Mors Kochanski super shelter

18 January 2010, I built a 1-person Mors Kochanski super shelter in the woods near Lelystad in the Netherlands. This original and efficient shelter invented by Canadian survival instructor Mors Kochanski, can be used in sub-zero temperatures without a sleeping bag. (I did a Winter survival course with Kochanski in 2009).

Kochanski was inspired by the igloo of the Inuit and combined its characteristics with that of a greenhouse in his super shelter. The shelter can be built quickly with inexpensive and readily available materials that might be found in a survival kit.

Materials needed

  • Clear piece of medium-weight polyethylene
  • Piece of reflective mylar sheet
  • Piece of air and moisture permeable material (usually rip-stop nylon)
  • Few meters of nylon cord
  • Some duct tape
  • Some safety pins

My construction

Bed frame made of logs secured with nylon cord and jam knots
Added sticks for the bed bottom
Added thin branches for a springy mattress
Reindeer skin for extra bed isolation
Flexible hazel branches stuck in the ground and lashed together at the top for the shelter frame
Added reflective space blanket held in place with duct tape and safety pins
Added polyethylene foil. It was a bit too thin (0.3mm) and unfortunately not completely transparent.
Added my 2.5 x 2.5 m nylon tarp
Made a little campfire for cooking
Me in front of the super shelter
At night I made a small long log fire. Outside temperature: -1C, inside temperature: 20C, no sleeping bag needed.

How does the shelter work?

  1. With the polyethylene, mylar and nylon, you create a bubble of warm air.
  2. The reflective mylar on the ceiling directs the warming glow of the fire back to your body.
  3. The window of polyethylene lets in the warmth from the fire but keeps out the smoke, sparks and wind.
  4. A small portion of the enclosure on the downwind side is made of vapour permeable nylon fabric to help refresh air and reduce condensation.
  5. A chair-seat high bed keeps you above the cold air that settles near the ground.

In temperatures over 10 ºC, your body heat might be enough to heat this shelter. If you’re sleeping with 3 or more people (in winter clothes), or have candles, the shelter might even be warm enough until -5 ºC. For temperatures below -5 ºC, a fire usually is needed. A small long log fire on the ground or a Sami long log fire (which can be built on top of snow) work well.

One month later, in Feb. 2010, I built a 3-person super shelter with two friends during a Winter survival training in Sweden. Kochanski writes that by combining four 6-person super shelters, you can accommodate even 24 people using one relatively small fire!

More information

More information about the super shelter can be found in Kochanski’s publications on his Karamat Wilderness Ways survival school website:

Update 2013: Some more super shelter resources by Kochanski:

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