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Pocket hypothermia shelter


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A couple years ago after an emergency call on the river, I decided to find an emergency shelter I could carry in a cargo pocket in case I fell into the water and had to wait out help.  I keep a bag with plenty of gear on the boat, but since I'm not wearing it there's a chance I could become separated from it.

This isn't a new idea and I didn't come up with this, but you can set up a palmer furnace small enough to fit into a cargo pocket.   

The idea is that if you're out unexpectedly in the cold, you can put the poncho on (made of heatsheets type material, not as flimsy as Mylar, more like a trashbag but still has the reflective coating), inflate the seat cushion, sit cross legged up against a tree or pack or something and light a candle between your legs to create a warm microclimate.  You won't be getting any sleep but it'll get you through the night in a pinch.  In my testing the outside temp was right above 32f and drizzling, there was no wind (thankfully) and I had on regular street clothes and a light jacket inadequate for the temperature.  Inside with two wicks burning got up into the mid 80s. Only cold spots are what was touching the mylar like poncho.  After about an hour and a half my butt was going numb from sitting that long and I was ready to be done, but I was warm.

I'm 5'7 and around 170 and would have preferred the poncho be about a foot longer. If SOL would make an XL version of this poncho it would be perfect.  You can of course use a regular poncho, USGI poncho, etc but would end up being bulkier in your pocket.


The rubber bands are to keep the arm holes of the poncho closed.


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I threw some matches in mine, and if you preposition some fluffed up tinder quik to the candle wick you can use a spark from a ferro rod to light it, since it's probably not something you want to futz around with when freezing


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I've since purchased a couple of these inflatable vests to test out, with the assumption that if I was soaking wet I'd want to doff and ring out my outer clothes and it would at least allow for some insulation and stand-off from the poncho to reduce cold spots on my core.

 IIRC they recommend putting it under a jacket or something, but I'll say this -- if you've got a bigger frame than me or wear a slim fitting jacket, that's not gonna happen. This is one size and is basically a S/M, it would barely close around me (it would be one and done anyway thanks to double sided tape it uses to close) definitely could use a L / XL size. They're silly expensive for disposable items, but I couldn't find anything else comparable out there.



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Edited by Refleks
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SOL also makes an emergency bivy that is great quality.

In an immersion type accident, getting those wet clothes off is going to be key.  We were taught and trained to get the clothes off - do something really rigorous like jumping jacks to get our blood circulating, and then get into the shelter/poncho with a heat source. 

The real key is creating your own air space that can heat up the layer of air closest to you.

The only suggestion I might make is to add something like a BlastMatch to the kit that can be used one handed.  From experience - when you're really cold, the manual dexterity needed to get a spark off a flint and steel can be a challenge.  

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Minor suggestion: Use a pair of scissors to cut slits in the edge of the vacuum bags to provide an easy tear point.  As MacGyver stated, you manual dexterity will be affected by being really cold and anything you can do to simplify the usage process will help.

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I have set up all night with my poncho on and some of the old Army heat tabs and they dried me out and kept me warm enough not to die. Have also used other types of heat producing products, just don't breathe the fumes or have bad gas!

Containing fire/heat like that is really a great solution for drying out in bad weather.

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