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Shelter from the Storm: Emergency Winter Shelters and Survival Tips

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hiker offers a mug of tea while sitting in a small snowy hut igloo

Winter’s unforgiving grip can turn a routine outdoor adventure into a life-threatening situation. What you thought was just a fun weekend skip trip or a hike in the woods has turned into a desperate battle against creeping death. 

When the temperature plummets and the snow falls, you need the knowledge and tools to create an emergency winter shelter. You don’t need to be a prepper or a survivalist – this is paramount for your survival if you enjoy outdoor winter activities. 

Emergency Sleeping Bag

There are various types of winter shelters that can keep you warm and safe in cold weather emergencies. There’s no reason to be paranoid, but having these skills in your back pocket can make the difference between life and death if you ever find yourself in a winter emergency. 

Why You Need To Learn How To Make Emergency Winter Shelters

When the temperature drops, your body’s core temperature can drop rapidly along with it. That means you’re at risk of hypothermia, frostbite or even death. 

A winter shelter, even a crude emergency one like the kinds we’re about to describe below acts as your first line of defense against the chilling danger of the cold and damp. They provide you a warm and dry place to get your body temperature back up and rest while you wait for the cavalry to arrive. 

Emergency Shelters For Winter Survival

There are some extremely easy to build but also extremely efficient winter survival shelters. Just about anyone can build these, even with their bare hands if they have to – but we recommend carrying around a shovel in your survival pack to help with construction. 

Snow Caves

A snow cave is a winter shelter you can build anywhere there’s snow. Here’s how to build your own snow cave:

  1. Step 1: Find a compacted snowdrift or mound of snow.
  2. Step 2: Create an entrance by digging a tunnel into the snow..
  3. Step 3: Create a larger “room” inside. You want to have smooth, even walls. This reduces dripping water and condensation to keep you dry.
  4. Step 4: Dig out a small vent hole near the top. This allows air circulation while preventing carbon dioxide buildup.

Lean-Tos

A lean-to is another simple shelter you can build. It consists of a sloping roof leaning against a supporting structure such as a tree, rock, or wall. 

  1. Step 1: Find a suitable supporting structure. It should be firm, sturdy and have good support from the ground.
  2. Step 2: Construct your roof using nearby branches, foliage, tarp, or even the snow.
  3. Step 3: Ensure proper ventilation while blocking one side to keep out the cold.

Quinzees

A quinzee is a snow hut made by piling up, the hollowing out, a mound of snow.

  1. Step 1: Pile up a mound of snow and pack it down.
  2. Step 2: Allow the snow to settle for a few hours.
  3. Step 3: Hollow out the mound, smoothing the walls for even insulation, just like you would on a snow cave. 
  4. Step 4: Dig a ventilation hole at the top, allowing fresh air while preventing carbon dioxide buildup.

Survival Tips for Building Emergency Winter Shelters

There are some tips you should know about building emergency winter shelters for survival generally speaking. 

Emergency Sleeping Bag

Site Selection

Site election is arguably the most important part of building a winter shelter. Avoid areas with unstable snowpack as these are prone to avalanches and landslides. Flat, well-drained spots away from strong winds are going to be your best bet.

Snow Quality

Wet snow is unstable snow and thus not suitable for building shelters, so look for dry, compacted snow usually found in snowdrifts or mounds.

Ventilation

You must properly ventilate is vital for carbon monoxide prevention, which can be life-threatening… fast. Always dig out a vent hole near the top of your shelter.

Fire Safety

For the most part, you should not be building a fire inside your shelter. If you do, it’s important for you to be extremely cautious because of the fire, its impact on your shelter and the resulting carbon monoxide.

Warmth and Insulation

Insulating materials like pine branches, dry grass, or foam sleeping pads laid on the ground can create a barrier between you and the cold. This, in turn, will help you stay warm and retain body heat.

Emergency Sleeping Bag

Surviving in the winter wilderness requires knowledge, determination preparation, and resourcefulness. Understanding the types of emergency winter shelters and how to build them is a valuable skill that can save your life in extreme conditions. While it’s essential to have the right tools and supplies, your survival ultimately depends on your ability to adapt and persevere. 

Have you ever built an emergency winter shelter? Did you end up spending the night in it? What did you learn from the experience? Share your experiences in the comments below. 

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Emergency

Without Emergency Heat Sources You Will Die

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tourist is making camp fire in the winter woods

Winter’s icy grip can be relentless and it doesn’t take the end of the world as we know it to make it unbearable – and dangerous. A power outage or other winter emergency can make having alternative heat sources not just a comfort, but a source of survival

We’re going to explore a variety of options for alternative heating sources for when the heat in your home isn’t working for whatever reason. Some of these are tried and true methods, others are a little more experimental. All of them can make the difference between life and death in a winter emergency.

Emergency Heat Supply 1: Wood-Burning Stoves and Fireplaces

Wood-burning stoves are one of the most reliable and efficient sources of emergency heat. They can also be a cozy distraction from disaster, while also keeping your home warm whenever the cost of more traditional forms of heating get too high. 

Emergency Sleeping Bag

Not only can these stoves keep your house toasty warm, they can also be used for cooking. You need an adequate supply of dry firewood, as well as a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector for safety. Keep the stove well-maintained – poorly maintained stoves are serious fire hazards 

Traditional fireplaces can also be used as an emergency heat source. Fireplaces tend to be less efficient than wood-burning stoves, because heat escapes through the chimney. However, you can make your fireplace more efficient by investing in a hearth and sealing gaps or drafts in the fireplace and chimney.

Portable Propane Heaters

Portable propane heaters are an excellent choice for emergency heating. You need to make sure they are rated for indoor use. You also need to use them as directed and not use them while you sleep – that can be a serious fire hazard. 

Much like with the direct fire sources talked about above, you need to make sure that you have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors for maximum safety. Proper ventilation is absolutely essential to prevent carbon monoxide build up, which can kill in a matter of minutes. 

Emergency Sleeping Bag

Kerosene Heaters

Kerosene heaters are another reliable source of emergency heat.  Only use clear, 1-K grade kerosene. This is because it burns cleaner and produces less odor – you don’t want to make a bad situation worse by stinking up the place. As always, make sure your place is ventilated well and keep the heater away from anything that can start a fire.

Generators 

Generators are not a direct source of heat, but they can power electric space heaters, or even keep your home’s electrical heating system going. This will help you to keep warm during power outages. Like everything else on our list, generators should be used with caution. Always place generators outdoors to avoid carbon monoxide buildup. If you’re not an electrician, we strongly recommend you have it professionally installed by one.

DIY Heating Solutions

For survivalists, there are a few ways for you to keep your home heated no matter how long the power goes out. Keep in mind that every heat source requires some kind of fuel. So you might need to get creative about how to stay warm if the power goes down, the supply chain is disrupted and there’s no chance of anything coming back soon. Here are a few innovative ideas:

  • Terracotta Pot Heaters: Placing several terracotta pots within one another around a few lit candles will radiate heat. This will only warm a small space, but it’s better than nothing.
  • Tealight Heaters: Multiple tealight candles placed under a terracotta pot creates a small heater that’s safe for indoor use.
  • Heat-Reflective Panels: Heat-reflective emergency blankets attached to cardboard or foam panels will reflect and retain heat in a room.
Emergency Sleeping Bag

Surviving winter emergencies and power outages requires careful planning and consideration of your emergency heat sources. Each of these options has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. But by understanding safe use of these heat sources (as having a well-prepared emergency kit)  you can ensure you and your loved ones stay warm and comfortable during even the coldest winter emergencies. 

Do you have any unique methods for generating heat without the grid? What do you and your family have for backup heat sources? Share your tips in the comments below. 

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Emergency

Lone Wolves Won’t Make It: How To Build A Survival Community

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Forget an AR-15, an RPG or even a tank. The most powerful weapon you can have for a SHTF scenario is the community around you

In the event that the S does HTF, you’re not going to be able to rely on your contacts you made online. Maybe you can communicate with them with a ham radio, but they’re going to be too far away for them to offer much in the way of direct assistance at a time when you desperately need it.

This underscores the importance of making contacts in your immediate community and building a community of like-minded people who can immediately band together under dire circumstances. 

Lone Wolf? Why You Can’t Go It Alone

Too many in the survivalist and prepper communities think of themselves as “lone wolves.” This is fine if you’re building a homestead on your own during a time of relative peace, stability and plenty. 

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The issue comes in when the SHTF. This is when the rule of law will break down and it becomes every man for himself. No matter what you think about your ability to defend yourself and your family now, the simple fact is that you have a massive deterrent against crime in the form of a functioning criminal justice system and a supply chain that means there’s food down at the local grocery store.

What will happen when that all goes away? 

The short version is: absolute chaos. People will be doing absolutely anything they have to do to feed themselves and their families and obtain the other necessities of life. 

Now you might think you can take care of yourself… and maybe you can against one or two or even five attackers. The question is what your plan is for dealing with a gang of bikers 50 strong – or even eight guys with combat experience and knowledge of small squad tactics. In either of these situations, a lone wolf is about as good as dead. 

You need to connect with others, even if it’s a very small, tight-knit community that will have each others backs in the event the whole world goes sour. 

The Easy Way: Joining A Local Survivalist Community

Group of young people collects firewood together

Why build a community if there’s already one nearby?

Clearly, this isn’t the right option for everyone. However, if you live in an area with a survivalist community, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Now we called this “the easy way,” but a better way of putting it might be “the easier way.” Breaking into a survival community isn’t the easiest thing in the world, especially if you’re new in town and don’t know anyone. Such communities are, understandably, close knit, closed off to outsiders and somewhat distrustful of new members.

With that said, once you earn the trust of a survival community, they can be not just a valuable asset with regard to your own personal survival. They can be an excellent source of support, camaraderie and even friendship that will last you your entire lifetime, whether the SHTF or not. 

Shockwave Mini

So how can you break into one of those existing communities?

The main thing is to make yourself capable and useful while also showing a willingness to learn and pitch in. These communities also highly value people with skill sets that do not yet exist in the community. It doesn’t matter if your skill set if graphic design and marketing – they can use that, especially if you’re willing to learn more “hands getting dirty” kinds of skills. 

Listen more than you speak. Be open to ideas even if they don’t quite make sense to you. If you can do that while being a valued contributor to the community, you can start making inroads in an already existing survival community.

The Hard Way: Building A Survival Community

The hard part about building a new survival community is finding the right people. They need to not just be like minded, but also have useful skills and, perhaps most importantly, be people whom you can trust in the event that the world turns into a massive game of dog-eat-dog and the devil take the hindmost. 

You can’t just go taking out ads in the local circular, nor can you put up a flier at the local supermarket.

The best way to find people is to get involved in communities with adjacent skills, or places where people might have interest in survivalism. Gun clubs can be a good place to start, as can political organizations, though it’s best to make your group non-political. Organic farming and other skills-based groups related to survivalism can likewise be good resources, such as the local DIY solar community. 

The main thing is to not go in, guns blazing as a loud and proud prepper. You need to cultivate contacts, gain people’s trust, be known as a normal guy and then just sort of casually bring up prepping topics and see who responds favorably.

A survival community can mean all the difference between life and death if the SHTF. In the meantime, it can act as a useful resource to pull from as you build out your prepper plan. It’s not easy and can take months or even years to accomplish. But you should absolutely be throwing your time, energy and resources at cultivating this kind of community.

Shockwave Mini

How have you built your local survivalist community? What “hacks” do you have for getting a community starter where there isn’t one?

Leave a comment below to help out other survivalists looking to build a community. 

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Is Off-Grid Life The Right Choice For You And Your Family?

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Off Grid Eco Living

It might be the “new American dream.” We’re talking about off-grid living. 

For those not in the know, living off-grid means that you have absolutely no connections to the power grid, community water or gas. You’re a self-contained little unit. That means that you can’t rely on the outside world for any of these basic necessities… but it also means that you don’t have to.

Off-grid living isn’t just for hardcore preppers waiting for the end of the world as we know it. It’s also for people seeking greater financial independence and greater resilience against changes in financial markets. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it can be an attractive option for people looking to get out of the rat race and live a slower pace of life.

Homesteading

At the end of the day, off-grid living isn’t a hobby. It’s a lifestyle. You have to be prepared to live that lifestyle otherwise the benefits probably aren’t going to be worth it. It comes with a whole new set of challenges that might be worth it or just a big headache you don’t want to deal with. 

Is Off-Grid Life Right For You?

Before going any further, you should consider some of the things that will be radically different if you decide to live off grid.

First, if you’re not handy or technical, living off-grid can be extremely difficult unless you have a massive pile of cash. You can save tons of money and move off-grid for very cheap provided that you know how to install things when they arrive and fix things when they break. Even your house can be tens of thousands of dollars cheaper if you, for example, know how to assemble a kit or add a solar system to an RV – or if you can quickly learn how to do these things.

Another thing to consider is that when you live off-grid you’re usually far removed from civilization. In certain parts of the country, like Arizona, Montana or Alaska, “far removed” might only mean half an hour… but that’s an hour round trip every time you need to go grocery shopping or run other routine errands.

So these are a couple things you should consider before you start learning about what you need to start living your life off of the grid. 

Getting Electricity To Your Off-Grid Homestead

Power is the backbone of any off-grid living situation. Fortunately, solar technology is much better, much cheaper and much more accessible than it was even five years ago. Another good thing about solar power is that it’s very scalable and modular, so you can start with something that just runs the bare essentials, lean on a generator when you need it and build out the rest of the solar as money comes in.

Solar systems are a bit more complicated than you probably think. You need panels, batteries, a charge controller and an inverter to make the electricity usable… not to mention all the wiring you’re going to need. The costs can add up quickly, but if you can do it yourself you can save a bundle. If you can’t, it’s certainly not a dealbreaker for off-grid life – lots of handymen won’t touch anything electrical related. 

Knowing how much electrical power you need can be a real challenge and a lot of it is going to be contingent upon where you decide to build. You’re going to need way more panels in Oregon than you will in Arizona. Locals will probably be able to hip you to what they have that works for them so don’t be too intimidated when you start trying to figure out volts, amps and watts. You don’t really have to get too bogged down in the weeds here if you don’t want to.

Getting Heat To Your Off-Grid Home

Heat is fortunately much more straightforward than the power part of things, but there are some variables.

For example, if you decide to live in an RV or similar (even temporarily until you build up your homestead) it will probably have its own heating system and then it’s just a matter of getting propane in to heat the place. 

Homesteading

When you build your new home it might come with a heating system similar to what you have on the grid right now. Then it’s just a matter of always making sure that there is a steady supply of propane (or whatever fuel you’re using to heat your home). Simply. 

Slightly more complicated – though not much more – is a wood heating stove. Lots of people use these because firewood is comparatively cheap (depending on where you choose to live it might, in fact, be free) and what’s cozier than looking at a roaring fire heating your home? You have to make sure that you’re properly ventilating and expelling the smoke and you have to take all the precautions that you would take with fire inside your home. 

Propane-powered space heaters are a great way to efficiently heat a single room or a small area to prevent you from having to run your main heat when you’re just kind of hanging out in one room. 

Getting Water To Your Off-Grid House

When you first get to your land chances are good that you’re going to be hauling water. From where? Well…

Ever see those water tanks on the side of the road when you’re driving? Turns out a bunch of them can be used by just about anyone with a quarter. So you basically drive up in your truck, fill up a water tank, haul it out to where you live and use a transfer pump to get it from point A to point B. 

If you’re in for the longer term, you might want to think about getting a well. However, wells are not as cut and dried as you might think. Exploratory drilling for a well is expensive and if the exploration comes up with nothing you don’t get your money back. You’re just out potentially tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of finding out that you’re not sitting on enough water for a well.

Homesteading

If you do happen to strike water, however, all you need to get water for the rest of your life is enough electricity to power the pump. That’s not a heck of a lot and even the most basic solar systems generally can handle that. 

A quick word before we direct you to our long-form guide to living off grid: You need a truck, preferably one with a decent towing capacity. A lot of things you’re used to having delivered you’re going to have to go and pick up for yourself. Hauling water is almost certainly going to be a necessity at first and if you’re the kind of handyman who is going to be doing a lot of your improvements, that’s a lot of building material to haul back and forth.

So is off-grid life right for you?

We can’t say. But we hope we’ve given you a better insight into what is involved so that you can make that decision for yourself.

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