emergency shelters

Rethinking the issue
The sil-nylon tarp sounds like the thing for your search. Still, my mind questions why these people are going on a trip ill-prepared in the first place. Each one should have a minimum of gear in a dry bag like dry clothes and something windproof to warm up in. Do you have a list of gear a tourist needs to bring to take the plunge? I would think that in the middle of extremes, hypothermia to comfort, there is a place to put on dry gear and possibly supplement heat with a couple of dry chemical packs and hot tea. The group tarp could be a nice windbreak for all, but the situations you are describing sound like the last step before stripping down and snuggling in a sleeping bag. I’m a real bear for wanting people to be prepared to take personal responsibility for most of their needs.

Google “Bothy Bags”

– Last Updated: Jun-29-10 2:02 PM EST –


depends on the trip
Ideally, yes, you’re taking people out who really want to learn more about kayaking, and how to do it safely and responsibly. Those people may have their own gear, and come prepared to take care of themselves.

However, that’s not the norm for guided kayak trips (at least not around here). Most people hiring a guide are novices who just want to see what the downeast coast looks like from a kayak. They’re told to bring non-cotton clothing, a jacket, snacks, water, sunscreen, etc. If the water is cold, we put them in a wetsuit, and then we’re off. It’s the guide’s responsibility to take care of safety beyond that because you can’t expect novices to have any idea what the dangers are. If someone swims, they might need warmed up, and of course a jacket is the first step (I carry an extra one of those too), but a storm shelter seems like a great backup. Plus it’s multi-purpose.

Maybe more experienced guides have found that this isn’t a necessary piece of kit. To me it sounds like a good addition though. It’ll also be useful to me in my personal paddling. We’ve stopped for lunch on a 40 degree day in the late fall, after paddling hard, and it’s amazing how quickly you can get chilled in those conditions. If we could all duck under a shelter while we eat lunch, that’d be cozy and sociable. :slight_smile:


We have different tolerance levels
of how prepared to expect a novice to be, and what level of trip someone barely prepared would be allowed on. I appreciate your level of sensitivity toward the newbies, but I couldn’t deal with it.

Bothy Bags
Hi Nate,

You need a bothy bag as mentioned above. Their greatest benefit is that they are incredibly quick to warm up inside, unlike a tarp which is not useful in a cold situation. I have a 3 person bag which goes with me on virtually every paddle. Light and compact, it has never been used but could one day save a life. http://www.terra-nova.co.uk/Brand/Terra_Nova/Bothy_Bags


Nate’s good sense
Nate said…

" Maybe more experienced guides have found that this isn’t a necessary piece of kit. To me it sounds like a good addition though. It’ll also be useful to me in my personal paddling"

You are on the right path taking the responsibility as a guide to keep your clients safe and comfortable. An experienced guide who doesn’t should look for a job as a Wal Mart greeter.

I’d still go for a tarp instead of shelter, just because I’ve found them to be so much more adaptable to geography and weather.

Lightweight fabric "igloo"
Body Boat Blade demonstrated one for a class I was in. With 6 people underneath, it heats up very quickly, and it compacts well.

I carry a so-called space blanket for my own use (looks like foil) and have wrapped it around myself and one other person during a cold downpour on a bike ride.

But if I have a poncho I prefer that because it has a hood. The backpacker version with longer tail could probably accommodate two people who like each other, though only one person’s head would fit in the hood. If one person sat down and the other nested inside their legs, that’d be warmer still. I have not tried this, though, so no guarantees.

I’m not sure what you mean. These are non-paddlers, going on very basic trips. Protected coastal paddles, usually less than 5 miles. The biggest hazard is lobster boat wakes. That doesn’t mean a capsize is unheard of. My job, as I see it, is to be prepared for the possible hazards, and get everyone home safe. Part of getting people home safe is that I carry what I need to warm someone up, if the jacket they brought isn’t enough.

Are you saying that if you were a paid guide, you wouldn’t take a beginner on a basic trip if they didn’t bring their own emergency shelter, first aid kit, tow rope, fire starting kit, flares, etc? I’m not sure I understand where you’re coming from.

Thanks for your advice Umnak.

Even paddling at painfully slow speeds all day beats working at Walmart. :slight_smile:

looks good
Glad to know what non-paddlers call these. That’ll offer some more options. Thanks!

Celia and Bowrudder
have nailed it. The emergency shelter that they showed works well. I imagine the one Pickabike mentioned is similar.

Great on grabbing responsibility for your paddlers!

In the same context

– Last Updated: Jun-30-10 10:52 AM EST –

as how people are expected to be prepared for different levels of hikes with the Colorado Mountain Club, I would expect the same level of preparedness for paddling. A novice isn't going to know everything, but that is what training and orientation is for. If a totally inexperienced person approached my guide business and asked for a guided trip I would certainly have some literature to hand them to become appropriately prepared for the level of trip they would go on. When they had familiarized themselves with the procedures we would make their reservation. Since they would be essentially renting the boat it might include things related to the boat, like a tow rope. Things for personal survival/comfort I would expect the customer to acquire. Maybe the difference here is that you might be taking customers on an "as arriving" basis. My ideal situation would be for them to take the time to familiarize with the requirements a bit. Having some extra stuff along for the oddball things that can happen is obviously a good idea for a guide. By and large, I would want the customer to be as prepared as possible. Its part of the learning process.

I took a "guided" hunt to a spike camp on Grand Mesa in Colorado. The guide service packed my friend and me, with gear, up the mountain on horseback and dropped us off for the week. They came by to check on us every couple of days. The guide service provided the wall tent, propane cook stove, and beaver pond for water; in some prime deer and elk habitat. We were given a list of what to bring on our own, which was pretty much everything else. You wouldn't take this kind of trip without some significant woods knowledge. I would expect the guide to examine applicants as to their gear and skill level, which this outfitter did. If you don't pass muster, you don't go.

helter Shelter
made by NRS

all the functionality, none of the hype or inflated price


It’s tourism taj
Different rules apply than for a real expedition - a lot of outfitters in Maine stock wetsuit shorties for their customers to use. It’s also a pretty helpful part of the economy of Maine in the summer, which is a good thing because much of the fishing and ship building based economy has taken a huge skid over the last couple of decades. And what Nate didn’t mention is the lovely fog - on the warmest summer days it can come on you fast and be dank and uncomfortable. If Nate has a group out that needs to hit shore for some reason as a fog bank is coming in, the shelters that are being discussed here are perfect.

A long time ago
I was in the tourist industry in Colorado. I have limited patience with them now days. There was the entertainment factor over stupid tourist tricks, but even that got old. I suppose being a guide for tourists seems too much like having dependants around for a living. Good if you like it…


– Last Updated: Jul-01-10 4:29 PM EST –

I don't really understand how you've gotten from the topic of my shelter to the assumption that guided customers are horribly unprepared to be on the water. I think on the whole people we guide are more well prepared than many folks who are out on the same waters on their own, because we insist on certain precautions. In addition to that they are paddling with a trained guide, which I like to think is also in their favor. :)

Different people hire guides for different reasons. When people want to learn about paddling, and plan on making it a hobby, I approach that day and their preparations differently than when people just want to go out in a kayak for a few hours to see the islands. They don't want to hear me prattle on for an hour about kayak safety. That's more than they need to know for what may be the only 3 hours they will ever spend in a kayak. I make sure they have what they need to be safe and comfortable, and I bring all the extra stuff just in case.

I can certainly understand folks who don't want to guide novices. Frankly, I might be one of them after doing it for a few months. But right now I enjoy it as a new aspect of the sport. I like sharing kayaking with people, and I like thinking about how to prepare myself so that I can keep everyone safe. At this early stage of guiding I learn something new every day, and that in itself is rewarding. But everyone's got their own definition of fun. I definitely get that.

I guess my emergency shelter is either the Gro or VCP one. The names/distributors seemed to change at some point.

I’ve used it several times and it was well worth the $ I paid for it. It has straps/loops so you can hold onto it in a strong wind or use it as a litter (non spine stable) to carry someone.

I prefer it to a tent since you can use it anywhere without stakes, poles ect… and it has virtually no set up time. Try to pitch that tent on a rocky shore or a windy beach while your hands get colder & colder. I’ve brought it on camping trips even though I had my tent.

I put a group of cold teenagers into it once and it definetely saved them from mild hypothermia. Once one kid looked cold they all got put into it.

Designed by…
Charlie Manson his’self.


VCP Igloo is not waterproof
Helter Shelter is but does it have the grab loops at the bottom like the Igloo does? Seems like those would be very helpful in high winds.

Igloo - big!
I ordered the Igloo from GRO (it was on sale for $100 for the 4-6 person). They called and said they were out of the medium size and not getting any more, and offered to send the large (6-8) for the same price. I was a little worried about bulk, as this is something I’d like to carry all the time, but figured it couldn’t be too big.

Well, it arrived, and frankly the packed size is much bigger and heavier than I expected. Tightly packed, it’s bigger than a basketball, and it weighs 2 pounds, 9 ounces.

I think I might need to send this one back, as I just can’t see carrying it very often. It won’t even fit through my 9" forward hatch.

It sounds like the Expedition Essentials shelter is more compact, but I can’t find specs. Can anyone tell me how large and heavy the 4 person or 6 person Exp. Ess. shelters are?

Thanks, Nate