the rogue turtle the rogue turtle
Our Mission
We provide information on survivalism, camping, food storage, cooking and grilling, and self reliance.

Our goal is to ensure you are prepared for natural and man-made disasters, before, during and after they occur.
Home Research Sign Up Links About the Rogue Turtle Contact Store


Sign up for newsletter updates!
Clan of the Cave Turtle: Cold Weather Shelters
© 2006 RogueTurtle.com


All cold weather shelters have to have added heat, usually from some form of fire. Therefore, the fire should be built first, to keep from freezing while you build or set up your shelter. Unless you have had the foresight to build a fireproof shelter in advance, this means several hours of hard work in freezing temperatures.


Wind Chill

Everyone who lives in cold climates, or will be trekking into areas with cold weather, should be aware that when the wind blows, it makes the temperature lower. This is the same reason that in hot weather, a wind will help cool you off. This wind chill factor MUST be considered in your selection of clothing, sleeping bags, food, water and shelter. Remember I advised that you buy the next lower temperature level for sleeping bags? The reason is that these ratings do NOT take into account the wind chill factor. The chart below tells it all. All areas in blue are below zero temperatures. Note that even an outside temperature of 35 degrees, is really 1 degree with a 40 MPH wind.


T
E
M
P
E
R
A
T
U
R
E

D
E
G
R
E
E
S

F

Wind Chill Table

Wind Speed:  MPH                      Source:  NOAA; NWS

  

5

10

15

20

25

30

35

40

35°

33

21

16

12

7

5

3

1

30°

27

16

11

3

0

-2

-4

-4

25°

21

9

1

-4

-7

-11

-13

-15

20°

16

2

-6

-9

-15

-18

-20

-22

15°

12

-2

-11

-17

-22

-26

-27

-29

10°

7

-9

-18

-24

-29

-33

-35

-36

1

-15

-25

-32

-37

-41

-43

-45

-6

-22

-33

-40

-45

-49

-52

-54

-5°

-11

-27

-40

-46

-52

-56

-60

-62

-10°

-15

-31

-45

-52

-58

-63

-67

-69

-15°

-20

-38

-51

-60

-67

-70

-72

-76

-20°

-26

-45

-60

-68

-75

-78

-83

-87

-25°

-31

-52

-65

-76

-83

-87

-90

-94

-30°

-35

-58

-70

-81

-89

-94

-98

-101

-35°

-41

-64

-78

-88

-96

-101

-101

-107

 

Your tent, shelter, and sleeping arrangements must take into account these lowered temperatures.


SNOW CAVE

A snow cave might not seem a good idea in Florida, but in other parts of the world, snow...a LOT of snow...is a way of life. Being familiar with the techniques and principles of building a snow cave can save your life. The drawings show people who are already equipped for outdoor climbing. You may not have that luxury. So getting out of the cold wind is a MUST.


A snow cave can mean the difference between life and death during a storm. Digging one requires not just know-how but the right conditions: deep snow, a steep slope, and snow the right consistency for digging.

Remember, while digging, you may work up a sweat. And sweat will make your clothes wet. If you start to sweat, stop and change diggers.

Keep your clothing DRY!


Begin by digging an entrance large enough for a person to crawl through. It should be about three feet deep, and dug directly into the slope. The entrance should also be lower than the main chamber to prevent winds from blowing into the cave.


Next, dig the main chamber in, upwards and to the sides of the portal. Do not dig down. The outer walls should be no less than one foot thick. As the climber digs, he/she pushes the snow to the doorway, where a partner helps shovel the snow outside the cave. Continue to dig until there is room enough for the number of people in the party to lie down, and to sit or stand comfortably. The main chamber should be level and flat.


After the main chamber has been dug, create a ventilation hole with an ice axe. When all occupants are inside, blocks of snow can be placed into the doorway to stop wind from blowing inside. One single candle can make this cave "livable".

The ice cave is going to be used only long enough to sit out a severe snow storm. Periodically check the weather and when it's clear, remove the door, and seek better, and warmer, shelter.


IGLOO

First used by the Inuit Indians (Eskimos) in the arctic, the igloo has proven to be (for them) permanent homes in a land that most of us have never seen. The military still teaches it's members who even come close to arctic conditions, how to build one of these shelters. In the far northern USA, snows still are deep enough that, in an emergency, an igloo may be required for long term shelter. Here's how it's done:


Igloos can withstand hurricane force winds. Start with a base area, packed down by stamping out the area with your feet. In a work area nearby, a second person should begin harvesting snow blocks about 2 1/2 feet wide, 1 1/2 feet high, and 5 feet deep. Smaller blocks can be used but this size builds the shelter faster. The tool seen here is a snow saw, but any tool (saw) with big teeth can be used. Even a flat shovel can be used, but not as easily.


Make the base layer of the igloo, being sure to make the igloo big enough so that up to four or more people can sleep comfortably. One person should work inside, constantly adjusting the blocks and filling in the cracks between the blocks with snow. Note the "taper" or ramping-up of the blocks. They also will be slightly curving in a semi-circle to form a roof. This is the tricky part.


The second row of blocks should be beveled at the bottom so the layer begins to slant inward towards the middle. Initially, the person inside must work carefully to prevent the blocks from falling. After three or four blocks are placed side by side, they should hold themselves up. The weak spot is always the last block put in place. Continue to work upward so that the top of the igloo is about shoulder height with the person working inside. At this stage, it is officially a "shelter", but not comfortable...and there's no door.


At the very top there will be a hole that can be filled with one single block. After the igloo is completed, begin to dig downward to enlarge the inner chamber. The entrance should be dug in below the main chamber area, similar to the snow cave. Cut vents in one or two places for air circulation.

Eskimos lived in these for most of their lives. They would cook, wash, sleep and play in them. They are very strong. Care should be taken to not get the inside too warm, as the snow melting will rain on you while you sleep, making hypothermia are real life-threatening danger.


MORE COLD WEATHER SHELTERS

Any shelter that is exposed to the direct effects of the wind needs to have a wind-break constructed to reduce the freezing effects of the wind. This may be really tough to do in areas without any natural building materials. If you have a vehicle available, it might be better to use it as a wind-break. Don't sleep inside the vehicle because you can't build a fire inside. The car or truck will become a refrigerator and without supplemental heat, you will be miserable, and possibly die.

It may not seem possible, but the best thing that can happen to you (from a shelter point of view) is for it to snow. Snow is actually an insulator. The loosely packed flakes have tiny air holes that will make the roof (and sides) of your shelter much warmer. No wind can sneak inside to make the wind chill a factor. You will find that after it snows, your fuel consumption (oil, wood, etc.) will drop to maintain the same comfortable temperature you were used to. No, it will not be toasty-warm. It will still be cold, but not fatally cold.

I have slept on a glacier in a tent. I was perfectly all right until my cheap air mattress sprung a leak and kept dropping me down onto the ice. I had to wake up about every hour and blow up my mattress. My sleeping bag, purchased in Indianapolis, was rated for summer temperatures in Indiana, not a glacier in Montana. It was one of the worst nights sleep I ever had. But I lived through it.

The 6-P's of planning were not followed by my family - and we suffered for it. Next night we went to a local motel. In an emergency, there may not be any available local motels.

It may take you some time before you can get a fully insulated shelter built. In the meantime, you have to live and stay warm. The following "quick" shelters may help tide you over until you can get a fully functional and insulated shelter built:


PIT SHELTER

Most forested areas of the country will have large tree trunks that have fallen over. These can be used as seen on the left.

First, dig out a pit underneath the side opposite the direction the wind is blowing. (The leeward side).

Next, lay as may branches and logs across the top as you can, the closer the better. Cover these with a poncho, piece of plastic, or large leaves. You can use pine boughs also.

If you have time, cover this roof with pieces of sod. The sod helps insulate the roof.

Next, lay a bed of browse on the floor to sleep on. Lay your sleeping bag or blankets on the browse. If you haven't already done so, build a fire opposite the opening to the shelter, but not so close that you can't get out without being burned.

I would also dig a rainwater channel leading off downhill in case it rains and tries to fill up your pit with water. The browse layer should keep the water off your bedding, and the channel should let the collecting water run off freely. Wet clothing + freezing temperatures = potential death.
Collect large rocks (if possible) and from time to time move heated rocks into the shelter to help warm up the inside for a more comfortable nights sleep.
[string:section-narrative]


ROCK SHELTER

If you are in an area with few trees, you might consider some sort of stone shelter. The premise is simple. Build a layer of stones around the shelter site. Keep adding stones until you have it as high as safety permits. Fill the gaps with turf and foliage mixed with mud. This is a crude "mortar" to keep out the rain. Be sure to do this on the base stones so water will not flow in from around the outside soil.

If you need more room than stones allow, dig out a lowered floor. The door opening need only be as big as the size of the largest member of your survival group.

A roof of some sort needs to be added, sloping the rain away from the doorway. Cover the top first with the poncho or plastic to make it watertight. Cover with layers of branches, leaves, or sod (or a combination of them all) to finish the roof. Remember, the thicker the roof, the more insulated it will be; and the more waterproof. Stone is a poor insulator. If cold weather and wind is a factor, surround the rocks with foliage, or just plain old dirt and sod. The thicker, the better.

The fireplace must be placed far enough away to crawl in and out of the shelter safely. It should be placed so that the blowing smoke doesn't fill up the shelter, making it unusable.

The floor must be covered with a poncho, leaves, or grass bedding. Even in Florida, the cool earth will draw away body heat from a sleeper and chill the body, sometimes to a dangerous level.


A SIMPLE HOLLOW

A natural hollow in the ground can save you a lot of time and effort in constructing a shelter. Even a relatively small hollow can provide some measure of comfort and protection. The roof is added, sloping so that rainwater runoff will not enter the shelter. You only need a few short branches with a light log laid on top to support a decent roof. Covering the frame with a poncho or plastic sheets will make it waterproof, and shelter you from the wind.

This is an excellent shelter for escape and evasion situations. There is little change to the surrounding area and will be virtually invisible unless you are standing very close to the site. Blend in the roof with the surrounding vegetation and rocks.

In E & E (Escape and Evasion) situations, be sure that the sod is taken out of its natural location far enough away that its' removal won't be noticed. A big square patch of bare ground is an easily visible sign that someone is in the area. This shelter, covered with a thick layer of sod, will be almost invisible to the near-infrared surveillance equipment used by searching aircraft and from low-light-level television and video gear. However, once you build a fire, all these advantages are gone.

MAKE SURE THAT THIS HOLLOW IS NOT PART OF THE RUNOFF FOR LARGE AMOUNTS OF WATER. FLASH FLOODING IS STILL A POTENTIAL DANGER HERE.


TREE PIT SHELTER

To make this shelter:

Find a tree with bushy branches that provides overhead cover.

Dig out the snow around the tree trunk until you reach the depth and diameter you desire, or until you reach the ground.

Pack the snow around the top and the inside of the hole to provide support.
Find and cut other evergreen boughs. Place them over the top of the pit to give you additional overhead cover. Place evergreen boughs in the bottom of the pit for insulation.


Rogue Turtle Recommended Reading: To Build a Fire


Link: Page By Page Books.com

Jack London wrote a story long ago called To Build a Fire. It is set in Alaska where a man builds just such a pit shelter. His life was on the line but he didn't build the protective roof under the tree as shown above. Freezing to death, the man in the book built a fire under the tree, inside the snow pit.

As the heat rose, it melted the snow in the upper branches. The falling snow put out the fire. I'll let you read the book to find out how the story ends. In the web site above, its only 12 pages long and well worth reading.




WEATHER CONCLUSIONS

Weather: Temperature and wind, play an important part is selecting what type shelter you should plan on. Always use the WORST CASE SCENARIO. This way you will always be ready when Mother Nature does her worst to ruin your day.

HOT WEATHER:

Several concerns to consider. The first is water. Without water in hot climate conditions you will dehydrate quickly, run out of energy, become confused and die.

The next two are closely related: Heat Exhaustion (Prostration) and Heat Stroke. Both can lead to death quickly if the victim is not cooled off quickly.

Shelters need to include adequate air flow and shade; hopefully with a double-insulated roof.

Hurricane force winds and associated tornadoes can occur during both hot and warm weather

WARM WEATHER:

Severe thunderstorms can be found in both hot and warm weather. While thunderstorms do happen in the winter months, they don't usually have tornadoes or hail included.

If you have to have an emergency, hope it happens in warm weather. Only a moderately cozy shelter need be erected, and in some cases sleeping in the open may suffice. Rain and flash flooding must be a planning factor on the site selection for your shelter.

COLD WEATHER:

The most dangerous of the three since freezing cold (particularly when you are wet) can kill you within hours. Shelters have to be airtight and close to some form of supplemental heat. Small shelters can be more easily kept warm than large shelters due to the addition of body heat inside the small area. Wind can lower any outside temperature to fatal levels without a proper shelter.