Shelter should be your #1 concern in a survival situation. Actually, shelter should be your number one concern every single day. To prove it to you just look at how you dress every day and how that changes each season. I bet you live in a home, under a roof with walls and drive an enclosed vehicle.
Dressing appropriately for the weather has been ingrained in my mind since my youth when my mother would yell at me to put on a jacket before I walked out the door. Not having the appropriate form of shelter could turn an ordinary occurrence into that situation where your actual physical survival is at risk. According to the survival rules of 3 not having shelter could result in your death within 3 hours in harsh weather conditions.
What’s the best form of shelter that you can and should always have with you? Do I mean that you should carry around a tent or a tarp? Should you know how to build a lean-to shelter in less that three hours?
What I am referring to is a quality Gore-Tex (waterproof/windproof) hooded light to medium weight jacket.
In harsh weather conditions the number one, two and three rules in the outdoors are; 1. Stay dry. 2. Stay dry. And 3. You guessed it, Stay dry!
This jacket should have an integrated hood because you’re just not gonna stay dry in a rainstorm without it. Most of our body heat escapes out the top of our heads so it is important to keep our heads covered and dry. I prefer dark color jackets so that when it is cold outside but the sun is shining I can benefit from the extra warmth of soaking up the heat of the sun.
I also recommend that this jacket is long enough to cover your behind and that it have velcro straps at the wrists. The hood should be able to cinch down to help keep it in place when it’s windy and keep your body heat in.
In addition to a quality jacket it is also a good idea to keep a pair of inexpensive polypropylene, or other synthetic material, gloves and long sleeve shirt/pullover with your jacket. That thin layer of material will help to wick moisture away from your skin and keep you much more comfortable. Being comfortable in an emergency situation is essential to a positive state of mind. This layer is also an important way to help you stay dry from sweat and it will dry quickly if it gets wet. Layers are important in both preparedness as well as clothing. Make sure your jacket isn’t too tight so as to restrict movement and that it is large enough to allow you to wear even multiple layers under it.
Your vehicle is an excellent shelter. In an emergency situation you should stay with your rig as long as possible. My blog post on 72 hour kits describes vehicles as another layer of preparedness. There’s no reason to have an empty trunk. Keep it full up the stuff you might need in an emergency.
Shelter building is an important and fun skill to learn but how critical it is depends on where you find yourself the majority of the time. Most of us live and work in urban centers where there are lots of people, buildings and vehicles. Shelter is not typically going to be an issue as long as you have that one key item I mentioned above. A quality jacket.