(includes sleeping gear)

Obviously, your geography and climate will suggest what kind of shelter preparations and materials you will need. Remember that exposure to extreme heat or cold will render you lifeless before lack of water or food will, so consider shelter high in the top three. Generally, you will want to carry something to protect you from sun, rain, cold and the wind, dust, creatures, and possibly from discovery by others.

1. Tarp for cover, rain protection (and collection), windbreak, camo

2. Ground cloth or tarp, to keep out moisture, mud, dirt

3. Tent, hard to beat for shelter, light weight and protection from the environment. I prefer a tarp in my arid climate, but if it's buggy (millions of gnats and mosquitos), a tent is far better. Keeps the creepy crawlies - snakes, scorpions, spiders, centipedes, ticks and such - outside, so you can sleep. Go for better quality, cheap ones have crappy floors made from smelly and toxic tarp material.

4. Rope and cord, endless uses, your tent may be lost, damaged by a falling branch, blown away, stolen... and you have to improvise shelter from your tarp, ground cloth and rope. Try that without rope! Or, create shelter for a friend that you meet. Hang food up out of reach of animals. Lower a container into a pool/stream for water. Rope and strong cord like paracord are immensely useful. Paracord 550 is supposed to have seven strands inside, so you can slip off the covering (also useful) and have smaller cordage/thread for repairs, tying and such. Replace your shoe or boot strings/laces with paracord - make them longer. Tie cordage around things like your knife sheath, your water bottle (or use the bottle for duct tape), machete sheath and other items.

5. Sleeping bag and liner, the liner keeps the bag cleaner

6. Hammock, it keeps you off the ground, light weight hammocks pack small

7. Tent stakes may be needed by your tent or to improvise shelter

8. Large, plastic trash bags (listed elsewhere) can be used as ground tarps, cover and even made into a tent, using duct tape and cordage. Easiest is an A-frame - a sheet folded over a horizontal rope stretched between supports and anchored on the four corners. Next is a tube tent - a continuous sheet of plastic creating walls and floor, suspended from a line, like the A frame. Open the ends of two bags and tape those open ends to each other, creating a tube. Pass some cord through it and attach the ends to supports, letting the tube touch the ground. In case of rain, pull each end up off the ground. To attach cordage to thin plastic, place a small marble-size stone or a nut in the sheet and loop the cord over it.

Shelter - How To Build

If your shelter needs are temporary, a simple lean-to or debris hut might suffice. Eventually, you might need something more secure and sturdy. Consider the 'inverted basket' plastered with mud. Look around the area where you want to stay, and locate materials for shelter building: saplings and mud. Try to avoid transporting materials over long distances. Bamboo or long thin saplings would be ideal, strong and flexible. Draw a circle perhaps six feet in diameter and mark off the hours of a clock. Dig holes with a stick at each hour mark and bury the thick end of a six-foot long sapling a foot deep in each. Bend number 12 and 6 to form an arc, then 3 and 9 to cross in the center and tie the cross at the height you want, perhaps shoulder high. Similarly, cross 1 and 8, 2 and 7, 4 and 11 and 5 and 10 to create four more arcs with their own cross points (not over the first cross) and tie them. You have six arcs forming an open dome.

Pick two poles for a doorway (facing a direction you want to see) and tie a pole to them at what will be the top of the entrance - keep the entrance small. Now harvest a few more thin poles to weave into the arcs. Begin at the door (ground level) and thread the pole in an out at each arc pole; continue with more poles until you reach the other side of the doorway. If the woven poles (weft) cut out too much of the floor area, either increase the floor diameter or bury a pole between each arc pole, doubling them to 24, and bend as before to create six more arcs. Weave as before. If the weft poles cannot bend around each arc pole, select thinner, more flexible poles, or split them, or go every-other pole on the outside (inside one, outside two). When you have poles flexible enough to weave, harvest a hundred more. Weave on alternate sides of arc poles, enclosing them in weft, and work your way to the apex, leaving a 12" hole there if you plan to have fires inside.

Mix grass into some mud and start plastering the basket from the bottom, inside and out at the same time. Press mud into the wall space and cover the weft completely. Continue up to the apex, making sure the walls are smooth and will shed rain and not collect it in pockets. If you have something flat and smooth, like a credit card, 'trowel' the outside slowly to make it waterproof. A plastic bag stretched over a book will work.

If your house requires a door, weave one from poles and plaster it. If you attach two horizontal poles a bit wider than the door to the outside of it, you can pull the door closed from inside, then push a short pole through a loop on the inside of the door to hold it closed against the side poles.

Place large rocks around the outside to discourage animals digging under the wall. Dry leaves and/or grass will make a usable floor covering. If you make a fire, create a fire pit with stones and watch sparks! Never sleep with an active fire (flames), and burn only dry wood to avoid the fire popping.

If there is a path or open area leading to your hut, consider sprinkling dry leaves on it so you will hear animals or people approaching.

If you have no weapon, other than a knife or machete, make a spear from a suitable branch or sapling and keep it in the hut at night.

In cold weather, reduce the height of the hut to hold warm air lower. Using branches, weave and plaster a cover for the smoke hole, and slide it over the hole when you need to conserve heat.

If you need to transport mud, you can weave a shallow basket from saplings - whole or split - and carry mud in it.


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