You’ll notice I haven’t used the word tent here. That’s because shelters are nothing like tents, and are only really there for use in an emergency, as a fun diversion at the end of a day, or sometimes for sliding down wet grass slopes on.
There are two main types of non-tent shelter.
The Group Shelter is a large nylon bag which you can pull over a few people and give them some rest for the rain. Best way to use them is to get the tallest members of the group and stick them in the corners. They then act as posts in four-post bed style, and hold the material off everyone else’s head. Of course, you don’t need to have them stand there awkwardly. They can sit and this still works, or if you must you can even use kit bags.
It sounds a ludicrous idea, but I’ve actually known quite a few people now who have relied on this sort of get-me-out-of-the-… measure for survival. It’s amazingly effective huddling together for warmth, and if you happen to also be out of the wind it can be quite snug. Guess that’s why penguins do it.
As well as the benefit to your core temperature, group shelters are also great for morale. If you’re cold, tired, wet and about to spend an unexpected night out on the mountains, it can completely turn it around. You end up feeling more like a cohesive group, more optimistic and end up in better physical shape next morning or after the storm.
Well worth considering one of these, then, especially if there’s a fair few of you. One word of warning, though. If you do take one, please check that it’s big enough for everyone. If it’s not, someone is going to have be be left outside, or a few of you will need to take turns. Alternatively if you try to squeeze everyone in, there’s a good chance you’ll poke a hole in the fabric and it’ll rip, making it useless.
Personal Bivouac Shelters
The second type of emergency shelter is a personal bivouac shelter, or bivvy. These are large, often orange, plastic bags which can take one person, wearing all of their kit except their rucksack. It’s intended as an emergency way to get out of the rain and wind, and to help start reheating someone who’s hypothermic. However, there are other uses, for example giving your sleeping back and extra layer of waterproofing if you’re going to sleep in a lean-to, or if your tent has leaked badly.
Bivouac shelters can also be used along with the group shelter, for double benefit. If you happen to have both along and need to deploy them, there’s a good chance that nothing the Scottish weather can throw at you will get through. You really will be bomb-proof.