Monday, March 2, 2009

Put a 'Shelter Box' in Your Emergency Preparedness Plans

Even if you plan to ride out every crisis in the comfort of your home, you should prepare to evacuate anyway. When SHTF (Stuff Hits The Fan) it is not usually evenly distributed...Not one of us is immune to the possibility of natural or manmade disasters forcing us to flee our homes or our favorite crisis hideyholes.

Do you have a tent in your emergency bugout kit?

Some of you may be thinking along these lines in the event of an emergency evacuation, "I don't need a tent, I'll be in a motel/relative or friend's house/etc." or "I can sleep in my car, if I need to." If this is you talking, then please consider that best laid plans can go wrong. You may have to abandon your vehicle for some reason or another...or face way too many miles of no motel vacancies...houses can burn get the idea.

The paramount rules for survival anytime, anywhere involves shelter, water and food. Naturally, when preparing for emergencies, we always think of food and water...but how prepared are you for emergency shelter?

If you have not already done so, put a low cost ‘shelter box’ in your emergency preparedness plans. Make your own custom kit to suit your group. Here’s the general idea:

The price and weight is a bear, so...

Here’s my spin…a combination Shelter Box and 'bugout' bag. The following items can be packed into one or two large sturdy and waterproof boxes (or large bags). Waterproofing is essential, in the event of rain. Use plastic bags inside of the containers, if needed. A well stocked Shelter Box should at least include the following items.

This is an outline of a very basic kit. My personal kit contains more gear than this, and other folks may have more or less than what is outlined here. A supply list as long as your leg can be overwhelming to those who are just starting out in their preparedness ventures, or to those who simply can't afford to buy a lot. Here is a short and sweet version of the basics:

1. Expedient dry shelter such as a tent (or several heavy duty tarps and rope if you can’t afford a tent right now). Instead of including one large/medium tent to shelter your whole group, I would include two medium (or smaller) tents. Bad things can happen to your one shelter. Better to have a backup, even if it will be a bit cramped.

2. Bedding and clothing for every person:

A. Thermal blankets and thermal sleeping bags, if you can afford it.

B. Even if it is summertime (or wintertime) when you pack your shelter box, and the next season is far from your mind…don’t forget to include a coat and a summer/winter change of clothing and shoes for each person.

C. One heavy duty plastic tarp for each person, to serve as a ground cover beneath bedding. Include an inexpensive mylar blanket for every person to bolster up insulation where needed. In summer, the same mylar blanket can be used on top of a tarp shelter to divert the sun’s hot rays and to help cool the area beneath the tarp…

3. Light - Include an inexpensive solar powered battery charger and rechargeable batteries for several LED flashlights. I like to get a few of the same kind of flashlight (and other gear), so I can cannibalize one for parts, if needed.

4. Clean water and several ways and means of purification. Collapsible water containers.

5. Heat / cooking - Two lightweight stoves: one multi-fuel stove and one twig-burning stove. Here are some options/ideas: Include several ways of making fire.

6. Cooking aids - 2 cooking pots, cooking spoon, sharp, tough knives, small knife sharpener, folded heavy duty aluminum foil, etc. Include one set of utensils and a bowl for each person. Lightweight mugs if you have room. (A bowl can do multi-duty in a pinch, if needed to save space on plates and mugs).

7. Food - Lightweight instant foods that require no refrigeration or extensive cooking. Include dried fruits, nuts, jerky, tasty energy bars, etc.

8. Tools - hammer, axe, saw, heavy duty plastic bags of varying sizes, quality duct tape (the ‘Gorilla’ brand tape is the best!), folding shovel, rope, tent stakes, bungie cords, etc. etc.

9. Health and special needs: fever and diarrhea reducing meds, personal medications, basic first aid gear. Your favorite insecticide, and mosquito nets if your area calls for it. If you have babies, include the basics for their survival. Pets…decide ahead of time what their emergency plans will involve and plan accordingly.

10. Communications - Radio, cell phone, windup battery chargers. Phone numbers.

11. Sanity savers - Just to mention a few…

A. A copy or the originals of your important papers. You know what they are.

B. A list of details about your employment/educational history. Not many think to include this in their emergency kit, but it is a sanity saver in the event you cannot return home right away, and may need to apply for temporary or permanent work elsewhere.

C. Crayons, pens, pencils and paper can go a long way to help children work through stress. Include instructions for simple games that can be made with found materials.

D. Snacks and hard candies.

E Last but not least, consider your spiritual needs. For me and mine, that would be our Bibles.

If you made your own Shelter Box right now, what would it contain? How could you make it better, later?

Here are a few ideas for solving the problem of hauling all this stuff on foot, if you needed to abandon your home or vehicle. In addition to backpacks, you could consider a few options.

The first one I like. The rest are make-do's, but they may be better than just a backpack alone.

--> Folding game carts and carriers can haul up to 700 pounds of deer and gear--or your shelter box and bugout kits. One of my favorite places to shop has a good variety. Looksee at Cabela's...

--> whatyoucallit...the suitcase-on-wheels-with-a-long-handle kind of thing (lined with plastic bags)...

--> Plastic wheelbarrows can be disassembled and reassembled with minimal tools and ease...

--> Garbage cans with wheels...

--> Child's wagon and rope for strapping a load on...

--> Native American style travios...

Can you think of other ideas for transporting as much of your essential gear as possible, in case you need to travel on foot in an emergency?

This copyrighted article may be reprinted by you for noncommercial use, if the following credit is given:

This article is an excerpt from Mrs. Tightwad's Handbook #1: HOW TO SURVIVE DISASTERS AND OTHER HARD TIMES. For more information, see the left sidebar on this site:


Anonymous said...

Dear PureCajunSunshine,

thank you for the thought-provoking article. I always enjoy reading your essays.

While I agree that shelter is the most important issue, just copying the contents of the shelterbox mentioned in your article might probably not work in a bug-out situation under considerable physical and emotional duress.

The way the original shelterbox is designed it works for people who arrive at their BO-location (the refugee camp) with not more than their clothes on the backs. However, they don´t have to move on, they are now at their destination.

Weight of the gear does not matter and the kit itself is designed to help them going on with their lives. Stashing such a shelterbox at your BO spot or in a garden shack behind your house ( like in case of a possible earthquake or what not) is a great idea.

For bug-out gear I would go lighter. A good dome tent, capable of housing the whole family is certainly a good idea. Fairly comfortable in bad weather, the kids are all under control in one spot and the whole family is sharing the body heat, which can be a nice thing when cold. I would also suggest a tarp either to cover the tent or to protect the place in front of the tent where you will be hanging out, cooking and keeping cumbersome gear, like bicycles, protected from the elements. The size of the tarp depends on the size of your group, you will find it out while on a test-run.

For cooking gear I humbly suggest a supersized coffee can pot. Cheap, light and super useful. You will need about 0.7 liters of volume per family member. My family consists of five person so I am searching for a five liter can these days. (3.5 liters plus some clearance).
For more info, see:

I would also want to add a smaller can or pot for making tea, in order to prepare both hot beverages and food at the same time. A spoon to scoop the food into the plates of the group would be handy, as well as some basic cleaning gear.

The gas canister stove is a great thought, fast and efficient and without the characteristic campfire smell. Once in a safe location, you could build a hobo stove or use the one you are already carrying along.

As far as the tool kit is concerned, unlike the heavy though useful shelterbox tools I would rather go with a multitool, a light hatchet and a garden trowel for digging catholes.If you intend to use a hobo stove, carrying a pair of pruning shears would be an excellent idea, being both silent and efficient for cutting firewood.

Besides that, as group gear I would want to have means of water purification and at least two liters of water per person on hand. Me, I like 5 liter plastic containers but pop soda bottles would be cheap, yet sturdy and lightweight.

Some additional twine and wire would always be good to have. Besides that, every group member will be hauling his own BOB with sleeping gear, eating utensils and whatnot so why duplicate things like cups and plates from the original shelterbox.

Go light, go fast and go wide! Oh, and train with your gear, a weekend a season makes a huge difference in how you see things.



PureCajunSunshine said...

Thank you for many excellent points (I‘m stealing the pruners)! I agree that the Shelter Box advertised in the link is impractical to actually run with, in any emergency. It weighs over a hundred pounds and contains so much stuff, it costs nearly a thousand dollars! But I liked the emphasis it placed on shelter. So, I put the Shelter Box on a diet, and emphasized 'lightweight'.

And you, dear sir, sculpted it quite nicely!

True, each family member is going to grab their bug-out bag--complete with their own bedding, but can every child carry enough to protect against truly brutal weather? Ideally, everyone should own a good quality compact subzero sleeping bag ( I do), but not every family can afford them. So, I threw the extra bedding into the Shelter Box/Bag, along with the tent, tarps, rope, heat/cooking implements, food, instant foods, etc.

With careful planning, homemade shelter boxes or bags can be made fairly lightweight. Unfortunately, they could become too bulky to backpack it all, and may need a boost in hauling.