Survival Shelter - Keeping Warm And Dry
A critical element to survival is the ability to stay warm and dry and out of the elements. If you are stranded due to a vehicle breakdown, stay in your car. But, if it is unsafe to do so, or you find yourself lost in the woods or otherwise on foot, you need to know how to build a survival shelter.
During the warmer parts of the year, your survival shelter could simply be an emergency blanket wrapped around you as you sit or lay by a campfire.
During inclement weather or the fall and winter months, you'll want a roof over your head. Remember, heat rises so you want to be able to trap it before it escapes into the air above.
The lean-to is one of the easiest shelters to improvise. Simply run a long branch between two trees, four feet or so off the ground. Take other long branches and lean them against that cross post, then fill in the gaps with smaller branches, leaves, and other forest debris. Weave the smaller branches in between the longer ones to make it both more secure and provide better shelter from rain and snow. You'll want the height at the opening to be just enough you can sit comfortably without hitting your head. Build a small fire near the front of the shelter and stack a few logs or large stones on the far side of the fire. Doing so reflects the heat toward you.
Of course, if you have a spare emergency blanket or small tarp, you can easily make an improvised tent. String a rope between two trees four or five feet off the ground. Drape the blanket or tarp across the rope and stretch out the sides a bit. Place logs or stones on the tarp where it meets the ground to help keep it in place. If you don't have a rope, a long branch will do the job nicely.
Some sources suggest huddling under a large pine tree, with the idea being the pine boughs will keep rain and snow off of you. However, that tree might act as a lightning rod during a storm. Further, large clumps of snow could become dislodged from those branches and land on you, making a miserable situation even worse.
In the winter, you can fashion a snow cave. Either find a large snow drift or make a large pile of snow. I've found the pile should be at least four or five feet high and the same across for this to work well.
Burrow into the side of the pile, taking the snow you dig out and piling it on top. You need just enough space inside for you to curl up with your pack. Your body heat will soon slightly melt the inside of the snow cave, causing the interior surface to glaze over with a thin sheet of ice. Having packed a folding shovel in your survival kit makes this shelter much easier to build.
A survival shelter, by its very nature, isn't fancy or elaborate. It is simply a structure that will serve to trap heat to keep you warm as well as keep you out of the worst of the elements.