You should have a store bought proper tents with you when you are enjoying the outdoors. However, we are all human, and you may be caught unprepared. That is why it is essential to learn how to build survival shelters when you are without your bushcraft gear. First of all, certain criteria needs to be considered to make sure that your shelter is both safe and serves its purpose. Here are some of the fundamentals to keep in mind:
First, you need to scope out the space where you will build your shelter and make sure it is free from natural hazards. This means that you should make sure your shelter site isn’t near any natural hazards. And you need to look for potential rock falls or any standing dead trees. In addition, you need to make sure that your shelter is constructed to protect you from the elements like snow, wind, sun, and rain. If you are planning on starting a fire within your shelter, to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, you need to make sure your shelter is properly ventilated. Moreover, ventilation will also make it easier to start fire. If possible you should try to make room for a drying rack where you can dry your clothes, blankets, sleeping bags and other gear.
Normally, you’ll want to make your shelter as visible as possible. However, if the #$@& hits the fan, you may want your shelter to be hidden. In order to do this you’ll want to cover your shelter with branches, leaves, dirt, netting, and other natural or artificial camouflage. Additionally, you may want to mark, define, and then camouflage your shelters, entry and escape routes. As a bonus, camouflage can provide insulation. Here’s a handy acronym to keep in mind when camouflaging your shelter: BLISS
- Blend your shelter with the surroundings as much as possible.
- Build with a Low silhouette.
- The shelter needs to be built with an Irregular shape.
- The shelter should be Small.
- It needs to be built in a Secluded area.
There are various kinds of survival shelters. Some are made from entirely man-made materials, and some are built from natural materials. In addition, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel as shelters can be made from preexisting constructions in rural and urban areas like abandoned houses, sheds, or barns. To maximize the effectiveness of a shelter, let’s take a look at six considerations:
- Scope out a potential site-Is it close to a source of fire wood and water?
- How many people are in your group?- Make sure your shelter is constructed on the smallest scale possible. The reason is that when shelters are smaller, it will be easier to conserve heat.
- You need to carefully choose your areas and avoid exposed hilltops, valley floors, damp or swampy ground and potential avalanche.
- Elements- Does your shelter adequately protect you from rain, sun, wind, and snow? Always plan for the worst-case scenario when building your shelter.
- Tools-Do you have tools to built your shelter? You need to have the basic tools available with you when you are in the outdoors.
- Resources- Lastly, what kind of and amounts of materials are potentially available for you to build a shelter?
Different Types of Survival Shelters
The Poncho Shelter– A Poncho shelter is easy to construct as it only requires repellent material likes tarps, parachute silk and, of course, a poncho. These sorts of shelters should be considered first particularly if you are just staying a short time in any given place. These shelters are the perfect choice if you are caught off guard by a sudden winter storm. A poncho shelter is made in three easy steps: 1. Finding the center of the material by folding it in half along the long axis of the material. 2. Hang the center points of the water-repellent material from a branch or some other existing overhang using cords.
- 3. Stake all four corners with sharpened sticks or by weigh them down with rocks or logs. If you want you can use paracords to help tie down the corners of the poncho.
Sapling Shelters– are made in woods and brushy areas where an abundance of young trees and saplings are found. A sapling shelter also makes an excellent concealment shelter. A sapling shelter can be constructed in four easy steps that are listed below:
- Find and clear a space where there are two parallel rows of tall saplings ten to twenty feet apart depending on their height.
- Bend the saplings together and tie them to form several half hoops and form a framework.
- Cover the framework with water-resistant material like tarps, treated canvas, etc.
- Afterwards, you can insulate the shelter with leaves, dirt, branches, brush and snow. One end of the shelter should be closed off, and more water-repellent material or brush can be used at the open end to make a doorway.
The Lean to– the lean-to is ideally built in heavily wooded areas. But, a cord or rope will be needed to make them. Also, for the novice, the lean-to can be hard to make. Below are the steps for building it:
- Find a site with two trees at least four inches in diameter. They should be spaced far enough separately for you to lie down between them. Two lengths of pole or fallen trees of a reasonable size can be used in place of standing trees by inserting them into the ground a man’s length apart.
- Cut another pole for a roof support. Make sure it’s long enough to extend past both trees. Raise and tie the roof pole between the two trees making sure they are parallel to the ground.
- Cut several more poles from either saplings or small trees and place one end on the ground ad the other end should be placed along the horizontal support. These are called stringers. A short wall of logs or rocks can be made on the ground to rest the ends of the stringers on, raising them up, which creates more height and space within. Supple saplings and brush can be woven between the stringers making a wall. Use water-repellent material over the horizontal support to provide a roof, and use as much insulating material as possible around the lean-to shelter.
Please note, a double lean-to can be constructed using this same model by making two lean-tos where one lean-to faces the other. Fallen Tree Shelter or Bivouac– These can be constructed quickly as nature has done most of the work for you. Again, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.
- Find a fallen stable tree.
- Cut away branches from the underside of the tree and creating a hollow are underneath.
- Use insulating material around the top and sides to protect you from the elements.
As you can see, with a little planning building a survival shelter is easy. You might even consider making a practice shelter so you are confident of your skills and will be prepared when needed.