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West Weekly: Basic Survival

West Weekly

Today we are going to talk about seeking or making a shelter. Before we do, a little bit about our new format. As you can probably tell from our enormous number of blog posts (not really) we haven’t been very diligent about communicating with our audience. That’s about to change. We’ve taken a hard look at who we communicate with, what they know, and what they want to know and we’ve decided to get back on top of the West Weekly Blog post.

That being said, we are changing the format a little bit. As we originally planned, the West Weekly will come out every Friday, but we will be writing in it short series. There will be four episodes to every series that cover the same topic, from different aspects, and each with additional information.

This series will be on basic survival information. As we have talked to some of our customers and followers we have uncovered that not all of them know about what it will take to survive after an “event.” If you do, we invite you to read, make comments and suggestions, and add to the information.

Our goal is not to make this a product-driven bunch of garbage, but real information that can help you out. We will occasionally make product recommendations, let’s be real, this is an e-commerce store. However, our main goal with this series is to inform you, not sell you so we will describe the products we think you need as well as make our recommendations, so you can choose on your own where to get your supplies.

Let’s dive in!

Seeking the Right Shelter

Let’s assume for this first episode that you are without shelter. There are thousands of ways you could be left without a roof over your head, so we won’t go into how this happened, just discuss the concerns you need to have we you seek out alternative shelter.

Let’s start with some basics before you decide on your shelter. First, you need to ask yourself if you want to be found. Your selection (or creation) of a shelter hinges on this simple question. For instance, if you fear that supplies that you accumulate might be stolen by others who are trying to survive, you may want a hidden shelter, or at a minimum a shelter where the entrance can be hidden or secured. If you are lost as another example, you may want your shelter to be obvious to those who are looking for you so they can easily find you.

The next things to consider for your shelter are the elements. If it is rainy and cold you will need materials that can block out the rain and shelter you from wind or snow. No one wants to die of hypothermia in the middle of the night after they’ve gone to a bunch of trouble to survive. For high winds you will likely need heavier materials, for rains you will need materials that can be waterproofed or will at a minimum block the rain. For high heat you will need to create shade, and allow heat to vent so you don’t inadvertently create an oven.

The next big thing to consider is how long the shelter will need to last. If you need to be in it for a day, the effort isn’t worth building something that will last for a year. Knowing that, it is also important to remember that you can ALWAYS improve your shelter. The challenge is to build what you need, and not to over-build or under-build, and conserver your energy for other important survival needs.

The final part I want to cover is the basics of materials, and how to acquire them. I’ve made a small list below for you to think about where to get materials from.

  • Trees – branches, depending on the size can provide structural integrity for your shelter. If you don’t have anything you can cut them with finding branches that are small enough for you to break but strong enough to support some weight can help you get started early with your shelter. Leaves and needles (like pine needs) can provide both a better surface to sit and sleep on, as well as make a roof or insulation under a roof to ward off heat or cold. Exercise caution with this type of building material because it can be very susceptible to the wind and to fire.
  • Auto Parts – having an old vehicle around can provide you with metal parts for shelter and windows. These parts aren’t easy to disassemble, but if you have access to tools, they can make a much stronger shelter. These types of material are not often good for high heat as they can have an oven-like effect on the inside of the shelter. If you must use these in high-heat, ensure you have vents at the top that will allow rising heat to escape but still provide shelter from the rain.
  • Dirt – this is one of the oldest and best shelters, and can be combined with any of the others already mentioned to add integrity to your structure. Though dirt isn’t cement, it can certainly help in acting like it during high winds or in the snow. Dirt combined with branches, especially dirt that can dry can nicely insulate your shelter, and keep out the wind. I’d advise against using it in your roof structure, especially where it is wet.
  • Reclaimed Wood – having access to reclaimed wood can help in making your structure more aesthetically pleasing and easier to configure. It won’t necessarily be an improvement over branches, but it can make assembling the structure much easier.
  • Rock – Rocks can be a nice addition to any shelter. They are great for walls, and for making a solid floor. If they are all you have though, it will be difficult to create a roof, seek other materials as well.
  • Caves / Holes – These can be a great start to a shelter, but here are a few things you should be cautious of. First, make sure you aren’t sharing your space with an animal who lived there first. This means for caves and other holes, see if it is empty, and if it is large, attempt to block off the area that you will use.
  • Abandoned Homes – This one is tricky. Depending on the event an abandoned home can be a great shelter. It can also be a terrible one. Make certain the home is abandoned, and even more important that it is safe. Check the floors, ceilings, stairs, and walls to determine if they are structurally sound. That will keep the building from falling in on you while you are least expecting it.

Though this article won’t show you the specifics about how to build your shelter it should help you start thinking about what you need. I usually recommend a few tools for anyone that thinks they may need to be in a survival situation. The first is a hatchet multi-tool. Something like what we carry. These can be extremely useful in dealing with many types of materials and can act as a weapon if necessary.

Next, an emergency blanket is really extremely useful in most situations. We carry a sleeping bag version which can assist you in keeping dry, and adds a closed bottom that helps keep in the heat. You can check it out here.

We’d love to have your feedback, or any additional comments or suggestions for those who are learning the basic of survival. Thank you, and see you next week!

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Brian Kennedy


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