The two main tasks undertaken in a survival situation, or indeed in any camping situation, are the building of a shelter and then a fire. This is especially true here in England where the weather can be wet at any time of the year, and in winter getting wet means the body gets colder and hyperthermia can easily set in. Not only are these physical points important, for a shelter and a good fire lift the spirits and give a boost in confidence at the start - and also take the mind away from one's predicament.
A simple shelter -
The simplest and quickest shelter is the lean-to; here I used a small tarp draped over a length of paracord tied between two trees. Notice how tarp clips are used to secure the tarp to the cordage. I have seen videos on YouTube where loops are made through the eyelets and pieces of wood pushed through the loops, an excellent way to do this when tarp-clips are not available. But I carry them in the kit so that I am ready to put it up without making pieces of wood up - and also sometimes carry tent-pegs to peg the back down, but again pieces of wood can be made up. (Of course, before going out on a training trip you could make pieces of wood up for the eyelets and pegging-down, and these could be carried at every trip. In doing so it would be advantageous to use linseed oil on them all to make them waterproof so that they last a longer time.)
The advantage of a lean-to type is that it can be put up very quickly when it first starts to rain, thus keeping you and your kit dry. Overnight sleeping is alright, but the front may need to be lowered a little to keep the rain out. But it is not an ideal way to sleep in cold weather, though a long fire would keep you warm. I have done this many times in the cold of winter and got through, but things do get cold, and in windy conditions the winds change directions.
This A-Frame shelter is much better since it gives protection on three sides, and stacking the bags against the front would make it even more weather-proof. Of course, and easier way to make it would be to use a single stick at the front, or better still a walking-pole if carried with you (which itself is a good idea since these are adjustable and very handy for many uses). For a one-man shelter this is ideal and very quick to put up when using a walking pole or single pole. Remember that when using a single pole wrap something around the top end so that it does not rip the basha/tarp.
The above shelter was made using a basha but a larger tarp could be used to make it a bit bigger. As you can see two small children fitted into this one, and one small adult would fit in easily. There are many other ways of setting up a tarp and we shall feature more ways in this blog.
I have featured fire-lighting in early blogs so I will not go into full details here. The important thing to remember is to ensure that you have the following, which should be stored ready for use or collected when the weather is dry -
- A supply of tinder. What I carry with me is cotton-wool or a Tampax which easily lights. The cotton-wool can be soaked in Vaseline or candle-wax; this makes it light even easier, and keeps the moist out. Collect small slithers of birch-bark when it is dry and keep them with you in your kit.
- A few pieces of dry small kindling can be carried in your kit, or you can collect these when the weather is dry for use in the wet.
- Collect pine-resin and larger pieces of birch-bark which light even when wet.
- It is a good idea to ensure that the tin containing your tinder is held tight using a few pieces of rubber cut from an old bicycle tyre; these would light with a lighter/matches even when wet, and burn in the wet. (Small points like this are important, since you carry little more weight and have more chance of lighting a fire in the wet.)
Last weekend I took the dog for a walk into our local woodlands; when we set out it was warm, fine and sunny. I took the car because we were going over to the far side of the woods for a change, which was a lot greater distance than using our normal route. When we got there it started to rain; luckily I had a rain-coat but I still got very wet around the legs and feet.
For once I did not take any shelter-building kit, only the mKettle and some dried food and coffee. The rain stopped after about 30 minutes but not before I was quite wet, so I decided to light a fire and dry out. This time of year is not cold but it does help to be dry. With the fire-lighting kit that I carried it was quite easy to get a fire going and dry out pretty quickly. In such a situation it is good to make a quick cup of coffee to warm up with. But I will think next time about taking the shelter-building kit too - it would have come in handy even when taking the dog for a long walk.
Putting up a quick lean-to shelter takes less than five minutes and can be the difference between getting wet and keeping totally dry - and keeping your kit dry too. I now use a small green tarp which is strapped to the Snugpack Response Pack for instant use. Also carried is an old ground-sheet which fitted the front section of an old tent I had to throw away years ago - keeping it came in handy.