Early December is officially here, with it comes snow, blizzards and a lot more snow. Most of my childhood snow happened something like this, go to sleep on a cold night, no snow in sight, wake up in mountains of snow that took over the town during the night. What great times those were. Anyhow, we are not here to talk about silly childhood memories, we want to learn about shelter during freezing temperatures and that’s exactly what we are going to do. The essence of staying alive in freezing cold is keeping your body temperature stable. You can do that by sheltering from the cold, building a fire and drinking warm liquids.
When it’s 20 degrees outside and you’ve got less than 2 hours of day light left ahead of you, making a shelter will have to be your number one priority. Without shelter you are exposed to the mercy of mother nature, wind, rain, snow and more. Having a shelter will act like a wall for the heat that comes from your camp fire, so the more you extend, the more heat you are able to catch, if that makes any sense.
There are many types of shelters you can build that are dependent on your situation, the one I presented is a quick scarp all, just to get things done. You can get more complicated and receive a bigger reward in the end if you have enough time to build proper refuge, but as a quick getaway the one I mentioned will have to do. During summer you will most likely want something to protect your from the heath, but also keep you off the ground to avoid any insects, snakes or other creatures that might be crawling through the grass. The video above shows how to build a thatched dome hut, it’s spacious and gives more protection against wind but requires a lot more materials and time in order to be built.
As soon as you are safe from wind and snow your next priority should be building a fire pit. A fire pit also requires lighting a fire in order to be effective, the fire not only will warming you up but cooking can also be done using it. This is done by simply finding a decent sized branch, 5-6 inches longer than your height. That will be the core of your base, try wedging the branch in between to trees, make sure it is tall enough so you fit in, but not taller than your waist height. Find other branches and place them at a 45 degree angle on your branch and create a tent like shelter using this method. Use tree branches to cover your tent up, pine branches work the best as they still have needles on and they maintain most of the heat instead heat.
You should not build any part of your camp on ice, try to stay at least 6 to 8 feet away from water/ice. Not only can your gear get wet but you also risk melting the ice, making in weak enough not too support your shelter’s weight. An often overlooked aspect of fire making is the roof, make sure the roof is not flammable and keep the fire a distance away from your shelter.
As a final safety measure you should try boiling water, warm water keeps you warm and gives you the opportunity of making tea or coffee. That is, if you have tea or coffee at your disposal, at the same time you can make tea using a variety of plants and leaves in nature, be careful as not every plant/leaf is consumable and might be toxic or worse. Be positive the plant you choose to boil down into tea is safe. You can also try boiling the water down and using a plastic wrap to collect steam, which is just water, but impurity free.
Water is not hard to come by, primarily during winter, snow itself is water, all you have to do is grab a big bowl of snow and let it melt next to a warm place. Ice is water too but is harder to melt so I would just stick to snow as it makes your life a whole lot easier. River water is also drinkable, there might be debris and bacteria left in it so once again, boil it until it’s no longer a danger for you.