Build Simple Inc.
Low-cost or DIY

Cold-weather Disaster Response

Supplement camp-supplied tents and blankets with gear and/ or shelter made from local scrap or natural materials. Survivors can conquer the cold and move forward.
take control and/ or empower others


Simple materials and time can improve lives in times of hardship.

Air Duvet or Insulating Ceiling

Fillo-type layers of plastic film trapping air between fabric layers can brave freezing weather. Tested at 20° F on an insulated mat with a single vellux blanket in the pocket, these covers performed similar to a Big Agnes Mirror Lake sleeping bag rated to 22°, but offered more room to stretch and plenty of space to share body heat with a family member.

Air Duvets can be made of fabric scraps or sheets and cleaned plastic bags or film. An instant duvet can be made with plastic painter's film, landscape fabric and light tarps.

Pull a duvet over several people in sleeping bags or blankets. The next morning take the blanket out for day use. Stop dreading long, cold nights.

Roll up the duvet for transport. When summer comes, hang the insulated panel on a south-facing tent wall to reduce overheating.

Or make duvet panels to provide inexpensive ceiling insulation under tarps or roofing, supported by chicken wire and wood lathe. Use mesh fabric instead of the blanket in the pocket.

English How-to pdf
PDF en español: Colchoneta Aislada
PDF en français: Couette Aéré

Insulated Mat

Displaced people camps often supply sleeping mats, often of open-cell foam (that you can blow through) which don't insulate in cold weather. The frozen ground below drains body heat right through this type of foam.

Emergency blankets and layers of cardboard also help. But with some plastic scraps or clean straw and fabric, needles and thread you can trap the body heat under you. 

Plastic scrap is also light weight, and mats can have backrests to use when leaning on tent poles, heavy buckets, or walls during the day. Reuse those grain bags, plastic bottles and film wrap coming into camps on pallets with supplies. Help camp residents care for elders and children by providing warm places to sit during the day.

See the Instructables page online.

English How-to pdf
PDF en español: Edredón de Aire
PDF en français: Matelas Isolant

Instant Straw Log Shelter

Top-quality natural buildings in Europe and the US use light straw-clay (LSC) for insulation as infill in timber walls or as manufactured panels.

Natural walls for a small shelter can be quickly built with little wood using mesh wattle tubes. Stuff straw firmly into the mesh, and sew 'logs' together. Later clay slip is worked into the walls and plaster applied for a finished thermal mass R3 wall 7" thick that resists rodents and thieves.

Finished and roofed straw log walls have lasted almost ten years in Haiti and New Mexico. But these walls decay after use into agricultural soil- to disassemble a camp just remove roofing and break plaster surfaces to let water into the straw.

Straw log shelters made from erosion-control mesh can be used for shared warming or cooling spaces since the thermal mass will keep them cooler than tents during summer heat.

English White Paper:

    Plan Instant Shelter 1.1 mB pdf

Construction Plans (English units)

     Small Straw Log Shelter/ English 1.3 mB pdf

Construction Plans (metric units)

     Small Straw Log Shelter/ English 1.4 mB pdf

PDF en español: coming soon
PDF en français: coming soon

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