I have been reading up a good deal about survival lately and even watching some stuff about it on the tube (the television, not YouTube for you kids who do not know that TV's once had tubes as viewing elements). There is an awful lot written and said about: Guns and Ammo, Survival Shelters (as in fallout shelters or hideaway cabins or cargo trailers converted into living spaces or even about spider holes), emergency food rations, canning, gardening, water supplies, portable generators, whether to bug-out or stand fast, first aid, medical supplies, camo clothing, tactical clothing, tacticalcool gear and the like. In all that talk, even when clothing and shelters are mentioned, I rarely if ever have seen or heard anything about the importance of always carrying suitable primary shelter with you or having it at least very close by you (like in the trunk of your car in the parking lot at work) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
The primary shelter that I am writing about is proper clothing. Think about it. Clothing, in essence is exactly that - a shelter. It performs the most basic function of any other shelter, it protects us from the elements. If we use the proper clothing for the weather, then it protects us from all sorts of nasty things that nature throws at us. A simple thing like a boonie hat can keep the sun off of our heads, keep us fairly dry up top in the rain and snow, keep the glare of the sun and rainwater and snow out of our eyes helping us to maintain our vision, keep us cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Heck, it even keeps shell casing from hitting you in the face at the range or in a firefight. Yet how many of us wear or carry a boonie hat or something similar to it every day of the year? I have carried one with me at least 95% of the time over the past 10 to 15 years and it has been a great item to have on hand at all times of the year in all kind of weather just as described above. Now that I am retired, I am sad to report I have slacked off on carrying one with me that often as I keep it in a day pack with some other essentials I always had with me while working. The furthest away from me was usually in the trunk of my car although I must say I virtually always had the pack slung over one shoulder or on the front seat of the car next to me or on my desk in the office or in my house when at home.
That hat, or one like it, is not the only thing in the portable shelter line, aka clothing, that we should have with us to protect us from the elements. Another item that was and remains in my day pack is a poncho. Here is a piece of clothing that can help protect us from the rain, the snow, heat and cold. If need be (and I do not mean a piece of junk 79 cents poncho but at least a real military surplus or military style poncho) a poncho can be used as a temporary ground shelter. In other words you can make a lean to or a tent out of it to protect you from the rain or the sun. Furthermore, a poncho can probably help prevent rapid evaporation of perspiration thus helping you to stay hydrated longer even if you run out of drinking water. You can also use a poncho to get water, even in some very dry conditions, although in that regard, the 79 cent version may actually be up to the task.
Thinking along the same lines, I have to ask, how many of us have gone for a drive in the country - maybe to a hiking trail or a fishing spot, or just for a ride down a long seldom used road in the middle of nowhere or maybe even trail riding in an SUV without giving a thought to how we were dressed. I mean without a thought to our clothes relative to a SHTF situation that might arise and require us to go into survival mode. Now I am not talking an end of the world as we know it situation, just an every day kind of an "oh no, the SHTF" type of a deal. Let me give you an example.
A guy I knew, way back when I was a young Border Patrol Agent, decided to take his 'new to him' but used SUV for a ride out in the desert. I am not talking the Sonoran Desert that is surrounded by mountains many of which have year round water on them. I am talking going for a ride in the Mojave Desert in southern California and it was in the middle of July. It was hot out, probably well into the low one hundreds. He took his joyride in the middle of the afternoon. Not only did he forget to bring a water can in case his vehicle overheated, he did not bring more than a small bottle or two of water or soda for himself. Lest you think I am getting off track, let me also mention what clothing he brought or did not bring along on the ride. A muscle man tee-shirt, a pair of shorts, and pair of flip flops and maybe underpants. That was it, all he wore, all he had. He did not have one other survival item as far as shelter/clothing went and not any other gear except maybe a pistol and pocket knife. I am pretty certain he only had a pistol as far as those two items went.
Are you getting the picture? He was ill prepared at best for any SHTF event that might arise. If you are wondering how I know about such a boring issue as him going on such a trip dressed like that, the reason is because he told us all about it after his recovery. Yep, he told us all about how his SUV broke down out in the middle of the desert, virtually in the middle of nowhere, miles from civilization. He told us with great vigor too, that is once he was able to talk again after trudging about 20 to 25 miles through the desert with the sun beating down on him, the great part of the walk after he had run out of water. Even if not as an extreme place as the Mojave Desert in July, you might be starting to see that when you go out someplace you should not only dress appropriately for what you are doing but you should also have some clothing on hand that will protect you from the elements in the event the SHTF as it did for this character. Want to know what happened to him? He walked 15 or so miles to the nearest road, then about 5 to 10 miles before someone stopped to check on him and give him a ride. His feet and legs were raw from making contact with cactus spines and thorns and rocks and pebble and grit and sand. he had a few blisters on his feet too. He was sunburned from the top of his balding head all the way down to the tops of his toes and badly burned at that. He was badly dehydrated, very hungry and partially delirious when found (but was an arsehat the whole time I knew him so not much had changed). The ride that had taken him maybe 45 minutes had turned into an hours and hours long grueling and exhausting walk. It was a walk for life that he almost lost. Had he had the foresight to have brought a few things along in his SUV, he could have been in a whole lot better shape when he arrived back in civilization.
The most important thing for anyone to have first, in order to survive, is shelter. Sure water is a necessity but you can find water or should I say even collect it with a poncho. If you don't know what I mean, read up on how to collection evaporative ground water in a survival book. You can also help preserve the water already in your body while wearing things like a poncho and a cap like a boonie hat. Add to that the protection each can give you from the sun's burning rays and you can see the importance of having the right clothing along on any trip you make. Sure, a poncho and a boonie cap do each have their limitations. They are both best used in warm to somewhat cool weather but each can be used, in an emergency in the cold of winter or the heat of summer.
Thinking of those limitations, the best portable shelter or clothing to have on hand would be something that fits the season in which you are out and about and to have seasonal layers of clothing in the event of rapid temperature changes. So while it is a good idea to always have a winter coat handy in winter and a heavy sweater for under it, think about that a moment too. When you drive to the supermarket in the winter time, what do you wear. Here, back in the northeast, people all to often go out without enough clothing to keep them barely warm should they find themselves suddenly stranded outside of their vehicles. After all, even though it may be in the mid twenties outside and snowing, who needs to bundle up in layers or a really thick goose down or polyester filled coat just to go to the supermarket. Heck, once you get there, it is heated and would be way too hot for that heavy winter gear - right! Your car is heated too and if like me you may go outside and start it up 10 minutes before leaving, then go back inside to wait until the engine and the heater are warmed up. So what do I wear, a sweater and a short jacket. Not too bad where I live but not great because old habits sometimes die hard.
I often dressed like that for trips of about 200 miles up to my uncle's old farm. If I had a crash, or slid off the road due to ice or snow and my car got stuck, what was I to do. Since cell phone reception is iffy at best on that road, it is always possible I might have to get out and walk for miles to get help. I would sure be happy to be wearing a good heavy winter coat, a thick sweater, long johns, a good hat, a good pair of hiking boots, warm mittens or gloves and so on - instead of a medium weight jacket, a light sweater, a pair of sneakers, my boonie hat and a pair of thin gloves. Yet, I ask again, how many of us really give things like that a thought before we go out for a routine thing like a trip to the supermarket or to a relative's place?
My habit has been pretty much, over the past 33 to 35 years or so, to go out sort of prepared. Yet, it took quite some time for me to realize that being prepared did not just mean going out with a gun on my side, a knife in my pocket and a jug of water in my car or bottle or two of water in my bag of tricks. It took me years before I realized that going out prepared meant always going out with a 24/7/365 portable shelter along with me - that portable shelter being made up of suitable seasonal and or emergency clothing. I suffered way too many sunburns, minor frostbite three or four or maybe even half a dozen times, sore and tired eyes, swollen or blistered feet and an awful lot of discomfort getting soaked because I did not learn that soon enough. Luckily for me, I never was seriously injured because I was lax in that regard.
Today, it is pretty much a different story. I may go out locally not necessarily dressed for the weather but that does not matter all that much because I am in a well populated area and close to home. Shelter abounds. When I am on a road trip, or on a hike, or gone hunting or fishing, or even out of the general area of my home even in a populated area, I try to take along at least my day pack with my boonie cap and my poncho among other survival items. Regardless of the time of year, I always have extra seasonal clothing with me in my car when on a trip. You may think, why bother, I have my car for shelter but that is not always true. Take for example that guy who drove his SUV out into the Mojave Desert. It gets hotter inside the vehicle, even with he windows open than it does outside and bear in mind, his SUV broke down so he had no AC.
One more example before I finish up. This one is hypothetical to some degree but also based on a real life event. You probably have seen the type, the real macho guy or arsehat, who decides that even though it is in the 30s or even the 20s, he has to go out wearing a pair of Bermuda or other summer shorts. He may have a hip length winter coat on and a hat and gloves, maybe even a pair of hiking boot but he is wearing shorts too. What makes these guys tick is beyond my comprehension but it is their lives not mine. Now think, what would happen to that guy if he was out driving and wrecked his car in a one car accident, maybe went off the road and hit a tree, out in the boonies and was injured when it happened. Maybe he gets out of the car, is disorientated and heads out into the woods instead of back to the highway. Think - what happens to him when the temperatures drop from the 30s to 20s to teens and he is out in the woods at night in his Bermuda shorts. Maybe they made him look oh so cool at Walmart or Cabelas or wherever but now have him appearing oh so very cold. Fact is, he does not just appear cold, he is cold, he is probably freezing his behind off.
Remember, I said that last was hypothetical but also based on real life. Well it is not just based on the fact that some guys wear Bermuda shorts in the cold of winter but also on the fact that not all that long ago, a U.S. Marine was reportedly involved in a minor traffic accident on a highway in the middle of winter. Instead of doing what most people would have done, like pull off to the shoulder of the road to exchange insurance info with the driver of the other vehicle, this guys fled out into the woods and was out there for two days. Yep, you guessed it, he was wearing shorts. He was also wearing sandals and no socks and what looked like a light fleece. Lucky for him, authorities found him out in the forest under some pine boughs he was using to try to stay warm. Check out the pic in the article, at the link, showing the lost Marine and one of the officers who found him. Whom would you want to be dressed like, in the woods, in the snow, in the winter? Had it been a few hours more, the Marine may have died. He reportedly had some issues with panic attacks after minor stress situations (like the accident?)and suffered from PTSD and those may have had to do with why he ran from the accident.
Why he wore shorts and sandals, in the middle of winter - who knows. I guess it was that his car's heater worked well or maybe those shorts looked oh so cool or maybe he felt macho or maybe it was just comfortable but as I said those are just my guesses. What is not a guess is that he was ill prepared for his ordeal. Me, I am not going to guess on what I will wear. I will stick to wearing at least a warm jacket and warm sweater and a hat and gloves and at least jeans in cold weather near home or on the road, and maybe even wool/polypropylene long johns too if cold enough. Maybe not as warm as could be but better than Bermuda shorts in the dead of winter. I will also have some more suitable clothes in my trunk when on he road out of town. Over packing for a trip has never been a concern to me, I just do it. It is almost a given, I'll have my boonie cap and poncho with me too.
Speaking of being away from home naturally brings home to mind. So, come to think of it, it is not a bad idea to check your wardrobe at home too. Is it stocked with what you would need to survive a whole year or more in the event of a TEOTWAWKI situation? While I was mostly talking about every day SHTF situations above, the thing is we could face a devastating set of circumstances during which we might be unable to obtain the necessities of life. What if there was a nationwide calamity? An earthquake of major proportions could cut off most of our national supply of natural gas, thus fuel for heat may be shut off. Food stuffs may be in short supply or completely off the shelves if there is a depression or agricultural/natural disaster like drought. If we are invaded, ammunition and guns may be banned for sale or just bought out in a panic. Gasoline for transportation and oil for heat may be in very short supply or not obtainable if oil producing nations boycott us or if terrorists blow up pipelines. You hear preppers talking about stocking up on many items every day and about them being ready with generators and fuel supplies and food and water and seeds for gardens and guns and ammo, and bug-out shelters. Now tell me, how many do you hear about who have stocked up on seasonal and emergency clothing? Let's face it, if the natural gas lines are blown up by terrorists and the electrical grid likewise, well it could get mighty cold in many parts of the USA in January - like inside our homes. Even those with generators to power up electrical heaters may be cold pretty soon; after all how much fuel for the generators can they have on hand!
So, yes the clothes on your back (or on your legs and over your butt) or the spare clothes (or that military surplus wool blanket) in your car's trunk, or that you have in your closets, can be the key to your survival because clothing is indeed our primary shelter, the first line of shelter that we have against the elements. The proper clothing is easily portable (could not be any easier than wearing it) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days per year. By the way, that day pack I mentioned above a few times, I almost consider it clothing too, I have had it with me, wearing it over a shoulder or both, just about as often as I have worn clothes over the few years I have owned it. Well that pack is a Camelback Pack (thankfully mine is a camo pack I can use when I hike or hunt and is not like most the styles, appearing on their current website, that I think would be appealing to metro-sexuals) and has an integral 1.5 liter or 2 litter water bladder. Really now, all kidding aside, such a pack, regardless of the look of it, is not a bad piece of gear to have along to carry things like your boonie hat, gloves or mittens, a poncho, a fleece pullover, and some other life saving essentials like a compass, a fire starter, a flashlight, extra batteries, some food and a first aid kit. Remember though, the having or not having the right portable shelter, as in the right clothes for survival, can make or break the man or the woman - your life may depend on what you are wearing. So dress for the occasion and for the weather. If you don't, then at least bring along the right clothes and or have some bare bones survival clothing/shelter, like a boonie cap and a poncho, with you at all times.
All the best,