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Chapter 5


A shelter can protect you from the sun, insects, wind, rain, snow, hot or cold temperatures, and enemy observation. It can give you a feeling of well-being and help you maintain your will to survive.

In some areas, your need for shelter may take precedence over your need for food and possibly even your need for water. For example, prolonged exposure to cold can cause excessive fatigue and weakness (exhaustion). An exhausted person may develop a "passive" outlook, thereby losing the will to survive.

Seek natural shelters or alter them to meet your needs, therefore, saving energy. A common error in making a shelter is to make it too large. A shelter must be large enough to protect you and small enough to contain your body heat, especially in cold climates.


5-1. Your primary shelter in a survival situation will be your uniform. This point is true regardless of whether you are in a hot, cold, tropical, desert, or arctic situation. For your uniform to protect you, it must be in as good of a condition as possible and be worn properly. We use the term COLDER which is addressed in Chapter 15 to remind us of what to do.


5-2. When you are in a survival situation and realize that shelter is a high priority, start looking for shelter as soon as possible. As you do so, remember what you will need at the site. Two requisites for shelter are that it must—

5-3. You should focus on your tactical situation and your safety when considering these requisites. You must also consider whether the site—

5-4. You must remember the problems that could arise in your environment. For instance, avoid—

5-5. In some areas, the season of the year has a strong bearing on the site you select. Ideal sites for a shelter differ in winter and summer. During cold winter months you will want a site that will protect you from the cold and wind, but will have a source of fuel and water. During summer months in the same area you will want a source of water, but you will also want the site to be almost insect free.

5-6. When you are considering shelter site selection, remember the word BLISS and the following guidelines:


5-7. When looking for a shelter site, keep in mind the type of shelter you need. However, you must also consider the questions below:

5-8. To answer these questions, you need to know how to make various types of shelters and what materials you need to make them.


5-9. It takes only a short time and minimal equipment to build this lean-to (Figure 5-1). You need a poncho, 2 to 3 meters (7 to 10 feet) of rope or parachute suspension line, three stakes about 30 centimeters (1 foot) long, and two trees or two poles 2 to 3 meters (7 to 10 feet) apart. Before selecting the trees you will use or the location of your poles, check the wind direction. Ensure that the back of your lean-to will be into the wind.

Figure 5-1. Poncho Lean-to

Figure 5-1. Poncho Lean-to

5-10. To make the lean-to, you should—

5-11. If you plan to use the lean-to for more than one night, or you expect rain, make a center support for the lean-to. Make this support with a line. Attach one end of the line to the poncho hood and the other end to an overhanging branch. Make sure there is no slack in the line.

5-12. Another method is to place a stick upright under the center of the lean-to. However, this method will restrict your space and movements in the shelter.

5-13. For additional protection from wind and rain, place some brush, your rucksack, or other equipment at the sides of the lean-to.

5-14. To reduce heat loss to the ground, place some type of insulating material, such as leaves or pine needles, inside your lean-to.

NOTE: When at rest, you lose as much as 80 percent of your body heat to the ground.

5-15. To increase your security from enemy observation, lower the lean-to's silhouette by making two changes. First, secure the support lines to the trees at knee height (not at waist height) using two knee-high sticks in the two center grommets (sides of lean-to). Second, angle the poncho to the ground, securing it with sharpened sticks, as above.


5-16. This tent (Figure 5-2) provides a low silhouette. It also protects you from the elements on two sides. It has, however, less usable space and observation area than a lean-to, decreasing your reaction time to enemy detection. To make this tent, you need a poncho, two 1.5- to 2.5-meter (5- to 8-foot) ropes, six sharpened sticks about 30 centimeters (1 foot) long, and two trees 2 to 3 meters (7 to 10 feet) apart.

Figure 5-2. Poncho Tent Using Overhanging Branch

Figure 5-2. Poncho Tent Using Overhanging Branch

5-17. To make the tent, you should—

5-18. If you need a center support, use the same methods as for the poncho lean-to. Another center support is an A-frame set outside but over the center of the tent (Figure 5-3). Use two 90- to 120-centimeter-long (12- to 16-foot-long) sticks, one with a forked end, to form the A-frame. Tie the hood's drawstring to the A-frame to support the center of the tent.

Figure 5-3. Poncho Tent With A-Frame

Figure 5-3. Poncho Tent With A-Frame


5-19. If you have a parachute and three poles and the tactical situation allows, make a parachute tepee. It is easy and takes very little time to make this tepee. It provides protection from the elements and can act as a signaling device by enhancing a small amount of light from a fire or candle. It is large enough to hold several people and their equipment and to allow sleeping, cooking, and storing firewood.

5-20. You can make this tepee (Figure 5-4) using parts of or a whole personnel main or reserve parachute canopy. If using a standard personnel parachute, you need three poles 3.5 to 4.5 meters (12 to 15 feet) long and about 5 centimeters (2 inches) in diameter.

Figure 5-4. Three-Pole Parachute Tepee

Figure 5-4. Three-Pole Parachute Tepee

5-21. To make this tepee, you should—

5-22. You need a 14-gore section (normally) of canopy, stakes, a stout center pole, and an inner core and needle to construct this tepee (Figure 5-5). You cut the suspension lines except for 40- to 45-centimeter (16- to 18-inch) lengths at the canopy's lower lateral band.

Figure 5-5. One-Pole Parachute Tepee

Figure 5-5. One-Pole Parachute Tepee

5-23. To make this tepee, you should—


5-24. Except for the center pole, you use the same materials for a no-pole parachute tepee (Figure 5-6), as for the one-pole parachute tepee.

Figure 5-6. No-Pole Parachute Tepee

Figure 5-6. No-Pole Parachute Tepee

5-25. To make this tepee, you should—

5-26. After staking down the material, unfasten the line tied to the tree trunk, tighten the tepee material by pulling on this line, and tie it securely to the tree trunk.


5-27. A one-man shelter (Figure 5-7) you can easily make using a parachute requires a tree and three poles. One pole should be about 4.5 meters (15 feet) long and the other two about 3 meters (10 feet) long.

Figure 5-7. One-Man Shelter

Figure 5-7. One-Man Shelter

5-28. To make this shelter, you should—

5-29. The parachute cloth makes this shelter wind-resistant, and the shelter is small enough that it is easily warmed. A candle, used carefully, can keep the inside temperature comfortable. However, this shelter is unsatisfactory when snow is falling, as even a light snowfall will cave it in.


5-30. You can make a hammock using six to eight gores of parachute canopy and two trees about 4.5 meters (15 feet) apart (Figure 5-8).

Figure 5-8. Parachute Hammock

Figure 5-8. Parachute Hammock


5-31. If you are in a wooded area and have enough natural materials, you can make a field-expedient lean-to (Figure 5-9) without the aid of tools or with only a knife. It takes longer to make this type of shelter than it does to make other types, but it will protect you from the elements.

Figure 5-9. Field-Expedient Lean-to and Fire Reflector

Figure 5-9. Field-Expedient Lean-to and Fire Reflector

5-32. You will need two trees (or upright poles) about 2 meters (7 feet) apart; one pole about 2 meters (7 feet) long and 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) in diameter; five to eight poles about 3 meters (10 feet) long and 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) in diameter for beams; cord or vines for securing the horizontal support to the trees; and other poles, saplings, or vines to crisscross the beams.

5-33. To make this lean-to, you should—

5-34. In cold weather, add to your lean-to's comfort by building a fire reflector wall (Figure 5-9). Drive four 1.5-meter-long (5-foot-long) stakes into the ground to support the wall. Stack green logs on top of one another between the support stakes. Form two rows of stacked logs to create an inner space within the wall that you can fill with dirt. This action not only strengthens the wall but makes it more heat reflective. Bind the top of the support stakes so that the green logs and dirt will stay in place.

5-35. With just a little more effort you can have a drying rack. Cut a few 2-centimeter-diameter (3/4-inch-diameter) poles long enough to span the distance between the lean-to's horizontal support and the top of the fire reflector wall. Lay one end of the poles on the lean-to support and the other end on top of the reflector wall. Place and tie smaller sticks across these poles. You now have a place to dry clothes, meat, or fish.


5-36. In a marsh or swamp, or any area with standing water or continually wet ground, the swamp bed (Figure 5-10) keeps you out of the water. When selecting such a site, consider the weather, wind, tides, and available materials.

Figure 5-10. Swamp Bed

Figure 5-10. Swamp Bed

5-37. To make a swamp bed, you should—

5-38. Another shelter designed to get you above and out of the water or wet ground uses the same rectangular configuration as the swamp bed. You simply lay sticks and branches lengthwise on the inside of the trees (or poles) until there is enough material to raise the sleeping surface above the water level.


5-39. Do not overlook natural formations that provide shelter. Examples are caves, rocky crevices, clumps of bushes, small depressions, large rocks on leeward sides of hills, large trees with low-hanging limbs, and fallen trees with thick branches. However, when selecting a natural formation—


5-40. For warmth and ease of construction, the debris hut (Figure 5-11) is one of the best. When shelter is essential to survival, build this shelter.

Figure 5-11. Debris Hut

Figure 5-11. Debris Hut

5-41. To make a debris hut, you should—


5-42. If you are in a cold, snow-covered area where evergreen trees grow and you have a digging tool, you can make a tree-pit shelter (Figure 5-12).

Figure 5-12. Tree-Pit Snow Shelter

Figure 5-12. Tree-Pit Snow Shelter

5-43. To make this shelter, you should—

5-44. See Chapter 15 for other arctic or cold weather shelters.


5-45. The beach shade shelter (Figure 5-13) protects you from the sun, wind, rain, and heat. It is easy to make using natural materials.

Figure 5-13. Beach Shade Shelter

Figure 5-13. Beach Shade Shelter

5-46. To make this shelter, you should—


5-47. In an arid environment, consider the time, effort, and material needed to make a shelter. If you have material such as a poncho, canvas, or a parachute, use it along with such terrain features as rock outcroppings, mounds of sand, or depressions between dunes or rocks to make your shelter.

5-48. When using rock outcroppings, you should—

5-49. In a sandy area, you should—

NOTE: If you have enough material, fold it in half and form a 30- to 45-centimeter (12- to 18-inch) airspace between the two halves. This airspace will reduce the temperature under the shelter.

5-50. A belowground shelter (Figure 5-14) can reduce the midday heat as much as 16 to 22 degrees C (30 to 40 degrees F). However, building it requires more time and effort than for other shelters. Since your physical effort will make you sweat more and increase dehydration, construct it before the heat of the day.

Figure 5-14. Belowground Desert Shelter

Figure 5-14. Belowground Desert Shelter

5-51. To make this shelter, you should—

5-52. If you have extra material, you can further decrease the midday temperature in the trench by securing the material 30 to 45 centimeters (12 to 18 inches) above the other cover. This layering of the material will reduce the inside temperature 11 to 22 degrees C (20 to 40 degrees F).

5-53. The open desert shelter is of similar construction, except all sides are open to air currents and circulation. For maximum protection, you need a minimum of two layers of parachute material (Figure 5-15). White is the best color to reflect heat; the innermost layer should be of darker material.

Figure 5-15. Open Desert Shelter

Figure 5-15. Open Desert Shelter