Friday, February 23, 2007

Caring for the Shelter

I most admit that I didn't do everything the way I described in my last entry. I have recently noticed that under the tarps I have for a liner has gotten very moist. When I was in the process of building the shelter, the thought of having a trench came to me a little to late to do it properly. As a result I have been fighting a moisture problem this entire time. I am leaving town for the weekend so I have taken out all my stuff down to the dirt level in the hopes it will dry out while I am gone. I am writing this so that others will know what to expect when building a shelter. There will be problems with moisture. Just be flexible and work out the "bugs." If you use more natural materials for the roof like bark or grass thatch, even if the ground is staying dry, expect the need to dry out the wall/roof with lots of heat. I would recommend using charcoal in a metal bucket. Just make sure you aren't in the shelter or you will breath in lots of hazardous gas.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007



I never thought I would say that there is something good about living in the city, but I am learning to adapt my way of thinking. There are lots of resources in the city that can be used for a shelter. Before I get into materials, I want to talk about the location. Just like any other 'real estate', location should be the biggest factor when looking for a place to build a shelter. Take a look around where you live and the surrounding area. It won't take long to find a few abandon lots, houses, or undeveloped property with lots of vegetation. I found a field attached to an abandon house that hadn't been occupied in a very long time. Between the field and the main road is about 50 feet of shrubs, brush, and trees that make great cover. This location is good for a few reasons.

I am not on private property. (Even abandon lots are probably owned by someone.)

I have chosen a place that few people go near and the few that might wander back there will probably not be interested in looking into my shelter area. (People are really not very observant. As long as you don't give them a reason to be curious, they wont be.)

I am close to a few key resources like a parking lot that I can use and not be noticed. Apartments are great for this if the spaces are not numbered. I am also close to a fitness center where I can shower and workout. Lastly, I am close to a storage unit for my valuables.

A final thought when looking for a location:

I do not recommend "squatting" in abandon buildings for a few basic reasons. First, it is private property and you could be prosecuted for trespassing. Second, you will be spotted by other people probably looking for a spot to live as well. I am not judging them, but I like having more control about who knows where I live. Just something to think about.

Adapted Wigwam

I recommend this style of shelter for living because it is easy to set up and the materials are plentiful and cheap. This list is just an example to give an idea of what is needed. All items can be substituted as long as the function remains.

6-8 long, flexible saplings

Zip ties (8")

Heavy duty card board (Cardboard of this type can be found behind furniture stores.)

Painters plastic (heavy duty)

2 small tarps (green or camo)


Outline the size your shelter is going to be on the ground. Then dig a 6" trench all the way around except for where the entry way will be.

Lash the saplings together to make a tee pee shape. Put the saplings into the trench. (Point the ends so they will stick into the ground.)

Finish the frame by lashing the support pieces on.

Lash cardboard to the frame. ( Make sure the cardboard does not touch the ground. If the ground is wet the cardboard will turn into a sponge)

The plastic will go on next. Don't worry about covering the top part yet. Make sure that the plastic can reach the bottom of the trench.

Fill in the trench with dirt. ( Gravel or sand will work better.)

Take four small rocks and tie one to each corner of your small tarp. Put this over the top of the shelter.

Put some old wood on the shelter to weigh the plastic down. (Old garden hose can be wrapped around the shelter and will work fine)

An entry way is a must so water can't be blown in. A simple 'A' frame tarp will be just fine.

After you have completed all the above, find as much debris (grass,leaves, or pine bows) and just start piling it on top and all around for camo.

Line the floor of the shelter with whatever want and can find. (cardboard, tarps, or old rugs)

Last is the door. Any heavy carpet, tarp, or canvas could make a good flap/door.

If you are wanting to heat the inside, I strongly discourage wood or coal. Smoke would be a dead give away to anyone passing by that you are there. Coal is deadly in an enclosed space. There are fuels that will work, just read any warning labels to make sure that they will work.

Here is a site that gives really good instructions on building a more traditional shelter.

Birth of a Cardboard Caveman

Hello, my name is David and this is my story.

In high school a friend gave me a book to read that sounded pretty cool. After reading the first page I knew my life would be very different. Tom Brown, Jr. was the author and the book was " The Way of the Scout." I tried talking to my parents about letting me take his first class. They said it was a waste of time and money and that I should go to college so I could make something of my life. I knew that without their support it would take me longer to raise the money but I was determined to make it to his first class. I finally went spring of 2006! That week changed my whole point of view and lots of my priorities for my life. Yet I was left feeling frustrated because I didn't know when I would be able to save up enough money to go back to the school. Wanting to learn to live off the land and yet being forced to have a job and everything that goes with that was making my mind and soul hurt sometimes. Something has to change!

This fall I decided that I was tired of throwing my money away in rent, Internet, and all the other little things that come with an apartment. I had learned to make a shelter in class and in books, so what was holding me back? I took a look around, looking for a place that looked so out of the way that no one would want to even walk close to my shelter area. I finally found a place and started planning and building my new home. I am very happy to say that in Jan. 2007 I moved out of my apartment and into my shelter.

This blog will hopefully serve multiple purposes. I want to share my story as it unfolds before me. I also am planning on sharing ideas and strategies in survival in generally and how to adapt these principles for the suburban landscape.

I invite everyone to join me in this journey. Please ask questions so I know who is out there listening.