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Survival shows and intrepid Instagrammers have made us believe that in order to survive in the bush we need to hole up in a cave or construct an intricate shelter from tree limbs and pine boughs. But in reality, a simple shelter is all that is necessary to survive the night. Here are the five items you need to build a shelter like a special operator.

Rain Poncho

Soldier setting up shelter

Most military guys probably have a love/hate relationship with ponchos. To a young soldier, they seem like a pointless piece of outdated gear. But to a survival pro, a poncho out punches a parka any day. The reason lies in its versatility. A poncho can keep you dry while on the move, but it also makes an excellent hasty shelter. Ever wonder why the poncho has grommets on the edges? It’s for attaching cords to string up to trees or other supports. 

Pro Tip: Being able to set up your shelter quickly is critical. When you pack your poncho, affix 10 to 12-foot lengths of para-cord to corner grommets. This way you’re ready to tie it off quickly in a rainstorm.

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550 Cord

550 Cord Shelter

550 cord is one of those tools you can never have enough of. From rigging up a hasty shelter to building a field tourniquet to setting snares and traps for game, a length of 550 cord is worth its weight in gold when you’re in the bush. Survival experts recommend replacing your boot laces with 550 cord and keep them extra long. The excess can be wrapped around the top of your boot and tied off. This way you’re never without a length in the event you get separated from your pack.

Pro Tip: 550 cord is composed of a nylon sheath and seven internal strands each made of 2-3 fibers. Removing the inner strands and dismantling can provide you with finer threads that can be used for everything from fishing to sewing. 

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Emergency Mylar Blanket

Emergency Blanket Shelter

If you pack only one thing when you go out into the bush, it should be an emergency blanket. Sure, a knife is important. As is a water supply. But hypothermia is no joke and it can sneak up on you a lot faster than dehydration. Most emergency blankets are extremely packable and are durable enough to last through a few days of use. Use it as a ground tarp in warmer weather or wrap it around you to hold in warmth when the mercury drops. 

Pro Tip: While an emergency mylar blanket is designed to hold in your body heat, it can be used as a shelter material or shade and even assist in signaling aircraft during rescue.

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Mosquito Net

Mosquito Netting

Nearly every ecosystem on the planet has some form of biting insect. While many bites are harmless or merely an annoyance, some insect bites can have serious consequences for survival. Drape the netting over your sleeping area and elevate it with sticks to form a cocoon around you. This will keep insects away from your body while you sleep. 

Pro Tip: Most mosquito nets are sturdy enough to double as a fishing net and can even be utilized as a mist net for catching winged game.

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Hammock in the field

If you’re a hardcore operator, you’re probably accustomed to sleeping in the mud. But for the rest of us, getting up off the ground while in the bush can be a lifesaver. Hammocks have been used for centuries across the globe as a way to stay off the forest floor frequented by spiders, snakes and rodents, especially at night. A lightweight hammock can pack down to the size of your fist and can be set up in minutes. Splurging for a hammock cover can make your setup infinitely better and saves your poncho for other uses. 

Pro Tip: Opt for a double size hammock. The extra room will accommodate insulation like leaves or pine boughs, as well as your pack and other gear. 

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