In any outdoor survival situation, finding proper shelter should be your first concern because extended exposure to excessive heat or cold can cause you to succumb to hyperthermia or hypothermia; either of which can lead to death. This may sound like a remote possibility when you’re getting ready for camping with your buddies, but be certain that all the people who have died because they didn’t build a shelter were thinking exactly the same thing.
However, the type of shelter you’re able to find or build depends entirely on the type of terrain you’re in. Adaptability is the key word here, because you will have to adapt your plans to the environment you’re in, and not the other way around as are we so accustomed in the city.
1. Look for an outcropping of large boulders
If you find yourself stranded in open terrain where there’s very little forest, then an outcropping of large boulders is a good place to look for shelter because those boulders will absorb a considerable amount of heat from the sun during the day and will radiate that heat at night. Boulders will also provide you with shelter from the wind which can drastically lower a body’s core temperature (called “wind chill”).
2. Use dry leaves as a makeshift ground matt and blanket
If you’re in a forested area, especially one consisting of deciduous trees such as oaks and maples, then gathering a large pile of dry, fallen leaves with which you can create a ground matt to insulate yourself from the earth is an excellent start. Then, once you have a comfortable ground matt, pulling another pile of dried leaves over your body will act as a makeshift blanket that will help to retain your body heat.
3. Insulate it with dry leaves
A better solution is to build some sort of structure which will shed both wind and rain and insulate the shelter with dry leaves. The simplest type of survival shelter you can build is to collect small logs and fallen tree limbs and simply lean them up against a large tree or boulder to create a makeshift teepee (called a “debris shelter”). In addition, whenever possible, you should build this type of shelter underneath a large pine with dense foliage since the boughs of the pine tree will also help to shed rain.
4. Waterproof it with garbage bags
If you have a survival knife and a survival kit with you, then you can build a more elaborate survival shelter such as a lean-to or an A-frame using your survival knife. Cut saplings to create the frame work and then use the plastic garbage bags from your survival kit to make it water proof. When finished, place more saplings or pine boughs on top of the garbage bags to hold them in place.