Snow Cave Survival

Will a Snow Cave Keep You Alive?

First, let’s define the difference between a snow cave and a Quinzee. A Quinzee is made by shaping snow into a dome-like structure and then hollowing out sleeping quarters inside. The word Quinzee comes from the indigenous peoples of Alaska and Northern Canada.

A snow cave, on the other hand, is typically a hole dug into a large snowdrift or into deep snow. The snow is displaced from its location, in other words. To construct, you simply dig into deep snow to create a sleeping chamber. There are advantages and disadvantages, however to either one. The snow cover and geographic location may determine which one you construct.

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Bug Out Bag Tarp or Tent

Bug Out Bag Debate: Tarp or Tent for Emergency Shelter

Bug Out Bag Debate: Tarp or Tent for Emergency Shelter

A Bug-Out-Bag Is Designed For Emergencies, So Some Inconvenience Is To Be Expected

When on a family outing, you can carry a six or eight person cabin tent in the back of your vehicle. Weight is not a large factor when you can pack your supplies in the cargo space of an SUV or pickup.

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Shelter Building: The Basics

Shelter Building Basics

A previous article talked about the importance of shelter placement, so we will not discuss shelter locations in great detail other than to say it may be one of the more important aspects when it comes to your safety. Today’s article will discuss other aspects of shelters such as size, and materials and why you need one regardless of temperature and weather.


In cold weather you want it just big enough for your body, and whatever gear you have. The smaller the shelter the easier it is to heat and to retain your body heat. You also do not want to expend a lot of energy and materials building your shelter.


If you start out unprepared to shelter overnight or even shelter for a few hours then you will have to construct a debris hut or find a natural shelter. Something as simple as breaking a frigid wind or blocking the hot rays of the sun can save your life.

In cold weather however, you will need to insulate your body from the cold ground, so you will need materials such as leaves, pine boughs, pine needles, and dried grasses for ground insulation. A simple waterproof ground cloth would not provide enough ground insulation in cold weather.

Mylar blankets can be used for emergency shelters if you have cordage and other means of securing the material, otherwise a slight breeze can carry the blanket away. Use the blankets along with forest debris. Once you have a debris hut built line the inside with a Mylar blanket to reflect heat in cold weather and use on the outside in the summer to reflect the hot rays of the sun away from the shelter.

Once you have the poles in place any forest debris can be used to help repel rain and snow and to block cold winds and even the sun. Your shelter can be as simple as placing some stout saplings against a fallen log or you can build a tepee style shelter by creating a tripod and filling in the sides with saplings and forest debris.

You can scoop out the soil under a fallen log to create a body sized depression. Pile some debris on one side to create an ad hoc lean to shelter. Build your fire so it reflects into the depression, but of course be careful not to set fire to your new home.

Soil and snow make great insulators for the sides of your hut, but it will require some work to make your hut as warm as possible. It is important to set out on your day hike or other outdoor adventure prepared to shelter overnight. Tarps and Mylar blankets and even the heavier Mylar blankets are lightweight and can be carried in any pack or even folded/rolled and lashed to your body.

For those that think they do not need a shelter at night in the woods in the summer months probably should never get caught in the woods after dark. Once the sun goes down you can get ground fog which can soak your clothing and settle on your skin, and then once the temperature drops you may very well feel cold. Hypothermia can develop at temperatures around 50° F. Cool air combined with high humidity/moisture could spell problems.

You cannot simply drop to the ground and go to sleep. You need some protection from insects, four legged predators, and even reptiles to some extent. Shelter is important and it must be planned for, and be adequate any time you spend a night in the woods.

Pack for the seasons. In the winter a tarp/poncho may not be sufficient for overnight. They are ideal for blocking cold winds for a few hours, or providing shade in the hot sun, but for overnight in extreme cold you may have to use a tarp or poncho along with forest debris to make a warm shelter. Know the terrain and weather patterns before you set out so you can pack your kit accordingly.

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Survival Shelter Location

Survival Shelter Location: Placement is Important

Shelter can mean the difference between life and death in a survival situation, and so the importance of a shelter cannot be stressed enough. However, your shelters’ location is just as important, and it is something that must be carefully considered.

Your shelter will protect you from cold winds, the scorching rays of the sun, from rain, snow, from insects and from predators that prowl the night as well. Mother Nature is unforgiving and she will insist on near perfection when it comes to the location of your shelter.

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5 Basic Survival Skills You Can Practice In Your Backyard Now

Backyard Basic Survival Skills

Most of the survival reality shows would have you believe that you could awaken one day to find yourself in the middle of a jungle or in a vast wilderness area with nothing but the clothes on your back, and with shoes in some cases. You may be expected to survive with nothing more than flip-flops, a piece of Styrofoam and your PJ bottoms.

Of course, the shows are all about ratings. The reality is however, that you left home for a mountain bike ride and the tire blew out 12 miles from home and the fall makes it hard for you to walk. A few hours day hike turns into a nightmare of days wandering lost, or you got lost on a hunting trip, camping trip or your vehicle breaks down in some remote area. This is how you end up lost or stranded in most cases.

The point is you arrived there somehow, in something, on something and with something such as a backpack with a few essentials. The deciding factor on whether you survive or not, are the things you arrived with for the party. Will you be empty handed as well as empty-headed if you find yourself lost or stranded?

You need materials for survival but the thing you need the most are skills. The knowledge and the skills you carry in your head may very well decide your fate.

Knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge will keep you alive. Skills will keep you alive when your gear fails or materials are not to be had in your backpack. Watching videos of how it is done is not applying knowledge, but practicing is applying knowledge and you need to practice in a controlled environment before it is a life or death situation, were mistakes are a learning tool and not a death knell. Your backyard is the starting point.

Basic Survival Skills You Can Practice In Your Backyard

It is now backyard adventure time, where you can hone your skills to gain the confidence and know without hesitation that you can survive if you become lost or stranded in a wilderness environment or in any environment for that matter.

1.) Shelter

Pull out your tarps, ponchos and even an old parachute and start practicing. Look at various ways of using your tarp or poncho as shelters. You can even use a Mylar blanket as emergency shelter along with certain plastic sheeting.

You can string a line and drape the material over the line and stake down for a classic pup tent style, or gather some saplings and construct a teepee using the tarp, poncho, plastic or parachute as cover for it. Know that you can construct a shelter to cover you from rain, snow or sun, before you find yourself lost or stranded.

2.) Archery/Slingshot/Spear Skills

Safety first, and this means no children or pets in the backyard, while practicing and that you have sufficient backstop materials for the projectiles. Firearms are not always available but you can make a longbow, slingshot and spear from materials on you and from what you find in your environment.

Obviously the way to ensure you have the means to hunt is to make sure you never leave on an outdoor adventure without a longbow (folding ones are available that can be carried in a pack), without a slingshot and the means to cut a sapling and sharpen into a spear.

Can you hit your target with an arrow, or do you only think you can, so find out if you can. Then make sure through practice that you can always bring game down with a bow if needed and the same applies to the slingshot, practice will make perfect.

Spears in most cases would be ideal for “spear fishing” or for self-defense against animals or humans. Unless, the spear is well crafted and balanced properly throwing a spear to kill game is not very productive, but it is one more tool in your survival toolbox and you never will know until you do practice.

3.) Fire Starting

Practically anyone can start a fire on a nice sunny day, with matches and a lighter, but can you do it when the wind is blowing, when it is raining, snowing, or icing out. Can you make a fire without matches or a lighter? Now is the time to find out before you need too.

If you do not have a magnesium stick and/or a Ferro rod, you need to get both and begin practicing. Practice starting fires using a Ferro rod and cotton balls soaked in alcohol based hand sanitizer, or use alcohol wipes from your first aid kit.

Know what works best for you. Petroleum jelly, cotton balls, dry tinder, char cloth, flint, and steel can all be used to create fire under any weather conditions. Make sure you know how to start a fire with any materials available to you. Make sure all materials are available by making sure they are in your pack.

4. Foraging For Food Edibles in Your Backyard

Unless you routinely spray herbicides to kill weeds in your yard, you can find edibles weeds growing at practically any time of the year.  These same weeds can be found in a wilderness environment as well, and what better place to learn to identify the edible ones than in your own backyard.

The following is just a sampling of what you may find in your backyard. The list is common weeds and even flowers that are edible and can be found in your yard and in many wilderness environments. Make sure you research carefully before picking and eating any plant and have reliable pictures for reference of all the plants.

  1. Dandelion – Most everyone can identify a dandelion and the plant can be eaten at any stage of growth. The roots are edible as well, and many make tea/beverages out of the roots.
  2. Plantain – Not to be confused with the banana shaped fruit. Plantains have medicinal properties according to many, and it can be used as a topical treatment for many skin aliments, and of course can be eaten as well.
  3. Miners lettuce – Can be found growing in flowerbeds, sidewalk cracks or even in the middle of your yard
  4. Lamb’s-quarters – Commonly called wild spinach
  5. Burdock – People spend countless hours and money trying to eradicate this invasive weed, which by the way, is grown in many parts of the world for eating and is considered a delicacy. The roots are especially sought after in many cultures.
  6. Stinging Nettles  – Delicious eaten or brewed into a tea, just are careful of the stinging nettles.
  7. Purslane  Is very common and no doubt, you can find some growing up through a crack in the sidewalk, in stoned areas or even in your flowerbed.
  8. Cattails – Can be found near water in many parts of the world and if you have a pond on your property, you may find some.
  9. Daylilies  Can usually found in flowerbeds but also can be found growing wild in ditches and around country lanes and all parts of the plant are edible. The roots are especially sought after.
  10. Primrose  Some consider primrose evasive while other encourages it for its white and yellow flowers, but the flowers can be eaten or steeped to make a flavorful tea as well.

5.) Outdoor Cooking

If lost or stranded, you will have to cook over open flames so what better place to practice than over a campfire in your own backyard. Food cannot just be tossed into the coals or flames and then dragged out when you think it may be done. Learn how to fashion cooking grates using green saplings, or use flat heated rocks as frying/cooking surface. You may think you know how to cook, because the microwave is handy, but it takes some knowledge and skill to cook over an open flame in all kinds of weather.

The above list is just a few of the skills needed to survive. With some imagination, you can come up with other skills that maybe needed, and when you do, start practicing them so you can master the art of survival.

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Wilderness Survival Rules of 3

Wilderness Survival: Some of You Will Probably Die

The rule of three is pretty well known and yet many have decided they can rearrange the rules, because they think they know better. Some of course do know better, but for anyone lost, not just away from camp or home for a few hours, but actually lost or stranded needs to follow the rule of three or they may not make it back alive.

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How to Make a Super Shelter for Cold Environment

Super Shelter
Dave Canterbury has put together this excellent 2 part video on how to make a super shelter and some of its benefits. For those of you that don’t know what a super shelter is, It’s basically a 5×7 space blanket and a 9×12 plastic tarp combined with a long fire to give you excellent warm shelter that is very light to carry. So check out the 2 part video below to learn how easy it is to build this shelter.

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Poncho Shelter

9 Different Poncho Survival Shelters

An essential part of any survival kit or bug out bag, a standard issue military poncho is so much more than just something you wear as protection from inclimate weather. Yes, a military poncho is great to have during those times when you’re stuck hiking in the wind and the rain, but as you’ll learn from the video below, a military poncho is also an invaluable tool to have when it comes to building a makeshift shelter.

To learn how you can make 9 different types of survival shelters using only a standard issued military poncho, watch this excellent video from Willow Haven Outdoors, below.

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