True North Blog

The Real Survival Skill – Shelter Craft

The Real Survival Skill - Shelter Craft

I just read a news article this morning about how a Canadian father and his 14-year-old daughter found themselves in a wilderness survival situation this past weekend after getting lost while skiing in British Columbia.  I regularly read such accounts because I believe that they offer us good lessons about what to do in a such an emergency, but, just as importantly, what not to do.  In this situation, what caught my interest was this pair’s focus on making a shelter instead of making a fire as many of us may have been inclined to do.

On Saturday during our most recent Wilderness Survival 101 course, I stressed to my clients that the most important survival skill that they should hone, at least in my personal view, is making an emergency shelter.  This is different from many other survival programs which stress making a fire.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, I believe that fire craft is extremely important.  After all, fire ties together all of the other seven survival priorities … positive mental attitude, first aid, shelter, signal, water and Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 8.35.23 AMfood.  However, making a fire can be unduly resource intensive in terms of time and energy. This especially so since many who find themselves in a remote emergency don’t seem to concede this fact until the sun is setting.  As such, all things being equal, I would much rather focus my time and energy on quickly making a shelter that will protect me from wind and precipitation, not to mention keep me from continually tripping in the dark and getting hurt as I gather wood.

As for the father and daughter back in British Columbia, after telephoning a 911 dispatcher, they decided that to be able to survive until morning — they were already both moderately hypothermic — they needed to build some sort of shelter.

Anyway, you check out the details in this Global News video report.

You will probably agree with me that they did a steller job, especially working to protect each other and keep up their PMA … positive mental attitude.

Perhaps consider, too, what they could have done better to prepare.  Not in a critical spirt, of course, but simply in the spirt of learning.  After all, learning from mistakes — and I make a ton of mistakes, so I should know —  is the best way to keep from making them again.

Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook.

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