Survival Shelters

In the priorities of survival, as taught during our H.E.A.T. courses, protection from the elements is a # 1 consideration.  In a survival situation, especially in a Hostile Environment, personal protection must be your top priority.  Therefore, you need to know how to build the different types of survival shelters.  Sometimes, inclement weather can cause you greater problems than any perceived threat from government surveillance or dangerous disease.

If your clothing becomes wet and there is wind, the chill factor will make you cold very quickly.  Coupled to low energy, because of a lack of food, your morale will drop and being cold, wet and hungry could kill you.

Likewise, in the desert, lack of adequate clothing and exposed skin can result in dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and death.

Notwithstanding the use of an effective layering system for your clothing to counter various weather conditions, you will also need to consider the different types of shelters that you can use in either urban or rural environment.

In an urban environment, shelters in the form of disused buildings, cellars and bridges already exist.  Your challenge will be to modify such structures into a habitable living space that can keep you warm and out of sight.

If you are using any form of fire in such a shelter, you must ensure that you have sufficient ventilation.  Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a silent killer and will affect you far more quickly than hypothermia or hyperthermia.

Also, in an urban environment, you need to be wary of discovery.  In the HEAT Manual™, we discuss living in stealth mode to prevent attracting attention from other survivors or roving gangs.  Such people will want what you have and will often attack your shelter directly in order to get it.

If you are in a nuclear, biological or chemical (NBC) hostile environment, you need to ensure that you have at least ten centimetres of cover over your head and adopt proper contamination procedures.

However, if you find yourself in a rural environment, you need to look for a shelter site, whilst considering the following:

  • –  Will the shelter provide adequate protection?
  • –  Can you source the necessary tools to build a survival shelter?
  • –  What materials do you need?
  • –  How much time and effort can you spend?

If you have a tarpaulin, plastic sheeting or other wind and waterproof material, you can make a lean-to.

Tie a three metre length of rope between two supporting posts, attach your material to one end of the ground and drape the remaining material over the rope and tie it off on the other side.  Ensure that the back of your lean-to faces into the wind.

Alternatively, you can make a tepee, using suitable material and three poles.  This design is often large enough to house several people and their equipment.  Herewith the process as how to make a tepee:

  • –  Collect three poles and lay them on the ground in order to tie them together at one end.
  • –  Stand the framework up and spread the poles to form a tripod.  For extra strength, add more poles to the tripod but leave them untied.
  • –  Make an entrance in the tripod opposite the wind direction and determine an apex for the material.
  • –  Attaching the apex to the top of the tripod, wrap the material around the tripod and leave an opening at the top for ventilation.

Also, you can make a simple shelter, using material, a tree and three poles.  One of which needs to be longer than the other two.  Herewith the process as how to make this simple shelter:

  • –  Tie the longest pole to the tree at waist height.
  • –  Lay the two other poles on the ground on either side of the main pole and lash all three together.
  • –  Drape the material over the main pole, so that the same amount of material hangs off both sides.
  • –  Tuck the excess material under the two poles and spread it on the ground, to create a floor inside your shelter.
  • –  Stake the two ground poles at the shelter’s entrance, so that they do not slide inward.

When looking for shelter in rural areas, you should consider natural formations formed by caves, fallen trees with thick branches, rocky crevasses and small depressions in the ground.

Always check for lose rocks, coconuts or other natural growth that could fall on your shelter.  As almost 150 deaths are reportedly caused by falling coconuts each year, you need to consider where you place your shelter in respect of this food source.

As much of North and Southern Africa is characterised by desert, you need to consider the time, effort and material needed to make a shelter in an arid environment.

An underground bunker or shade shelter can reduce the midday heat by as much as 20 degrees Celsius but the physical effort will make you sweat more and increase dehydration.  You should build the shelter before the heat of the day, by excavating a depression between dunes or rocks.  Pile the sand you take from the trench to form a mount on three sides and keep the open end of the trench clear of sand.

Cover the trench with you material and keep it in place by using sand, rocks or other weights.

For maximum protection, you can attach another piece of material half a metre above your first layer, using white to reflect heat with the innermost layer being a dark material.