Shelters protect you from the cold, rain, wind, heat, sun, and wild animals and create a feeling of well-being. Sometimes our need for shelter may be a priority over food and water. The types of shelters described below are designed for emergency and survival purposes only.  Bring a tent!

Shelter Location 

Consider the following:

  • It must have the material you need to make the shelter, 
  • It must be large and level enough for you to lie down,
  • A good location for rescue signalling,
  • Away from game trails,
  • An area that minimizes your exposure to wind, rock falls, avalanches, lightning strikes, flash floods, nuclear facilities, high tides, dead trees and branches that might fall, and of course –  zombies, 
  • Away from frost-prone valleys,
  • Set camp below the tree line,
  • Away from bug nurseries – see black flies and mosquitoes.

Natural Shelters 

Consider the following: 

  • Cave – caution…the cave may already have a tenant (see grizzly bear). Build a fire near the mouth to keep animals out,
  • Overhanging cliff, 
  • Rocky crevices, 
  • Clumps of bushes,
  • Fallen trees with thick branches. 

Man-Made Shelters 

  • Debris Hut – This shelter is ideal for warmth and ease of construction. Make a tripod with two short stakes and a long ridgepole, or by placing one end of a long ridgepole on top of a sturdy base. Secure the pole running the length of the shelter using the tripod method or anchor the pole to a tree at waist height. Prop large sticks along both sides of the ridgepole to create a wedge-shaped ribbing effect. Ensure the ribbing is wide enough to fit your body and steep enough to shed moisture. Place insulating material on the ground. Place finer sticks and brush crosswise on the ribbing. These form a latticework that will keep the insulating material (grass, pine needles, and leaves) from falling through. Add light, dry, soft debris over the ribbing until the material is at least 8 cm thick. Create a 30 cm thick layer of insulating material. At the entrance, pile insulating material to close the entrance or build a door.  A drawback – the camper can’t lie parallel to the fire. 
  • Lean-to – The single wall of a lean-to serves triple duty as a windbreak, fire reflector, and overhead shelter. Wedge a ridgepole between two growing trees or support each end of the ridgepole with a tripod of upright poles lashed together near the top. Lean several poles against the ridgepole to make a framework. Place insulating material on the ground. Thatch the lean-to with slabs of bark, leafy or pine-needle branches, weaving them into the framework. Top off with sod, moss, or leaves to further insulate. 
  • A-Frame – The pitched roof of the A-Frame shelter offers more protection against the wind than a lean-to and can be heated by a campfire at the entrance.  Tilt poles on either side to form an A-frame roof. Place insulating material on the ground. Thatch and insulate as done with lean-to shelter. A drawback – the camper can’t lie parallel to the fire.
  • Tepee – It will take more time to build than open shelters but can be lived in for long periods. If you have an opening at the top, a small fire can be built inside. The shelter is also sturdy enough to protect against strong winds, it is waterproof and comfortable enough to serve as a long-term home. To build, first tilt three poles together in a tripod form and bind them together near the top. Determine the wind direction and locate the entrance 90 degrees from the prevailing wind. Place insulating material on the ground.  Lean more poles against the tripod in a circular form and thatch.  Leave a front open and vent at the top for smoke.  
  • A Natural Hollow – It can be built over a shallow depression in the ground.  A minimal amount of construction is required. Place insulating material on the ground.  Build a roof over the depression by laying branches and sticks across the hollow. Thatch the roof with leaves and grass to protect it from rain.  Attempt to divert water runoff from entering your shelter.

IMPORTANT NOTENever build a fire or cook inside a shelter unless there is adequate ventilation. There are real dangers of carbon monoxide and smoke inhalation. (see death)



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