Real Tents are of course the best protection against rough weather conditions but at times you might find yourself outdoors without a real tent with you. In such cases you will have to be resourceful and create a shelter out of possible other equipment that you might be carrying with you should the need arise to find some protection. 

Possible Shelter Building Equipment

In general, it is always a smart idea to have some basic multifunctional equipment with you that can serve as possible shelter building equipment:

  • Covers
    You will need something preferably wind- and waterproof to function as your makeshift tent sheet. Without any such cover, you are better off just moving on until you can find some natural shelter. Possible cover sheets:

    • Fly Sheets: fly sheets of tents are great for makeshift shelters. They are waterproof and already have grommets for connecting rope.
    • Poncho: many ponchos have small grommets that enable connecting a line.
    • Ground Sheets/Plastic Sheets: could be any kind of camping or other fabric and generally has no grommets. Read our next paragraph for methods of connecting the rope to sheets.
  • Ropes / Lines
    Unless you just plan to sit or lie under the sheet it will not be enough to only have a sheet. You will need some rope and something to tie the rope down to create a stand-alone shelter. It is always a good idea to have a good length of strong rope/line/wire with you.
  • Poles / Supports
    The combination of a sheet, rope and a combination of poles and fixed natural objects will enable your to create a good makeshift shelter. Here are some common things that can be used as poles or supports:

    • Walking Sticks/Hiking Poles. Have the great advantages of a smooth top grip surface which prevents the top from puncturing the sheet. Hiking Poles are extendable giving you more flexibility in your shelter building. The tips of hiking poles will keep your makeshift tent poles on their place.
    • Trees/Bushes. Trees offer branches and trunks that are great for tying down your lines.
    • Loose Branches, Rocks, Sticks, etc. All offer some way of anchoring a line or providing weight to keep down a sheet corner. See the next paragraph on shelter building techniques for more details.


Shelter Building Techniques

Your own resourcefulness will often determine if you are able to build a shelter with the materials at your disposal and how good those shelters are. It helps however to have some Outdoor Shelter Building Tips:

  • Connecting a Rope to a Sheet
    Without grommets holes in a sheet will likely tear thereby destroying your shelter. So you are better of leaving the sheet whole and using this technique to secure a line to a sheet: Find a smooth and solid object such as a smooth rock and place them on the sheet. Wrap the object with the sheet and tie your line around the sheet underneath the object thereby trapping the object in the sheet. The object will now act as an anchor securing the line.
  • Makeshift Line Anchors
    In the absence of trees, bushes, rocks or other fixed natural features you will have to use branches or rocks as anchors. Here are some methods:

    • Find a Y shaped branch and dig in both ends into the ground to form a looped anchor.
    • Tie the line to the center of a stick, dig a hole, anchor the stick to the wall of the hole and cover up the hole.
    • Tie the line to the center of a stick, and anchor the stick down with a large rock or tree trunk
    • In general use any combination of digging in, weight anchoring and resistance building to create a solid anchor. Try to find a location with trees or other solid natural anchor points to increase your shelter’s strength and to minimize the time you have to spend to create makeshift anchor points.

Natural Shelters

Nature provides enough natural shelters the only problem could be finding one. Especially if conditions are bad and you need to find shelter fast you are probably better off using mother nature’s shelter building aids in your direct vicinity instead of looking for the perfect shelter. Here are some quick guidelines on Natural Shelters:

  • Trees: bigger trees with a large diameter trunk will offer good protection from wind and rain. Do not stay near to the trunk in case of a lightening storm.
  • Caves & Rock Faces: offer great shelter. Again make sure not to stay at the bottom of a rock face in case of lightening and make sure you do not venture too far inside unknown caves.
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