How-to Build a Winter Survival Shelter Tutorial

How-to Build a Winter Survival Shelter Tutorial

Learn how to build a winter survival shelter. This shelter is designed for northern regions, particularly regions which are very cold and deeply buried in snow during the winter time. It is necessary to have trees available. This structure is built in the autumn before the winter snow begins to fall. The wooden structure has to be quite sturdy to handle the weight the accumulated snow build up over the course of the winter.

Caution: If you are in the structure and it collapses, you could become trapped and die. Make sure the structure and the wood are quite strong. We once almost had a structure collapse on us. Be careful.

Once the wood structure is completed, greenhouse plastic is draped over top. Greenhouses often discard the plastic after one year, because if it rips, they lose their entire crop. However, the plastic is still plenty good for winter camping. Greenhouses will often sell of the greenhouse plastic for very little money. This plastic is actually quite sophisticated. It is often coated with thin films to enhance performance and it is often quite thick plastic. Tough, strong plastic is good for shelters.

The idea is to have some sort of an entrance into the fort, sort of like a fold in the plastic. The plastic is lifted up, you go underneath, and then the plastic is draped down again. This keeps most of the warm air created by your body inside the shelter. It also allows for ventilation, so that you can breath at night.

Why does this structure work: The plastic is a waterproof barrier between you and the snow. If it rains, this structure works, due to the plastic. If there is heavy snowfall, the snow builds up on top of the plastic. This snow is actually an insulator, both heat and sound. Outside it might be -20 degrees Celsius while inside it may be +2 degrees Celsius. This shelter is also windproof once covered in snow.

Don’t use hay, as I suggested in the video, use straw instead. Put the bedding into the shelter only once you are ready to make use of the shelter. Don’t put the straw into the shelter in the fall. Reason: Mice will make their homes in the straw, which is not good. Put down lots of straw once you arrive at the shelter. If you are using conniver boughs, cut off the smaller green branches, fresh from the trees. You need 6-8 inches of conifer boughs on the ground, compacted, minimum, for your bedding. This keeps you off of the cold floor. We sometimes just use a tarp and foam camping rolls.

Caution: These structures are usually made in very wild and isolated places. Once the snow covers them, they are almost perfectly camouflaged. We had someone who made the structure in the fall, knew exactly where it was, and walked into the bush to find it again. He couldn’t find his structure, made months earlier. Turns out, the structure was 15 feet from where he was standing, yet he couldn’t find it buried 3 feet under the snow. It just looks like a little snow covered hill, among the many other snow covered hills in the area. This shelter is really designed for an expert winter survival person. It takes a while to get some experience with this shelter. Winter camping can be dangerous. Don’t get yourself into a situation which is too difficult. Cold temperatures can be a killer. Use flagging tape to mark your shelter.

Outside the shelter, use a shovel and create pathways in the 3 foot deep snow. Take a shovel and shovel a pathway. Then take the shovel and carve flat counter tops out of the snow drifts. The survival gear is stored on top of these snow counter tops.

Down feather mummy bags are use to sleep inside of the shelter. +2 Celsius is warm enough for a down mummy bag. Enjoy your winter camping experience. Be careful and don’t attempt a situation more challenging than you can realistically handle.


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