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Digital Subscriptions > American Survival Guide > December 2018 > DIY EMERGENCY SHELTERS



Emergency/survival situations happen all the time, and most have nothing to do with natural disasters or terrorist threats. Far more happen due to human error and mainly impact those who venture out unprepared.

The colder months of fall and winter seem to be when these errors happen the most. I live in northern New England, a mountainous region full of hidden dangers, including rapidly changing weather patterns. Snow can happen at any time starting in October. Temperatures fluctuate from 60 degrees (F) to well below freezing. Footing is often treacherous, even during the best of times, and turned ankles and knees, slips and falls, and cold-weather dangers are always present.

Emergencies can happen to the best of us, whether we are prepared or not, but many can be avoided if you are ready to deal with the situation.

If you ever find yourself the victim of such a situation, would you know what to do? The first thing you need to do is stay calm, assess your situation and think out your next move. If you can’t get yourself out, you need to build some sort of emergency shelter to protect yourself from the elements.

Very few people carry a tent in their daypack. This means you’ll need to fi nd a good location and use the materials you have on hand to build your shelter. Your shelter doesn’t need to be like a cozy room at the Holiday Inn, but keep in mind that this could be a life-or-death situation. If you let others know where you were hiking, chances are you will be rescued within a day or two. Consequently, your shelter only needs to keep you alive for a relatively short duration.


In some situations, you have the luxury of picking your shelter location; at other times, you do not. An injured leg or arm could keep you from moving very far, so you need to deal with what you have nearby.

If you can, pick an area that offers you as much natural cover as possible. Groves of evergreens, such as spruce and hemlock, are perfect. They act as a windbreak, and the limbs will help keep snow and rain off you. Caves are also good choices, but you need to be aware that other animals also look to them for shelter. Make sure you are the only occupant and that it’s relatively free of animal waste, rotting carcasses and other potential health hazards. You don’t want to make a bad situation worse. Rocky cliff walls and fallen trees that block the north wind are also great starting points. Even a large hole or depression shouldn’t be discounted.

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American Survival Guide December 2018, Learn How-to: Build a Winter Refuge, Survive Winter UNSCATHED, And More......