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Your Quick Camping Survival Guide (Part 6: How to Build a Shelter)


Wikimedia Commons/ Jim Champion

In our last post in this series, we talked about some of the basic how-to’s of building a fire in the wilderness, and today we’re here to talk about another skill that will help you stay warm in a situation where every comfort factor feels like a life-saver – how to build a shelter.

Before starting to build a shelter, you’ll need to choose what kind of structure you want to build. And, to do that, you’ll need to inspect your surroundings, both to make sure there’s shelter from the wind and a good water source nearby, as well as to figure out what materials you have to work with.

If you’re in an area where there are natural shelters, such as overhanging cliffs, caves or deep snow, then a lot of your work has already been done for you.  If tree branches are your biggest material source, then your best option is to build some kind of lean-to. Look here for 15 great shelter ideas to keep you protected in an emergency.

The following are a few tips for a few different locations you may find yourself in:

  1. If you decide to take shelter in a cave, proceed with caution, in case it’s occupied, and make sure that you build your fire near the mouth of the cave to ward off animal intruders.
  2. If you’re near the coast and have access to rocks, you can build a U-shape with the rocks, against the wind. Then you can form a roof with driftwood and fill in the cracks with seaweed.
  3. If you’re using trees as wind barriers, you can dig a shallow pit at the base of a tree and line it with bark, leaves or moss.
  4. You could also use branches to form a lean-to, leaning the foundational first branch against a standing tree. If you have rope, it might come in handy here. Branches of all sizes will be useful, as the shelter slopes down to meet the ground, and using thick grasses and bark and branches with leaves and needles will help fill all the cracks and keep you sheltered from wind and even rain! It would be super useful to have a multi-function army knife on hand, to help you get your branches to the best sizes.
  5. If you’re able to find long enough branches, you may be able to build a wigwam, and even construct it so that you can build a fire inside, with a place for oxygen to get in and smoke to rise up and out.

So really, when it comes to building a shelter, you have options no matter where you find yourself. Assessing the situation first is key, and then taking action quickly, before the cold sets in or night falls.

For a further look at shelter-building and other survival skill tips, look back at some of our recent blog posts, or find more information at the British Columbia Adventure Network.


Article contributed by Sophie Wooding – Avid gardener and cyclist in Victoria, BC and Content Writer for Frontier.io

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