It can take 3 weeks to die of starvation, 3 days to die of dehydration, but in cold weather you can die in 3 hours from exposure. Shelter is the number one priority in any cold weather survival scenario. Not every situation will offer the same resources or have the same threats, but these are some potential shelters for cold weather survival that have saved lives in the past.
Bed and Blanket
Most people think of covering themselves from the cold air to stay warm. But in reality, more than 60 percent of your heat loss will be caused by your contact with the cold ground. So the first thing to do is separate yourself from the ground. The easiest way to accomplish this is to make a “frame” of logs or rocks, and fill it in with the driest vegetation available to you. This will be your bed. If you have a blanket to cover yourself and a bed you will be greatly increase your chances of making it through the night. If you do not have a blanket, cover yourself with pine boughs.
Tree Pit Shelter
If the forest you are in is covered in snow, then a bed will not be enough to keep you warm. In this case look for a large tree in a low spot of the ground. Around the base of the tree there will be an area where snow has not fallen because the boughs blocked it. This is a tree pit. Cover the ground in the pit with boughs from another tree, and cover the top with more boughs. This is an excellent shelter that will protect even from windy snow storms and extreme cold.
Desert survival tends to bring to mind images of wandering over heart scorched ground through mirages. But at night deserts can have low temperatures cold enough to kill, and without vegetation, wind can rip through the desert stripping you of your body heat. Without vegetation you will also not be able to build a fire or most shelters. But you can use rocks or even dirt to build a wall about 2 feet tall and at least as long as you are tall. Take what little vegetation you can find and lay it on the opposite side of the wall from the direction of the wind. This will be your bed, and the wall will protect you from the wind.
If you are caught in a cold weather survival situation, seek shelter before anything else.
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