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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.

BETTER: Build a tarp shelter

Do It Use paracord and stick toggles (see right) to secure grommets along your tarp’s edge. String the tarp tightly between two trees at waist height. Angle and secure the loose side flush to the ground with rocks or by staking with sticks; it will be angled and open on the other side. Fill the back and base with insulating leaves (see above).

Protection Conserving calories in a survival situation is critical, and this shelter goes up in minutes with few supplies. However, wind can catch your tarp if it’s gusty or you set up in unprotected areas; build behind windblocks and so the open side faces away from the wind, or secure the top low to the ground for a shorter profile.

Pro tip When it’s cold, build a trench fire paralleling the length of the open side (within five feet for optimal heat); angle the rocks on the fire’s far side to reflect warmth toward you. If your tarp doesn’t have grommets, create an attachment point by gathering tarp fabric around a small rock and tying the rock into the pocket with a simple overhand knot.

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