On our third expedition, in November, we practiced two new important skills: shelter building and compass navigation. This article is about the first; the creation and construction of a shelter in the woods, in temperatures below freezing, with snow added in. I am no expert in shelter building like my instructors, but the shelter that Nathan and I built was called “the best” out of all the shelters, so that gives me the authority to write this article.
We started by taking apart the remains of a shelter built by students of a previous year and then taking inventory of what raw shelter building materials we now had. After that, we spent a considerable amount of time selecting a location for our shelter, settling on a spot that offered natural depth which would later give us a comfortable amount of space inside our shelter. We decided on a “log cabin” design, and we had a very good supply of materials to accomplish this. After building the skeleton framework of our “cabin,” we insulated it with moss, leaves, dirt, rotten wood, more logs, more leaves, some rocks, and more dirt. Satisfied with our shelter, we then began to build our heat source, a reflective wall of rocks to direct the heat from our fire into the entrance of our shelter.
Altogether, I was satisfied with our shelter, and we spent two comfortable nights sleeping in it. I might add that our shelter was definitely the best, and there is no room to argue with that statement. However, the other groups did build shelters that suited their needs, and we all survived our first cold expedition with snow; however, some groups probably wished they had built better shelters.
Building a shelter is a great skill to learn, not only because a shelter is cool to look at, but there are a lot of benefits as well. For example, a shelter can protect you from many of the elements such as rain, snow, and wind. One shelter I favor most is the “log cabin” because of the solid structure that protects you when you are inside, and keeps the wind out really well. When I was thinking about what kind of shelter to build, I remembered playing with Lincoln Logs when I was little, and decided that with two people to build it, it would work the best. As soon as Sean and I started building the outer walls, we knew that this was going to be a really great shelter. Once we got the outer structure built up to a good height, we started using some wire from an old fence to assemble the roof. We used sturdy branches across the top of the shelter to act as supports, and then fitted the two pieces of old fencing on top of that. Then we covered that with branches, leaves, moss, and bark from fallen trees. We made sure all the gaps were covered. Once we finished the roof, we walked around the whole shelter looking for gaps or holes, and filled those with whatever we could find. After we were finished with the shelter, we built a fire wall on the outside of the entrance so the heat from our fire would reflect back into the shelter to keep us warm. After sleeping in it for only one night, Sean and I woke up feeling great, and it was actually really warm inside. It was definitely better than sleeping out in the elements, and I would definitely choose this style of shelter building again.