With the season upon us, being in the field is commonplace. In the event of an emergency or in climate weather change understanding how to create effective wilderness survival shelters is one of the most important outdoor skills. From keeping you protected from the elements to providing a place to rest, wilderness shelters serve a key role in survival situations. Not only do they provide for physical needs, but also help create a sense of home in the wilderness. Though each season and environment presents its own challenges, there are several universal principles for creating effective wilderness survival shelters:
The most important aspect of making wilderness shelters is choosing a good location. A good location is one that 1) provides easy access to ample building materials such as dead sticks, leaves, and grasses; and is 2) away from major hazards such falling branches, pooling water, and insect nests. You also want a location that has a large enough flat area to allow you to lie down and sleep comfortably.
A common mistake when building wilderness survival shelters is to build them too large. Not only does it take more materials, effort, and time to construct, but often ends up being cold due to the amount of space on the inside. Effective wilderness shelters are often small on the inside – just large enough to fit your body to conserve body heat.
The debris hut is an extremely versatile wilderness survival shelter. It can be built in almost any habitat and does not require tools or special equipment. Creating an effective shelter is one of the most important priorities in a survival situation. Most lost persons perish from hypothermia, which may have been easily avoided had they constructed a simple shelter.
The debris hut is constructed using sticks and any available debris, such as leaves, moss, ferns, bark, etc… The key to a good shelter is to insulate yourself from all of the forms of heat loss. Your body can lose heat through direct contact with the ground, wind, and simply radiating off of your body. Therefore, your shelter needs to provide insulation and protection from all of these elements.
A completed debris shelter is like a gigantic water-resistant sleeping bag, insulated by debris and held together by sticks. To construct a debris hut:
1.) Select a location that provides ample building materials (sticks and debris) that is safe from falling branches, pooling water, and other hazards.
2.) Prop up a sturdy 8-foot pole-like branch on a stump or crook of a tree. This ridge pole should be sturdy enough to support your weight. The size of the space underneath the ridge pole should be just large enough to fit your body plus six inches of debris on all sides.
3.) Lay shorter stick along the length of the ridge pole on both sides, leaving room for a doorway. These shorter sticks are called ribbing. The ribbing sticks should touch the ground roughly six inches outside of where your body would lay.
4.) Add smaller sticks on top of and perpendicular to the ribbing sticks. These latticework sticks will keep the outer debris from falling inside the shelter.
5.) Pile large amounts of leafy debris on top, as well as inside. Use your driest, softest debris on the inside closest to your body. When complete, there should be at least three feet of debris piled up on top and on all sides of the shelter.
6.) You can lay more sticks on top to keep the wind from blowing the debris away if it is a windy day.
7.) A door plug can be created by stuffing a shirt full of leaves.
Crawl inside, being sure to burrow into the leaves, so that there is a mattress of leaves insulating you from the ground and on all sides. Though nothing like the warmth of your own bed, a debris hut will allow you to survive the night.
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