I am a retired Navy Petty Officer. One of my favorite tours of duty outside of my rate was as a Survival Instructor. I trained for 3 years as a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (S.E.R.E.) training petty officer for the Navy’s Fleet Aviation Specialized Operations Training Group Pacific (FASOTRAGRUPAC) in Warner Springs, Calif. This military training specialized in training pilots how to survive in a hostile situation. The basics that were taught to them are the same survival skills important to anyone who finds themselves in a survival situation. While stationed there I was awarded the top honor of being the “Instructor of the Year” my second year. I specialized in Edible Vegetation, Water Purification, and Finding water, Fire Building, Snares, Land Navigation and Shelter. This naval training made it possible to teach numerous Boy Scouts qualifying for their Wilderness Survival Merit badges as a Boy Scout leader in California and Sigonella, Sicily.
Shelter is the subject matter I am about to cover.
Being prepared increases your odds in a survival situation. Having a positive mental attitude goes a long way. Your imagination and ingenuity will help you do surprising things with what is available to you.
When lost, it is best to stay in one place. It reduces your chance of injuring yourself. It saves energy. And lastly, it makes finding you easier.
Building a shelter is easy. Boy scouts do it. Many military infantry men and downed pilots have had to do it. At S.E.R.E. we taught pilots how to make shelters and sleeping bags from their parachutes. ( My dad’s lieutenant from Korea has likened the debris shelter to those they made in Korea).
Shelter (Anything that protects you from the elements) can be one you have to build yourself. A lean-to works well in cool dry weather. A debris shelter, (wood skeleton triangle frame with leaf and pine needle branches applied until you have a shelter from elements) is good in colder, wet weather. The construction is only limited by your ingenuity. Your shelter can be insulated with whatever is at hand, such as leaves or grass. The cold earth will draw your heat away from your body. Anything that gets you away from direct contact with the ground will do. It will be more comfortable too.
Hopefully your situation occurred while out enjoying Mother Nature. You may have a space blanket, poncho or tarp with you, in which case creating a shelter should be relatively easy. First find a tree limb about 7 to 8 ft long. Find a small tree with a fork or low lying branch. Put an end into the fork. Center your material across the limb. Secure the ends starting from the lowest point on the limb and work your way up creating an A-frame. This will afford you good protection from rain and snow. A lean-to is similar, only the limb is between two forked trees or man made posts. The material is strung along the top and secured at the other end on the ground. Say the weather is cold and you need to wrap the space blanket around your body. Maybe constructing a debris type shelter would suit your needs better?
A ready-made shelter can be a cave, abandoned cabin, and hunting blind or your vehicle. Always make sure that ready-made shelters such as caves are unoccupied. Make a lot of noise and poke area with a long stick prior to crawling in. If stranded in a vehicle, always be conscious of carbon monoxide. When running the engine or burning a small candle, always crack a window.
Snow caves are made by burrowing a hole out of a snow drift along a hillside. Make interior only as big as you need it to be. Cover the opening with snow once inside. The smaller it is the more apt you will self heat with your own body heat. If you have a candle it will help make the shelter more comfortable. Make a hole or two in the top to allow for air flow.
A fire can be helpful in heating your shelter. When making a fire for heat, keep it relatively small. Build a reflector screen out of wood or rocks to reflect the heat in the direction of your shelter.
Lastly, make this your home until found. Someone is looking for you. Take care of your self and do all the correct things required to stay alive until they find you.