Field Expedient Shelter Using A Poncho

First… As promised I have picked the winner for the bug-out bag contest.  It was a tough call, but I believe that if young children can benefit from anything I have to give than they will.  Like I said it was tough, but in the end I chose Crystal Perkins.  Here’s what she had to say:
I am a single mother of two young girls. I have managed to prepare some things as far as food and water, but I do not have a bug out bag. On my salary I can’t even afford a first aid kit….(in which every one should have in there house). This bug out bag would help out a great deal with my children’s survival. Please consider my girls and I for this wonderful bug out bag…. I know on my own I would never be able to afford anything like it.
There were other families out there that have young children as well in similar financial straits, but it seems Crystal is fighting the good fight alone.  Or she was.  Now she has Ol’ Jarhead Survivor in her corner. Crystal – please email me your mailing address and I’ll see that one gets sent to you.  My email is and I hope you find this bag useful in your preps. ————————————- On to the post! This weekend I was out at my camp setting up the fire pit and suddenly it started raining.  It was hard enough to get a fire going as there had been a major storm the night before and the woods were soaked.  I’d split some wet stuff to get to the dry inside and after a little work had a decent fire going.  Then the rain. I always have my poncho in my bugout/hiking bag, so I pulled it out and set it up as a shelter over the fire. Instant protection from the rain! The way I set this one up is simple:  just take some paracord and tie it to the four corners of the poncho, find some trees to tie it to and tie it up about four or five feet off the ground.  There was no wind today, so the rain was falling straight down.  That’s why I was able to get away with the tarp this high off the ground. If the wind is blowing you need to tie the tarp down lower to the ground on the windward side to help keep you, your gear, and your fire dry. As you can see there’s a little bow in the poncho, which would allow water to collect if I weren’t being careful.  You have three choices in this situation: 1.  Keep pushing up on the poncho so that any rain that collects will fall off the sides in stead of puddling in the middle. 2.  Tie the hood to a branch above it and that will help keep the rain from pooling. 3.  Prop a stick up under the tarp up so that it will keep the rain from pooling in the middle.  Although you can’t see it that’s what I did in this situation.  I didn’t put it in until after the pictures were taken. There are literally dozens of ways to use a poncho as a shelter.  Really, you’re only limited by your imagination.  As you try different shelter configurations you’ll eventually come down to two or three that you like and get good at setting up. A note about the poncho This is a heavy duty military surplus poncho, not one of the three dollar ponchos you can pick up at Walmart.  I tried making a shelter out of one of those once during a snowstorm and the wind and snow tore it to shreds.  Literally shreds. As you can imagine I said a lot of colorful words and vowed never to be caught without the real deal ever again.  This is one of those areas that if you can afford it – don’t skimp. If you had a strong piece of plastic you could probably make the same type shelter, but I like the poncho because it has built in grommets that allow you to tie your paracord directly to it with minimal fuss. When I was in the Corps I spent many nights under a makeshift shelter and I carried that into my civilian camping as well. I’ll write more about the poncho in another post, but this is one of those pieces of equipment that has many uses. Questions?  Comments? Sound off below! -Jarhead Survivor  
28 comments… add one
  • javelin December 24, 2012, 7:56 am

    seems like a great choice for the bag!
    Good ponchos are an invaluable tool. If you carry 2 one can be used for a groundsheet or as a side wall in a quick shelter.

  • cryptical December 24, 2012, 11:00 am

    I recall a Gunny of my acquaintance swearing by a poncho and some bungee cords as all he needed for a field shelter. This was back in the early 80’s when they had us (Seabees) toting around a shelter half and corresponding accessories.

    • D'ja'c December 24, 2012, 5:57 pm

      God bless those gunny’s that put up with us Seabees. Do those ponchos still smell like they are left over from WWII. Or was that just because we got everyones hand me downs? Merry Christmas everyone!

  • CombatrockRock December 24, 2012, 11:09 am

    First, Congrats Crystal on the bag. Sounds like you will benefit the most from the bag. Great choice Jarhead.
    Second, Poncho’s are great, I have carried mine everywhere. They make setting up a shelter simple and fast. Many ways to set up. Great skill to have.

  • smokechecktim December 24, 2012, 11:19 am

    the US military issue poncho is probably the single best item of military gear. I agree that the uses for this bulky, heavy duty chunk of rubber are literally endless!

    And by the way I will not wish everyone holiday greetings….but I will wish everyone MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

    • Jarhead Survivor December 24, 2012, 11:43 am

      @smokechecktim and the guys above – the poncho is literally one of the most versatile pieces of equipment in your BOB. Like smokechecktim says – it’s bulky and kind of heavy, but the versatility of this piece of gear makes it well worthwhile to own one.

      And Merry Christmas right back at ya and to the rest of you SHTFBlog readers too.

  • Jason December 24, 2012, 11:32 am

    Jarhead – You can run but cannot hide from ‘Ol Saint Nick – I’ll bet Santa will still find your 2 young ones under the poncho …

    • Jarhead Survivor December 24, 2012, 11:44 am

      @Jason – haha! Even though it’s OD green I’m sure Ol’ Santa won’t have any problem finding my two little ones. I hear he’s even got night vision!

      • Jason December 24, 2012, 3:45 pm

        Should have told you earlier but check out this for your kids – it is really well done, free & takes less than 10 minutes to do. It is the best & my 7 year old loved it!

        • Jarhead Survivor December 28, 2012, 12:58 pm

          My boy loved that! When he saw his picture in Santa’s book he about fell over. Thanks for the link.

  • riverrider December 24, 2012, 12:02 pm

    i lived under a poncho for best part of 29 years on ftx’s but i have recently discovered “thermal blankets” sometimes listed as casualty blankets. they are like space blankets on steriods and od on one side. they are much lighter than even ripstop ponchos and VERY strong. i can carry two in the space of a poncho, one for the roof, one for the ground or to wrap up in. they can be used in any way that a poncho can, and run about 12 bucks. i still won’t give up my ponchos altogether, but these go in my ghb instead. oh, tyvek house wrap works well if you have no need for opsec. great post. love it.

    • Jarhead Survivor December 24, 2012, 12:23 pm

      @riverrider – I just ordered one of those thermal blankets. I checked them out and gotta admit they looked pretty good. I’m always looking for new gear to try out and I’m surprised I haven’t heard of this one before. Thanks for the tip! Hope I like it as much as you do.

    • The Buzzard of Oz December 24, 2012, 10:56 pm

      So RiverRider… can you please elaborate on these “thermal blankets” and where I can get some? I can only find the space blanket type. Merry Christmas to all!

      • riverrider December 25, 2012, 10:38 am

        buzz, they are od on one side and silver mylar on the other, with grommets in the corners. available most anywhere camping supplies are sold. sometimes they are other colors. even walmart carries them near here. be careful though, there is a new thin space blanket thats od on one side too. its about worthless as shelter.

    • TIreland December 25, 2012, 7:34 am

      What’s the name of the brand?

      • Anonymous December 28, 2012, 12:32 pm


  • Odd Questioner December 24, 2012, 12:41 pm

    One thing that may help… most ponchos have that hood on them, so take a long stick and use it to push up the center of your shelter. One end of the stick goes into the ‘hood’ part of the poncho, raising it up higher than the sides, letting rain fall off.

    I remember as a kid in camp using a poncho as part of my shelter. Got told by the instructor to build something else… apparently it was ‘cheating’ :)

    • Jarhead Survivor December 24, 2012, 2:20 pm

      Yeah, that’s what I was trying (not very well) to say here:

      3. Prop a stick up under the tarp up so that it will keep the rain from pooling in the middle. Although you can’t see it that’s what I did in this situation. I didn’t put it in until after the pictures were taken.

      As to cheating, don’t know how that can be if you’re warm and dry in a rainstorm!

  • dub December 24, 2012, 5:06 pm

    What’sa good way to clean them? Mine have stank for years even after cleaning them.

    • Jarhead Survivor December 25, 2012, 6:28 pm

      I put mine over a fire and let the smoke roll over it for awhile. It still stinks, just n0t as bad.

  • Bobbie Francoise December 24, 2012, 10:58 pm

    Outstandingly educative cheers, I am sure your visitors would possibly want more writing similar to this maintain the wonderful work.

  • Pineslayer December 25, 2012, 8:59 pm

    I agree with the statement that the poncho might be the best piece of equipment ever developed. I picked up a used one at a yard sale for $1, stank bad. It was a strong vinyl one, not ripstop, not military, but very nice. I dunked it in a 5G bucket with cold water and lemon juice, just for the heck of it. After swishing it around here and there during the day, I hung it up to dry for a couple of days, not that it needed that long, but fresh air helps. It worked, no smells, barely a lemon tinge.

    On a side note, I’m trying to find Calamity Janes post on Prepping for Governmental Collaspse, poof gone. What is this Neanderthal missing? Thanks

    • Jarhead Survivor January 9, 2013, 12:43 pm

      I’m not sure what happened to that post, Pineslayer. Try emailing her directly to see if she remembers it.

  • Badger359 December 27, 2012, 7:04 pm

    Great article, I need to pick some up. It brought back memories of my jungle training at Fort Sherman.

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. January 2, 2013, 8:15 am

    I think the manufacturer of one of these products is Thermos.

  • Airborne January 6, 2013, 4:48 am

    If ya ain’t cheatin ya ain’t trying!

  • Rock Stone January 9, 2013, 10:24 am

    Were you not concerned about the fire melting the poncho?

    • Jarhead Survivor January 9, 2013, 12:42 pm

      Hey Rock Stone – nah, I wasn’t worried. I build the fire low and kept the shelter high. In the past I’ve made this type of shelter and WAS concerned because it was closer to the flames, but these are pretty rugged ponchos. This one was in no danger of melting.


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