If survival were broken into three priorities, it would be fire, shelter and water. Foods gets left out of the top three because we all have more time than we think without food. However, when you really get down it, of the top three, what do you want to have above all? Many people would say water.
When you talk to adventurers, outdoorsman and the like about moments when they were lost in most cases they just sheltered up for the night and got back after it the next morning, with the help of the sun. If we take the three survival priorities and only have one to fall back on it should always be shelter.
Think about it.
Everyone hits the trail with water. Be it in the form of a bladder or a water bottle, people already have water. While you may not be able to filter water without the right gear, you are not starting from zero. Most survival situations are only going to last a day or two at max. Having shelter is going to make the biggest difference for you in the short term. We are going to look at the best survival gear for shelter building.
One of the most important implements in building a reliable shelter is the folding saw. If you are looking for a quick ridge pole to make a lean-to, nothing is going to get you that perfect length quicker than a folding saw. The manipulation of small branches for framing any kind of shelter is going to be best done using a folding saw.
Your ability to tether pieces of shelter together is crucial. Now, you can spend the time creating your own cordage and when the weather is nice its great practice. However, in a true survival situation, where you need shelter in a hurry, cordage in the form of a bank line, twine or 550 cord is going to be your best bet.
Think about the ridge pole example. You can cut a pole the perfect length but if you don’t have a way of tethering it to those trees you have an issue. Be sure you have cordage when the shelter is needed in a hurry.
They come with every tent you buy, every blow-up water toy you buy for your family and most people don’t have them in their pack. Now, you can make a decent stake with a stick but, again, if you are looking to shelter up in a hurry, it’s so much better to have 4-8 stakes in your pack. They take up no space and will add an ounce or two
If you have a quality tarp and the last two items we mentioned, well, you basically have shelter anywhere you are gonna need it. With just these three items you can have a shelter up in minutes. You have also got many shelter options.
In bad weather, you can keep that tarp close to the ground and leave just enough opening for the heat of your fire to get in or you can simply use it as a cover over your camping hammock. However, you decide to use it, just know that these three items:
They are going to get you shelter in a hurry.
Short Axe or Hatchet
When you talk about entering the woods, I always like to have some sort of hatchet or short axe. Nothing fells trees like a good axe and nothing processes firewood as good either. That’s just reality.
While the axe will not give you the precision of a folding saw it is still essential for shelter making. It is the type of tool that can give you access to more wood in a hurry. You don’t want to be felling trees with a folding saw.
The short axe can also be a great tool for smoothing out knotty branches when you are building the bones of your shelter.
Related article: Planning A Shelter In The Wild
Easily one of the most underutilized tools in the average Americans toolbox, if they own one at all, the awl just makes things easier. It is the master hole punch and works well in cloth, leather and wood. More often associated with sewing than with shelter building, the awl can be priceless in a long-term shelter that might include starting screws in raw wood.
There is a reason why the hammock is last on this list. On its own its only a sleeping option in the best of conditions. Without a tarp or bug, next sleeping in a hammock can be a nightmare in the wilderness. That said when coupled with a good tarp shelter and a bug net the hammock is an essential part of building a usable shelter that you can sleep in.
Everything on this list would be prioritized above the hammock which is why it’s in the last position. There is something to be said about sleeping directly on the ground in your shelter and how brutal that can be.
Whether we are talking about a weekend of bushcrafting or a serious survival situation, the shelter is going to be part of the equation. If you don’t need to bring a tent, then you get to save some space and weight. However, you should spend some time making rudimentary shelters like a lean-to or a simple tarp shelter before you head out with the intention of sleeping in one overnight.
Let’s be honest about roughing it with wilderness shelter, even if you are out in the fall and well prepared to build a shelter, its still not as good as a cheap tent, sleeping pad and a sleeping bag, for most. That said, we need to have the right tools on hand to make shelter quick and effective.
The beauty of these survival tools is that they will also make up a great pack for other things outside of just shelter building. Anytime you can build a light pack full of items that are multi-use it gives you options to carry less and do more. That is wilderness survival efficiency at its best.
This article has been written by James Walton for Prepper’s Will.