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Survival Lab: Gimme Shelter

Losing daylight and don't have a tent? Don't panic: We tested three shelter-making techniques that will help you survive the night. Plus: Three bomber bivies.

GOOD: Fashion a bed of leaves

Do It Look for piles of dry foliage, needles, and moss at the base of a tree and scoop out a trough for your body, or make a heap the size of a single-bed mattress. Collect a stack of cover-up material nearby. Gather three times what you think you’ll need; the nest will compress, and adding warmth requires about two feet of insulation both above and below your body. Lie in your pile, and cover up with your collected debris.

Protection It’s easy and warm—with ample supplies, you can be covered in 10 minutes—but don’t expect much sleep with all the creepy-crawly bedmates. Though it stays remarkably dry during drizzles, it will soak through in direct rain. Situate under tree cover.

Pro tip Wind and anxious tossing can quickly scatter your maple duvet; build in the lee of windblocking features. Orient for southern or eastern exposure, which will be warmer.

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