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Four Effective Survival Shelters

Kathleen Roberts
Start of a Debris Hut

If you plan to spend any time in the backcountry, it's a good idea to know how to put together one or more of these four effective survival shelters in case of an emergency. You never know what could happen. One of these shelters could save your life.

Four Effective Survival Shelters

You never know when you will find yourself in a survival situation out in the woods. A short day hike can turn into several days if you get lost. While there are several things you'll need in order to survive until you are found, one of the biggest needs is proper shelter.

1. Natural Shelters

You may be able to take advantage of some natural shelters if you find yourself stranded in the outdoors. Natural shelters can be caves, down trees, thick brush or rocky overhangs. While these types of natural shelters are a great find, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing to use one.

First, avoid low areas because they tend to be colder than higher ground. Next, check the area carefully for other signs of life that may not want to share this shelter with you! This can range from large animals to small, biting insects. Finally, make sure the structure of the shelter is safe. The last thing you want is a rock or branch falling on you as you sleep.

2. Dugout Shelter

A dugout is another easy and fairly quick shelter to try in a pinch. Look for a depression in the ground that is large enough for you to lay in. If necessary, dig it out a little to allow you to fit inside. If you are not able to find a suitable depression, you can dig a trench in the dirt about three feet deep and long enough to accommodate your body, similar to the snow trench mentioned previously.Cover over the top of the depression with branches leaving as few gaps as possible other than a gap in one end large enough for you to crawl through once your shelter is complete. These branches can now be covered with leaves and other debris that you find nearby. Make this fairly thick to protect you from the elements. Use any dirt you have dug out and put it over the leaves and debris. You can also use a tarp or blanket if you have one available and put a bit of dirt on top to hold it in place. This layer should only be thick enough to keep the leaves from blowing away if it gets windy.

3. Debris Hut

Debris huts are simple and effective when you need shelter in the woods. Start with some study sticks made into an X shape or a tripod with the bottom of the sticks in the ground and the top a bit smaller than the bottom . At the top, place one end of a longer branch into the X with the other end sloping down to the ground. You can also use a sturdy rock or stump to support this piece. This will be the length of your shelter so keep this in mind when you select the pole. Alternatively, you can make two Xs and lay the top pole across them, creating a tent-like structure when completed.Next you will create sides with branches that are leaned against this top pole. Make yourself a "door" by leaving a gap large enough to crawl through on one side of your shelter. If you making a tent-like hut, you will be able to cover both sides and one end, leaving the other end open to crawl through. Use as many side branches as you are able and then cover with smaller branches placed horizontally. Try to weave them through the larger branches to keep them secure.

Cover the branches with leaves and debris from the surrounding area. If you are in a cold climate, you will want to cover your hut with a thick layer of debris in order to keep warm and dry. Insulating the inside of your shelter with leaves is also a good idea to keep yourself warm.

4. Lean To

A lean to is a very basic shelter that may be good if you are in a warmer location. Find a down tree, large rocks or even build the tripod structure like the one you created for the debris hut. Now place branches on one side to create a leaning wall of branches. You can also use a tarp or blanket for this if you have one. Smaller branches should be piled over the larger ones and then covered with leaves and other debris from the area.

Stay Safe in Emergency Situations

There are far more than four effective survival shelters that you can use, but these are a good start. Be sure to practice building these shelters often so that, in the even of an emergency, you are able to construct one quickly and easily. Your new home away from home will keep you warm and dry until help arrives.

Four Effective Survival Shelters