Shelters and Field Equipment

Shelters

Why we need a shelter

Shelter is an important aspect of field communications. Not only does a shelter protect us from the weather, shelters make it possible to deploy less than rugged gear (and operators), in less than ideal conditions.

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Most operators dismiss the idea of a proper shelter for prolonged field communications. This opinion usually auto-ipdates after an operator gains enough actual field experience, deploying in insane weather. Insane weather can be anything from high temps, blizzards, torrential rain, wind/sand storms, … The point of the shelter is preventing exposure, teducing operator fatigue, protecting our supplies & communications gear, and most importantly, providing a safe & comfortable place from which we operate. No one should ever tell you what type of shelter you should deploy in. We leave that up to the deployment requirements.

The reasons for deployment are almost endless. Field surveys, expeditions, deployment of emergency stand-in communications equipment after a disaster, … A shelter serves as a protected location housing our gear, our temporary home, and a protected environment for the tech or radio operator to work. If the gear is not protected, it can’t do its job. If the tech or radio operator isn’t happy or rested, he or she can’t keep doing their job. This is true if we’re talking about emergency communications and or personal preparedness. Even if Communications is a secondary reason for being in the field, the reasons for deploying with adequate shelter, are still valid.

Shelters in amateur radio

Most of the time, amateur radio field communications as a hobby, is less critical than SHTF or EMCOMM deployments. However, when an operator plans to be deployed for days or weeks at a time,m regardless of weather conditions, a shelter becomes a critical piece of equipment. Again, many operators will dismiss this because they usually work casually a couple of hours at a time, on a comfortable park bench, in perfect weather. That casual operator is not really who this post is targeting. The Operators on a expedition, SOTA, IOTA, DXpedition or traversing the ends of the unknown. That’s the operator who will understand.

Currently I have 4 different shelters for various types of deployment. The MilTech Recom tent (it’s junk). The Nortent Tipi Lavvo 4, Nortent Tipi Lavvo 6, Nortent Gamme 4. I do hope to add a tarp shelter at some point, but that is not in a hurry.


The Bunker – Nortent Gamme 4

The Gamme 4 is my primary shelter system for expedition type deployments. It is a rugged system, modular, with inner tent and stove options. This tent is extremely well suited to heavy winds. It is also extremely easy to set-up, regardless of the weather conditions.

The bunker is a modular all weather, all scenario, 4 season hot tent with a titanium wood stove. It can be used stand-alone, with the shell and floor, with the shell and inner-tent, … Every configuration can integrate with a wood stove.

Specifications:

  • 4 seasons.
  • Capasity: 4-(5) persons. 3-(4) persons with innertent
  • Flysheet: Ripstop silnylon 40D, 260T, 3000mm
  • Plugs/ stakes: 24 aluminium Y-peg
  • Guylines: 8
  • Weight: Tent with stakes and poles: 5,8 kg

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Nortent Tipi/Lavvo 6 Tipi/Lavvo 4

The hot tipi tent is my go-to ultralight 4 season tent. This is definately my preferred option when operating man portable, either hiking or with the fat bike. Like the Gamme 4, the Nortent Tipi 4 and Tipi 6 are both modular. They can be used as a tipi shelter alone, with/without the floor, with/without the inner tent, or with/without the wood stove.

Lavvo 4 Specs and contents

  • Flysheet: Ripstop silnylon 30D, 260T, waterhead 3000mm
  • Pegs: aluminium 30 pcs, Y-peg
  • Aluminium pole: 30 mm aluminium
  • Min weight (Without plugs and pole): 1,9 kg
  • Max weight (With plugs, pole and guylines): 2,9 kg
  • Repair kit

Lavvo 6 Specs and contets:

  • Flysheet: Ripstop silnylon 30D, 260T, waterhead 3000mm
  • Aluminium pole: 30 mm aluminium
  • Pegs/ stakes: aluminium 30 pcs, Y-peg
  • Min weight (Without plugs and pole): 2,3 kg
  • Max weight (With plugs, pole and guylines): 3,7 kg
  • Repair kit


Mil-Tec Recom One man tent

The Mil-Tec Recom was my first shelter system. It was a complete waste of money! Ok to be fair, it kept me dry, and comfortable, but it weighs a ton. If I could ever find a two man size version, at a third of the weight, I would buy this type of shelter again.

I used the Recom as a single operator, rapid deployment shelter. There is no space for operating a QRO rig, or anything else inside but sleeping. It does have a nice vestibule for storing gear, cooking, … and sleeps one comfortably in insane rain.

Wood Stove & heat

Like the Bunker and tipi tent, my wood stove also comes from Nortent of Norway.

If the shelter was the most important update to my portable ops at 65° North, the addition of a wood stove, was the next logical step in achieving all WX sustained field communications. It is possible to deploy at this latitude without shelter. However, if you can’t get a reliable source of heat, your deployment will fail. When I’m using wood stove regardless of the temperature outside, inside my shelters, the temperature is usually +15-20°C (59-86F). This has been tested down to about -20°C (-4°F)

It’s important to remember with my deployment strategy as it’s usually a tent, a supply of wood fuel, along with the shell and inner tent, all work in unison to supply a good working temperature, inside the shelter.

The wood stove allows us to: dry our gear, prevent condensation, boil water, cook our food, clean our socks, provide a stable temp for temperature sensative gear. Most importantly, it imporives our morale in the field.

Morning routine during August 2018 X Days off Grid series.

My shelters have come a long way since the realization of their importance. In the end, we need to use what fits our budget and requirements, without trying to chase someone elses shelter dreams. This is about what you need, try out different options, then settle on whats right for you.


The reality

The best way to get yourself in trouble during extended field communications, is not understanding “the communications part”, as just one part of the deployment strategy. During prolonged field deployments, there are a variety of tasks we need to undertake.

  • Preparing food
  • Keeping ourselves clean
  • Harvesting or collecting fuel for heat
  • Collecting and/or filtering water
  • Generating power
  • Cleaning solar panels
  • Sleeping

When we’re talking about prolonged field communications, there is no such thing as just doing the communications. There is no “I’m just the radio operator!”. When we are unsupported in the field, the team is responsible for all of those tasks, including coordination, actually passing traffic, and keeping the camp/station up and running, so it sustains the radio Operator(s).

In my experience, the best practise is a multi-operator station. A minimum of two operators, alternating between the stations tasks. The shared approach to manning a sheltered Field Station, spreads the load, and helps reduce Operators fatigue.

More to come