By Melissa Wynn
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We never hope to get lost as we wander our wonderful woods but it does happen. During colder weather, having a shelter could make a huge difference in how warm and dry you will be. Everything you need to build a debris shelter can be found right there in the woods. A long dead branch, about half as tall as yourself is the first thing you need to find. Next find a high ground, dry, secure place to prop it. A low fork under a tree or wedged between two large rocks are both good sites. This will be the “spine” of your shelter and the propped end should be around hip height. Next gather smaller, shorter branches and prop them along the spine on both sides to give the spine “ribs”. Leave an open space at the high end for a door. The next layer of your shelter is important to keep out the wind. Top your “ribs” with brush or needled pine branches to create a lattice type surface, overlapping the spaces between. Large pieces of thick bark also work well for this layer. At this stage, crawl inside to make sure you have a little wiggle room but not too much. The smaller the shelter, the warmer you’ll be, think of it as a sleeping capsule. Adjust your lattice as needed and start gathering insulation,pine needles, leaves and other forest floor debris. Pile the debris over the entire structure in a thick layer, up to two feet in wet weather is best. For added comfort, line the inside with soft leaves or grass to give a bit of soft padding. Stuff the low end to keep your feet warmer and make a large pile of the soft materials near the door to close yourself in most of the way before you go to sleep. Be adventurous,but be prepared. Always carry matches, a compass or GPS, a flashlight, a SharpenedKnife or machete and let someone know where you plan to go when wandering the woods alone.