The thought of living in a long term shelter may not bring up an image of comfort, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to live comfortably in a long term shelter. (Pardon the triple negative.)
First, consider which type of shelter you’ll be residing in. Details such as the shape of your shelter will strongly affect how comfortable it will be.
- “Tee-pee” shelters are ideal for areas with frequent storms, cold weather, and low pressure fronts because they allow you to keep warm with a fire in your shelter, and keep the smoke level high. The catch, however, is that the extra space requires a larger fire (and more fuel) to keep the floor temperature comfortable.
- “Wig-wams” or shelters with a dome shape have lower ceilings and keep heat closer, but smoke can fill the interior and that’s not safe or comfortable. Some steps can be taken to prevent this from happening, such as having a smoke flap open into the wind and by using smaller logs in a tee-pee shape to keep your fire burning clean and evenly.
Dome shelters are ultimately more comfortable for one person or a group of people. A practical (and cozy) interior focuses on specific areas, including:
Doorways that are extended a meter or more away from the shelter allow for two doors. The outside door can be well sealed to preserve interior warmth; and an interior door or flap will further minimize drafts. Also, the space between is a good place to keep muddy or icy shoes.
An effective fire pit should be approximately 15 centimeters deep at the center, and slope up to floor level. When building a fire on flat ground, a ring of rocks or dirt can help contain coals and ash but this is not necessary with a fire pit and it may reduce the heat you’ll feel at floor level.
A comfortable bed can be made by creating a rectangle of logs or stakes and filling the inside with pine needles, grass, or dry leaves. The filling should be at least 20 centimeters thick after compression, and this will keep you well insulated from the ground.
The best beds can be built at least 30 centimeters off the floor by pounding stakes into the ground, lashing a frame onto the stakes, and making a solid platform on top of the frame which is covered by the previously described bedding materials, then stuffing the same into the space underneath the platform. The filling underneath does not need to be compressed, but it will hold heat better and lead to a cozy nights’ sleep. (Alternatively, you can use the space underneath your bed for storage.)
Tables & Workbenches
Using the same steps (without the insulation) you can build tables and workbenches for preparing food, storing materials, or working on skills.
If you have the choice, cooking is best done over a fire outside, and should always be done over coals or hot rocks instead of flames.