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Tarps, Tents and Shelters

  • Boston Outdoor School 131 Walnut St Saugus United States (map)
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Course full? Email me to get on the waitlist.


Cost: $60

Duration: 3 hours


Age: 16+


Sheltering is essential to your surviving at any time of year. However, sheltering and surviving in cold weather is in a league of its own and requires different skills because of the harsh environment.

Cold weather environments are far more difficult to survive in than mild ones. You need hotter fires, stronger shelters, and more calories. It’s imperative that you stay dry and guard against the cold. The number one cause of death in the outdoors is not dehydration or starvation, it is exposure to the elements.

There are prevailing rules for surviving the cold. This course provides a rundown of those rules and provides an in-depth look at the considerations of how to build a shelter in the winter. Examples of those considerations may be some of the following: Water source, availability of firewood and materials for your long term shelter, the location of the sun, direction of the wind, potential hazards around your shelter, mobility to and from your shelter, food sources, outhouse.

Following are the main categories of shelters we will cover.

  • Primitive and Tarp Winter Shelters: This method is dependent on the weather and available resources. Examples are shelters that could be made from snow, leaves, live evergreen branches, debris or tarps.

  • Hot tents: We will get you thinking beyond using a shelter warmed by your body heat by using a tipi and wood stove modern setup that backpackers can carry.

  • Modern equipment: Standard Winter Backpacking Tents, pyramid tents, and the boothy bag setup.



Tim “Primitim” Swanson

Tim has been involved with primitive skills for over 15 years. His teaching style accommodates any age due to his playful and light-hearted attitude along with an informative and in depth approach to the natural world. Tim has taught primitive skills all over the northeast including at Unity College, Bryant Pond 4H Camp, True North Wilderness Therapy Program, Belfast Community Outreach Program in Education, Wingate Wilderness Therapy, The Umbrella Community Arts Center, Nashua River Watershed Association, and Groton Wellness Holistic Healing Center. For more information on Tim’s work, visit his website at Check out this video of Tim demonstrating and quick and easy way to collect debris for a shelter.

Chris Spychalski

Chris Spychalski’s favorite season to camp is in winter. Chris is a specialist in “hot tenting”. Chris will get you thinking beyond using a shelter warmed by your body heat by using a tipi and wood stove modern setup that backpackers can carry. He will show you what's possible with a "hot tent" by setting it up as a warming shelter. Chris will also share his favorite fire starter you can make at home. See video below for more info:


Scott Powers

Scott Powers will provide a demonstration of standard winter backpacking tent, a winter pyramid tent, and also the boothy bag as an emergency alpine/above treeline shelter.  Scott has a diverse background, from rock climbing to ultra running, and is currently a Skimo competitor. Skimo, or ski mountaineering racing, involves competitors racing to be the first to the finish line using skis to travel up and down a mountainous course. He has completed multiple 50K trail races. Scott is an American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) certified Single Pitch Rock Climbing Instructor (SPI), is American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) Level 1 and Rescue Certified, is a National Ski Patrol (NSP) Outdoor Emergency Care Provider, and a New England Emergency Medical Service Institute (NEEMSI) Paramedic. Scott is currently a ski patroller at the Blue Hills, working as a data scientist during the day building autonomous vehicles.


Videos on topics covered:

What to Bring:

  1. Clothes to stay warm.

  2. A backpack

  3. Snacks

  4. Bottle of water

  5. Any emergency medical supplies you may need

  6. Notebook & Pencil

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