Shelter will keep you out of the elements and help prevent hypothermia. It will provide shade in the heat. It also has an important positive psychological effect.
- Bring a cheap, lightweight tent with you whenever you go hiking, even if you are not staying the night. Consider a "tube tent," for example...such a tube can be constructed by gluing (with waterproof glue) the long edge of a thin tarp or plastic drop cloth to the matching edge, creating a tube of-sorts. To use, simply string the string from one end of the tube through the other end, and tie the ends between two trees. If you are injured in the wilderness, such a shelter can be easy to erect quickly. When injured (particularly in cold weather) proper shelter can be essential for your survival.
- A lean-to can be made by lashing a stick between two trees, then leaning more sticks on it to form a triangular structure. It can be improved by insulating it with evergreen boughs, branches and leaves, or snow. Alternatively just lay sticks against a log and fill with an cover with insulation. Remember add as much insulation as possible.
- Get your body off the ground. Build an insulating pad between your body and the earth using sticks, pine boughs, leaves, etc. You should have twice as much insulation below you as above you.
- Make the inside of your shelter as small as you can in cold conditions with lots of insulation
- Building a fire reflector (a wall of sticks, rocks, etc.) will improve a lean-to by reflecting the fire's warmth back into the open side of the lean-to.
- Bring one or two metallic rescue blankets wherever you go. They are useful for building shelters, reflectors, and water collectors, and you can even cook with them.
- In snowy conditions, build a quinzhee.
- One shelter that has worked very well in the past, is a lean-to shelter, it is fairly easy to construct, and is very effective.
Shelter for Survival
In the average consideration of survival it often seems shelter is overlooked, or at least taken for granted and misplaced on the scale of priorities.
It is always good to remember the "rule of threes":
"A person can survive for three minutes without air,
three hours without shelter,
three days without water,
three weeks without food."
While not absolute these guidelines are reasonable and appropriately stress the need for shelter. Protection from the elements comes second only to breathing.
Quick thoughts about the conditions under which three hours of exposure is a generous life-expectancy should immediately clarify that when shelter is most needed it may be most difficult to find or create.
Levels of shelter:
Clothing and basic tools
Minimal short-term protection
A recent engineer by the name of Howard "Chubby" Fultz has developed an idea that could revolutionize outdoor survival. It is commonly refered to as "The Chubby Dome." The official name is "CD320." Although still in the developing stages, The Chubby Dome offers a fresh water supply, food storage, power, shelter, and a small bathroom.
Dress in Layers!
The first level of shelter to consider is that of clothing. Simply put, you have to be able to "walk home" in the clothing you have on or at hand. Take a hard look at the difference between what you want to wear and what you should have for all possible conditions.
Waypoints where additional resources are available (camp, basecamp, your car) can certainly be the initial target of any self-extraction. Such caches then cover situations of different scope ~what's on your person will get you back to camp, what's at camp will get you to your car, etc.
The concept of walking home may sound out of place, but there is a distinction between being lost and/or injured, and simply being in a difficult spot for an indefinite period of time. As a rule, if you are lost or injured do not wander -get yourself found-.
A minimal set of equipment should be incorporated into one's wardrobe. Without the ability to make fire and cut things -right now- you're not even trying to be prepared and will be hard-pressed to spend anything but a summer night outdoors safely.