There are occasions when you may not be willing to carry a man-made shelter. Sometimes it is fun to build a natural shelter. In a survival situation you may have no choice but to construct a natural shelter. It is not a decision that should be made lightly. Before choosing to make a shelter you have to consider the conditions and the availability of resources. It maybe better to use your remaining energy to reach civilisation rather than spend an uncertain night in a poorly made shelter. If the conditions are such that you need to build a shelter then you must consider which elements are causing you the most problems. If the temperature is low with no wind and you can have a fire. No shelter and a long log fire could well be a better choice than building an elaborate shelter.
In the UK the wind chill accompanied by the wet is going to cause most problems. Therefore getting into a bothy bag, out of the elements, and sitting it out is probably a good idea.
Siting A Shelter.
When choosing a site for you shelter you must consider the wind direction. In the UK the prevailing wind comes from the southwest. Do not site your shelter with the back to the wind. The wind will eddy over the top of the shelter drawing air and smoke into the shelter. If building a shelter in woodland always check the surrounding trees for dead falls. In summer it would be good to avoid Larch and Beech trees. These trees tend to drop large branches without warning. A riverbank s a poor choice of campsite as heavy rains may result in a flash flood. Riverbanks are also natural pathways used by animals and people. Try to avoid disturbing other forest dwellers. Pools of standing water attract insects, which can lead to a miserable night. Avoid obvious animal tracks especially in bear country etc.
It is hard to beat the feeling of contentment when settling down to watch the setting sun, in front of a fire, by your natural shelter than you have constructed. There are several designs of debris shelter depending o the conditions and the available resources. If materials are plentiful and you are planning to have a semi permanent camp then why not build a large group shelter. However if time is pressing it may be better to build several small shelters rather than one large beast.
The most important parts of a lean to debris shelter are the two forked rackers and the ridgepole. Once these have been located the sidewalls can be built using any timbers to hand. Do not allow the timbers to stick up beyond the ridgepole. Water will use this a fast route inside to make your night miserable. Once a good lattice of sticks has been added to each side, then a thick thatch of leaf litter can be added.
© W Jones
© W Jones
A 2-person shelter built by course members at the same time as the above 1 man shelter. The open 1 person shelter is designed to have a fire in front. The 2 person is a more enclosed shelter used without a fire. After spending a considerable amount of time sleeping in debris shelters I have found that it is often too warm to sleep comfortably rather than being too cold. The leaf litter can be a little claustrophobic for some people as it insulates sound as well as heat. My favourite shelter I have built is this group shelter.
This group shelter is designed to sleep 3 people. The top is left open and a fire is built in the middle to keep warm. The greater the number of people the more complex the design becomes. When building this shelter it collapsed 3 times until it reached a stable condition. There should be one more upright than there are people. The amount of dead wood needed to create such a shelter is huge. To build this shelter it took 4 people 5 hours. It is easy to under estimate the amount to leaf litter required to make a shelter weatherproof.