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Friday, October 24, 2014

Natural and Improvised Survival Shelter Considerations

 October Survival Tips
In our fieldcourses, we often discuss the importance of the Five "W's" when building a shelter. This applies not only to survival but when car-camping or backpacking. When selecting a campsite or location for a shelter take into account the following factors:

1. Weather. Don't rig up your tarp or lean-to on the edge of a forest and field or other major transition area. The wind will be more pronounced and lightning safety will be an issue during thunderstorms. Setting back your campsite even twenty yards into the forest will help minimize gusty winds. It may seem like common sense but you also want to avoid sleeping at the bottom of a canyon or arroyo not only due to flash flood concerns (yet backpackers still do this ever year in Arizona!) but due to the temperature gradient. These low regions will be much colder at night and are often animal highways.
2. Wood. You are going to need limbs and debris to build a natural shelter and possibly for firewood so make camp in a region with ample resources.

3. Water. This is a survival priority for staying hydrated so set up camp a short walk away from a creek, lake, or waterhole. These areas will also provide opportunities for foraging, fishing, and catching crayfish which all come into play with a longer stay in the wilds or when attempting to live off the land.

4. Widowmakers. Pitch your tent out of reach of those dead standing trees! Enough said.

5. Wigglies. Mice, rats, centipedes, scorpions, fire-ants and other critters like dark, damp places and are often found in rockpiles, thick brush, and boulder fields. In the desert and in the Grand Canyon, the scorpions love hanging out under cowpies and the mule droppings by the corral!  I always avoid downed, rotting logs and clusters of rocks as I've had too many encounters with creepy-crawlies in such places. If you are camping with your kids, tell them to be aware of such spots when gathering firewood and to always wear gloves as a precaution for venomous insects.

Thanks for taking a few minutes out of your day to catch up with us.

Enjoy the Wilds!
Tony Nester

About Ancient Pathways

Tony Nester is the author of numerous books and DVDs on survival. His school Ancient Pathways is the primary provider of survival training for the Military Special Operations community and he has served as a consultant for the NTSB, Travel Channel, Backpacker Magazine, and the film Into the Wild. When not on the trail, he lives in a passive-solar, strawbale home in northern Arizona. For information on Tony’s books, gear, or bushcraft courses, visit

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