Survival is natural to us, especially when we're up against the challenges of the great outdoors.
And in this pursuit of resilience, the skill to build effective shelters in tough conditions becomes crucial.
Whether it's the freezing chill of winter, the scorching heat, or the wild storms Mother Nature throws our way, a well-made shelter can be the line between life and death.
In our previous blog on shelter crafting, we covered the basics — understanding the terrain, key principles of shelter crafting, and the tools and materials needed.
Now, in this comprehensive guide, we're taking a closer look at survival shelters tailored for three tough environments: harsh cold, intense heat, and severe storms.
We'll explore techniques that've stood the test of time—easy to set up, as solid as a rock, and your safety net when tackling those challenging environments head-on.
Survival Shelters for Harsh Cold Environments
Making it through winter can be a real challenge, especially when an unexpected blast of harsh cold hits.
That bone-chilling cold doesn't waste time—snatching away your warmth in a heartbeat.
Without proper preparation, it's more than just uncomfortable; it's a real danger.
One of the oldest and most dependable shelters is the humble snow cave.
This shelter has been used by native cultures and winter survival experts for generations, making use of the insulating properties of snow.
To build a snow cave correctly, you need to find a spot with thick, stable snow—a solid snow bank is essential.
Start by digging into the side of the snow bank, creating a tunnel that slopes downward.
This lower part acts like a "cold well," trapping the cold air away from where you sleep.
Next, dig upward to form a shelf. Since heat rises, this is where the warmer air will be trapped.
To ensure proper ventilation, dig a small hole in the ceiling, around 6 inches in size. This hole allows air to circulate.
For extra warmth, you can block the entrance with your backpack.
However, remember to do this only after you've dug the ventilation hole to ensure a steady airflow inside your snow cave.
Building this shelter correctly can make all the difference in staying warm and safe during winter adventures.
While setting it up isn't rocket science, precision is the name of the game. That's why dipping into courses or seeking guidance from the pros is a smart move.
Another option is the quinzhee shelter—a nifty trick for when the cold isn't too harsh and you need something quick and easy.
Unlike the snow cave, the quinzhee is simpler to make.
First, you lay a tarp on the snow and put something big in the middle, like your backpack.
Then, you pile the snow on top of the tarp and the gear. Pack it down until it's about two feet thick.
Stick about four dozen 12-inch sticks all around the dome.
After that, dig into the side to get your gear out. Move the snow from the inside but be sure to leave enough for the walls.
It's important to make the dome even, as some parts will fall in if they're too thin.
This shelter is a great option when you need something quick and it's not too freezing outside.
Tree Pit Shelter
Lastly, when you are wandering through the woods, things can get a bit easier if you know how to use the trees to your advantage.
Creating a tree pit shelter is a smart move—it's quick to set up and can be a real lifesaver when the cold bites.
Start by looking for a nice tall evergreen tree with bushy branches. Make sure the tree is healthy and doesn't have any big splits, dying parts, or large branches that could fall on you.
Before you start digging, cut some low-hanging branches off the tree. You'll use these later for a roof, flooring, or even to help start a fire.
Now, start digging around the trunk of the tree. Dig the pit all the way to the ground and then widen it.
You decide how wide to make it. I suggest making it wide enough for a sleeping spot and a small fire.
However, don't let yourself get too sweaty while digging. Take off some layers to avoid this.
Sweating a lot in the cold can make you lose heat fast and put you at risk of hypothermia.
Once your pit is done, line the floor with evergreen boughs, leaves, or anything you can find.
This keeps you from touching the cold ground directly, which can steal your heat.
If it's raining or snowing, and the tree branches above you don't provide enough cover, layer a few more cut branches over the top to make a makeshift roof.
With caution, it's okay to have a small survival fire inside your tree pit shelter, especially in the snow.
This shelter is designed in a way that allows for safe fires because the top is mostly open to the air.
Remember, this tree pit shelter is like a cozy nest in the woods—simple but effective.
So, in a nutshell, when it's chilly outside, we've got three nifty tricks: the Snow Cave, Quinzhee Shelter, and Tree Pit Shelter.
Whether you're snug in the snow, bundled up in piled snow, or just chilling under a tree, these shelters make the cold feel a bit friendlier.
Survival Shelters for Intense Heat Environments
Now, let's talk about another challenge: intense heat. Just like harsh cold, it is tough as well.
But instead of taking away your warmth, the blazing heat snatches the water from your body, leading to dehydration.
Double Roof Desert Tarp Shelter
When you're out backpacking in the desert, dealing with intense heat can be downright risky.
That's where the double roof desert tarp shelter comes to the rescue—a real lifesaver.
This shelter isn't a new idea; folks in Africa and the Middle East have been using it for centuries.
And guess what? It's made its way into military training for desert survival too.
Here's how you get this shelter going: Grab two tarps and a good length of rope.
Find a low spot or dig one in the ground. Lay one tarp over that low spot and drive a stake into each corner.
Tie that tarp tight to the stakes, and then bring in the second tarp. Tie it so that there's about a foot of air space between the two tarps.
And let me tell you, the air space is the magic touch—it acts like a shield.
When the sun hits the first layer, the air space grabs some of that heat, keeping it away from the inner tarp and the space below.
Lastly, tie the tops of those four stakes to your anchors—they can be stakes, rocks, logs, or anything sturdy.
With this setup, you're creating a cool oasis in that scorching desert heat.
Nevertheless, when you're surrounded by towering trees, life gets a bit easier.
Those trees? They're like nature's own umbrellas, giving you shade and keeping things cool.
And when it comes to crafting a shelter in the forest, my favorite pick is the Lean-To Shelter.
It's my go-to—simple to set up and gives you a solid and sturdy shade.
If you're not familiar with this shelter, no worries. Just go back and check out the blog piece we talked about earlier - Shelter Crafting: Building Effective Shelters in the Wilderness.
Lastly, in regions where trees are rare, especially in rocky or mountainous areas, building traditional shelters like the desert tarp or A-frame tarp can pose a challenge.
But fear not, because nature has a solution, and it involves working with the rocks themselves - rock shelters.
First things first—find those big rocks or boulders. These hefty chunks of nature are going to be the backbone of your shelter.
Once you've picked out your rock buddies, it's time to get snug. Throw that tarp over the rocks, creating a shield that keeps the weather at bay.
And here's my secret sauce—make sure there's some room between those rocks.
You need airflow for cool vibes and ventilation, like nature's own air conditioning.
This open setup stops your shelter from turning into an oven and makes your rocky hideout a chill and comfy spot.
So, when the heat hits hard, here's the lowdown: go for the double roof tarp shelter in the desert, the lean-to shelter in the woods, and cozy up to a rock shelter in the mountains. Each one's got your back in its own way.
But hold on—alongside finding the right shelter, there's another key move: keep yourself hydrated.
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Survival Shelters for Severe Storms
Finally, beyond the tests of bitter cold and scorching heat, storms unleash a whole new level of intensity.
In regular storms, it's the howling wind and relentless rain tapping on your shelter's roof. Thunderstorms add lightning crackles to the mix.
Sandstorms? Brace yourself for howling winds and blasting sands.
For your shelter, it's not just about standing strong. In normal storms, it needs to be waterproof as well.
For thunderstorms, waterproof isn't enough—place it away from lightning and water pooling.
And in sandstorms, make sure it can fend off those swirling sands.
Simple yet sturdy, your shelter is your fortress against nature's grand shows.
The first choice is the nature's own hideouts, like caves, rock outcroppings, and those grand trees.
These shelters straight from Mother Nature are as solid as they come, keeping you dry and saving you a ton of time and energy in the wild.
But here's the deal in caves and rock outcroppings—even if it's damp in there, NEVER light a fire underneath.
That fire heat can mess with the rock above, and we don't want any falling surprises.
And don't underestimate the power of a simple tree in a pinch. Those pines, firs, and spruce trees are pros at shedding water.
Even in the wildest storms, you can huddle at their base and stay perfectly dry.
But—and it's a big but—when thunderstorms roll in, NEVER cozy up under those trees. Lightning will just decide to make a surprise visit.
So, before embarking on any trip, make it a must to check the weather forecast.
If a thunderstorm is on the horizon, hit the brakes on your plans immediately. Safety first, always.
Hammock with A Tarp
However, if weather forecast turns out wrong, and boom, you're stuck in a thunderstorm.
Out in the woods, no caves, no rocks—just you and the storm.
I've been there, and let me tell you, it's a memory etched with fear.
Here's what went down:
So, rain pouring, thunder roaring, I quickly threw on my rain poncho.
No time to waste, I dashed away from towering trees, seeking lower ground surrounded by shorter ones, and definitely keeping my distance from any spots where water can gather.
Water and lightning? Not a good combo.
Now, the survival mode kicked in. I found two solid trees, tied my tarp between them, and hung my hammock underneath.
Why? To stay clear of potential flooding and the pesky water-electricity combo.
With a chill in the air, I snuggled into my sleeping bag on the hammock, trying to keep warm.
Even though that thunderstorm only lasted half an hour, trust me, it felt like a whole year.
And once was enough—I never want a repeat of that adventure.
A-Frame Tarp Shelter
However, when the sandstorm hits, trust me, you'll want an A-Frame Tarp Shelter. It's your ultimate lifesaver in the desert chaos.
So, as you plan your trip in dessert, mark the spots with trees on your map. When the sandstorm strikes, you can swiftly retreat and set up your tarp shelter.
Crafting your haven is a breeze—just piece together the frame with two short poles and a long one, ensuring a robust foundation by firmly burying the pole ends in the sand.
Always make sure the end of the frame is always pointing towards the storm, not the door or the side.
That way, it acts as your first line of defense against the chaotic swirl of the elements.
Next, secure your haven by draping the tarp snugly over the frame.
But don't stop there—gather an abundance of branches to layer over the tarp, creating a formidable shield against the swirling sands.
Lastly, as you hunker within your shelter, remember to cover your mouth and nose with cloth.
It's your defense against the gritty embrace of sand, ensuring you breathe easy while nature unleashes its fury.
Even though a desert sunset is a breathtaking spectacle, I won't sugarcoat it: bumping into a sandstorm is no walk in the park.
In a nutshell, when a regular storm comes knocking, nature shelters are your go-to.
For thunderstorms, opt for the trusty Hammock with A Tarp. And when sandstorms roll in, your best bet is the reliable A-Frame Tarp Shelter.
Even though we've got shelters tailored for different storms, a friendly reminder: always check the weather forecast first, and here's hoping you never cross paths with them.
In conclusion, in the wild dance with nature, mastering crafting reliable survival shelters is crucial for challenging scenarios.
Facing freezing cold? Think snow cave, quinzhee shelter, and tree pit shelter.
Enduring intense heat? Shelter options include double roof desert tarp shelter, lean-to shelter, and rock shelter.
Navigating severe storms? Find comfort in natural shelters, the hammock with a tarp, and the A-frame tarp shelter.
While these shelters are simple to set up, practice is key to ensuring swift preparation if nature takes an unexpected turn.
Nature, like everything, has its dual sides. So, while you appreciate its beauty, never ignore its occasional wrath.
What's your go-to shelter in challenging elements? Please share in the comments or shoot us a message. We're all ears!
To your next adventure