There are different types of shelters you need to protect in inclement weather, not just outdoor ones. Sometimes, even your house can become a shelter in case of an emergency or a disaster that cuts out all power. The bottom line is that you need to be prepared with the best materials and advice so you can stay warm and comfortable.
Use animal skin
You might think this is so 1000 BC, but the animal skin is the perfect insulator for small outdoor shelters and mild weather. And if you’re actively hunting, you might as well use everything from your game, not just their meat. So if you have a reliable weapon for hunting larger animals, like a 30-06, along with the best scope for 30-06, you can easily shoot two or three deer to insulate your tent or your improvised teepee.
However, you need some tools for skinning these animals. One of these is a sturdy knife, that allows you to make deep cuts and precise carvings, without deteriorating the hide too much. You’ll also need plenty of water and a bucket for washing off the skin. You can keep the fur too for added warmth to your shelter.
Another good idea is to use layers if you have more hides, or combine this with other means of insulation, like a tarp. It’s always better if you have some sort of anti-odor spray or lotion to make the animal smell disappear so you don’t attract predators.
Collect dry leaves and branches
There are plenty of plants, leaves, and branches, including bark and pine needles that you can use to insulate your shelter. It’s a good idea to choose fibrous plants because they have a bigger density and less water inside which means they can retain heat.
Of course, heavier materials are better insulators because they keep you warmer. You also want to stay away from green leaves seeing as water conducts heat, allowing it to “escape” from your shelter.
Once you’ve collected these leaves and branches, you can start insulating your shelter from the inside out. You can use these materials if you’ve built a cabin or if you’ve dug a body heat shelter. This type of shelter entails you digging a hole in the ground or in the snow, that’s big enough for you to crawl in and stay warm using your body heat.
But adding dry leaves and bark in layers on the roof of this shelter keeps the warmer air inside, so the heat produced by your body can warm you up. You should also add a layer of such branches on the floor of your shelter, and it’s even better if you can find haulms.
Stock up on cardboard
Cardboard doesn’t conduct heat and has a pretty good chance of protecting your cabin, your house or an improvised shelter from the cold weather. However, cardboard isn’t waterproof, which means you’ll need to add something else to this or use cardboard to cover just the inside of your shelter.
The advantage of cardboard is that it’s easily found. You can drive to the back of most big furniture stores and find plenty of that lying around. Or you can save the cardboard boxes your PC or your Ikea table came in. Either way, it’s an affordable, ubiquitous material.
You can place the cardboard on the floors of your cabin, add a layer of branches and leaves, then a tarp and that can be good enough for a mild winter. Or if you want to make this into a permanent solution, you can always add a new wooden floor on top.
The same goes for the roof, and it can work with animal hides as well. The advantage is that they both have a good protection against the wind and the cold, but the animal hides are waterproof.
Get some Styrofoam
Styrofoam is another good insulator because it has already trapped a large amount of air inside. This is a polystyrene foam, and therefore has the same insulating properties as this type of plastic. Think about your disposable coffee cup you get every lunch break: it keeps your coffee warm, doesn’t it? Well, that’s how Styrofoam works, by preventing the heat escape from your home or coffee cup.
With a very high insulation value, this is way better than cardboard or leaves. You can place it on the inside or on the outside of your shelter, as well as on the floor. However, you’ll need to cover this with a waterproof material, like a tarp, a rain jacket or animal hides.
Use a space blanket
We’ve talked about materials that provide air insulation until now, but reflective insulation also works. While air insulation traps the warm air inside, reflective insulation reflects unwanted radiation. You can use the best survival blanket to cover the outside of your shelter because this is made from aluminum foil or polyester.
You can also use this inside a cave or a body heat shelter, knowing the space blanket works better to protect you from wind, rain and excessive heat. Reflective insulation is better in warmer weather for keeping your shelter cool, it’s light, compact and doesn’t get damaged easily.
However, if you also want to protect your cabin from the cold, you need to combine this with another insulator. For instance, you can use a space blanket as the roof of your A-shelter in mild weather, but you should add some dry leaves and bark on top of that, as well as some animal skin if you need extra protection against the cold. Or combine reflective insulation with Styrofoam for your cabin.
What will you use?
With all the great insulators we’ve discussed, we’re curious which one you’ll use and why. What sort of shelter are you thinking about? Which sort of elements do you most want to protect it against? What have you tried until now? Leave us a comment below.
Rebecca lives in USA, but loves hiking all over the world. Her favorite is Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal. It usually takes 16 days, but she likes to slow down, enjoy mountains, company of other adventurers and take more pictures, so it took her 28 days last time. Another of her passion is the ocean, so all short and long hikes along the ocean shore bring a lot of joy. She also writes for HikingMastery.com.