Cold Weather Shelter Practice

Who’s tired of cold weather? I’m not! Here are more thoughts from me in our recent vein of cold weather survival posts.

I got out in the woods this weekend at a local state park. I love hiking in the winter.  I love the quiet and the crunch of snow. I was properly dressed, so I wasn’t cold, but the air was cold, crisp, almost biting.  I think it only got up to the teens that day, and it was blowing snow when I was out.  Avoiding sweat was a convenient excuse to take my time. Ice was a good excuse to avoid the trails. It was great.

While I was out I took the time to practice some shelter making. That particular park is in the process of adding an outdoor play area and there were piles of cleared underbrush I could use to cheat. And cheat I did. I found a great little tree in one of the piles, I need an 8 or 9 foot tall tree/branch, big guys, you’ll need to look for one at least 10 feet long.  10 feet of tie line knotted around a Huckleberry tree had the ridge post tied up waist high, with the branch hitting the ground upwind. My little folding handsaw made short work of some dead fall and I had ribs leaning up against the ridge post in no time.  Finding materials to fill in the sides was a lot more difficult.  The idea with this type of shelter is that you pile on leaves and pine boughs and they act to trap in heat and shed rain/snow.   Well, I didn’t have all day, and there weren’t a ton of leaves around, so I worked on it for a bit, and then quit when my initial source of leaves ran out.  :-D  It was just practice after all.

The wind was hitting my back in this shot, we're looking at the back of the shelter, where my feet would be on the inside.

The wind was hitting my back in this shot, we’re looking at the back of the shelter, where my feet would be on the inside.

I snapped some pictures, thinking y’all might want a peek.   There aren’t any pine trees in the part of the park I was in, so it’s all deciduous leaves and kinda spotty in places. If I really needed shelter for the night I would have needed at least another foot of leaves to have it all properly covered. :-D That would have taken awhile. I’ll let random kids finish it this summer, or next fall when the leaves are all falling. I’m sure the tie line and ridge post will last that long.

This is the side of the shelter.

This is the side of the shelter. The opening is on the other side of the tree.

If you are a hunter or a hiker or anyone who ever gets out into nature, I highly recommend you learn how to make improvised shelters. It could save your life.

I’m sure you’re all getting out and practicing your cold weather survival skills.  Let us know if you’ve got some good stories or lessons. For those waiting to practice till, “later” I encourage you to GET OUT THERE! Stay safe, have fun, practice now.

– Calamity Jane

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5 comments… add one
  • irishdutchuncle January 15, 2013, 11:07 am

    usually when I go into the woods, I have my “day hike bag” plus, a few extra items in my pockets. I wouldn’t want to try this with just a pocket knife, and string. a disposable poncho is lots of wind and water “resistance” for about a dollar. (reduces expending energy looking for enough “debris” to make a roof)

    how exactly did our species survive all those years before plastic?

    your “practice” shelter looks like it would provide excellent concealment in addition to shelter.

  • Ray January 15, 2013, 1:16 pm

    You can use evergreen branches to make “shingles” that will shed rain/snow, you can make the same thing with bark. You can even make a frame work of snall poles lashed together and “shingle” over that,to get a” proper ” lean to. Make a fire- melt snow- make coffee. If you can, find some standing dead grass or dry leaves and pile them till they almost touch the inside top of the shelter,put plastic under you if you have it. . and there you go

  • Jarhead Survivor January 15, 2013, 4:31 pm

    This type of shelter is called a debris shelter or debris hut. It’s supposed to be used when you don’t have any natural materials available for shelter building. The idea is to make a layer of leaves and other debris thick enough that it makes the equivalent of a sleeping/bivy bag. If I remember correctly the leaves need to be at least three feet or even thicker on top of the shelter in order to make it warm and dry enough to sleep in.

    This is a great shelter to know how to make and CJ’s getting out there and giving it a try is awesome! Check out this Youtube video series made by a Maine homeboy about building one:

    Great post CJ!

    • irishdutchuncle January 16, 2013, 6:47 am

      I watched part one, pretty good video.

      I never thought about how small a debris hut needs to be on the inside.

  • smokechecktim January 16, 2013, 11:55 am

    we tried a variation on the debris shelter that worked pretty good. Set up the shelter in the regular way…add one of those cheap emergency mylar blankets about halfway thru piling on the leaves. Then add another foot of leaves. not exactly toasty but really stops the wind and helped hold the debris in place.


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