Testing our shelter building skills

There is nothing like real world scenarios to practice and hone survival skills.  While it’s great to learn and do in controlled situations around camp or in a survival school atmosphere, at some point it is ideal to run some drills when things are not so pleasant. It’s a lot different starting a fire when everything is good, warm dry weather, little wind, etc; than building a fire when it has already been raining a while and is still raining, or when it’s cold and hands and fingers get stiff.

Some guys in front of Shelter built for rain

Some guys in front of Shelter built for rain

Such was the case with our 2010 Wilderness Innovation Summer Rendezvous. Since learning is best after skills that are learned in a comfortable surrounding, are then tested under real conditions, adverse conditions. We thus planned our Rendezvous with a likely scenario in mind. Our goal was shelter building out of native materials, so to enforce this, the idea was that a group of hikers had been up all day on the trail and were starting to return when a sudden mountain storm forced them to seek shelter. Since the group was on a hike, no tents, little food or sleeping gear was carried with them. The only recourse was to build shelter large enough for all to get out of the storm and gain some warmth.

I was both participating in and observing people during our “emergency sheltering situation.” Being all voluntary I was concerned that some may give out and quit, and as the storm developed conditions were not at all pleasant. Persistence was all we had to go on, if some gave up it would mean more difficulty on those remaining, since the task of building shelter had to be completed, in order to have any chance of a safe comfortable night. I observed that everyone kept slogging on, carrying wood, portaging pine boughs, keeping the fire going in the rain, and working on assembling the structure itself.

What was learned?

I am pleased to report that this group of guys would do well in most conditions, they had the drive to keep going even though it was tough at times. Now with this realistic test successfully completed, all can be confident that they could erect a safe suitable shelter, even starting in the rain, and get dry during the night. We learned also that although we can prepare a shelter from natural materials, the cost in energy, time and safety are not worth it when it would be so easy to carry a tarp, even on a hike. We demonstrated our large Personal Survival Tarp, putting it up securely in about 3 minutes. This is versus the shelter we built, taking all personnel available many hours to build, while also getting worn out, wet and cold. It should be noted that a WI FireStarter Kit is nice to have in the pack saving time and energy in fire building. Without our Sven saw we could never have got as much done as we did, in fact we would not have accomplished building the shelter without it. Also learned was the nearly rain proof version of the Pyramid fire that keeps water shedding away from the fire, and keeps the core hot. We also did cord making from bark fibers, gathering edibles and berries.  Discussed was mental attitude and the need to have that paradigm shift from “victim” to “survivor.”

Was it fun also?

Getting situated for sleeping, note fire burning all night

Getting situated for sleeping, note fire burning all night

All in all we had a great time, and practiced necessary skills, in a real world scenario. After the effort of getting shelter was done we all could relax around the fire,  have a little dinner, and joke around a bit.  My music teacher used to say “Practice makes perfect, only with perfect practice.” Nature did provide us the climatic conditions for perfect practice, and we are grateful for that.

Watch our video of the event here: Hikers forced to build shelter

Simplifying Survival – until next time Perry Peacock

Tagged with →  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:


Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop us a note so we can take care of it!