One of the scariest feelings in the world is being lost in the forest and having no means of shelter. Since you are outside in the wilderness, then you will be subjected to cold weather, rain, insects and the native wildlife of the area. The only chance you will have to survive in the forest is to build your own shelter. The quality of the shelter you build will depend on the tools you have available. If you happen to have a knife and rope then it will help. Then you can build a shelter by simply using the natural resources of the forest. These resources include branches, sticks and twigs. On your travels throughout the forest, try to gather as many of these items as you can or at least make note of where they are.
The first step to building a shelter is choosing the location. If you can locate an open field near a body of water, then this will be a great place to build. Just make sure you choose a spot at least 50 yards away from the water. That way the water vapor won’t create coldness and the water won’t flood your shelter. Next you will want to search for three tree branches. They should be thin tree branches that are light enough for you to pick up with your hands. Try to find one long tree branch and two medium sized ones. The idea is that you will brace the three branches upright against each other, almost like a tepee. The only difference is the longer branch will be tied in between the shorter branches that are braced into the ground. You may have to dig little holes with your hands, so the branches are tight and secured in the ground.
Once you have your three branches braced together, you need to find smaller sticks and branches to lean upright against the sides of the longer branch. These smaller sticks will make up the walls of your shelter. The sticks on each side should join together on the top, which is where you tie them together. Then you need to find some leafy twigs and start coating your walls with them. Make sure you find twigs with lots of leaves on them, so you can thoroughly cover the exterior of your shelter. Then you should be able to sneak inside and stay protected from the rain or cold weather. It may even camouflage you from the wildlife as well.
Planning is essential to surviving a wildfire. Information is crucial and you must know the dangers in the areas you will be hiking, camping or hunting. Check with your local forest service and know the probability of a forest fire before traveling in a particular area. Chances of a forest fire increase if the temperatures are high and the humidity is low. Find out how much rainfall the area has received to decided if the underbrush is tinder dry or not. These are danger areas if it is a popular spot for campers and hikers because humans are the cause of many forest fires.
Even though you are careful, with your campfires, others may not be and you could be caught in a forest fire while hiking or camping. Getting ahead of the fire is important by maintaining situational awareness, looking for smoke and smelling the air. If you see or smell smoke, identify the probable location and move in the opposite direction immediately. If you take too long, the fire can encircle you leaving you no escape. Do not get trapped on hilltops, you want to move downhill from any fire because the heat from the inferno will rise and it can be as high as a 1000F/537C. Valleys or canyons can also trap the heat/smoke and either end could be blocked trapping you in the middle.
Open ground with a firebreak between you and the fire is ideal. Firebreaks include logging roads, fire roads or even highways. Water is a safety zone as well, and if you have no other choice get into the middle of the river or stream and as far out as you feel safe in a lake or pond. The fire can of course jump the break but a break will slow the fire down. Areas already burned can be safe if the combustibles have been consumed and if the heat and smoke is tolerable.
When the forest fire hits a firebreak, it may split. The combustibles have been consumed up until this point causing it to move along the break and then possibly jump the break. Depending on the vegetation there may or may not be a safe zone behind the fire.
If you are trapped and the fire is close, get to low ground, such as a ditch or any depression Scoop out a depression if you have to and cover yourself with soil if possible, this is only as a last resort. You want the heated air to pass over you, and if covered with non-combustibles you may have a chance of surviving. Keep your face from the heat and as low as possible. Avoid overhead dangers from falling trees or limbs if you have escaped to an already burned area.
There are shelters specifically designed to reflect up to 95 percent of heat from a forest fire that you can carry with you if you are traveling in a high fire risk area. The shelters provide protection from radiant and convective heat. Several models have an optional travel pack that will attach to the bottom of your backpack for easy carrying.