Finding Shelter in the Wilderness
How can you find shelter to keep you safe in a wilderness setting?
Knowing how to find or create a shelter in a wilderness setting is yet another indispensable skill that any survivalist must possess.
During a disaster or emergency situation it’s possible for whole families to be separated from each other; the splintered part of a family may end up in a wilderness setting or some other outdoor area where there are few modern conveniences available.
Knowing how to create a simple shelter can also help improve your chances of survival if you are stranded in the wilderness with no way to get back to the main road within the day.
Instead of going deeper into the wilderness, it would be best to stay put and wait for help to arrive. Unless you have a GPS device or map with you, it would be best to let others track you down.
How can you create a bed in the wilderness?
This is actually an excellent question because without a bed, you can’t rest properly and you’re going to have stiff neck and back aches for the rest of the day if you’re not used to resting without a bed or couch.
A functional and comfortable bed is part of a wilderness shelter and is our first stop in our exploration of this great area in survival training.
Out in the wilderness, it is a common practice to create a bed on the ground itself. If you live in Canada or in the U.S., you may find large balsam trees in your area.
Balsam trees (also called “mountain goose” by outdoorsmen) provide excellent leaves and springy boughs that are perfect for creating an improvised bed. These trees are jokingly called “mountain goose” because survivalists often look for them to “pluck” them for leaves and branches.
How can you create a balsam bed?
A balsam bed is springy and comfortable because it’s composed not only of leaves but also young, supple twigs.
When you set out to collect bedding material from a balsam tree, make sure that you gather two sets of twigs: long twigs (about 18+ inches each) and short twigs (10-12 inches each).
Longer balsam twigs will be placed on the ground first and will serve as the foundation or “frame” for your improvised bed. The shorter boughs will be placed on top of the longer ones to serve as the cushioning material.
Fashion your bed until you think the top layer has a sufficient amount of cushioning. If you don’t have any additional bedding with you, this will do. However, if you have blanket or comforter with you, place it on top of the shorter boughs to prevent the sap from sticking to your clothes.
The sap of the balsam tree tends to become sticky and then hard after a few minutes. It can be washed off with detergents or hand soap, but you will need to apply a small quantity of animal fat or vegetable oil to soften it. Once softened, the sap of the balsam tree will slide off your skin easily.
Can half-caves be used as shelter?
These spacious depressions found in bottom of valleys and cliffs are often stable enough to be used as temporary shelter. Native Americans have been using half-caves as the focal point of campsites long before Columbus arrived on our fair shores.
Half-caves are often formed by rain, erosion and the action of plant and tree roots that continually dig away at the base of natural land formations. Mother Nature sure knows how to quarry!
If you happen to find a half-cave nearby, here are some guidelines for using it as a shelter:
1. Inspect – Explore the half-cave thoroughly before using it as shelter. Be wary of small animals, rodents and snakes! The presence of scorpions and other dangerous critters is a clear sign that it might be risky to use this space as shelter.
2. Clean – If the half-cave doesn’t have any natural occupants, clean it by removing twigs, stones and excess soil to flatten the ground. Housekeeping is important, too! Cleaning a half-cave will also ensure that you can maximize the space inside.
3. Keep the Rain Out – You can improvise a lean-to door to protect yourself from rain and sun, should the elements decide to become too intense at any point during your stay in your temporary shelter. Just remember to point all leaves, branches and twigs downward so that rain will slide to the ground and not inside the cavity, where you’re sleeping.