The Ins And Outs Of Sam's Shelter

On day four of my ALONE adventure I started construction on my "primary shelter." Before this I had been living under a simple lean-to next to a long fire. I had thought about how I would build a larger shelter and considered my options. There were cedar and spruce poles that I could cut about 50 meters through the brush, but the alders around the shore line would be much easier to carry back to camp. I didn't have much rope, but I was able to find some. As far as tarps, I wanted to dedicate one to water collection (i.e. my rain catch) and use the others for the outer shell of the shelter.

Although it may look like nothing more than a simple "tent," there were some factors that made my shelter work for the given scenario. 

My shelter build began by establishing a heavy, stable base out of alder and balsam poles. On one end would be my raised bed, underneath which I would store my dry firewood. The bed was insulated with grass and spruce bows that I added to every once in a while when they began to loose their loftiness. The bed was lashed to the base with jam knots. 

On stormy days I would often sleep for 10 hours or more

The tripod at the rear of my shelter is where the stability came from. It held up through storm after storm, even when the gusts reached 50mph pluss. The front of the shelter is a bipod, which is connected to the tripod with a ridge pole. This frame was simple, required only a few feet of rope, and didn't take much time to set up.

My cooking rig was about as simple as they come. I hung my pot from an alder branch that rested on two sides of the base. I kept fires small, and never burned firewood if it wasn't necessary. 

To finish things off, I tied all of my remaining tarps down to the shelter. As you can see in the finale, those tarps were whipped around pretty bad, but they did keep me relatively dry. The hole in the back is for smoke to escape through. I found out early on that it was necessary to have a chimney system like this if I wanted to have a fire indoors for heat and cooking. It worked a bit like a wood stove does in a canvas wall tent, and if I really wanted to (and had a large supply of dry wood) I could crank up the heat to 80 degrees, even on a cold day. The fire inside of my shelter also helped me to dry out my clothing and sleeping bag. 

Smoke left my shelter through the chimney hole in the back, and through the front door. There's nothing like a warm fire after a cold, wet day

Smoke left my shelter through the chimney hole in the back, and through the front door. There's nothing like a warm fire after a cold, wet day

The more time I spend in nature, the more I learn. Shelter leaks? Fix it. Wind blew out your grommets? Tie it down a different way. 

Solo wilderness living is all about finding solutions without having any second opinion to compare yours with. Sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you're wrong. It's all part of life in the wild. ALONE was one incredible learning experience, worth far more than 500k. 

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About The Author

Sam is a writer, adventurer, and founder of Woodsong who is best known for being runner-up on season 1 of HISTORY's hit survival series ALONE.  In 2011 his practical experiences over many nights in remote wilderness areas inspired him to start this blog! Sam’s adventures have lead him throughout North America where he has had the opportunity to learn from world-class outdoorsmen, and perhaps the greatest teacher of all, the natural world.


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