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Monday, September 14, 2015

Be A Shelter Guru

The word shelter conjures up different things for different folks. What we are addressing here is a quality shelter in the great American outback, where ever that is for you, be it a park or between nuthin’ and nowhere. Everyone seems to start off with the statement your clothes are your first shelter. Okay ,however, you should be dressed for where you are and be ready for heat, cold, rain, snow, wind and ice.
Many times we cannot predict what the weather will bring and you may not be dressed for a sudden turn. But, you can build your own shelter extending beyond your clothes to save your butt.
You want warm air in your shelter, if it is cold. You should know that just breathing helps to warm you up. Wind, has to be blocked to stop convective loss.
A shelter will keep you warm in about 4 ways, so it is imperative you learn to be a shelter guru. It is not hard. The time you have to build a shelter is very important. Use the finger method to see how much daylight you have left. Give yourself plenty of time to construct whatever this shelter is going to be, and that you have enough time to gather the materials you will use. It might take twice as long as you think to make a secure shelter, start early . Add to that equation, how long will you be there? What is in the area that you can use to construct shelter. How far do have to muscle the material to the location you have chosen… sometimes it is prudent to move your location.
Once you know what you will build it becomes function over form. Most of the time you wont be there no longer than a few days
Even if you have a tent, a big help would be to make a wind break. In the case of a tarp, depending on the size, it is good to build up some sides as well, even with with found material. This will help keep you warmer and dry. Make a fire reflector to help also. Now comes the comfy part. Most cannot take a cot into the field, unless you are car camping or have used pack horses or some such. You do not want to be in direct contact with the ground. Make an insulative bed from duff and browse. If you use a hammock, you can improvise a rig a to hang through the shelter. If you have not used a hammock before, they can be a bit tricky, but that subject is a whole ‘nother article.
I learned this from my dad many years ago. Get 3 grain or feed sacks, they are cheap and sometimes they will give ‘em to you. Slit open both ends, seems pull right out though. That leaves you with 3 hollow “tubes”. Cut some long poles and slip the poles into all 3 sacks. Stuff the improvised tick (mattress) with browse and duff. Now you can build your shelter over your bed and you are off the ground I always carry a stuff sack mattress that is open about half way down and the rest is sown shut for this purpose… I showed the tick in a class at a Dirttime event. Provides for a comfy rest.
Rock over hangs you read about a lot books they can be a fine place but check out first if any rock has fallen recently. You don’t want wake up under two tons.
Blow downs, trees that have fallen, can make for a quickie shelter as you already have one side built. Make sure it wont roll.
A brush lean-to is fairly easy shelter to construct. Place all boughs with the stems pointing up. Start from the ground up, overlapping layers as you build up, that way rain will follow all the way down and not drip into,your shelter. pile on the bush as thick as you can, 2 feet may not be enough, and make sure there is no visible holes. For maximum effectiveness, build side walls and a longfire in front of the shelter. If you have a small tarp it can be used to go over the top of the whole abode.. Pile leaves, pine needles, etc  on the ground if you nothing else , make them as deep as you can. best to do this before the shelter is built for easy access, they will keep you warm. I have done this in freezing weather and been acceptably comfy all night. For heat try putting some rocks in your fire and after a few hours bring them in the shelter , they will give off heat for a very long time. Lean some heavy poles against the whole outfit to help keep the brush in place from any wind.
For a debris shelter, which is what a lean to is in reality, gather 4 poles, about 4 to 5 feet long, lean them together like a tepee, conical… Most of the time, just by wedging them, they will stay in place. If not, tie them with cordage or use zip ties at the top. Keep adding more poles,big end down. From the bottom up, add any kind of materials you can, grasses, needles, whatever you can gather. You are making a very primitive form of shingles, so any rain will follow the route down. Again, these have to be very thick,two feet may not be enough. The debris shelter is great for two or more people. Smaller is better, to help build up internal heat. Heated rocks work well here also. Once you have all he brush in place, lean some heavy poles against the whole thing to keep the brush in place from any wind.
I suggest you practice building some of these shelters and sleep systems . The place to learn is not when you need them for real.
This not the end all of shelter building. There is a whole bunch more but this will give you a head start.
I have not covered desert shelters that is another article, as are shelters for deep snow country, These are the basics for all of them, depending on what materials are on hand, and what you have with you.

By Dude McLean

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