Selecting Materials for a Desert Shelter

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In an arid environment, consider the time, effort and material needed to make a shelter. If you have material such as a poncho, canvas or a parachute, use it along with such terrain features as rock outcroppings, mounds of sand or a depression between dunes or rocks to make your shelter.

Using rock outcroppings, anchor one end of your poncho (canvas, parachute or other material) on the edge of the outcrop using rocks or other weights. Extend and anchor the other end of the poncho so it provides the best possible shade.

In a sandy area, build a mound of sand or use the side of a sand dune for one side of the shelter. Anchor one end of the material on top of the mound using sand or other weights. Extend and anchor the other end of the material so it provides the best possible shade.

Building a Shelter

To build a shelter, find a low spot or depression between dunes or rocks. If necessary, dig a trench 45 to 60 centimeters deep and long and wide enough for you to lie in comfortably. Pile the sand you take from the trench to form a mound around three sides. On the open end of the trench, dig out more sand so you can get in and out of your shelter easily. Next, cover the trench with your material. Secure the material in place using sand, rocks or other weights. Check all sides and ends of the shelter to make sure it is secure.

If you have extra material, you can further decrease the midday temperature in the trench by securing the material 30 to 45 centimeters above the other cover. This layering of the material will reduce the inside temperature 11 to 22 degrees C (20 to 40 degrees F). Another type of below-ground shade shelter is of similar construction, except all sides are open to air currents and circulation. For maximum protection, you need a minimum of two layers of parachute material. White is the best color to reflect heat; the innermost layer should be of darker material.

Beach Shade Shelter

A beach shade shelter protects you from the sun, wind, rain and heat. It is easy to make using natural materials. To make this shelter, find and collect driftwood or other natural material to use as support beams and as a digging tool.  Be sure to select a site that is above the high water mark.

Scrape or dig out a trench running north to south so that it receives the least amount of sunlight. Make the trench long and wide enough for you to lie down comfortably. Next, mound soil on three sides of the trench. The higher the mound, the more space inside the shelter.  Lay support beams (driftwood or other natural material) that span the trench on top of the mound to form the framework for a roof. After you have the basic structure completed, enlarge the shelter’s entrance by digging out more sand in front of it. Use natural materials such as grass or leaves to form a bed inside the shelter.

Information courtesy of the U.S. Army Survival Manual

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