Debris ShelterIn our quest to reconnect with nature we must first relearn how to physically survive outdoors. We spend much of our lives in enclosed spaces. We have become complacent about controlling temperature in our environment; turning the central heating up when it gets cold, switching the air conditioner on when it gets warm. But in the wilderness, there are no easy switches for adjusting the temperature.

Air temperature and humidity can change drastically as the sun goes down and the unprepared can be at risk from life-threatening hypothermia. To prevent this, in a survival situation, shelter is the top prority.

A simple debris shelter can mean the difference between life and death. The purpose of the debris shelter is to trap and maintain heat that would be lost without this essential cover. Body heat can be lost through radiation, conduction, convection and evaporation.


Heat radiates away from our bodies constantly. This heat can be trapped by the debris shelter and warm the air within the shelter enough to prevent severe hypothermia.


Heat flows from the body towards a colder surface. Lying directly on the earth can have a significant effect on heat loss. Layers of leafy material used as bedding will provide the necessary insulation to prevent heat loss through conduction.


Cooler air passing over the skin will reduce body temperature, especially if the skin is wet. Heat loss by convection can be reduced by a well-constructed debris shelter that provides a wind-proof means of trapping heat.


The body’s natural way of regulating high temperatures is to produce sweat. This moisture evaporates from the skin producing a cooling effect on the body. Moving slowly can prevent the need for the body to produce sweat thereby decreasing heat loss by evaporation.

Remember the Rule of Three: depending upon air temperature and humidity, three hours is all it takes for hypothermia to start having a significant effect on core body temperature. The signs of hypothermia include drowsiness, memory loss, lack of energy, confusion, lack of judgement; lose of limb control and uncontrollable shivering. If any of these signs are apparent – get help FAST.