Do not plan on
lucking into an abandoned cabin nestled comfortably into a forgotten
wooded glen. There are however, numerous naturally occurring shelters
one can make use of; caves and some old mine shafts can serve the
survivalist well. There are some inherent dangers that must be
weighed, but there are also some undeniable benefits. They are usually
a constant temperature year round. They are also easily defended; you
can build a fire to the front of the opening to ward off wild animals.
If caves, outcroppings, or mine shafts are not available, one can also
shelter under the stump of a large uprooted tree. If there is not an
"under" to the uprooted tree, but rather a "by", you can easily lean
branches against the open side of the root ball, and cover these with
leaves, ferns, and or evergreen boughs to create a warm, cozy, and
dry, little shelter.
You must remember
that it is not wise to sleep on the ground. Body heat is lost to the
soil at a very high rate. I learned very early on that this makes for
an extremely uncomfortable night. It is therefore necessary to get your
body up off the ground. This may be accomplished by doing something as
elaborate as building a sleeping platform, or it can simply mean
adding a thick layer of evergreen boughs, or forest floor debris. One
must be careful though to pick clean material for ones bedding. I
cannot begin to describe the suck factor of waking in the night to
find you made your bedding from material infested with insects.
carry a hammock and an 8' x 10' tarp in the tool box of my truck.
There is really no easier 3 season shelter than hanging a hammock
between a couple of trees, and suspending the tarp above it to shed
any rain that might happen to fall. Once you become proficient at it,
you can get it up in a matter of minutes.
You can also create a number of shelters from readily available local
materials. One of my favorite shelters is a debris hut with nest.
Build a box to hold a nest of dried leaves upon which one can sleep.
Start out by constructing log cabin style walls about 18" tall
interlocking at the corners just like a log cabin. The resulting box
should be at least 1ft longer than your body, and 2ft wider. Once this
is done, fill the box with clean, dried, leaves gathered from the
forest floor. It is important to make sure this material is free from
insects, and moisture. Once you have this done, the walls will hold
the leaves in place, and you have a very soft bed upon which you can
sleep. If you build the walls higher, you can actually burrow into the
leaves for warmth. After building your nest, you can construct a
debris shelter over the top to keep out the weather. Use dead branches
and saplings to make the framework over your nest; think of a wood
stick tent. While smaller branches and sticks are used to make the
lattice work for roofs and walls. Finally leaves, ferns, grasses, pine
boughs, and even mud or snow are used to seal out the elements. Once
you become proficient, this type of shelter can be built in a few
hours, and it will keep you quite warm and cozy with limited gear. The
thicker you make the roof and walls, the better insulating properties
the shelter will have. This is an excellent shelter for cooler
climates. Think of this type of shelter as two separate components.
Each can be used alone, or combined into a super shelter.
If your stay will be longer than a night or two I would suggest
building a Wikiup or Wigwam. These shelters served our Native American
brothers well. Using local materials, and time honored practices, they
can be built in a relatively short amount of time, and they offer
shelter, warmth, and comfort. In our weekend wilderness skills course,
we will build such a shelter.