Emergency Shelter & Bedding

A shelter built in the woods made from sticks and a tarp under a fallen tree

Emergency Shelter & Bedding

You and your family should make an evacuation plan so you know where to go if you needed to leave your home.

Typical Emergency Shelter options outside of the home:

  • Friend or family-members home outside the affected area
  • Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn...
  • Government provided shelter
  • Your own portable shelter (car / tent)
  • Bug out location

In most scenarios if people are forced to leave their homes as a result of some kind of natural disaster; they will typically wind up either with family, friends, or in some cases a hotel. If those options aren't available than a Government provided Emergency Shelter is next on the list.

If your bug out plan is to run off to the woods and wait it out, you are probably deluding yourself. Even hard-core Bushcrafters would leave this as the last option.

That's not to say it isn't viable, but since it's a small percentage of people who can actually pull this off successfully, we aren't discussing it here.

One thing that often gets overlooked is the travel between ones home and the temporary shelter. This can take hours or in some cases days. You and your family might be sleeping on the floor in a bus station or airport somewhere, or in a temporary holding facility with limited resources.

So what items will help us in these situations?

We're going to start there, then broaden it out to outdoor survival for those who are interested in that subject.

An emergency shelter during hurricane Katrina, with people sitting around on cots

Most people will wind up at temporary shelters. If this is where you wind up, what can you do to make it less miserable?

Packable Sleep Systems

Blankets, Pillows and even Sleeping Bags can take up a ton of space. Thankfully there are options out there that can pack small, and that won't break the bank the way a lot of the high-end camping gear does.

We're going to present a few options to you here, and you decide what you think is best for you based on your environment.

Quick note: you will see most of the products we recommend are from Snugpak. This is not because we are affiliated with them, but they make products that are durable enough and inexpensive enough to hit the sweet spot for most peoples needs and budgets.


Arguably one of the most important items you can have in a survival kit, and probably the one that's the most often overlooked.

Cocoon CoolMax Blanket

Cocoon CoolMax Blanket

Typical Price: $40   Comfort Rating: 70° F / 20° C  Degrees or warmer

This travel blanket is fantastic, and we bring ours with us whenever we travel by plane or train. Coolmax is a poly material that breathes well but retains heat but not moisture. It's the same material that's in our favorite socks. It's like a warm sheet essentially. We have one of these and one Snugpak Travel blanket in our kits, and it is comfy down to 50° F.

Expanded Size: 70"L x 55"W - Packed size: 7"L x 4"W. Weight 12 oz.


Snugpak Travelpak Blanket

Snugpak Travelpak Blanket

Typical Price: $40   Comfort Rating: 50° F / 10° C  Degrees or warmer

These blankets are amazing. They take up more space than the Cocoon blanket above, but if can only choose one blanket this might be the one to consider. It's made from a Hex rip stop nylon fabric which is a lightweight, water repellent outer shell that protects you from the elements. Snugpak uses Paratex fabric that provides antibacterial and antimicrobial properties to reduce odor as well. If you want something bigger, check out the Snugpak Travelpak Blanket XL which is $50.

Expanded Size: 76"L x 64"W  - Packed size:  6"L x 6"W. Weight 1.5 lbs.


Sleeping Bags

If you prefer sleeping bags, or are concerned about sleeping in cold weather (below 50° F) then you'll probably want something more robust than a blanket.

We're not going to give you a huge list since there are just too many options out there. But we have one bag in particular that we love and that is warm enough and small enough for nearly all situations.

Snugpak Travelpak 4 Sleeping Bag

Snugpak Travelpak 4 Sleeping Bag

Typical Price: $70  Comfort Rating: 20° F / -7° C  Degrees or warmer

Unless you live in a place where it gets really cold at night, a sleeping bag like this might be overkill but there are plenty of us out there who are dealing with freezing temps half the year so this might be a must-have item for you. The Travelpak 4 walks the line between affordable and having a low temp rating while still packing down to a reasonable size. Oddly enough it has a built-in mosquito screen, so if you are using this bag outside during warmer periods then that's a bonus.

Expanded Size: 87"L x 31"W  - Packed size:  11"L x 10"W. Weight 4.2 lbs.



Seems like an unnecessary item until you try sleeping without one. I don't know about you young whipper-snappers but us old timers need to be comfortable when we snooze.

Snugpak Basecamp Ops Air Pillow

Snugpak Basecamp Ops Air Pillow

Typical Price: $19

A not-too-expensive inflatable pillow that packs small and makes you comfortable at night with adjustable firmness. Fully inflated dimensions are 18 inches long, 10 inches wide, and 3 inches tall and it weighs in at 3 oz.


Nemo Fillo Elite Ultralight Pillow

Nemo Fillo Elite Ultralight Pillow

Typical Price: $45

This is a really nice, durable high-end pillow that is super comfy and light as air. Packs as small as a lime in an integrated stuff sack when deflated. The smallest choice of the entire Nemo Pillow lineup.

Expanded Size: 15 x 11 x 3 in | Packed size:  4 x 3 in | Weight: 2.8 oz


Conair Eye Mask & Earplug Set

Conair Eye Mask & Earplug Set

Typical Price: $5

You might have a tough time sleeping in a place you aren't used to, especially if that place is noisy or bright. Save your sanity and have a way to block out the outside world when you are tying to sleep.


Inflatable Pads

If you are getting up there in age like we are, sleeping on the floor means lots of aches and pains the next morning. You can temper some of that problem with a sleeping pad between you and the ground.

In addition to making you more comfortable, many are insulated or have heat reflectors, so they keep you warmer at night as well.

There are a huge variety of shapes and sizes out there, but since our focus is on small and portable we are going to highlight some of the micro-pad sizes, that don't provide mattress for your legs, since they pack up into the smallest sizes and weight the least.

Nemo Equipment has a huge variety of pads, and we have several of theirs: Tensor Regular Insulated, Cosmo 3D, Roamer Self Inflating.

Nemo Tensor Ultralight Sleeping Pad - Short

Nemo Tensor Ultralight Sleeping Pad - Short

Typical Price: $130

This is a fantastic and durable micro pad. 3 inches of stable, cushioned loft you fill up with their Vortex pump sack. Made from premium fabrics and materials. Very quiet pad, no crinkly noises when rolling around at night.

Expanded Size: 48 x 20 x 3 | Packed size:  8 x 2.5 | Weight: 12 oz


Snugpak Basecamp Ops Self Inflating Mini Mat

Snugpak Basecamp Ops Self Inflating Mini Mat

Typical Price: $49

Here is a cost effective solution from Snugpak. Not as durable as other options but if you are only buying it as a backup that gets used in an emergency this will work just fine. This pad is short, your legs will hang off the bottom, but that saves you weight and pack size.

Expanded Size: 47"L x 20"W | Packed size:  11"L x 4"W | Weight: 1.1 lbs


Emergency Option

S.O.L. 90% Reflective Lightweight Emergency Bivvy

S.O.L. 90% Reflective Lightweight Emergency Bivvy

Typical Price: $17

If nothing else, get at least one of these emergency bivvys. They pack small and can keep you warm if nothing else. These are seamed and waterproofed and reflect back 90% of the heat you produce - as well as the moisture, so it can get a little wet in them in certain environments.

Expanded Size: 84"L x 36"W  - Packed size:  4"L x 3"W. Weight 3.2 oz.



We don't recommend that you carry a tent in your Bug Out Bag. In your car, yes. In a bag, no so much.

They are too heavy and too bulky and you need the room and space to pack other things you'll be much more likely to need.

This is especially true If you are not an avid backpacking camper, you may not be aware of what your needs will be should you be stuck having to use a tent.

That said there are many of you out there that can handle the load, that have thought these things through enough to know what you are doing, so for the sake of conversation we will present some of our picks.

River Country Products Trekker Tent 2

River Country Products Trekker Tent 2

Typical Price: $50

Roomy for one, with space for gear, but comfortable enough for two. Important: this tent is intended for use with trekking poles but you can set up the tent with sticks or tie it up between two trees.

Expanded Size: 84"L x 62"W x 42"H - Packed size:  10” x 6” x 5.5”. Weight 2 lbs 12 oz.


Hennessy Hammock - Expedition Series

Hennessy Hammock - Expedition Series

Typical Price: $150

Hammocks are not for everyone. If you haven't slept on one for several night in a row, then you don't know what I'm talking about. Yes, there are less expensive hammocks out there for sure, but the Hennessy hammocks are reliable when you need them to be. This one is designed for anyone up to 6ft and 250lbs, but if you are 5' 10" or taller you might want to move up to the Hennessy Hammock - Explorer Deluxe XL instead.


Kelty Noah's Tarp Sun Shelter

Kelty Noah's Tarp Sun Shelter

Typical Price: $60 to $100
We love these tarps and we have 3 different sizes, the 9', 12' and the 20'. You want a tarp like this to protect your tent from the elements or to create a kitchen or area for gear. Get the Kelty Staff Tarp Poles if you want to set it up the way shown in the image and if trees aren't as conveniently placed as you'd like them to be.


Living Outside

ALPS Mountaineering Rendezvous Chair

ALPS Rendezvous Folding Camp Chair

Typical Price: $40
Don't sit on the ground! Although these aren't like your arm chair at home, they are way better than nothing. These will come in incredibly handy. Don't forget chairs! Packs to 8' x 28".


ALPS Mountaineering Eclipse Camp Table

ALPS Eclipse Camp Table

Typical Price: $50
Built-in beverage holders - now we're talking. This is another comfort item which will make your outdoors life much more palatable, especially when not in an established campsite with tables. Even then, the camp fire is never where the tables are, so this lets you get nice and cozy while keeping your food away from the ground critters. 


Next STEP: Clothing & Weather Protection

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