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Outdoor Survival - Shelters

Obviously, unless something untoward happens, there shouldn't be the need to make an emergency shelter if you are carrying a tent with you. However, if you don't plan on taking a tent and want to stay in hostels or bed and breakfasts, there is always a small possibility of being caught out by the weather, or by some other unforeseen circumstance, for example getting lost! On the other hand, maybe you like the idea of literally sleeping under the stars, although I definitely don't recommend this!

In case of emergencies, you must always carry a survival bag even if you are taking a tent. If an emergency arises, then in many cases just sleeping in the bag will be the easiest solution, rather than going about building a shelter. The recommended way is to go in head first, and have your feet facing the open end, but it can be a bit claustrophobic for some. Keep all your clothes on and your boots, also wear a hat and gloves as it can get very cold during the night, even in summer.

If you are taking a tent, I've found my survival bag useful for the unfortunate times when it's been so wet that the ground sheet has started to leak. I lay the survival bag underneath the sleeping bag to keep it dry. On one occasion, I was camping at Loch Etchachan just below the summit of Ben Macdui during an awful gale. It was knocking the tent almost flat and I was certain it would blow down during the night, so I put the sleeping bag in the survival bag. This was in case I actually fell asleep (difficult under the circumstances) and awoke to a collapsed tent, leaking rain and soaked through. Fortunately, the tent survived the night, losing just one rain cap. It was an A-frame tent; brilliant and I still have it.


Emergency Shelters:

If the night is reasonably warm and you are in a sheltered spot, this shelter is very simple to create and gives you more room than being constrained to sleeping in the survival bag.

Locate your log (the bigger the better) or a boulder, and place the plastic sheet over the log, so that one end just reaches the ground at the other side. Secure it with rocks, or whatever you can find and then stretch the rest of the sheet over the log and secure it at the other end. Voila!

If you don't have anything suitable to lay over the log, then you could use branches instead, and fill the gaps with grass or bracken etc.

shelter 1

For this shelter, you need a wood and some young saplings. Draw the young trees together at the top to create a roof. Do this by inter-twining the branches. You can also use string to secure them.

When you have the basic dome shape, you can then add more branches over the top to create more protection. You could perhaps weave thin branches around the circumference for more shelter at the sides.

shelter 2


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