Three Letters Re: Keeping Warm in an LP/OP

Dear Hugh,

Regarding Heating Concern in LP/OP, as a long-time member of the military with extensive deployment, outdoor, and survival experience, here is my humble response to the reader’s query on keeping warm in an LP/OP. LP/OPs come in all shapes, sizes, and budgets. I’ve typically seen LP/OPs in three levels: hasty, intermediate, and advanced. Regardless of which one is manned, they all share two traits– clear fields of fire/observation and keeping the soldier alert. Having frozen my backside off more than I have wished and as it addresses your question head on, I will focus on the latter.

Exposure to the elements is what you want to avoid the most. The Army uses a simple acronym for cold weather: C.O.L.D. In regards to your clothing, it stands for: keep it Clean, avoid Overheating, dress in loose Layers, and keep it Dry. Here then are the three levels of positions.

  1. A hastily dug fighting position with overhead cover. These are obviously temporary, but even one built with sandbags and a roof quickly gets drafty, muddy, dirty, and cold (or very buggy in the warmer months). In the military, you would see these only around Tactical Operations Centers that were conducting operations at one of the various Training Centers (National Training Center, etc) or around non-mechanized artillery firing batteries. Field Manual (FM) 21-75 discusses construction of these (and for the purists out there, yes a hasty is just a “ranger grave” and a “deliberate” is by the book, but come on, even the deliberate is just a really well dug hole, possibly with a roof). These should not be your redoubt standard unless you are far behind the power curve or putting in a more advanced position is unfeasible due to OPSEC. We would have to rotate people fairly rapidly (about once an hour) to avoid fatigue, frostbite, chillblain, et cetera.
  2. The “budget” fighting position. You can build a two-person budget position for under a hundred dollars plus the time and sweat it takes to construct. These are typically wood reinforced. I prefer pallets for the floor and sides and two by fours with a sheet of plywood for the roof. The trick for heat here is threefold. First, be diligent on eliminating leaks (from rain) and drafts. Second, put survival (emergency) blankets on the sides (as long as you can’t see the shiny reflection from the outside of the LP/OP). As a tip, use staples to secure it, but put a piece of duct tape (or 100 mph tape) wherever you staple as a way to avoid rips. I love my survival blanket; it really works. Third, always occupy with a buddy. There is an old Harvard study that showed people could withstand having their legs in ice water twice as long if they had a friend with them. The friend didn’t even need to say anything, just their mere presence helped with the elements. With my soldiers, we typically used MRE boxes, plywood, and wood scraps that came with our ammo or concertina wire deliveries. You can watch the documentary Restrepo for a visual understanding of this (and the previous) type of LP/OP/fighting position.
  3. The Redoubt baseline. Here you can go from a couple hundred bucks to thousands, but why blow your money? Your standard should be a concrete reinforced LP/OP. However, here is the trick: bury the entire thing minus the door/hatch. You don’t want a bunch of pillboxes that scream “prepper” strewn about your property. If you completely bury these, they can serve as caches or storage areas until TEOTWAWKI. After that event, you simply dig out the observation/firing holes. I think it’s best to have clear sliding plexiglass instead of open holes so you can conserve heat as much as possible. You could always go all out with pig iron “shutters” or something else more elaborate (and expensive). The added bonus of a concrete structure is that you can route electricity for a heating source. You can do the same with some PVC piping to the wooden structure above, but your heat loss is greater. A second heating option is installing a small ceramic rocket stove.

So, the short answer is: If you want to stay warm, build a nice LP/OP! – C.E.

o o o

Hi Hugh,

This is actually more of a response to one of your responses (the one from E.B.). I wanted to second his suggestion of ski goggles to help keep your face/eyes warm, but I have a slight modification to suggest. I was a ski racer from age 8 up until age 22. I’ve used every tint known to man in multiple goggle styles. Rather than clear goggles, I highly suggest yellow-tinted goggles. The yellow tint (which is not a common color) are the ONLY ones that allow you to see contrast in the snow during flat-light conditions. They also, to a small extent, amplify low-light conditions. Once I tried a set given to me by a sponsor, I could never go back to any other tint/clear again. Thanks, – J.M.

o o o

HJL,

Hello and welcome. Um, I’m no expert, but I can say from experience that nothing is better then having heat in your shelter. LP/OP are usually changed out every 2-3 hours, right? Why not simply bring it with you? Spending a whole night out in 10-degree weather in an unheated shelter isn’t going to be easy or fun, and it isn’t necessary. Bring heat with you.

You’d need a wood/coal stove and several 2-quart buckets with a few cantaloupe-sized rocks in them, for each person on guard.

Why wouldn’t they just do something like this? Let’s figure you have a house in the center of your plans, and each LP/OP is a spoke with the house being the central hub. Inside the hub you’re going to have a wood stove, right? Make it part of the SOP to have the guard bring out a metal bucket that has heated rocks in it. You’d need twice the buckets with rocks (and no stream stones, please, as they might explode). At the start of each shift, they carry their hot bucket to the LP/OP along with their other items they need to take for completing their tasks. The stones don’t need to get red hot, yet will produce heat for a few hours.

When they come back in from being on guard, the bucket goes back on top of the stove. They would also add fuel to the fire at this point. This idea gives someone the same practical setup as a heating pad. Also, I would totally bring a wool blanket. With the bucket at my feet, I’d drape the blanket over you to keep you warm for a few hours. I’d hope that the LP/OP would have a place to sit. I’d wrap myself in the wool blanket, putting my feet right on that bucket with the heat in it. If you get sleepy, drink more water, get up and move around, or open your warm clothing to get chilled. Don’t get so warm you actually fall asleep, ever. Hourly radio checks is probably a really good idea also, as most people really struggle from about 3am to 5am.

While out hunting a few years back, I experimented with using charcoal briquets in a metal bucket. It’s not ok to use these in an enclosed space due to CO2, and you will likely want some kind of a grate for the ash, but they would be ok in a hunting blind or LP/OP (as long your not worried about the smell traveling and giving away your position). With the hot rocks, you don’t have any worry about heating smells traveling. Charcoal is pretty stinky.

Metal buckets are easy to find. A quick search turns up buckets online for $4 for 2 quart buckets that would work for this application. You might be able to find them cheaper at local auctions. – Fitzy

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