Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Garbage Bag Emergency Shelter

Garbage Bag Shelter Field Test

This is the last night of a 2 week visit to my favorite State: Colorado, and tomorrow we drive into Denver, spend the night in a hotel and fly back to Florida. I'm hoping the temperatures are below the boiling point as it's now mid Oct. You know, Fall, leaves turned to gold, a crisp to the air. Everywhere except South FL that is.

The first night out here we woke to about 3 inches of snow and temperatures in the mid 20's. The high that day was 29 degrees and when you factor in the wind chill that's made it around 10 degrees, give or take. A long way from Florida weather.

Luckily it warmed up to the high 60's the following week and the wife and I got to do a lot of back country hiking and a little gold prospecting. Actually, we were looking for areas where we good do some gold panning and run a small sluice box when we come back next spring.  We found lots of very promising high country creeks in the Pike Natl. Forest and my research shows that they were all gold producers back "in the day". We also did a little gem hunting and found some nice feldspar, milky quartz and a very nice topaz crystal. These little gems didn't come easy folks. I'm talking 2 miles straight up, both ways, and at 10 thousand feet plus altitude that's a hike.

Enough of the vacation slides, (anybody remember those).  This blog is to report on some field tests I made using a 3 mil, 55 gal. garbage bag for a quick emergency shelter. My test conditions were with temperatures at 30 degrees F. and a north westerly wind at about 15 knots. Factor in wind chill and we're talking 9 degrees.  My first exposure was wearing just a pair of jeans and a thin tee shirt. Standing directly in the wind I lasted about 5 minutes before I started to shiver. BTW - this was at night, no sun to help with the warming. 

After warming up inside the camper I cut a small hole in the garbage bag to peak through, pulled it over my head, set my timer and stepped outside.  After about 30 minutes of star gazing I started to get a chill and noticed myself trying to avoid contact with the cold plastic. Remember, all I had on my torso was that tee shirt.  I didn't actually start to shiver.  I was just starting to get uncomfortable and supper was ready so I called that test and went inside.

After eating a warm meal and warming back to normal I decided to try another test, this time wearing a light fleece jacket over the tee shirt. Same drill - I slipped the garbage bag over my head, set my wrist watch timer and resumed my star watching.  By now the thermometer was reading 29 degrees and the wind was what I'd call "very sharp". One hour later, and approaching my bed time, I called it quits. I was just the slightest bit cold. Could I have made it another 12 hours or so? I think so but it would certainly have been a long night.
These tests were out in the open, fully exposed to a very brisk and cold wind.  Doing nothing else besides getting myself out of that cold wind made a huge difference. I tested this by simply moving to the lee side of my camper, out of the wind.  Almost immediately I could tell the difference.  My body was now able to produce enough heat that I could feel it warming up inside the bag.  Adding a big bed of leaves or pine boughs to nestle down into would have made a huge difference, maybe even a life or death difference.

Obviously there was nothing scientific about that test and you have to take into account individual tolerances to cold and also the clothing one would be wearing.

Regardless, that simple, inexpensive garbage bag could easily prove to be a life saver and I plan on carrying one in my personal survival kit.