Posts Tagged With: Mors Kochanski Super Shelter

The Number One Skill of a Good Woodsman

by Todd Walker

Every item in your kit should ultimately help you develop this top skill.

The Number 1 Skill of a Good Woodsman -

“The quality of a survival kit is determined by how much it can help you when you need to sleep.  If you can sleep well at night, you have it made.” ~ Mors Kochanski

I’ve shared coffee over campfires with some tough guys in the past. It’s easy to spot who is experienced in the art of smoothing it in the woods by a simple question uttered after that first sip of joe…

How’d ya sleep?

Ah yes, the moment of truth. On the second morning it becomes very apparent who’s sleeping well and who’s ready to pack up and head home to their pillow-top mattress and warm flannel sheets.

We all have our bad nights sleeping in the woods. But an experienced woodsman has developed hacks to obtain what novice campers only dream of… restorative sleep.

Owls screech, coyotes howl, and curious critters come to visit. What did we expect? We’re sleeping on makeshift beds in their “living room.”

The larger woodland animals are often deemed sleep saboteurs. Proper camp hygiene will keep most of the big guys away. Not giving attention to little details invites malicious mischief all night.

Sleep Saboteur #1: Mosquitos

There’s nothing more annoying than the distinctive, tormenting buzz around your face in the dark. Left un-swatted, one tiny mosquito in a shelter will ruin any chance of sleep.

Get the picture…

You lay motionless, radar on, to detect its airborne location before the nighttime bombing raid commences. The constant hum gets closer and stops when the bloodsucker lands. You swat – and miss – and swear. The dive bombing continues till dawn. Itchy welts on your forehead, the only exposed human tissue in your shelter, resemble a measles outbreak by morning.

Here are few modern and primitive ways to get a good night’s rest in bug season.

Bug Netting

Defensive maneuvers can be deployed to defend your skin. Modern mosquito netting adds little weight to your pack and provides protection from even smaller no-see-ums (biting midges).

ENO Guardian Bug Net

ENO Guardian Bug Net

Dirt Road Girl bought me a ENO Guardian Bug Net to use on our trip to Eagle Rock Loop this summer. I only used it the first night. The net stopped the bugs. But it also stopped some of the breeze. I hate sleeping hot.

Bug Dope

The industry standard to keep bugs off is DEET. The problem I have with this chemical is ~ if will melt plastic, I don’t want it on my skin. I opt for natural bug-off protectants.

BugShot even works on ticks

BugShot even works on ticks

One all-natural repellent I’ve been using this summer is called All Natural BugShot. I love this stuff! Here’s a quick video of my thoughts on BugShot…

The plant world provides a natural defense against biting insects. Here are a few that I’ve used and found effective in my area. Simply crush the leaves to release the oils and smear the material on your skin and clothing.

  • Wax Mertle (Myrica cerifera) – abundant on our middle Georgia family land and used often
  • American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) 
  • Paw Paw (Asimini triloba) 
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – found along open fields and hedgerows before you hit the deep woods

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

Smudge Fire

Even if you can’t find these natural bug repelling plants, you have woody plants in various stages of decay no matter where you are. Look for a dead limb or stump containing punk wood; decaying wood that is spongy but not rotted to the point of crumbling to dust.

You knew I’d highlight the importance of fire craft in wilderness self-reliance, right?

Once you have fire, light a chunk of punk wood and let it begin to smolder. If you have a metal container, add a layer of burning coals to the bottom of the container. Then add the punk wood on top. Now you have a smudge pot that can be moved to take advantage of wind direction in your shelter area.

A few holes in the bottom of the container will add just enough oxygen to keep the smudge smoldering for hours. However, you don’t want to ruin a perfectly good metal container with holes. Use an old tin can or other container using your possum mentality.

A shallow hole in the ground with smoldering material will serve the same purpose – only it’s not mobile. Animal dung, composted plant material, pine needles, and other weeds on top of coals will create long-lasting smoke. Let’s not forget about the usefulness of smoke to rid natural bedding material of my arch enemies in Georgia… chiggers and ticks!

Sleep Saboteur #2: Bedding

Staring at my mid 50’s, the need to impress others has departed like the hair on my head. I’ll take smoothing it over roughing it any night in the woods!

Personal preference dictates whether you hang in a hammock, sleep on the ground, use a sleeping bag, or a wool blanket. I’ve used all of the above. Given the option of ground or hammock, I choose to hang around camp!

Tarps and hammocks on Eagle Rock Loop

Tarps and hammocks on Eagle Rock Loop

Go Light

Weight isn’t an issue when car camping or RV’ing. Even canoe camping will trim your load considerably. Bushwhacking on foot takes a bit more thought on your sleeping arrangements. Long before today’s modern camping gear and gadgets, our ancestral woodsmen slept in the wilderness comfortably.

The temptation is to buy this or that indispensable camp kit has been too strong and we have gone to the woods handicapped with a load fit for a pack mule. This is not how to do it. Go light, and the lighter the better so that you have the simplest of material for health comfort and enjoyment.  ~ Nessmuk


When your body comes in contact with cold or wet ground, heat transfers (conducts) away from your 98.6ºF body. Sleeping cool is one thing, sleeping cold can kill.

I use a cheap closed-cell foam sleeping pad in both my hammock and on the ground when temperatures drop. This insulates my backside from the effects of convection in the hammock and conduction when sleeping on the ground.

Other primitive insulators are available in the forest if you ever find yourself in a situation without modern gear. A six-inch layer of compacted leaves, pine bows, or other fluffy stuff can serve as a barrier between you and the cold ground.

“It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.”  ~ Horace Kephart

Sleep Saboteur #3: Heat Loss

I sleep best in cold weather. To do this, I take steps to control heat loss.

Here are key terms to know for core temperature control:

  • Conduction – The transfer of heat when ‘hot’ molecules collide with neighboring cold molecules. Heat travels from hot to cold via touching.
  • Convection – Air or water moving over skin removes heat from your body.
  • Radiation – The process where energy (body heat) is transferred in space from our body and absorbed by a colder environment. Heat, light, and sound travel by waves, particles, or rays.
  • Insulator – Materials that are poor conductors of heat. Air, cloth, and wood are poor conductors but make great insulators.
  • Heat transfer – Thermal energy (heat) can be transferred via conduction, convection, and radiation.

To sleep cozy in the woods, pay particular attention to the following…


Your most important layer of shelter is the clothes you wear. Without feather or fur, humans wear clothing to trap a warm pocket of insulating air being radiated from the body. Our head and neck are responsible for radiating about 75% of our body heat into the environment. That’s why wearing a hat keeps your feet warm.

Outside the clothes you’re wearing, another layer of shelter can be made from tarp, tent, or natural material. It’s worth noting here that attention to the 4 W’s of campsite selection (Wind, Water, Wood, and Widow Makers) increases your chances of peaceful sleep. I’m fond of tarps due to their flexibility in configurations. Other advantages of tarps include:

  • Lighter than tents
  • Quick to set up if caught in a rain storm
  • Can be set up to passively collect said rain water
  • Perfect companion for hammocks
  • Cheaper to buy than tents
  • Easy to configure to block wind, rain, or snow – or open up to take advantage of wind in hotter climates
  • You can make your own
  • A radiant fire out front adds warmth and offers wilderness TV entertainment as you nod off to sleep

A few modern shelter/cover options in my sleep system are…

Flying the bed sheet tarp in the backyard

Flying the bed sheet tarp in the backyard

  • ENO ProFly – lightweight (1.4 pounds), compact, and easy to set up
  • SOL Emergency Space Blanket a 5 x 7 space blanket used in the Kochanski Super Shelter design for extreme cold and little gear
  • Trash Bags – two contractor grade trash bags stay in my kit and could be used for emergency shelter or stuffed with fluffy debris for bedding
  • US Military Modular Sleep System (MSS) – this system consist of two sleeping bags, GoreTex bivy bag, and compression stuff sack – I only take the components I think I’ll need, never the whole system

Other Sleep Aids

The first thing I do when making camp is to build a fire. I’ve made it a habit to wash my body before going to sleep. After bathing I stand by the campfire to dry off. This one act helps me sleep the sleep of babies. A little nightcap never hurt either.


A poncho liner (A.K.A. – woobie) has saved me a time or two in what I expected to be warm camping weather which turned cool unexpectedly. My nephew, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, always carried a woobie. Leaving this piece of gear behind, he was told, would ensure that you “woobie” cold.

Dedicated wool socks for sleeping accompany me on overnight trips. These clean socks are only worn in bed.

“One of the hallmarks of the veteran woodsman is the way he contrives to make himself comfortable in camp”. ~ Warren H. Miller

Experience in the finer aspects of woods lore can only be learned by Doing the Stuff in the wildness. Fall temperatures haven’t arrived in Georgia yet, but I know they’re coming. I for one can’t wait to get out and sleep in the woods!

What’s your best tips for sleeping soundly in the woods?

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.


Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 29 Comments

The Single Best Piece of Survival Gear for Emergency Core Temperature Control

by Todd Walker

Mother Nature is always true to her nature. You can’t change her. She’s beautifully rugged, awe-inspiring, and occasionally deadly. Best be prepared when she tries to make your life miserable.


Like duct tape and WD-40 in my tool box, there aren’t many Core Temperature Control dilemmas my reusable emergency space blanket can’t fix. This may be the best 12 ounces you can add to your hunting, hiking, camping, fishing, and/or 72 hour emergency kit.

Mors Kochanski, the Godfather of modern bushcraft, came up with a brilliant idea called The Super Shelter. His design takes advantage of radiant heat from fire and a layer of clear plastic sheeting to help you survive extremely cold conditions.

Building The Super Shelter microclimate has been on my Doing the Stuff to-do list for a while now. Finally got some cold weather so decided to give it a test. Our midweek forecast is calling for a single digit windchill factor. A great time to put theory to the test.

The Modified Super Shelter

Here’s what you’ll need to construct your own…

  • 5 x 7 foot reusable emergency space blanket
  • 4 tent stakes
  • Clear plastic sheeting – cheap painter’s drop clothes run around $3.50
  • 25 feet of cordage
  • Ground insulation – 4 to 6 inches of compressed natural material or ground mat to battle conduction
  • Firewood – lots of it!

First, set up a lean-to shelter with your emergency blanket. I won’t rehash this part. For more info on this set up, click here. Lay the clear plastic over the lean-to and secure to the two back tent stakes. Nothing fancy. I simply tied each corner to the stakes. Use cordage if you’d like.


Starting my fire with duct tape

Use a 6 to 7 foot long log/stick to secure the front flap over the opening of the lean-to. Roll the stick into about a foot of the front flap until the plastic is plumb under your ridge line. This secures the flap and allows a quick escape in case you need to attend to an emergency during the night. If the stick is not too large, you could simple lift it to add fuel to the fire without leaving the shelter.

The Test

I kissed Dirt Road Girl goodnight around 9 PM, went out to my backyard bushcraft area and took a temperature reading inside the shelter… a brisk 24º F. For my northern friends, this may be shorts and sleeve weather, but in Georgia, that’s nippy. By morning, the mercury read 19º.

I advocate trading theory for ACTION. Doing the Stuff in a controlled environment (my backyard) with untested gear and designs prepares me before I actually need the skill or kit item for survival.

Gotta Have Fire

Onto the test. There’s no such thing as “cheating” when it comes to fire in a survival scenario. Start a sustainable fire any way you can. I used a few feet of Gorilla tape and my Bic lighter to ignite my smalls and burn my fuel-size wood.

For this survival shelter, be sure to collect enough firewood to last you through the night. How much do you need? More than you just collected. A pile of dead wood the size of your shelter may get you through a freezing evening.


Ideally, you’d want a fire burning the length of The Super Shelter (6 to 7 feet). For this test, my fire was only 2 feet in length. Even with this short fire, the temps inside the shelter grew to 62 degrees in less than 10 minutes. A long fire will have you “smoothing it” in your skivvies! Yep, no photo documentation of that epic event last night.

Clothing and Cover

Outside your first element of cover (clothing), your lightweight, multifunctional space blanket is one of the best pieces of survival kit you can carry in the woods. If you’ve dressed properly for the weather, your clothing is all you’ll need to stay warm in The Super Shelter.

My layered clothing consisted of what I’d normally wear on a camping, hunting, or bushcraft outing in cold weather.

  • Synthetic base layer top
  • Long sleeve under shirt
  • Long sleeve button shirt
  • Carhartt pants (medium-weight) – no synthetic base layer tonight since I was in my backyard
  • Sock liners and one pair of wool shocks (medium weight)
  • Pull-on leather boots
  • Homemade wool hunting shirt from an Italian Army blanket
  • Wool Sherpa hat

Lying in the shelter for 20 minutes, I began to peel layers… wool hat first. My hunting shirt became my pillow for my uncovered head. My biggest concern was my feet as they extended past my ground mat. Not an issue. My toes were toasty warm the entire 4 hour test.


Why not the entire night? Remember what I said about firewood? I burned all my firewood and the shelter loses heat quickly without a radiant fire. Note to self… Get. More. Wood!


Keep in mind that this is not a long-term shelter. But for a 72-hour emergency, it is superb for Core Temperature Control. By the way, I discovered that a 9′ x 12′ foot painter’s tarp would have been enough to create this shelter. I went with a 20′ x 25′ to be sure.

Even for a half night stay, the modified Super Shelter design is totally worth packing two extra pounds for extreme cold weather outings!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Survival, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 28 Comments

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