Survival Manual


A well built shelter will protect you from the sun, insects, wind, rain, snow, extremes in temperature even possibly hide your location. A shelter can give you a feeling of security and give you a big boost mentally.

Your need for shelter may take precedence over your need for food and possibly even your need for water in extreme weather conditions.

A common error to avoid when building a temporary shelter is to make it to large. Remember this shelter is just temporary and not meant to replace you home.

Before building your shelter take the time to survey you situation and think through where to build it before you just jump in and start rushing Helter Skeltor to get it done.

Two things to consider is does the area contain the material to make the shelter and is the spot large enough and level enough for you to lie down. You don't want to be hauling materials to the shelter site when it would have been possible to have the shelter site located where the materials originally were.

But those two simple rules are not rock solid and inflexible. If the best location is right next to a road where anyone passing by can see you then give the situation you would be better off moving back off the road a ways and hauling the material to the remote location.

Or it could be just the opposite. You may be trying to rendezvous with someone and visibility to them might need to be taken into consideration as well.

building next to dead trees that might fall.
flash flood areas.
avalanche or rock-slide areas in mountains.
building below the high water mark.

Other considerations are the season! Sites for a shelter differ in winter and summer. You might want sunlight in the winter so a sunny wind protected side would be preferred. But in the heat of summer the cooler north slope might be a better choice. So also consider availability of fuel and water.


Poncho Lean-To
It takes only a short time and minimal equipment to build this lean-to. You need a poncho, about 8-10 feet (2.4-3 meters) of rope, three stakes and two trees or two poles about 7-9 feet (2.4 meters) apart. Build your lean-to so that the back is protecting you from the wind.

Tie closed the hood of the poncho. Cut the rope in half. On one long side of the poncho, tie half of the rope to the corner grommet. Tie the other half to the other corner grommet.

Attach a stick about 5 inches long to each rope about and inch from the grommet. These drip sticks will keep rainwater from running down the ropes into the lean-to. Tying strings about 5 inches long to each grommet along the poncho's top edge will allow the water to run to and down the line without dripping into the shelter.

Tie the ropes about waist high on the trees. Spread the poncho and anchor it to the ground, putting sharpened sticks through the grommets and into the ground. Make a center support for the lean-to if you can expect rain. Do this not with a stick but instead with rope if possible. Attach one end of the line to the poncho hood and the other end to an overhanging branch. Make line taunt only slightly or your shelter will be less durable to wind and such.

Place lots of brush, your pack or other equipment at the sides of the lean-to. Now that the shelter is built be sure to place some type of insulating material, such as leaves or pine needles, inside your lean-to on the ground. The ground contains moister and it is limitless in size, so any heat sucking ability it has will not be dissipated. In other words you body heat over time is still not going to be sufficient to warm the ground. It will suck the heat from your body continuously if you lie on it.

Poncho Tent
This tent has two sides to protect you from the weather but less usable space. You will need a poncho, two ropes about 7 or 8 feet long, six pointed sticks about a foot or a little more long and two trees about 6 to 8 feet apart.

Tie off the poncho hood. Tie your ropes to the center grommet on each side of the poncho and the other ends to the tree about knee high, stretching the poncho tight.

Draw one side of the poncho tight and secure it to the ground pushing sharpened sticks through the grommets. Do the same for the other side.

Center support can be a stick in the center or a rope just like in the lean-to shelter.

Swamp Bed
In a marsh or swamp, or any area with standing water or continually wet ground, the swamp bed keeps you out of the water. To make a swamp bed look for four trees clustered in a rectangle, or cut four poles and drive them firmly into the ground so they form a rectangle. They should be far enough apart and strong enough to support your weight and accommodate your height.

Cut two poles that span the width of the rectangle. Tie these two poles to the trees. Be sure they are high enough above the ground or water to allow high water clearance. Cut additional poles that span the rectangle's length. Lay them across the two side poles, and tie them.

Cover the top of the bed frame with broad leaves or grass to form a soft sleeping surface. Build a fire pad by clay or mud on one comer of the swamp bed and allow it to dry.

Another alternative method of building this shelter without any rope is to simply build up a platform by laying the branches on the ground and building up until you are above the water level.

Natural Shelters
Do not overlook natural formations that provide shelter. Examples are caves, rocky crevices, clumps of bushes, small depressions, large rocks on leeward sides of hills, large trees with low-hanging limbs, and fallen trees with thick branches.

When selecting a natural shelter stay away from low ground such as ravines, narrow valleys, or creek beds. Low areas collect the heavy cold air at night and are therefore colder than the surrounding high ground. Thick, brushy, low ground also harbors more insects. Check for poisonous snakes, ticks, mites, scorpions, and stinging ants. Look for loose rocks, dead limbs, coconuts, or other natural growth than could fall on your shelter.

Debris Hut

The debris hut is one of the best quick shelters when ease of construction and warmth are your primary concerns.

To make a debris hut you need a long pole that runs from the ground to the fork of another tree or anyway you can think of to secure this pole in the angled fashion of a fallen tree. Now prop large sticks along both sides of this ridgepole to create a wedge-shaped ribbing effect. Ensure the ribbing is wide enough to accommodate your body and steep enough to shed water.

Place finer sticks and brush crosswise on the ribbing. These form a latticework that will keep the insulating material (grass, pine needles, leaves) from falling through the ribbing into the sleeping area. Add light, dry, if possible, soft debris over the ribbing until the insulating material is at least 3 feet thick, the thicker the better.

Place a layer of insulating material on the ground inside the shelter for a floor and then construct a door out of your equipment or out of brush and debris. The better you seal the shelter the warmer it will be.

Tree-Pit Snow Shelter
If you are in a cold, snow-covered area where evergreen trees grow and you have a digging tool, you can make a tree-pit shelter.

To make this shelter find a tree with bushy branches that provides overhead cover. Dig out the snow around the tree trunk until you reach the depth and diameter you desire, or until you reach the ground.

Pack the snow around the top and the inside of the hole to provide support. Find and cut other evergreen boughs. Place them over the top of the pit to give you additional overhead cover. Place evergreen boughs in the bottom of the pit for insulation.

Beach Shade Shelter
This shelter protects you from the sun, wind, rain, and heat and is easy to build.

To make the beach shade shelter find driftwood or other material to use as support beams and as a digging tool.

Select a site that is above the high water mark.

Scrape or dig out a trench running north to south so that it receives the least amount of sunlight. Make the trench long and wide enough for you to lie down comfortably.

Mound sand on three sides of the trench. The higher the mound, the more space inside the shelter. Lay support beams of driftwood or other material that span the trench on top of the mound to form the framework for a roof.

Enlarge the shelter's entrance by digging out more sand in front of it.

Use natural materials such as grass or leaves to form a bed inside the shelter.

Desert Shelters
In an arid environment, consider the time, effort, and material needed to make a shelter. If you have material such as a poncho, canvas use it along with such terrain features as rock outcropping, mounds of sand, or a depression between dunes or rocks to make your shelter.

Using rock outcroppings anchor one end of your poncho canvas or other material on the edge of the outcrop using rocks or other weights. Extend and anchor the other end of the poncho so it provides the best possible shade.

In a sandy area build a mound of sand or use the side of a sand dune for one side of the shelter. Anchor one end of the material on top of the mound using sand or other weights. Extend and anchor the other end of the material so it provides the best possible shade.

Note: If you have enough material, fold it in half and form a 1-2 foot (15cm) airspace between the two halves. This airspace will reduce the temperature under the shelter during the day.

A below ground shelter can reduce the midday heat as much as 30 degrees F (16C). Building it does require more time and effort than for other shelters. Since your physical effort will make you sweat more and increase dehydration, construct it before the heat of the day.

To make this shelter find a low spot or depression between dunes or rocks. If necessary, dig a trench 18-24 inches (45-60cm) deep and long and wide enough for you to lie in comfortably.

Pile the sand you take from the trench to form a mound around three sides. On the open end of the trench, dig out more sand so you can get in and out of your shelter easily.

Cover the trench with your material. Secure the material in place using sand, rocks, or other weights. If you have extra material, you can further decrease the midday temperature in the trench by securing the material a foot or two above the other cover. This layering of the material will reduce the inside temperature 30 degrees F.

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