Where and Where Not to Build a Shelter

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Shelter is anything that protects someone from the environmental elements and hazards.  The environment dictates the type of shelter to construct with five basic considerations.  The considerations are: TIME, WEATHER, LIFE FORMS, TERRAIN and LOCATION.

1.    TIME; do not let time get away from you.  Waiting to the last minute to construct your shelter could be disastrous depending on the conditions.  Always be thinking about shelter and what you will need for the night ahead.  I always give myself approximately 2-3 hours for shelter construction and camp preparation in good weather.

2.    WEATHER; is the KEY CONSIDERATION in site selection.  The weather also dictates the site selection, choice of shelter type along with the temperature, wind and precipitation.

3.    LIFE FORMS; Insect life, animals, dead trees and vegetation.
(1)    Insects can cause injury, disease or discomfort to varying degrees.  Shelters on ridges or knolls which have breezy areas or steady wind can reduce the amount of flying insects in the shelter area.  Always stay away from standing water to avoid mosquitoes, bees, wasps and hornets.  Be very cautious, especially in the south where ants can cause severe problems with stings/bites or disgusting smelling pungent odors.
(2)    Animals use trails and waterholes at night.  Stay away from these areas as to not have large or small animals invade your space.
(3)    Dead trees may seem arbitrary, but this summer three men were killed along the Arkansas River in Colorado when they stopped for a break and a dead tree fell on them.  While at a rest site on a trail I have personally witnessed a very old tree which was approximately 50 ft. tall fall.  A friend in upstate New York witnessed a tree falling on a tent crushing a woman.  Falling trees and limbs happen more than one may think.  Always be aware of dead trees along with plant life which could cause injury such as poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.

4.    TERRAIN; Do not choose shelter sites at the bottom of steep scree or talus slopes which are pile of rocks that accumulates at the base of a cliff, chute, or slope.  Stay out of dry stream beds due to the possibility of flash flooding and stay away from steep slopes which could produce rock falls, mud slides, fast water run-off etc.  Always check a rock overhang for safety before using it as a shelter.

5.    LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION; The shelter site location has five subcategories to consider when deciding a shelter location site.
(1)    The site must be near water, keep in mind not too close where mosquitoes and animals can interfere with your site.  Food, fuel and signal recovery such as an open meadow/field is important.
(2)    Natural protection from the elements and environmental hazards such as caves, overhangs, large crevices, fallen logs, root buttresses or snow banks which can be modified with moderate to little effort, therefore conserving energy and calories.
(3)    Sufficient materials are available to build the shelter. Again, always keep an eye out for natural shelters such as caves, overhangs etc.  Don’t be a survivor who feels they must construct a shelter when there is a natural shelter a short distance away.  However, if the natural shelter does not exist, ensure the location has sufficient materials such as limbs, tree boughs, fallen leaves, grass etc. to construct your shelter.
(4)    Suitable site.  The site must be large enough and level enough for the survivor to lie down.  Comfort is actually a necessity for a survivor.  It reduces stress through rest which aids in mental well being and therefore increases the chances for better decision making.  It also aids in conserving calories.
(5)    Purpose of the shelter.  The following factors influence the type of shelter to be constructed.
(a)    Rain or other types of precipitation.
(b)    Cold
(c)    Heat
(d)    Insects
(e)    Available materials
(f)    Length of expected stay
(g)    Number and physical condition of survivors.



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