Knowing how to make an emergency survival shelter can be a useful skill that could one day save your life. What happens if you go exploring somewhere remote like a forest and suddenly the weather changes quickly bringing strong winds and rain? Maybe you get lost and it’s starting to get dark. You’re not prepared to stay the night in the forest, so what do you do? These are just a couple of examples where knowing how to make an emergency survival shelter in the wilderness could save your life.
If you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself in one of these situations, the first thing to do is try to find some cover by looking for a natural shelter like a cave or rock formation with a large overhang. If you happen to find one, you’re in luck because you won’t have to waste energy collecting materials to build a shelter from scratch. You’re also more likely to stay dry which is very important. Wet clothes and low night temperatures can raise your chances of developing hypothermia. Before using this type of shelter make sure that the rock structure or cave you come across is structurally sound and that there are no loose pieces that could fall on you.
If you can’t find any natural shelters nearby you’re going to have build one yourself. The most common and easiest shelter to build is a debris shelter. First you need to build the frame to hold the debris you will be adding later in place. Look for a long solid piece of wood such as a young or small fallen tree. Ideally you want to lean one end up against a tree or rock so that its sits diagonally to the ground creating the top frame of your shelter. If you don’t want to use a tree, you could also cross to large sticks at one end and tie them together where they meet with some rope or a shoelace to create a support structure for your ridgepole.
Once you have it secured, it’s time to create the sides of the shelter. Find as many small and medium sized branches as you can and lean them on both sides of the ridgepole creating a frame that looks like a traditional tent. Think of the ridgepole as a spine and the side branches as the ribs.
Once you have the framework in place it is now time to literally tie it all together. Look for small branches that you can then weave in and out of the rib branches. Green branches work best for this as they are still flexible. Slightly larger branches or dead branches that won’t bend can also be used. Try to lay them diagonally across the rib branches to fill in some of the holes. The reason for this part is to make the framework more secure and also give something for the debris to lay on top of.
Now it’s time to cover you shelter with whatever debris is nearby such as dead leaves and grass. If you happen to be near any pine trees, chopping off some of its branches also works well. The debris acts as an insulator to keep your natural body heat in and the outside cold out. It will also keep you dry if starts to rain. Don’t be cheap with the debris either! Use as much debris as you possibly can to ensure maximum protection from the elements. Don’t forget that you also need insulation from the ground. Cover the entire inside floor of your shelter with the same debris you used on the outside. The ground can get very cold and pull away the heat from your body quickly.
Once your shelter is built, you will probably want to create some kind of doorway that will allow you to get in and out of your shelter while also blocking the wind and rain. Use the same techniques you used to build the shelter to make the doorway.
The doorway is also a good spot to build a small fire but remember if you are using dry debris to be very careful when lighting a fire near it. Try building a hole in the ground in your doorway to put the fire in so it sits lower and is less likely to catch fire to your shelter. To avoid keeping the fire going all night, surround the fire with large rocks during the evening and when you are ready to sleep, put the fire out and drag the hot rocks that are around the fire further into your shelter to keep you warm. These rocks will stay hot for hours and are much safer than having the fire go all night.
Whenever venturing out into the forest, even for just a hike, you should always bring some basic survival tools and supplies with you that will make life much easier if you ever find yourself in an emergency situation. At the very minimum you should have some extra warm clothes, a knife, some rope and a little food such as some energy bars and some bottled water. If you have room for a small tarp bring that too. You could build an entire emergency shelter with just what you are carrying if necessary. Also always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back so if you find yourself in trouble there’s at least a good chance that help will be on the way.