It’s quite amazing how many people (if they admit it) have had a potentially near-death experience in the outdoors. It’s rarely a plane crash or a boat-sinking experience. Actually, these situations are often due to inadequate planning or mistakes. It’s just three years ago that four really experienced outdoorsmen went to shore in October to glass for sheep on the mountainside. Nobody tied the boat to the shore, and when they looked around, the boat had drifted out onto the lake where it was too far too retrieve by swimming in the ice-cold water. They spent two nights on the shore with whatever they had on them when they got out of the boat. All the survival gear, food, shelter stuff, etc., was still in the adrift boat. The next morning and the next day, they could see the boat where it had grounded on the far shore.
True survival equipment does not take up very much room, but it needs to be with you wherever you are because you never know when things will spoil and you are stuck. Your survival and shelter-building kit need to be with you and not back in the pack you dropped off during the stalk or in the skimmer, or in the boat.
It’s quite amazing the number of everyday things that can save your life in a shelter-building, life-saving situation. How about a large plastic garbage or a leaf bag? Neither takes up much space if it’s still new in its factory-folded condition. Even if it’s used, pulling/squeezing it through your clenched fist takes all the air out of it and it will fit in your shirt pocket. A piece of drywall vapour barrier, about six feet by eight feet, folds up pretty small and is extremely tough and weatherproof. Think about all the kids tents you saw at last year’s garage sales. Many of them have separate rain flys that fold up into “nothing” and are easy to pack. If there is no fly, even the main tent piece will fold small and save your life in a survival situation.
There are also many shelter tarps on the market and lots of lightweight waterproof tarps in various sizes. The one you get should be big enough for an emergency shelter but also small/light enough that you will agree to carry it all the time on you, not in some distant pack or survival kit.
A tarp, sheet of plastic or garbage bag will work on its own, but a method to tie it over you is a better idea. Dental floss is extremely tough and takes no space even when in a full spool. Paracord (parachute cord) is good, in a quantity of three- to six-foot lengths, to frame the shelter roof amongst the nearby branches.
There is no excuse to be unprepared and, here in the North, being unprepared can be fatal.