5 Ways to Build a Makeshift Shelter

March 15, 2017

Channel your inner MacGyver and be ready for anything that comes your way. You already know that seeking shelter is essential in any survival situation, but did you know that it’s the most important thing you can do, followed by finding water and food? Whether your tent breaks while you’re camping, hiking, or backpacking, or you find yourself stranded in the great outdoors, we want you to be able to stay safe, dry and cozy. And we think that these five techniques can help.
But first, take a deep breath, crack open a Rip It energy boost and take the advice of Wilderness College – don’t panic! It’s easier when you remember this simple acronym, “SPEAR:” Stop, Plan, Execute, Assess and Re-evaluate.

1. Cocoon

If you’re short on time and you need to stay warm for the night, collect as much bark, pine needles and dry leaves as you can find. Make a huge pile that’s at least two feet higher and longer than your height. Once you climb into the pile, you have a cozy sleeping bag that will prevent you from losing valuable body heat, which can make all the difference in a survival situation.

2. The Lean-To

If you want easy and cozy, this is a great choice. Find a fallen tree, large rock, or an overhang large enough for you to crawl under. Lean fallen limbs and branches against the object at an angle to create a wall. Cover that wall with pine needles, bark, leaves, and smaller branches to create a thick covering that would even make Jon Snow happy while he warns his friends that “winter is coming.”

3. A-Frame

Find two sticks that are about five feet long and one that’s between 10 and 12 feet long. Arrange the shorter sticks in the shape of an “A,” and then top the A with the longer stick. Tie the three sticks with twine, string. or anything you have on hand at the point where they meet. Add more sticks along the longer one to beef up the structure before you pile debris against the outside for insulation.

4. Debris Hut

Like an A-frame, this shelter uses sticks to create the shelter. Start by propping the longest stick you can find on a tree stump or on the crook of a tree. Lay shorter sticks along the length of the longest pole and place smaller sticks perpendicular to those to create lattice before piling leafy debris on top.

5. Tarp Shelter

Did you know a simple tarp can protect you from wind and rain? Here are three reasons to put one in your pack anytime you go on an adventure:

  • The Wing: Tie two opposite corners up high and two low to keep you dry and out of the sun.
  • The Burrito: Lay the tarp on the ground, fold one side 1/3 over, fold again in the same direction and tuck one end under itself. Stick your sleeping bag in from the open end.
  • Hammock: Roll the long sides of the tarp halfway across the tarp and roll the other side to meet the first one, creating a long bundle. Tie a sheet bend to each end, and tie each end to a thick tree trunk.

Before you start building your makeshift survival structure, try to find a safe, flat location away from anything that could fall or blow onto your shelter. Build the structure only large enough for you to fit inside, and use as many leaves, grasses, small sticks, and other debris as you can to stay warm, dry, and safe.

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