Outdoor Survival - Making a Shelter

Unless something untoward happens, and you are carrying a tent, there shouldn’t be the need to make an emergency shelter. However, if you don’t plan on taking a tent and want to stay in hostels or bed and breakfast accommodation, there is always a small possibility of being caught out by the weather, or by some other unforeseen circumstance, for example getting lost! On the other hand, maybe you like the idea of literally sleeping under the stars, although it’s something that I have never done.

In case of emergencies, you must always carry a survival bag even if you are taking a tent. If an emergency arises then in many cases just sleeping in the bag will be the easiest solution, rather than going about building a shelter. The recommended way is to go in head first, and have your feet facing the open end, but it can be a bit claustrophobic for some. Keep all your clothes on and your boots, also wear a hat and gloves as it can get very cold during the night, even in summer.

If you are taking a tent, I’ve found my survival bag useful for the unfortunate times when it’s been so wet that the ground sheet has started to leak. I lay the survival bag underneath the sleeping bag to keep it dry. On one occasion, I was camping at Loch Etchachan just below the summit of Ben Macdui during a strong gale. It was pushing the tent almost flat and I was certain it would blow down during the night, so I put the sleeping bag in the survival bag. This was in case I actually fell asleep (difficult under the circumstances) and awoke to a collapsed tent, leaking rain and soaked through. Fortunately, the tent survived the night, losing just one rain cap. It was an A-frame tent; brilliant and I still have it in my collection.


Emergency Shelters

1. If the night is reasonably warm and you are in a sheltered spot, this shelter is very simple to create and gives you more room than being constrained to sleeping in the survival bag.

Locate your log (the bigger the better) or a boulder, and place the plastic sheet over the log, so that one end just reaches the ground at the other side. Secure it with rocks, or whatever you can find and then stretch the rest of the sheet over the log and secure it at the other end. Voila!

If you don’t have anything suitable to lay over the log, then you could use branches instead, and fill the gaps with grass, bracken or dead leaves.

2. For this shelter, you need to find a wood and some young saplings. Draw the young trees together at the top to create a roof. Do this by inter-twining the branches. You can also use string or paracord to secure them.

When you have the basic dome shape, you can then add more branches over the top to create additional protection. You can also weave thin branches around the circumference for more shelter at the sides.

3. Again, woods are very useful for making shelters! This time you need to find two trees in close proximity to each other and have some string or paracord handy and a plastic sheet or survival blanket.

Tie the string/paracord to a branch of each tree as if making a washing line, but low enough for your sheeting to reach over it and touch the ground at either side. Secure the sheet to the ground by using rocks to anchor it down at both sides.

4. If you are faced with one solitary tree, don’t panic. Find a couple of thin branches and tie them together at one end, then open them apart and push the ends securely into the ground.

Tie some string or paracord around the tree and then pull it across to the two branches and over the top where they join, then pull the string to the ground and weight it down with a rock. You can now drape your sheeting over the line created and hold the sides down with more rocks.

5. Start building this shelter by making the end supports. Use two thin branches tied together the same way as for the previous shelter. You need a set for each end and then you want another branch for the cross section. After you have secured this branch at both ends, you have the basic frame.

Collect more branches and break to a similar length, then begin to lay them at an angle against the cross branch. Push them firmly into the ground and secure each one at the top to the cross branch. Repeat this on the other side.

To fill the gaps you can use grass, bracken, leaves and anything else you can find.

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3 sheep