In the California mountains, an efficient windbreak can transform a location from cold and debilitating into a warm and welcoming micro-climate.
It was an early April day at 4000 feet elevation. The air temperature in the 30’s together with stiff, gusting winds brought the wind-chill to about 20 degrees F. Fourteen of us, including three children, built a knee-high circular windbreak out of blankets and tarps draped over a ring of sticks stuck vertically into the ground. Because fire danger was low, we could construct a ten-inch high hearth from dirt, and build a very small fire on top of it. We did not need a roof because there was no danger of precipitation. Sitting at ground level on insulation from dried cattails, we spent several comfortable hours baking bread and working on crafts while a few feet away, the wind and cold would have driven any hiker to seek shelter.
After our sojourn, we extinguished the fire and scattered the hearth’s dirt (which had been placed on a plastic tarp to begin with). Our Swiss friends Christof and Joanna Hagen of Survival Outdoor School hosted this day with their two daughters.
Notes: Debris could be used instead of blankets and tarp to construct the wall. Be extremely careful with fire and do not use one except when fire danger is low!
We hope to see you in a class.
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