Let’s face it if you need to set up a makeshift shelter, you’re probably in a pretty terrible situation. Whether you are hiding from others or you are stranded in the middle of the woods, the best way to help yourself is to be prepared. Though not all of these concepts require outside materials, most do. If possible, ensure that your bug-out pack has:
SURVIVAL ROPE: Quality rope is one of the hardest things to make in a survival scenario, though is almost as useful as duck tape. You don’t need something super heavy duty and for the purposes of binding a shelter, 550 paracord is an excellent option. It gets its name because it can hold up to 550 pounds before it reaches failure. It is a great resource for its small size.
WATERPROOF TARP/PONCHO: Though these are different items, they both serve the same purpose when it comes to survival shelters. A waterproof covering will be the most effective way to protect yourself from the elements. If you plan on staying in the same area for a few days go for the tarp. It is more durable and will cover a larger area. If are on the move, pack a poncho. They are lighter and offer the dual purpose of clothing.
Outside Material: Rope & Tarp
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Elemental Protection: 3/5
Camouflage: 1/5 Stars
Of course, the first shelter we need to discuss is the classic tent. Stretch your rope between two trees and secure it so that it will remain tight. Drape your tarp over the drawn rope, then use som sturdy sticks to stake it into the ground. If the ground cannot hold the stakes, use some of your rope to tie the corners of your tarp near the base of nearby trees.
This shelter can be used to collect rainwater by placing a canteen at the runoff points and is great at keep rain from falling while you sleep. This does not protect you from any moisture in the ground, so make sure that you set the tent up on high ground. Though this shelter takes a little time to set up, it is better to use it when you are not expecting visitors since it is easily spotted due to the hard lines created by the tarp.
Outside Material: Poncho
Prep Time: Less than 10 minutes
Elemental Protection: 2/5 Stars
Camouflage: 2/5 stars
Though this structure can be created with a tarp, it is best suited to the speed of a poncho. This is a small structure that sits only a foot or so above the ground. It is used when during a sprinkle or the possibility of poor weather.
Tie two corners of the poncho to separate tree within its reach. Stake the opposing side into the ground, and you have this incredibly quick shelter. This should only be used for one night and makes its money by being both quick to set-up and take down without leaving evidence once you leave.
Outside Materials: Tarp & Rope
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Elemental Protection: 4/5 Stars
Camouflage: 3-4/5 Stars
Obviously, this requires a fallen tree with some branches jutting out of the side. The quicker variation involves draping your tarp over the branches and securing it with your rope. While this saves time, it also displays your tarp for all to see. The better option is to only use the branches that are closest to the ground. This will somewhat hide your presence to anyone walking through the woods.
The biggest drawback to this type of shelter is that it is contingent on the presence of a good tree that you can use for the base. If possible, try to find a tree that is hidden by brush or other vegetation so someone doesn’t stop to take a break near your campsite.
Outside Material: None
Prep Time: None
Elemental Protection: 5/5 Stars
Camouflage: 4/5 Stars
A cave is even harder to find than a fallen tree, though if it is deep enough it offers a wealth in its stability alone. Since they are natural formations you will not have to waste time setting up or taking down your shelter, but they are also hotspots of anyone in the know. If your area has caves, it is likely that people will flock to them at some point. You may also have to deal with wildlife that had chosen the cave as shelter as well.
In many bug-out scenarios, speed is vital. While you might be tempted to go for the comfort of a tent or a tree lean-to, try to consider how important it is to stay hidden. Though it doesn’t qualify as a shelter, sometimes the right answer is to wrap yourself in a poncho and stay hidden in a bush. The foliage will break up your silhouette and make it much harder to find you.