When it comes to your survivability, setting up a shelter and getting a fire going can be the difference between life and death. If conditions are less than ideal and you’re on the verge of going hypothermic then time is not in your favor. If you are out on the trail and a weather system moves in you’re going to need something up fast to protect you from the elements. There typically won’t be enough time to setup an elaborate shelter system or tent.

I keep my emergency shelter and fire kit together at all times. This is not part of my kit that I use on a regular basis. It’s reserved for emergencies and is generally kept in the bottom of my pack. The key here is to be able to pull the kit out of my pack and have both a shelter up and a fire going in 5 minutes – or as quickly and easily as possible. This is also a fun skill to practice in a controlled environment. By practicing this several times you build your confidence knowing you can increase your chances of survival if called upon to do so.

Emergency shelter/Fire Kit Contents:

8′ X 8′ Nylon Tarp – The square shape allows you to make an extremely quick shelter if the situation dictates. I also prep mine with tie outs on each corner made with bank line. These combined with the bungee cords will reduce the chance of the grommets ripping out in high winds. A square tarp lends itself to more configuration options than a rectangle shaped tarp – just my personal opinion.

(4) Bungee Cords – I prefer these over trying to tie knots in a stressful situation where time is not on your side. It’s much easier to wrap bungee cords around a tree than to try and remember which knot to use and how to tie it.

(4) ABS Plastic Stakes – the advantage to these over your stainless steel or titanium stakes is their design. The end of these stakes are squared off so that you can use a rock, axe head, or any other blunt object to pound them into hard ground. They also contain a hole just below the squared off head to use to secure para-cord too for use with shelter building.

Ground Cloth – You’re going to need a moisture barrier between you and the ground. Sitting on the wet ground is not fun at all and just makes a bad situation that much worse. Having that extra piece of material will give you more comfort and boost your morale when you need it most. The ground cloth can be something as simple as a 55 gallon drum liner, piece of Cordura fabric, or a remnant of Tyvek material used by construction companies.

UST StrikeForce w/two micro inferno sticks in the handle – Again we are going to want a fire going quickly. We don’t want to be taking the time looking around for dry tinder. The idea here is to get the Micro Inferno stick ignited and then start putting smaller sticks on it to build up your fire. If they are damp that’s ok since the Micro Inferno will burn for a good 5 minutes allowing the damp sticks to dry out and burn.

Kit contents are kept in the shelter roll.
Size comparison of the kit rolled up next to a 32oz water bottle

Shelter Configuration(s):

The most common is a lean-to style shelter. The pitch of the shelter can be adjusted quickly depending on your desired outcome – low pitch to maximize warmth from the fire and reduce loss of body heat or high pitch to maximize air flow and shade on a hot sunny day. For the lean-to shelter this setup will require your tarp, two bungee cords, and two ABS plastic stakes – that’s it!

Lean-To style shelter

The other style shelter is the wedge shelter. This goes up extremely quick since it requires only one tree or some type of vertical anchor point. The wedge shelter gives you cover on three of the four sides making it very advantageous in a wet and windy situation. the required gear for this is your tarp, three ABS plastic stakes, and a single bungee cord.

Wedge style shelter

Getting the fire going:

Once you have your shelter up and stable its time to get a fire going. By using the combination of the UST Strike Force and the Micro Inferno I am guaranteed a flame in seconds. Just open the cap to the Strike Force handle, pull out one of the two sticks, open the stick to expose the inner fibers thus creating a surface area for the sparks, and finally using the Strike Force to drive sparks off the ferro rod onto the Micro Inferno. Once the Micro Inferno has ignited you have about 5 minutes to gather other sticks and kindling to fuel the fire.

Once you practice this a few times in a controlled environment I guarantee you’ll be able to get down to under 10 minutes for both the shelter setup and sustainable fire.

Get outside, practice your skills, build confidence, and be prepared.

*Send us a picture of your shelter/fire setup and get featured on the Loadout Room.

Scott Witner for LoadoutRoom.com