Reality TV Survival Shows Makes Natural Shelters Look Easy To Build
1. Building a natural shelter requires a lot of work! If you need to build one of these in a wilderness survival situation plan to spend several hours of time working on it, if you want a shelter that will be water proof.
2. In some environments a natural shelter can be constructed without using any manmade materials, including cutting tools or cordage. But that is generally the exception and not the rule. In most of the continental United States you will likely want/need to have an axe, saw or machete in order to build a good reliable natural shelter.
3. You should start with a solid frame work for your natural shelter. Ensure the frame work that you build is heavy duty enough to be able to hold your own body weight at a minimum. This way if you get a surprise snow storm the shelter frame work can bear the additional weight of the snow. I recommend having the main ridge pole or load bearing pole that is at least 4 inches in diameter made of a very solid and sturdy pole (green is best).
4. Ensure the pitch (angle) of the sides and back are at least 45 degrees. It can be tempting to build a natural shelter with a flat or slightly sloped roof. This is a huge mistake. Always make sure you have the proper pitch so that the water will run off adequately.
5. Thickness. The thickness of the natural material you are using needs to be thick enough so that when you look up through the material from the inside you can’t see any light coming through. If you see spots of light, you will certainly have rain coming through if the weather gets bad.
6. Start with the frame work and work to the smaller layers. When building a fire you generally start small and work to the heavy sticks. With a natural shelter it is exactly the opposite. Start with the heavy frame work pieces, then add smaller pieces a couple inches in diameter, then smaller branches, leaves, duff, pine needles, bark, etc.
7. Try to enclose 3 sides if possible. Just having one side on a natural shelter can keep you dry, but by doing as much as you can to close it in on at least three sides, it will be more effective at blocking the wind and helping to retain some of the heat from your fire.
8. Site selection is very important. Many times areas that are rich in resources to build your natural shelter may also be rich in natural hazards such as widow makers (dead standing trees) that can and frequently do blow over in high winds. Also look for insect nests, ants, bees, etc and poisonous plants such as poison ivy and poison oak. Be sure to check the area for other creepy crawlers like snakes, scorpions, etc.
9. Smaller is better. In the video below I built a pretty large natural shelter in order to be able to clearly show the framework, pitch, thickness, etc. But in reality, if you are building a shelter to save your life in the wild. Build your natural shelter only as large as it needs to be for you and who ever is in your party. Think cuddle time!
10. Natural shelters do work and can be an option if you have no other options. However, it is always much much easier and better to bring a shelter with you and be prepared than to have to expend the energy and resources to build a natural shelter. They are a ridiculous amount of effort for two healthy grown men and can be very overwhelming for one man especially in an emergency situation when injured, lost, and panicked.
Check out the video below to see just how much work building one of these can be.
Click here to watch on YouTube if you don’t have Flash: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM3bf7lPNdY
What are some of the survival shelter options you carry with you in order to avoid having to build a natural shelter?
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