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How to Build a Wilderness Shelter

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Thinkstock

Trapped outside without a tent? Don’t worry. With a little ingenuity, you can build a shelter that will keep you safe while ensuring you have a fascinating survival tale to tell.

1. Let Nature Do the Heavy Lifting

You may get lucky and find out your work has already been done for you. Look around for handy shelters like caves, domes formed by low branches, or sheltered gaps in rock faces. If you can find one of these lodgings, you can save your energy for other survival tasks.

2. Location, Location, Location

If you’ve got to improvise, put some thought into selecting your site. The best spots will be flat, relatively close to water – but not too close, or bugs and thirsty critters will bother you – and free of hazards like dead trees or ready-to-fall boulders.

3. Frame Up

Find a long, sturdy stick that’s at least as tall as you are and lean it against a rock, stump, or limb that’s two or three feet high. Then make a series of small A-frames by leaning two sticks at a diagonal on either side of this main ridge pole. Basically, you want to make a cornucopia that only you will be spilling out of.

4. Put a Bough On It

Once the frame is built, cover the exterior with boughs or evergreen limbs, leaving the mouth open so you can crawl in and out. If there’s snow on the ground, pack that around the limbs; it’s great insulation. Place a pile of leaves, needles or snow near the opening so you can seal the entrance once you’re inside your makeshift home.

5. Invest in Flooring

Sleeping on the bare ground can be cold and wet, so brighten things up and conserve energy by spreading the floor of your shelter with evergreen needles, dry leaves, or anything else you can find for a layer of insulation.

6. Thank You for Not Smoking

Even if gets really chilly or dark in your shelter, resist the urge to build a fire or spark your gas lantern. Both are recipes for carbon monoxide poisoning. Instead, build a fire outside the shelter, use it to heat up rocks, then move the rocks into your shelter to keep things toasty.
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Once you make it back to civilization, gather your friends and toast your ingenuity with a Dos Equis.

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How to Cross a River Without a Bridge
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ThinkStock

Need to cross a roaring river? It’s always best to find a bridge, but if you absolutely must make it to the other side on your own, a few easy steps can keep you high and relatively dry.

1. Scout Around

Invest a little time in finding the best place to make your crossing. Avoid bends in the river, where water whips around the fastest. Once you find a suitable spot, walk downstream a few hundred feet to make sure there aren’t any hazards. It’s always good to know about the pesky 30-foot waterfall around the bend.

2. Don’t Be Narrow-Minded

They look tempting, but narrow crossings can be the most dangerous—they’re often the deepest part of the river. Look for the widest section instead. Keep an eye out for mild ripples—which are safe to cross—and avoid whitecaps, which can be treacherously slippery.

3. Ditch Your Duds

If the water will reach your knees, strip down to your skivvies - your pride isn’t worth getting hypothermia from wet clothes. Even if the river is shallow, remove your socks and put on a second pair of shoes if you have them. If you’re backpacking, unbuckle your front straps so you can quickly slip out of your pack if you fall.

4. Shuffle Up

Face upstream, lean into the current, and move across the river with shuffling sidesteps. You’re less likely to fall while sidestepping since you don’t lift your feet as high. If you’re with a group, link arms. The technique creates more contact points with the streambed and gives everyone a more solid footing.

5. Become a Bump on a Log

If the rapids are too fast, shuffling across may be a bad idea. Look for a log that spans the whole river instead. But don’t walk on it! Wet wood can be dangerously slippery. Instead, straddle the log and scoot along until you reach the other side.

6. Float Away

In situations where the river is deep but the current isn’t very swift, a football or soccer ball can be a handy improvised flotation device. Tether it to your wrist and grab on when you get tired of swimming. Or hug it with one arm as you sidestroke for extra buoyancy.
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Once you make it to the opposite shore, dry off and toast your successful crossing with a round of Dos Equis.

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