Shelter is anything that provides protection from environmental hazards. The environment influences shelter site selection and factors which you must consider before constructing an adequate shelter. The techniques and procedures for constructing shelters for various types of protection are also presented.
The need for shelter is threefold-as a place for protection from the conditions (environmental and socio-political), safety from hazards, and is big enough for you and your equipment. The duration and location of the isolating event will have some effect on shelter choice. In areas that are warm and dry, the need is easily satisfied using natural resting places. In cold climates, the criticality of shelter can be measured in minutes, and rest is of little immediate concern. Similarly, in areas of residual radiation, the criticality of shelter may also be measured in minutes.
The location and type of shelter built will vary with each situation. There are many things to consider when picking a site, such as the time and energy required to establish an adequate shelter, weather conditions, life forms (human, plant, and animal), terrain, and time of day. Every effort should be made to use as little energy as possible and yet attain maximum protection from the environment.
Late afternoon is not the best time to look for a site which will meet that day’s shelter requirements. You should not wait until the last minute to build shelter, as they may be forced to use poor materials in unfavorable conditions. They must constantly be thinking of ways to satisfy their needs for protection from environmental hazards.
Weather conditions are a key consideration when selecting a shelter site. Failure to consider the weather could have disastrous results. Weather factors such as temperature, wind, and precipitation can influence the your choice of shelter type and site selection.
Situating a shelter site in low areas such as a valley in cold regions can expose you to low night temperatures and wind-chill factors. Colder temperatures are found along valley floors and are sometimes referred to as “cold air sumps.” It may be advantageous to situate shelter sites to take advantage of the Sun. The shelter site could be situated in an open area during the colder months for added warmth, or in a shaded area for protection from the Sun during periods of hotter weather. In some areas, a compromise may have to be made. For example, in many deserts the daytime temperatures can be very high while low temperatures at night can turn water to ice. Protection from both heat and cold are needed in these areas. Shelter type and location should be chosen to provide protection from the existing temperature conditions.
Wind can be either an advantage or a disadvantage depending upon the temperature of the area and the velocity of the wind. During the summer or on warm days, you can take advantage of the cool breezes and protection the wind provides from insects by locating their camps on knolls or spits of land. Conversely, wind can become an annoyance or even a hazard as blowing sand, dust, or snow can cause skin and eye irritation as well as damage to clothing and equipment. On cold days or during winter months, you should seek shelter sites which are protected from the effects of wind-chill and drifting snow.
The many forms of precipitation (rain, sleet, hail, or snow) can also present problems for you. Shelter sites should be out of major drainages and other low areas to avoid potential flash floods or mudslides resulting from heavy rains. Snow can also be a great danger if shelters are placed in potential avalanche areas.
All life forms (human animal, and plant,) must be considered when selecting the shelter site and the type of shelter that will be used. Human life forms may mean the enemy or other groups from whom you wish to remain undetected. For a shelter to be adequate, various factors must be considered, especially if an extended isolating situation is expected.
Personal Discomfort from Insects
Insect life can cause personal discomfort, disease, and injury. By locating shelters on knolls, ridges, or other areas that have a breeze or steady wind, you can reduce the number of flying insects in their area. Staying away from standing water sources will help to avoid mosquitoes, bees, wasps, and hornets. Ants can be a major problem, and some species will vigorously defend their territories with painful stings, bites, or pungent odors.
Issues with Animals near a Shelter Site
Animals can also be a problem, especially if your shelter site is situated near their trails or waterholes.
Some plants may be hazardous to you. Thorn bushes, trees, and vines can cause injuries. Dead trees that are standing, and trees with dead branches, should be avoided. Wind may cause them to fall, causing injuries or death. Poisonous plants, such as poison oak or poison ivy, must also be avoided when locating a shelter.
Avalanche, rock, or mud-slide areas should be avoided. These areas can be recognized by either a clear path or a path of secondary vegetation, such as one to 15-foot tall vegetation or other new growth which extends from the top to the bottom of a hill or mountain. Dry streambeds should also be avoided due to the danger of flash flooding. Rock overhangs must be checked for safety before being used as a shelter.
Principles of Shelter Locations and Types
The basic principles of shelter requirements and planning are:
- Be near areas to meet your needs such as water, food, fuel, and a signal or recovery site.
- Be a safe area, providing natural protection from environmental hazards.
- Be near sufficient materials to construct the shelter.
Shelters of this type should be easy to construct and/or dismantle in a short period of time. You should consider this type of shelter only when they are not immediately concerned with getting out of the elements. Shelters of this type include A-frames, simple shade shelters, tepees, sod shelters, and snow shelters; including tree-pit shelters.
One way to build an A-frame shelter is to use a tarp, parachute or other material for the covering. There are as many variations of this shelter as there are builders. The procedures here will, if followed carefully, result in the completion of a safe shelter that will meet tour needs. For an example of this and other
Assembling the Framework
1. Lash the ridge pole (between two suitable trees) on the shelter side, about chest or shoulder high.
2. Lay the roof support poles against ridge pole from the ridge pole side of shelter so the roof support poles and the ground are at approximately a 60-degree angle. The roof support poles should push the ridge pole against the trees. Lash the roof support poles to the ridge pole.
Application of Fabric
- Place the middle seam of the fabric on the middle support pole with lower lateral band along the ridge pole.
- Tie-off the middle and both sides of the lower lateral band approximately 8 to 10 inches from the ridge pole.
- Stake the middle of the rear of the shelter first, and then alternate from side to side.
- The stakes that go up the sides to the front should point to the front of the shelter
A variation of the platform-type shelter is the para-platform. A quick and comfortable bed is made by simply wrapping material around the two “frame” poles. Another method is to roll poles in the material in the same manner as for an improvised stretcher.
Various parahammocks and hammocks made of other fabrics can also be made. However, they are more involved than a simple framework wrapped with material and not quite as comfortable.
The debris nest consists of dry insulation in a protected covering that an individual can crawl into. It is constructed in such a way as to be warmed primarily by the occupant’s body heat. (Although heated stones or other heated heavy objects can be added for additional warmth.) There are many ways you can construct a debris nest depending on the environmental conditions and the materials available. If conditions are cold and you are in a permissive isolating event a fire should be built before beginning the shelter construction. If the situation allows choose locations to build a debris nest that provide protection from precipitation and air movement. Examples are dumpsters (use care in extreme cold), the crawl spaces in buildings, crevice of rocks, an eroded embankment, large fallen tree, or in a tree well.
Dry Materials as Insulation
Possible dry materials that may be used for insulation include grasses, ferns, evergreen boughs, mosses and lichens, clothing and other cloth type materials. Some examples include:
• If you are in a coniferous forest, the soft bow and dry pine needles can be piled up or in a deciduous forest, the dry leaves can be used.
• In an urban environment, you may be able to find a large heavy duty plastic bag, cardboard box, or container that could be filled with dry shredded papers, cloth, or available dry vegetation.
• In a cold desert, a nest may be constructed using dry grasses and available shrubs.
• Possible nest cover materials should be non-porous to provide protection from the cold (body heat can be captured in the nest), wind, and precipitation.
• Examples are tarp, EVCs (multiple EVCs can be duct taped together), large peeled bark from dead trees, thatched palm fronds, fallen logs, dumpsters (use care in extreme cold), wax coated or plastic covered card board, and the crawl spaces in buildings.