A shelter can protect you from the sun, insects, wind, rain, snow, hot or cold temperatures, and enemy observation. It can give you a feeling of well-being. It can help you maintain your will to survive.
In some areas, your need for shelter may take precedence over your need for food and possibly even your need for water. For example, prolonged exposure to cold can cause excessive fatigue and weakness (exhaustion). An exhausted person may develop a "passive" outlook, thereby losing the will to survive.
The most common error in making a shelter is to make it too large. A shelter must be large enough to protect you. It must also be small enough to contain your body heat, especially in cold climates.
When you are in a survival situation and realize that shelter is a high priority, start looking for shelter as soon as possible. As you do so, remember what you will need at the site. Two requisites are--
It must contain material to make the type of shelter you need.
It must be large enough and level enough for you to lie down comfortably.
When you consider these requisites, however, you cannot ignore your tactical situation or your safety. You must also consider whether the site--
Provides concealment from enemy observation.
Has camouflaged escape routes.
Is suitable for signaling, if necessary.
Provides protection against wild animals and rocks and dead trees that might fall.
Is free from insects, reptiles, and poisonous plants.
You must also remember the problems that could arise in your environment. For instance--
Avoid flash flood areas in foothills.
Avoid avalanche or rockslide areas in mountainous terrain.
Avoid sites near bodies of water that are below the high water mark.
In some areas, the season of the year has a strong bearing on the site you select. Ideal sites for a shelter differ in winter and summer. During cold winter months you will want a site that will protect you from the cold and wind, but will have a source of fuel and water. During summer months in the same area you will want a source of water, but you will want the site to be almost insect free.
When considering shelter site selection, use the word BLISS as a guide.
How much time and effort you need to build the shelter.
If the shelter will adequately protect you from the elements (sun, wind, rain, snow).
If you have the tools to build it. If not, can you make improvised tools?
If you have the type and amount of materials needed to build it.
To answer these questions, you need to know how to make various types of shelters and what materials you need to make them.
It takes only a short time and minimal equipment to build this lean-to (Figure 5-1). You need a poncho, 2 to 3 meters of rope or parachute suspension line, three stakes about 30 centimeters long, and two trees or two poles 2 to 3 meters apart. Before selecting the trees you will use or the location of your poles, check the wind direction. Ensure that the back of your lean-to will be into the wind.
To make the lean-to--
Tie off the hood of the poncho. Pull the drawstring tight, roll the hood longways, fold it into thirds, and tie it off with the drawstring.
Cut the rope in half. On one long side of the poncho, tie half of the rope to the corner grommet. Tie the other half to the other corner grommet.
Attach a drip stick (about a 10-centimeter stick) to each rope about 2.5 centimeters from the grommet. These drip sticks will keep rainwater from running down the ropes into the lean-to. Tying strings (about 10 centimeters long) to each grommet along the poncho's top edge will allow the water to run to and down the line without dripping into the shelter.
Tie the ropes about waist high on the trees (uprights). Use a round turn and two half hitches with a quick-release knot.
Spread the poncho and anchor it to the ground, putting sharpened sticks through the grommets and into the ground.
If you plan to use the lean-to for more than one night, or you expect rain, make a center support for the lean-to. Make this support with a line. Attach one end of the line to the poncho hood and the other end to an overhanging branch. Make sure there is no slack in the line.
Another method is to place a stick upright under the center of the lean-to. This method, however, will restrict your space and movements in the shelter.
For additional protection from wind and rain, place some brush, your rucksack, or other equipment at the sides of the lean-to.
Note: When at rest, you lose as much as 80 percent of your body heat to the ground.
To increase your security from enemy observation, lower the lean-to's silhouette by making two changes. First, secure the support lines to the trees at knee height (not at waist height) using two knee-high sticks in the two center grommets (sides of lean-to). Second, angle the poncho to the ground, securing it with sharpened sticks, as above.