Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gimme Shelter

Being the conscientious hikers that we are, even on day hikes we bring our ten essentials along to make sure that - should things go horribly wrong - we'd be safe overnight in the bush.

One of the things we always bring is an emergency shelter, and some cord to put it up. The emergency shelter we generally pack is essentially a ground sheet. It has one reflective side so it doubles as an emergency blanket. But it isn't very big, and because it's not really meant to be used as a shelter, it only has grommets on the four corners. So G sewed on some nylon loops to tie the cord through in the centre, and on the sides.

Having an emergency shelter with us is somewhat comforting. But G brought up the point that in fact we had never tried to put it up, and really had no idea whether we'd be able to use it if the unfortunate situation arose. He wanted to take it for a test run in a realistic setting.

Off we went to the Rimutakas for a day walk and shelter experiment. We wandered a little way off the trail and found an area with some good trees and relatively flat ground. What did we discover? Our ground sheet is too small and too tear-able to make a decent shelter!

In theory the two of us could spoon under there for a night, but it the rain was heavy or being blown by the wind, there wasn't enough cover to keep us dry.

So now we are on the lookout for a more durable, lightweight and slightly larger fly to use as a shelter. Unfortunately, these seem to be harder to come by in NZ than in other places. I guess we're so spoiled by the tramping huts that many people just don't carry shelter at all! (Risky, if for some reason you can't make it to, or can't find, the next hut!) There is one fly available, but it's bigger and heavier than we want at 3X4 metres and 1.2 kilos.

So we're on the lookout for a shelter - if anyone has recommendations. Feel free to comment!


Mike said...


If you want it specifically for emergencies and nothing else, have you considered something like a survival bag?

There's the big plastic sort which doubles as a pack liner, which probably wouldn't be convenient for daywalks. But you can also get very light-weight things made from reflective foil which fold down to a very small size and fit nicely in a first aid kit.

They're usually only good for a single use, but they're cheap (roughly $10 give or take) and you can probably store them. eg. Here's one being sold on an New Zealand website, but you can also get them in shops in Wellington. About 3 years ago we bought a couple from Kathmandu but I'm sure other places would also have something very similar.

I also can't vouch for them myself since I've never tested them or known anyone who has, but they claim to do a good job at keeping in body heat and keeping out the elements.

It's obviously not going to be as comfy as a fly, though.

Outdoor Culture said...

Hi Michelle.

There's a mini frenzy over tarps versus tents going on at the moment amongst some UK outdoor bloggers. It's frightfully serious.

You can get all sorts of tarps from UK websites - search for bushcraft equipment at google UK - although maybe it's more sensible to look in Australia.

Just got my old Mountain Hardware shelter out of my shed this morning to find that mice have eaten a big hole in it. Rodents 1, Macho branding 0.

Maple Kiwi said...

Thanks for the comments. The search continues for now. Found one at an army surplus shop, but at $120 it seems a bit steep.

Sarah said...

A good thing you tried it out in a non-emergency :)
Maybe consider a UL tarp out of silnylon? For instance, I have an AntiGravityGear tarptent (with sewn in floor even!) that weighs about one pound. I can set it up in a couple minutes at most.
Something to maybe consider?