Our semester students are working on debris shelters today. Although effective in certain conditions, the debris shelter is often promoted as the do all, end all of shelters. While I teach and have used them successfully on many occasions, I wholeheartedly disagree with it being the most important shelter. It isn’t practical to build in the boreal forest, which is characterized by a majority of conifers, and it is nearly impossible to build in the winter when the forest floor is covered with several feet of snow. I have seen dogmatic debris shelter supporters suffer through cold nights where they insisted on building it instead of other, more suitable shelters. But where there are a lot of deciduous trees, and especially when those trees are shedding their leaves, it’s a useful and practical shelter that takes advantage of the insulative capacity of trapped air pockets amongst the dead, deciduous leaves.
It’s another example of the need to be adaptive and not dogmatic in the bush, and to beware the advice of any bushcraft or wilderness survival instructor who teaches that their way is the only right way.