We've talked a lot about survival here, especially on our informative and in-depth blog posts. It is an essential topic for us, as we consider assisting in the safety and safekeeping of our extended customer family part of our mission-critical. When it comes to surviving in this day and age where really nothing is certain, arming you with the right tools—whether that's physical or mental is something we're here to help with. So without further ado, we'll go over some very basic survival shelter guides and proprieties with you to help you prepare for the worst with an outcome as close to the best as possible.

Learning to Prioritize

Knowing how to triage your survival priorities before and during a survival situation is essential for many reasons, most obviously that of your life. While we may (hopefully) never have to use these skills or priorities—you cannot know what the future holds. It is always better to be prepared than not. Just like learning how to separate the wounded according to urgency in first aid scenarios, know the most important survival priorities and the skills that go with them will greatly increase survivability.

One easy way to learn this is by understanding the rule of 3. You can survive:
  • 3 minutes without oxygen.
  • 3 minutes in icy water without protection
  • 3 hours exposed to extreme weather in a harsh environment
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food.

While the time may be longer or shorter depending, these are an excellent basis to help you immediately understand what to prioritize. The most immediate problem first, then the next. According to the rule of 3 above, you can prioritize what to take care of in this order:

  1. First aid. If anyone, or if you are injured—First aid comes first.
  2. Get out of the water as soon as possible/get people out of the water as quickly as possible.
  3. Freezing winds, rain, sleet, and snow can dampen clothing, turning them wet and cold can quickly lead to hypothermia. On the other spectrum, overheating can promptly turn deadly as well. If you or no one around you needs first aid or rescue, the next priority is shelter.
  4. Once a shelter is made or found, you'll need to find a source of water. Even if you lucked out and have some with you, you can't always predict how long you'll be stuck somewhere, and you can survive longer without food than you can water.
  5. Once first aid, rescue, shelter, and water have been found, your last priority is food.

So, in essence, first aid, shelter, water, food in that order should be your priority in a survival situation—whether that situation is outside in the middle of the wilderness or during a crisis in the middle of suburban America.

Basic Shelter Survival Guide and Tips Learn First Aid

Not only critical but essential. First Aid knowledge can affect all aspects of our lives, at any given time, not just in survival situations. It can be a massive subject, so here are a few main points:

  • If you are by yourself or with a group and have blisters, cuts, broken bones, immediately perform first aid. A bacterial infection is the last thing you want happening in a survival situation.
  • Learn and understand the signs, symptoms, and treatment for hypothermia, exhaustion, and heatstroke—apply that by monitoring everyone or yourself carefully.
Basics of Shelter Building

Hypothermia in cold climates, overheating, and extreme sunburn in hot climates are among the biggest detriments to your survival when stranded. Below are the two most basic types of shelters you can build quickly.

Winter and Cold Weather Shelter

The easiest winter shelter or shelter to build in a heavily snowy area is called the quinzhee. This is a dome-shaped snow shelter, similar to an igloo but much easier to construct. While snow has to be in the perfect condition to build an igloo, almost all types of snowfall can be packed together to create a quinzhee. Start by piling any gear you may have under a tarp or covering of some sort, then begin to pile the snow over the bundle. Pack the snow down as best as you can as you work, estimating when you believe it is at least 2 feet thick or more all around. Grab some sticks that are at least 12 inches long and bury them around the dome. Use at least 3-4 dozen of these sticks. The ends of the sticks will be your guide to tell you how far to begin to burrow to remove the gear piled inside. Remove the packed snow up until you reach the base of every stick, then stop. This ensures there is a uniform thickness of the dome. Next, make a fist-sized ventilation hole in the roof.

Last but never least, try and pack leaf litter or pine needles or pine branches along the floor. You want a barrier between your body and the snow so that as you are taking shelter, your body heat does not melt the snow and cause your clothing to get wet.

Summer and Hot Weather Shelter

The easiest and quickest type of shelter to build in desert or scorching climates is a trench. Be wary, however, that digging one can take a lot of energy. Make sure you choose the site as carefully as possible. Avoid areas that look like they could flash flood in foothills. If you have any materials such as a poncho, canvas, or parachute, use them along with the terrain features such as rocky outcroppings, mounds of sand, or a depression between dunes to make your shelter save you many hours of work. When using terrain features, you should:

  • Anchor your material (coat, jacket, poncho, etc.) on the edge of the outcropping via rocks or piles of sand.
  • Extend the other end of the material to another side and anchor it in place for adequate shade.

If you cannot find any of these natural terrain features, you can:

  • Dig a trench at least 2 feet down and wide enough to lay in.
  • Pile the dug-out sand around 3 of the four sides of the channel.
  • Take out any material you have for a shade, and begin to anchor it over the trench using the weight from the piled sand around you.
  • If you are lucky enough to have a considerable amount of material, fold it in half before anchoring it, leaving about a 12-18 inch gap between the folds. This creates airspace that will further reduce the temperature of the shelter during the day.

Remember to use everything and anything you are carrying and anything in your surroundings. Take care to choose the best spot you can before building a shelter.

Tips for Warm and Cold Shelter Placement:
  • Avoid areas that show signs of avalanche, flash flooding, falling rocks, incoming tides, or lightning danger.
  • Avoid areas near animal kills or insect nests.
  • Make sure to build in areas away from the swampy ground, upright deadwood, or thick overhead vegetation.
  • Choose an area that has natural wind barriers if possible.
  • Don't set up a shelter too close to water, but don't choose an area too far away either. Mountain streams can rise up to 10 ft or more in a night. Keep an eye on high water marks or drift lines.
  • Choose an area with a clear view of the sky for potential signaling to rescuers.

Remember the survival priority of first aid, find shelter, find water, then find food and these quick but helpful shelters to stay as safe as possible out there!