The Ultimate Poncho Hootch Post- Living in the Bush Pt 2
This is the second part of my living in the bush series and I consider basic shelter one of the big 3 items you need to understand to live in the bush. Sleeping dry and warm is THE priority in the field and determines if you can function more than 1 night out.
This is really where the gun shop commandos are separated from the real field troop
Shelter is something to keep you alive, dry and out of the elements both long term and in short term survival situations.
In my own experience, I literally been saved by the knowledge to rig a poncho in the driving, freezing rain on a day when I should have thought twice about being in the bush off the pavement. Getting out of the wind, and rain, getting a hot drink prepared and in dry clothes changes a life threatening situation for someone under prepared, to just a funny story to tell friends later.
So, there are a few very basic techniques to rigging a shelter.
If you don’t carry cordage you are a fool. That’s just reality.
Why a Shelter?-You don’t have to like it or agree with me but I see personally, and read reports of hypothermia victims because the failure to plan and carry gear. In this planning is also the ability to resolve in your own mind the possibility in temperatures most consider to be very mild, hypothermia. The most common temps for hypothermia is not deep winter or late fall in most of the world.
Hypothermia claims most of its victims in Temps of 50-70 degrees F. I’ve watched people literally shiver themselves to the ground in what was a nice summer day, when caught in a sudden rain. At high altitude rain leaves the clouds at just above freezing, and does not warm much so you are getting the equivalent of an ice water shower. At 100 plus degrees its brisk, when the storm rolls in with winds and temps drop very quickly, sometimes 30 degrees in as many minutes, you are in trouble.
So, the Gear list
1) String, rope or bungee’s- In this list is also a length of 1 inch tubular webbing with snap links or D-rings. You don’t need a 100 foot roll of rope or webbing, I like 30 feet as a good middle compromise. 550 cord, should never be an option. At least 100 feet in your daily carry bag should be SOP at all times. A few small S-Biner’s for quick set up alleviates the knots in the dark mess. Bungee’s are another never leave home without item.
2) Tarp or more useful, a military poncho.
Or 2 poncho’s if it makes you happy and you don’t mind the weight. In the Infantry, when I was the Radio Operator for my platoon I carried 2 ponchos buttoned together for the CP shelter. Being able to sit up under the shelter was very important for rigging expedient antennas as well as the increased traffic in and out of the shelter. Rigging is the same for 1 or 2 ponchos, just the room under it changes. What to remember is you are not rigging a circus tent, even with the ensuing traffic and size.
I have 2 of each of these colors. I am satisfied they are of equal quality to the original GI poncho’s in my hootch kit. You can see them in the lower left corner on the parachute panels I used for a back drop.
You don’t have parachute panels? Shame on you. That’s a different post, on making a field expedient sleeping bag.
For serious users only.
If you choose a Tarp, you need to save your headaches and buy one, or make one with grommets on the outside seams, at the corners at least. But, having a grommet in the center of each outside edge will make life much easier for rigging a suspended cover over a hammock or when tying a mosquito net to the underside.
If you choose a tarp it is also a very good idea to have a webbing loop sewn into the exact center or your tarp, and then seal the seams with a commercial seam sealant for peace of mind. Ive never had one leak, but you might so make yourself happy.
3) Stakes. I hesitated to mention this but there really are places in the world where you can’t find a stick, to shove through your edge grommets or loops of cordage to hold your edges down on the ground.
The sand deserts of the world come to mind so some flat metal stakes should be included in your kit if you think you will find yourself in places like the middle east or the dune areas north of Yuma Az or California. In your vehicle kit they take up very little room but I’ve never carried stakes for rigging a poncho.
I use sticks or rocks, and rig the sides at low angles so the wind doesn’t get under and blow everything to New Mexico.
YMMV, in your areas. If you aren’t in the desert, and want to carry pins the stainless heavy wire type is a far better option for your pack.
4) Popular years ago were 6 sections of the old style GI tent poles for the shelter half. These allowed rigging the poncho anywhere there was room to lie down, and another option for your list of possibilities.
To clarify the photo, this is my bag with my gear in it. I don’t carry 6 poncho’s, 300 feet of rope, and stakes, poles and assorted other things all the time. Tailor your gear to what you are doing. Unless you have a huge tool box in your truck. Then carry it all.
I’m going to step on some toes with the Rube Goldberg guys here. If you are spending all your time learning 17 different knots and how to rig it with a cactus and a crashed alien ship you are really wasting your time here.
My thought process will be always, can you rig it in the dark, rain and shivering with loss of fine motor skills?
A shelter is NOT a piece of art, it is a tool to keep you alive. Plain, simple and uncomplicated is the way to go.
Do not over think this. Wanna be commandos spend too much time on minutia.
Get it up , face in the direction to get you out of the wind and get on with saving your ass.
So basic prep of your poncho or tarp. If you have just 1 poncho Id recommend not doing this because you need it for rain gear as well. But Im going to assume you have rain gear for that purpose in this context. Do not try to wear a poncho with loops attached, they will snag on everything. Pull them out and put in a pouch or pocket if you try to wear it.
You need 18 inch loops of 550 cord. Tie with an over hand or figure 8 knot. Then, in each grommet put one of those loops with a larks head knot. Very simple, run 1 end of the loop through the grommet, then pass the loop through itself and pull tight.
Loops give you staking options and are better than a rock on your poncho. You can use sticks for stakes, or a rock on the loop. It’s not rocket science, get it secured down but able to grab and run.
Keep your poncho protected, it’s not like if you need to fix it in the bush it will be easy. Better to take care of it first.
Tie off the hood, with a piece of 550 cord and keep the hood on what will be the outside of the shelter. Leave about 6-8 feet of cord attached on the end to suspend the poncho and tie a loop in it with an overhand or figure 8 knot so a bungee hook can be easily and quickly attached to hold it in a center supported canopy if that’s what your terrain or area calls for.
IMPORTANT— If you intend to use a stove you must either leave a door large enough to reach out of, or rig the poncho high enough to remove all doubts of fire or high heat igniting your house. Do not set a poncho on fire, it WILL melt and stick to your skin. If you think you had problems before…….
3 basic methods of holding up the poncho, and you can use any combination of these to your hearts content.
Single point– easiest way to envision this, the poncho is held off the ground at a single point, and staked at the other 3 corners. Or held up by the hood rope and staked at the 4 corners. This is a very solid a wind resistant setup, but can be a bit of a PITA to get in or out of.
A pack can be used alternatively to hold 1 corner as well as a pillow once you are inside. This is very fast, and easily implemented in areas where attachment points are difficult to find. And has a very low visual signature and wind resistance.
A popular option over a hasty fighting position for an OP or semi permanent position.
Double Point- Another easy to visualize setup.
The poncho is supported by 2 points, either cordage or bungies, from grommets on the outside edges. It is either put in Lean-to fashion or Pup Tent fashion, depending on the users preference and needs of use. Lean-to is fastest to rig, but if the wind changes direction obviously there are issues.
Pup tent fashion is more resistant but must be rigged so wind isn’t blowing through the ends in case of storms. In hot weather the edges can be raised and will created a thermal venting . This can be very comfortable sleeping in hot weather.
Another option if you have materials available is to use light poles or sticks to hold the poncho’s shape on the ends, then having a double point or ridge line suspension. This will allow tying a mosquito net under the poncho, and keeps the net off you while you sleep.
Ridge line suspension- I hate this way of rigging, it takes to long and is a PITA in the dark. And to be honest 2 bungies are faster to rig, better in the wind and faster to take down. But, it is a good way to illustrate the cobbler peg method of attachment through the grommets. You push a loop of 550 cord or whatever else you have through the grommet, insert a stick then pull tight holding the poncho to the cordage.
Why do I think this sucks? Because you have to have the cordage loose until you get your pegs in, then tighten from all directions, both ends and the middle to get it to work. It is a fine motor skill, which you WILL loose immediately when you get cold.
Really? Why go through that kind of thrash unless you just don’t comprehend the whole bungie cord concept. You will notice the cobbler peg being very long in the middle grommet here for clarity. You have to run through all 3 grommets in the lean to style hooch because the poncho will flap around terribly if you don’t. Notice also in this picture I left the hood hanging inside as an example of what not to do unless you are using a stick or pole in the hood for more interior room.
Literally cheap enough to be disposable.
Or just use a stick
Another option which I have not personally used but is a choice is the method shown on the Alpha Rubicon site linked for your perusal. I think its too small, and limited use but it is an option when you have nothing to rig too. It does require fabrication of 2 poles to hold it up and should be done well in advance if you wish to try it.
This has been what I consider to be a primer on the multitude of ways to rig a Poncho Hootch in the bush. Another very basic skill set which seams to be lost to the latest generation of internet commandos and wanna be’s.
The Ultimate Poncho Hootch Post- Living in the Bush Pt 2