Travel & Places Outdoors

How to Improvise on the Field When You Don"t Have a Tent

When you expect to hike for a few days, the obvious thing you should have on your backpack is a tent. But sometimes on a day hike, because of a sudden storm, getting lost or injury, you need to spend an unexpected night in the outdoors.

Knowing how to improvise a shelter therefore is an important skill unless you bring a tent with you even on a day hike. The ability to use the natural environment and turn it into a safe shelter for the night is a very useful skill.

Look For Sheltered Spots

The simplest way to spend the night in the open is by laying your sleeping bag in a dry sheltered spot. Instead of a tent some people bring a sleeping bag and mat in case they need to spend the night unplanned.

The best shelter for a night like this is a trail shelter or a shepherd's hut. This is ideal but don't worry if they're not available near you.

You can also look to trees or large rocks for protection against the wind. Evergreen trees give you the best protection against the rain.

Build a Lean-To

The base structure of a lean-to can be a large fallen log or big rock. You also need pieces of dead wood and foliage for construction.

It's a simple and easy to build shelter. All you need to do is lean the sticks (about 2 inches thick) on the log to form lean-to under which you can crawl. You then cover these large sticks with branches of foliage by interweaving them among the sticks. You can also tie them in place with a rope or an alternative.

For protection against the rain, the layer of leaves should be at least 8 inches thick. The lean-to should be away from the direction of the wind and if possible build it in a sheltered area because it won't be strong enough against the force of the wind.

For extra protection, drape a space blanket over the lean-to. You can also use cardboard, plastic bags or anything that might help. Wear your raincoat to keep warm and dry.

A natural hollow found under a tree can also be a good shelter. The lower overhanging branches can make a reasonable roof to block wind and snow.

Snow Shelter

A simple shelter design is usually best because you are short of time and energy. With snow, you can build a wall by first making snow bricks. The wall can be used as a windbreak in conjunction with your tent or can be as a part of an emergency shelter. To make use of this shelter, you need to pitch a tarp or a space blanket on the lee side of the wall secured with snow.

You would still need protection from the ground because that's where you'll lose most of your heat. Insulate yourself from the ground using clothing, backpack, leaves, stuff sack or anything you can find.

You can also dig a trench in the snow, using a blanket to form the roof. This provide a good protection from the wind in the night but don't use it if it's snowing because the roof would likely collapse.

Alternatively you can dig a snow cave on the side of a large snowdrift. Dig from the low side of the drift, and dig up from the entrance to carve out the sleeping shelf. For fresh air, poke holes in the ceiling. Ventilation also prevent the snow above you from melting on you as a result of the heat of your breathe.

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