A 'Bedder' Solution

What to do with all those buckets in your UG

I was speaking with someone last week about getting a Wiggy's sleeping bag for use in a shelter (i.e. underground). We were talking about cots versus beds and then the light bulb came on.

Rather than buy a cot, buy a piece of plywood and a piece of polar fleece. Here's the thing: if you put up a cot, then put something like a Therma-Rest Self Inflating Mattress on it (for some softness yes, but especially as a thermal barrier underneath you), you have just used up close to 21 square feet of floor space.

If you have a 7,000 square foot UG, that 21 sq ft of floor space is a no thing. But if you have something a bit more modestly sized, and have several people (all with 2 years of food in buckets and containers) that is some mighty valuable floor space being used only for your sleeping selves.

The solution? Why, a "Bucket Bed" of course! Basically, a Bucket Bed is 3' x 7' or 4' x 7' (or only 6' long if you aren't that tall). If you make a bed that is 3 buckets wide and 7 buckets long, stacked 2 buckets high, you have just made a home for 42 buckets. If you make a 4' wide by 7' long Bucket Bed, you make a home for 56 buckets. NOW we're getting double use out of that floor space.

You'll want to cut a piece of plywood to sit on top of the buckets, whether it is 3'x7' or 4'x7'. If you want to be snazzy about it, you can cut the plywood 3 ½" wider and longer than the bucket stack size, then screw a 1x2" board on the underside of the plywood "bed platform" all the way around so it can't move to the right or left or up or down. You don't really need to do this but you could. Nothing wrong with a little overkill :-D

Now, you could go buy super high grade, oak on one side, expensive plywood and sand it all down making sure to get all the edges really smooth and rounded, and stain it and polyurethane it. Or, you could go buy regular ol' plywood and 3 yards of polar fleece and throw the polar fleece over the plywood and Poofa! Instant cozy bed platform in a snuggly color/design of your choice!

The thing that is nice about making the platform a bit bigger than whatever you'll be sleeping on is that you will then have room right next to you for your water bottle and your headlamp, your book, and chapstick, maybe your Walkman and headphones (do we still use Walkmans? It's an IPod now most likely...). You get the picture.

If you have a wood floor in your UG, you'll want to put down "stringers" under your buckets, because if you don't, you risk creating dry rot under there, never a good thing in a UG. A stringer would be a 1"x2" board or a 2"x2" board (but they cost more) which come in 8 foot lengths. You will need 2 of the 1x2's for each row of buckets (going the long way). So, if you have a 3-row-wide bed you will need 6 of the 1x2's. If you have the super deluxe 4' wide bed (4-buckets-wide) you will need 8 of the 1x2's. And if your bed is 7 buckets long (7' long) make sure to cut your 1x2's to 7' long so you don't go tripping everyone on the foot of boards sticking out from under your bed. Safety First.

The person I was speaking with (that started this whole conversation) asked "Won't it be hard getting in and out of those buckets?" I said, "Well, I will only be eating out of one bucket of rice or wheat or oatmeal at a time, right? So I put the extra buckets of that type of food under the bed. And as I am stacking them there I would write down what the buckets contain on a card (like the cards we have a lot of that are about 5x8.5 inches) and then tape the card to the plywood UNDER the polar fleece at the foot of the bed. So when the time comes that we need another bucket of rice we only need read the card to see if this is the correct bed for rice. You could have a 'wheat bed' and a 'rice bed' and a 'beans and lentils bed' :o)

If you have 4 people, and they all sleep on Bucket Beds that is 168 to 224 buckets all tucked away out of sight. Dandy, aye?

Now, just a semi-quick word about the mattress (and this is mainly for those who don't have full air systems, dehumidifiers, etc). Have you thought much about the mattress you'll use?

The memory foam mattresses like they use for bed toppers, while very comfy, are going to suck moisture like a sponge (Oh wait – they ARE a sponge!) Nothing like sleeping on a damp sponge... and for long term, I'd be a little nervous about that being a perfect place for mold to grow.

Then there are the air beds. Those are pretty comfy. Great for the summertime. Suck in the wintertime (unless you are a polar bear or a penguin accustomed to sleeping on the snow). I know. I get to sleep on one every year when I go to my brothers' for Christmas. It is similar to sleeping on an unheated water bed in a really cold room. Not fun. Until I did the thermal layers thing.

You can use an airbed as long as you put some layers of thermal insulation between you and the top of the airbed mattress. If you do that you'll be OK. But be sure to test it out this winter so if you find that what you thought was plenty of insulation isn't working, you can adjust the layers while you are able go out and get more layers. A trick I learned from caregivers for elderly people (who tend to get chilled more easily and sleep cold) is to put one of the silver reflective space blankets under the mattress pad. It reflects body heat back up towards the body, helping the person make better use of the heat that their body is generating. (The super cheap ones crinkle like a potato chip bag, although being under the sheet and mattress pad help. The slightly more expensive ones are thicker and don't do that crinkle-crinkle thing.)

Then there are the self-inflating mattresses like the Therma-Rest ones. It is an inflatable mattress but there is foam inside. Because the foam is inside it doesn't absorb moisture. Because the foam is there it acts as the thermal barrier. I sold Therma-Rest mattresses at my store for years. Then a couple of years ago I discovered the Cabela's Ultimate Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad. It is 3 ½" thick – you can lay on your side and you don't hit the floor, ground or plywood. And they make it 34" wide. Therma-Rest makes one that is 3 ½ inches thick but they only make it 25" or 30" wide. And the extra 4 inches of width of the Cabela's mattress makes all the difference unless you are of small build or quite slender. If you aren't, you will want the Cabela's version. I slept directly on the frozen ground a couple of February's ago while "camping" locally. That was the really cold winter where it was down in the teens. And I was toasty on my Cabela's mat. Cabela's also makes a 54" wide version for those with partners or kids, or who just like big. (And you're probably wondering how much the mat is. I looked it up for you: It is normally $159.99 and they have it on sale at the moment for $139.99. The item number on it is IK-516444.)

So now you have your Bucket Bed, covered in cozy polar fleece, with the big thick comfortable Ultimate Self Inflating Sleeping Pad and your fluffy Wiggy's sleeping bag... All you need now is your water bottle and a pair of earplugs (more on those next week :o)

Teri Simpson
Optimum Preparedness



0 #1 Marilyn 2011-10-15 04:39
Hi Teri, How brilliant! I was still unsure about how to most efficiently arrange for bucket storage and sleeping. Thanks so much! Marilyn

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