By Jeff Tindall
Let’s talk about a few different survival shelters, their pros and cons and their different uses and their construction. We will also talk about a few things you can add to your kit to aid you in shelter construction and allow you the ability to have an emergency expedient shelter.
There are many types of survival shelters to consider using in your situation and depending on the resources you may have with you or the surrounding resources that can be used will also come into play when selecting the right type of shelter to construct. Time, weather conditions and location will also play a part in determining shelter type.
Location, Location, Location, I can’t stress enough about a good location. Before selecting a site or location for your shelter you want to evaluate a few things first.
– Look up, look at the trees above you, do they pose a direct threat with dead limbs (widow makers) that can fall on you while you are working in your shelter or sleeping, ask yourself if the wind picks up will that limb fall?
– Some tress can help offer extra cover from rain or snow falling in, but they can also house threats at the same time, hornet’s nest, snakes, spiders, scorpions, or even a flock of turkeys using it for a roost at night offer you little to no sleep. Try to stay clear of tall trees, any one here in Florida knows what I am talking about during a good thunderstorm, they are prime targets for lighting strikes. During winter months trees can be very dry and sparks leaving the fire can possibly ignite dead leaves in the canopy above.
– Look around the base of the trees, is the base sound or does it have rot or holes at the base, these areas not only pose the obvious threats of falling over in a swift wind, but offer homes for other un wanted critters. The base of the trees can also be a good indicator for water levels in areas that are prone to rising tides or flooding.
Wild Life- Check the area for animal trials, hog tracks, deer tracks, bear tracks and so on, stay OFF the trails and away from trail heads. Look for scrapes on trees or rubs on the ground; these are all indicators of animal traffic.
Ground- Check the ground, make sure you’re not on the downhill slope for rain runoff. Check the ground to see if its damp, damp wet ground can cause for a not so nice night of sleep. And create more of a problem and more body heat being sucked out of you.
Water Source- Don’t set camp right on top of water sources, lakes, rivers, creeks, ponds and so on. Water sources are always a gathering ground for wild animals, alligators snakes and so on, unless you want them using your camp area for their home or main route to get to that water source. Stay clear; try to set up your shelter no closer than 200 to 400 feet from the water source.
Swamps- Now if you’re in a swamp, it may be difficult to avoid water, you may be surrounded by water, in this case if high ground is not available and even if it is, you will want to build an elevated platform shelter. Do NOT sleep on the ground.
Selection – Once you have selected the site, clear it, clear any dead limbs, debris, rocks, sticks, leaves everything down to the dirt, make an improvised rake or use a leafy tree branch to help sweep the area, use your feet if you need to but do NOT use your hands, using hands can lead to cuts from unforeseen broken glass, getting stung or bit by something and many more possible injuries that under normal circumstances would not be of much concern, but in a survival situation some of the smallest injuries could mean life and death.
Now that you have determined that you have selected the best location for your shelter it’s time to think about what type of shelter you can build, not what type of shelter you may want to build but more so, what type do you need to have and do you have the available resources and time to construct the shelter.
Decent weather conditions will allow for a few options that will provide for good cover.
– The lean too shelter is one of the most common survival shelters used in most places. They are easily and typically constructed with available surrounding resources. They offer good overhead cover and allow for a fire to be maintained on front of the shelter which helps maintain some heat with in the shelter. I do not recommend a single sided lean too shelter for winter weather or heavy blowing rain conditions. Under these conditions an “A” Frame style double sided lean too is much better than a single side to keep out blowing rain and snow, they also retain heat much better than a half lean too.
– A lean too shelter can take time to construct. Gathering materials, sticks, limbs, making cordage if you have none, gathering palms to cover them or other brush can take a lot of time. Allow yourself a minimum of 2 working hours to construct an adequate lean too shelter, add an additional 1 or 2 hours if you are constructing a 2-sided lean too.
Emergency Expedient Shelter – If you have a tarp, plastic, rain poncho, USGI style casualty blanket, you can easily use any of these items to construct a lean too, use one of these items from your kit is what I refer to as the emergency expedient shelter.
Debris Hut Shelter:
A debris hut shelter is a good over all shelter for cold weather; snow, pouring down rain conditions. And a good shelter if you plan on staying in your location for a few days or weeks. Depending on how big you build it and the available surrounding resources a debris hut shelter can be time consuming and will need to be somewhat maintained for longer stays, to keep them sealed up the best that you can. I personally do not recommend this type of shelter construction in Florida. Simply due to the types and amounts of nasty bugs we have, ticks, chiggers, fire ants and so on. These nasty little buggers live and thrive in the vegetation you will need to construct the shelter. You are basically inviting them into your shelter for dinner and you are on their menu.
There are many other types of shelters you can construct, but only you will be able to determine your resources, what you have with you and what is around you, the time you have to construct the shelter, location and the weather conditions.
Keep in mind the rule of 3’s when constructing a shelter and what’s its primary purpose.
Shelter should prevent and protect you from the Cold and Heat
1. Radiation – Transfer of heat from Fire or Sun
2. Conduction – lying on the cold ground will only make you colder
3. Convection – The transfer of cold air into your shelter