When you find yourself in a survival situation, no matter what the severity, toward the top of the ‘Things To Do’ list is to secure shelter. Shelter can come in many different shapes and sizes, so let’s look at some options that will be handy to know: Existing Shelter, Organic Shelters, and packable shelters.
In many instances, the very shelter that you need is already present. Possibly it is already complete, maybe just a framework of the shelter; more often than not your shelter will be present if you just look around. Here are some of the most common instances of existing shelter
A cave might just be the easiest shelter to create. There is very little work to do in order to see that it will protect you. There are vital items to be sure of before bedding in the cave. You do want to make sure that you are the only resident of the cave. Also, don’t lodge in a cave that is attached to a creek or stream bed – flooding could result in a horrible night. Lastly, remember to be mindful of your fire and ventilation. Without enough oxygen you can quickly succumb to Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
The fallen tree, especially a heavily branched evergreen, offers a great start to a shelter. In most instances there will be a need to further fortify the shelter walls with extra branches or waterproofing materials if available. Also, it would be wise to make sure that you are laying some soft bedding down for resting and sleeping. When locating the fallen tree for shelter you will want to be mindful of it’s location as well which direction the opening is facing – if the opening faces West then it might not be the best shelter for you, but in a pinch it could work.
Low Points in Terrain
Often you will stumble a low point in terrain that is not part of a creek or river bed, and that is not the lowest point in the surrounding areas. Those low points are the perfect start to a shelter. With a little work with a roof you will have a shelter that also offers some temperature regulation from the surrounding ground. Once again, it is important to be mindful of what else might be residing in this area, as well as what direction the shelter opens toward.
We have reviewed some existing shelters, but understanding the intricacies of the organic materials used for the shelter can be paramount; understanding the basics allows for ample creativity. There are a great number of shelters that can be created, but the most simple and useful design is a lean-to. A lean-to is simply a one or two walls leaning against a main support that runs parallel (or at an acute angle) to the ground. The structure can vary, but what makes it most useful is what materials you use in your shelter.
The best materials for your shelter are typically laying right around you. For insulation leaves, pine bows, grasses, and animal furs work excellently. To waterproof your shelter make sure that shelter walls are at a steep angle to prevent rain or snow buildup. It is also wise to build a moat around your shelter so that the water has somewhere, besides inside the shelter, to drain. In the floor of the shelter you will also want to add plenty of insulation since an abundance of the body’s heat can be lost through the ground.
Knowing that there are ample materials around to help keep you dry, warm, and comfortable can be just the thing you need to help keep you calm and collected.
There is very little time better spent than in preparation. Whether you are out for a hike or a long trek, chances are you have a shelter in your bag. Whether it is a poncho, emergency blanket, or even a blanket for a picnic or sleeping you have the start or a shelter already. A poncho is one of the best items you can always have with you. It is advantageous for a sudden rain, and also offers great shelter in a survival situation. Another great packable shelter is a tent, but typically you won’t be taking a tent on a day hike.
The trick with survival in any situation is being prepared – mentally, physically, and emotionally. No matter what you are getting ready for, be sure to prepare for the worst and hope for the best!