Fire seems to get a lot of credit as the most import thing there is in survival, perhaps too much. If you have spent a good deal of time outdoors, you know there are times when fire is not possible or practical. There may be a storm or high winds or on the other hand it may be that there is excessive heat and blazing sun that we need protection from.
We consider that there are six basic elements necessary for us to survive, the loss of any one of which may result in death, not in particular order they are; Shelter, Fire, Water, Medical, Food, Social/Rescue.
We should ask ourselves, what is shelter? We are not like the animals that inhabit this planet and are naturally equipped to live in the environment without any accessories. Shelter is whatever items that may be useful to protect our bodies from the elements. Shelter is a shield from sun, rain, snow, wind, sand, bugs, creatures, heat, and cold. It starts with the clothing that touches our skin and goes out from there, besides clothing it includes, tarps, tents, huts, caves, cabins, campers, trailers, and homes.
In my experience a good bit of the time the most needed thing a shelter must provide is protection from the wind. We’ve all been out when the temperature is not all that cold, but the wind just saps the heat from our bodies. In that case a windbreak can make things tolerable. It is important to note that people have commonly perished in temperatures in the 50° F range (10° C). The core temperature of our bodies cannot deviate more than a few degrees above or below 98.6° F (37° C) without detrimental results. Food processors use a combination of cold and wind to quickly chill foods, wind removes heat very rapidly.
We can live for days without water, weeks without food, but if the body temperature changes too much it can be over for us quickly. I read a few months ago a tragic story of a man and his two sons that all died in less than a day to exposure, hypothermia in this case. The family had been staying in a lodge in the Midwestern US, the father took his boys on a hike in the surrounding countryside. A rainstorm came up they were not prepared for, the temperatures dropped, trying to get back they took a wrong turn on the trail, they were found by searchers the next morning soaking wet, the father was dead, the sons could not be revived. A rain poncho may have been enough to have saved them. It made me sick to read the story and to think of the tragedy for that family; a mother, her two daughters and a young son left to mourn the loss.
So many times I see people out with minimal gear, some with nothing but shorts and a T shirt above 9000 feet elevation, most of the time things turn out just fine, but all too often some turn of events leaves the unprepared fighting for their lives. I know it is fashionable to take as little as possible, there is a thrill to that, but it does not come without some risk. Our PSS or Personal Survival Shelter is a Poncho, a Tarp, and can also be a hammock or chair. It weighs less than 2 pounds in its sturdy Cordura bag, why not take one with you, just to be safe. Watch this video to see how you can even connect two or more PSS to make a larger shelter.
Until next time, this is Perry Peacock, “Simplifying Survival”