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Free survival shelter

10:01 a.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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I was thinking about those guys who got rescued recently. I was kinda daydreaming while I did my household chores, getting wood pellets inside is a daily job for me. I finished a pallet and realized the bag that comes over the pellets would make a great emergency shelter. It is four feet spuare and about five feet tall, weighs very little and is made of pretty tough plastic. It seems to me this would make a perfect little shelter for survival. It two people sat facing each other it could be drawn over them then they could sit on the bottom of it. It would work like one of those pole less survival shelters for free. Between my house and my mothers we create and throw away five or six of these every year, not anymore. If anybody wants one pm me and ill send it to you for shipping cost. I tried it with my son last night, while not a four season tent, it was way warmer than outside and did great in 35mph wind gusts. Ill wrap one up tight and weigh it as soon as I have a chance.

11:12 a.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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Hm, interesting! Is it clear plastic, hotdogman? Because that would be ideal, I think, and the ones you can buy aren't. True, the bright orange ones are highly visible, but if it were clear, you could be getting radiant heat from a fire, you could signal from inside (or have a red light flashing), and you could see any people or lights out there. AND you'd know exactly what kind of large animal was moving around!

11:47 a.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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I've heard a lot about plastic "tube tents" based on this principle being popular in the 70's.  I use a pack liner that's about 5' long and 3' wide that's made of sil-nylon.  I have used that as an emergency bivy.

1:52 p.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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A big plastic bag that you are going to sit in and seal off the bottom by sitting on it... maybe I am not thinking clearly but it sounds like a good way to slowly suffocate yourself? All shelters have some form of ventilation. It's one thing to use a sheet of plastic as a tarp, but another thing entirely to sit in a plastic bag.

Am I missing something here?

2:27 p.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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Years ago, we used to carry plastic tube "tents" like Seth mentions (that was in the '50s through the '80s, Seth). I used one my first climbing trip to Europe in 1964. However, after 3 or 4 days in the rain, with it strung on parachute cord between two trees and the rain water running down the cord from both ends and dripping on my sleeping bag, I went to Schnell's (a famous climbing shop in Cham) and bought a real tent.

I should also note that there were several infamous incidents of people suffocating in them, one a well-known woman skier who was "camped" in one in the Mammoth ski area parking lot when the snow froze the ends shut overnight. So, no, Ken, you aren't missing anything here. Suffocation has happened in plastic sheet/bag/tube shelters more than a few times.

5:02 p.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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That is basically a bothy bag.

Some use it as a lunch break refuge from the weather , mostly carried as an emergency shelter if something really goes wrong. You are not meant to sleep in them because they relay on two or more sitting up against the walls to work. Because they are an emergency bag most are bright red/orange given they are usually used on snow or ice. mostly an European thing but also used in NZ and Japan. Several EU brands make them still.

Google "bothy bag"

6:05 p.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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Finally, someone said bothy bag! Yeah, these are very well-tested items, which can keep two people alive in conditions easily bad enough to freeze you otherwise...

8:49 p.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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A bothy bag is a portable lightweight emergency shelter made of waterproof fabric, designed for use in wilderness to protect from harsh environment and avoid hypothermia. Typically, a bothy bag will accommodate between 2 and 20 people sitting together to conserve the body heat. They protect from exposure to wind, rain and low temperatures to some extent. Besides emergency situations, they may be also used as added protection for lunch or rest stops. The front of a bothy bag may have one or more transparent windows and the back usually has a vent sleeve. A small bothy bag typically weighs about 300 grams

Key word in that description/definition is vent sleeve. A straight up plastic bag with no modification is a disaster waiting to happen IMO.

8:50 p.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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The Brits call it a bothy bag, others call it a multi-person bivy or shelter. Here is an image of Hilleberg's Windsack (somewhere I have a photo of Alicia, Barb, and me in a Windsack, and I think it is in one of Alicia's OR Show Blogs from a few years back):
JPEG11-Windsack-Instr-1765D.jpg

They are all the same idea. Integral Designs had several versions of multi-person bivy, two of which are distributed by their current owner, Rab, as Terra Nova Bothies. As ID sold them, the intention was to use them as "lunch stops for guided parties", where you could seat up to 4 or 5 in the largest version and share body heat while sheltered from the wind and snow, or as an emergency shelter. There were versions for 2 or for 3-4.

A very important feature of these is that they are breathable and you won't suffocate as in the plastic bag idea that started this thread.

11:27 p.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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I was going to say... Didn't mother ever teach you about putting plastic bags over your head? But everybody else beat me to it, it's not funny anymore.

12:16 a.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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All the plastic bags ive ever seen have a warning for kids. Suffocating isnt like carbo poisoning, you would feel shortness of breath. I would either poke a few small holes or let some fresh air in when it got stuffy and hard to breath. These bags are a light brown, so no you cant see thru them. They would hold 2-4 people, not to sleep only to get warm or out of the wind. You could easily leave one corner open for ventilation. They are super light and free.

12:46 a.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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I think it's a cool idea.

1:50 a.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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Im glad somebody does, they all sound like they think im an idiot. Who would sit there and suffocate without lifting the edge to get some air. You and islandess are the only ones with anything positive to say. with the response ive gotten from the last couple of threads I started, I will never start another. Thanks for the couple of pos comments, it was just an idea.

5:23 a.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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Not sure how you read comments but by giving it its common (British..) name and pointing out that several manufacturers do in fact make something like that would somehow (at least to me...) imply that is not completely a stupid idea...

Anyway, "Who would sit there and suffocate without lifting the edge to get some air"  

asphyxiation (suffocation) happens exactly because people are not aware it is happening.

8:01 a.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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Um, yeah, well I kind of thought the creation of a vent was assumed and went without saying, actually. No fools on this site, at least I've seen none so far. That's why you're my favourite. That and the general ability to play nice. We've had a bit of a tiff recently, but I think it's the first one in my eight months here. Some other sites, you'd think that's their raison d'etre.

In any case, it was the feature of transparency that I liked, and fogging it up with condensation would quickly negate that. I still think that's a good idea. Some of the bothy bags you good folks show above combine windows with high-visibility fabric, and that's sensible, but I'd design them with 360 sightlines. What a shame if a search party was signalling from a distant hill, and you were sitting there with your flashlight, totally unaware. A bright colour is only good in daylight, after all.

3:42 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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A torch light during the day is hardly visible and very directional anyway. A bright safety colored bothy is made that way so that you can be spotted from a distance.  Can be handy on days of poor visibility when snow sleds are about. Besides there is the emotional part. A warm colour lifts your spirit and that is why most expedition tents will also have a "warm" (usually yellow) inner. A plastic bag would create a lot of condensation and since you are pushing against the walls your clothes will get wet.

3:55 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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Hotdogman and others, Not trying to rain on you here, but this is simply a conversation... a discussion. Nothig said here is directed towards you specifically, nor was any of it said with any condescending meaning behind it. It's just a discussion with like minded people, there will always be differing opinions.

I personally had never even heard the term "bothy bag" before. So I was just voicing my concerns the way I saw it described, in as an unbiased way that I could.

Bothy bags designed appropriately have there place certainly.

Regarding suffocation/asphyxia: No one here thinks your an idiot. It's just a safety concern which is why it was brought up at all. It can happen without even realizing it is happening to you. Especially if your taking a nap etc to wait out the weather. You start getting sleepy from the lack of oxygen, and you begin not thinking clearly, sad to say but you might not even be in a clear enough state of mind to realize something is wrong before is too late.

That is why it is important to ensure that any shelter you use in a manner like this has some form of ventilation. Not everyone out there may think about the big picture, and if I can prevent one person from making such a big mistake it is worth bringing it up.

Not trying to offend you with any of this, I truly hope you understand that.

5:02 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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Just to be clear, what I said was completely in jest. Guess my jesting needs more practice but in the end I, like the others, felt it at least worth saying, not specifically for you but because you never know who else is reading this stuff out there.

2:21 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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I guess I over reacted to those comments. The sheer number of suffocation comments made me makes me think you guys think im an idiot. Who would climd into a plastic bag without thinking of ventilation. I had that rescue in nh thread (that I regret starting) in my head while I was bringing pellets into my house and saw several of those bags and though they would work great for emergency shelters. They work great by the way, my son and I spent two hrs playing cards in one last night. We still have several inches of snow, so I dug a trench under opposite sides of the bag maybe six by six inches and the turned the air over nicely. With a ten mile an hr wind, it would occasionaly lift a section of the bag anyway. In a winter storm scenario, the issue wouldnt be getting air to breath but trying to keep it out to stay warm and dry. IMHO thete would be no way to suffocate if the wind was blowing much more than ten miles an hr, way too much air gets in underneath. Of course, the sides could be buried in the snow and cut off the air flow, but not if used properly. Anyway, sorry for my little tantrum, I wont be starting any threads for awhile, I really dont like drama. Mark

4:27 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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We used a bothy bag today. It was too steep and icy on the climb up for stopping and when we got to the top there wasn't any cover, just a long sloping ridge. So we found a dip on the slope side and had lunch in our bothy bag. As we were eating, the wind picked up and mist rolled in, so we were really glad to have it with us. In fact, it was fun and meant we didn't have to walk another half an hour before resting, eating with a warm drink, adjusting layers and looking at the map etc.

I will say that if you max out capacity, it is a bit less flappy, but the lack of room then makes it more difficult to do things like put on a duvet jacket inside, without getting your buddy in a headlock anyway. We have used two in a four person and it just needs more gathering up at the bottom. Some bothy bags have slots in the top so you can use trekking poles inside to make a roof of sorts. Ours had a window but I think it was cheap plastic because it got very hard to pack away once the plastic was cold and my hands were numb. The window also took a long time to flatten (though it has been folded up for about a year) and it gets steamy if you are drinking coffee etc. So I don't consider a window important - I can peek out of the vent if I need to see the weather - but my partner thought it was comforting to have one.

Breathing holes in the top-half are the norm, some with slots for trekking poles that also allow air in and out. Farts and/or egg sandwiches make this essential. Sitting on the bottom to make it taught and seal out the elements can be tricky if there is snow and the ground is sloping - you will slide downwards - so we use our foam sit-mats, which have more friction on snow, and tuck the bag halfway under those.

hotdogman, if you make one then tie some cord to it with a stuff sack, as they are like parachutes in the wind and you have to be standing on a part of it as you take it out and put it away.

TL;DR: we used our bothy bag today for a lunch break because there was no other shelter and it was fun.

11:07 a.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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For what it's worth, the British Columbia Parks office suggests carrying an orange plastic garbage bag as one of '10 Essentials'. It can be used for rain protection, signaling for help, as a waterproof pack liner, or as an emergency bivy sack or shelter. Not a bad idea. 

12:30 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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The bag im talking about is basically the biggest, thickest trash bag you have ever seen. I still havent weighed one as were above freezing again and they are all wet. Do many people suffocate in their plastic bags? I would imagine more people suffer cold related injuries, than suffocate in airtight shelters.

7:08 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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peter1955 said:

For what it's worth, the British Columbia Parks office suggests carrying an orange plastic garbage bag as one of '10 Essentials'. It can be used for rain protection, signaling for help, as a waterproof pack liner, or as an emergency bivy sack or shelter. Not a bad idea. 

Haven't left home without them since I was a kid. Biggest and toughest I can find, but usually black, for warmth in even winter sun, though the orange ones would be a good idea. Always at least two. In addition to your list, they can be wearable raingear, water carriers, boot VBLs, or first aid gear (slings, splint ties, bandage covers).

And having two means makeshift hip waders for crossings! Stick your feet in em, tie knots on top. (Use with common sense, of course, make sure you can rip them off if you go in and they fill.) I love this trick.

7:58 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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Thats a great idea, I never thought of using trash bags as waders. I gotten wet so many times with bags in my pack! Im gonna have to remember that trick.

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