. Nemo Shield and Snugpak also offer bivy options.
- Tarp / Basha
- Tarps can come in numerous sizes, weights, and colours. This may be one of your least expensive options. However, they lack the protection of a bivy or tent.
- Ponchos have been used by the military for decades and serve multiple purposes. Aside from durable protection from rain, they can also be used as shelter, litter, or as a bivy bag. Like the tarp, a poncho will be offer less wind and precipitation protection than a fully enclosed bivy or tent.
- No shelter is actually a viable option. Your combination of clothing can protect you if you’ve chosen the right kind of equipment. While it may not be the most comfortable night you spend outside, it will allow you the ability to move quickly and reduce the weight you carry.
I was guided to the Basha used by the British Armed Forces by Matty. The camouflaged Basha is the equivalent of a tarp but with a few additional features. These include grommets on the corners and sides, tie off loops in the same locations, as well as some along the centreline for help in suspending it from trees. The Basha can also serve as a litter in the event a team member is immobile and needs extraction.
The benefits of a tarp or basha are low weight and volume requirements, a usable space that can be upwards of 9 square meters, and a small setup and takedown time. The setup times are reduced drastically with the use of bungee cords that can quickly wrap around trees. Tarps also offer a low signature as they can be set up very close to the ground. Tarps do not offer the bomb-proof protection from wind and precipitation that a tent or bivy will, but when combined with clothing layers, I feel these are suitable trade offs for the benefits.
I also carry a goretex bivy bag; either the woodland camouflage version from the Military Sleep System (MSS) or the USMC 3-season. While they do operate in the space between sleeping gear and shelter, their ability to block out all wind, rain, and most/all bugs allows them to be used in colder and wetter conditions. I have found I end up stripping off numerous insulation layers when in a bivy due to its ability to trap body heat. They are also used where a larger defensive position reduces the risk of being trapped in one during an attack.
The combination of Bivy and Basha allows me a secure sleeping environment, and a protected space for cooking and equipment work.
My shelter solution is a USGI Poncho in Woodland with a Cadpat Bivy. The poncho has grommets in the corners to allow it to be strung up much like a tarp, but as a poncho it can also be utilized with nearly zero setup or teardown time which I find to be very useful. When setting it up as a tarp I use Nite Ize Camjams and S-Biners with some light Aluminum stakes preset with paracord to keep my setup and takedown time to an absolute minimum. This setup means no knot tying or untying and the same paracord gets used every time so there is no waste.
My bivy acts as a second protective layer under the poncho in inclement weather along with additional camouflage. In colder weather the gore-tex also does a great job trapping heat. The one drawback is that much like a sleeping bag, a bivy can trap your arms and keep you out the fight. I intend on having mine modified with a water resistant zipper to help deal with that issue.
All of my shelter items including stakes and paracord get packed on the exterior of my pack. This allows them to be accessed easily without having to dig through my pack for items.
"Solving an imaginary world's contrived and over dramatic problems... 6 millimeters at a time."
Last edited by Bravo One-Six; February 3rd, 2016 at 23:29..