If anyone knows how to sleep soundly in the wilderness, it’s Bear Grylls. The former Man vs. Wild host has summited Everest, suffered icy plunges in Siberian waters and fought off starvation in the jungles of Borneo. He’s successfully side-stepped Everglades alligators, avoided frostbite in Antarctica, all the while surviving on such tactics as dirty-water enemas and the eating of many shit-encrusted insects. This summer, TV's best-known survivalist will shepherd celebrities across wild locales on NBC’s Running Wild with Bear Grylls.
Van Winkle's asked Grylls how to build shelter — and, ideally, survive the night — when stranded in the wilderness. Because, as Bear will tell you, preparation is everything.
Work with Your Surroundings
For Grylls, nature giveth all we need to get started.
"When it comes to shelter, you want to look for natural means like fallen trees and caves. This will save the energy it would take to build your own."
Once you've found a suitable home base, build a simple lean-to.
"It works like this: one long branch is secured between two trees at hip height. Use straight sticks leant up against this and tied in place. Aim for roughly 45 degrees and space them evenly. Pile as much foliage on top of the lattice frame for cover. Pile even more foliage under the frame for insulation.
Get on the Ground Floor
Everyone's concern is weather from above. But, Grylls advises, "insulation from the ground is almost more important than overhead cover. Use leaves, ferns and pine to foster warmth."
Cozy up to Granite
Heat-seeking animals already know this trick. "Some rocks like granite radiate heat at the end of the day," says Grylls. "Leaning your shelter against certain rock types can act as nature’s personal insulation.
Secure Your Shelter
Even if the weather is calm when you finally get to sleep, ensure overnight security. Says Grylls, "Lash the shelter well to protect from strong winds. And place it away from potential, natural risks like avalanches or flash flood areas."
Climb Out of the Valley
The lower the elevation, the colder the ground. It follows then, that "the bases of valleys are the coldest," according to Grylls. "Always make a shelter at least 250 feet up from the valley floor."
Radiation not Conflagration
A healthy campfire is critical for surviving in the wilderness, but be mindful of the flames. Grylls advises, "When you’re sleeping at night, make sure your fire is close enough to the entrance of so that it radiates the majority of the heat into it but not so close that it might burn the shelter down."
Sure, you can try sticks and string to make a fire. Grylls has an easier way: "The most effective way to start a fire is to use a Firesteel. In wet conditions, it gives you the best chance of creating fire... I always keep this compact one on me I make in collaboration with Gerber."
The Wilderness Will Provide
For those stuck unexpected in unfamiliar terrain, Grylls has one last big of parting advice: "Remember: nature can provide all that we need."
By keeping one's wits and working with — not against — nature, everyone can increase their chances of surviving in the wild.