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Desert shelters

In an arid environment, consider the time, effort, and material needed to make a shelter. If you have material such as a poncho, canvas, or a parachute, use it along with such terrain features as rock outcroppings, mounds of sand, or depressions between dunes or rocks to make your shelter.

When using rock outcroppings, you should—

  • Anchor one end of your poncho (canvas, parachute, or other material) on the edge of the outcrop using rocks or other weights.
  • Extend and anchor the other end of the poncho so it provides the best possible shade.

In a sandy area, you should—

  • Build a mound of sand or use the side of a sand dune for one side of the shelter.
  • Anchor one end of the material on top of the mound using sand or other weights.
  • Extend and anchor the other end of the material so it provides the best possible shade.

NOTE: If you have enough material, fold it in half and form a 30- to 45-centimeter (12- to 18-inch) airspace between the two halves. This airspace will reduce the temperature under the shelter.

Below ground desert shelter

Belowground Desert Shelter



A below ground shelter  can reduce the midday heat as much as 16 to 22 degrees C (30 to 40 degrees F). However, building it requires more time and effort than for other shelters. Since your physical effort will make you sweat more and increase dehydration, construct it before the heat of the day.

To make this shelter, you should—

  • Find a low spot or depression between dunes or rocks. If necessary, dig a trench 45 to 60 centimeters (18 to 24 inches) deep, and long and wide enough for you to lie in comfortably.
  • Pile the sand you take from the trench to form a mound around three sides.
  • On the open end of the trench, dig out more sand so you can get in and out of your shelter easily.
  • Cover the trench with your material.
  • Secure the material in place using sand, rocks, or other weights.

If you have extra material, you can further decrease the midday temperature in the trench by securing the material 30 to 45 centimeters (12 to 18 inches) above the other cover. This layering of the material will reduce the inside temperature 11 to 22 degrees C (20 to 40 degrees F).

The open desert shelter is of similar construction, except all sides are open to air currents and circulation. For maximum protection, you need a minimum of two layers of parachute material . White is the best color to reflect heat; the innermost layer should be of darker material.

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