Kristina Henderson
High School Honorable Mention - 2010 Survival Design Challenge
Our Night Lost in the Forest

My friend and I have gotten separated from our crew out in a National Forest. Our guides had told everyone that if we get lost to just stay where we are instead of wondering around so they would be able to find us. Since we are definitely lost we have decided to make the best of the situation.

We walk around the area to survey it first. We discovered a small stream. It’s late in the day and shelter seems to be the most important thing at this point. I would like to make a lean-to, since I have some trees, and that seems to be the simplest shelter. I want to be away from the small stream so I will stay warmer. I’m trying to figure out how to make a shelter for us to survive. I have my friends and my backpack with supplies. In the backpack we have found a spiral notebook, a cell phone (no service), two large rubber bands, a scarf/bandana, empty plastic bottle, two retractable pens, two pencils, a pack of gum, a comb, nail file and mirror. I’ve also found a lot of pine needles and pine cones and of course there are trees, leaves, sticks, and twigs. I use the pencil and notebook to sketch a plan and make a list of supplies needed. Since there are trees in the forest, I will pick two trees out that are next to each other but have enough space between them to get in and out of the shelter. I’m using these two trees to make part of the frame of my lean-to to make it sturdy and sound. Next, since I have plenty of pine needles, I’m going to put them on the dirt right beside the trees. I’m going to put them along the side of the trees where the wind wouldn’t get in so I can stay a little warmer. I’m using the pine needles on the ground because the pine needles don’t deteriorate like leaves do. I’m adding a thick layer of them to make a little bit of cushion. The only problem with this is that pine needles aren’t very comfortable, so I’m adding a layer of leaves to the pine needles to make a shelter as comfortable as possible. Next, I want to make the largest side of my shelter opposite the trees. It will need to be long enough for us to lie in. The sides will be made of limbs. I am collecting some limbs that are big from a pine tree because the limbs would make more insulation to keep my friend and I warmer at night. I have taken two limbs about the same length with “y” s at the top and stuck them in the ground right next to the trees, one on each side. Next I’m laying a long stick across the two “y” s to create a rafter to lay the walls against. I will stick one end of the limb into the ground at a forty-five degree angle and lean the other end up against the tree and limb across the “y”s. I will do this with enough limbs to make a wall, each limb close to the next.

After I have the limbs all put up I will get more leaves and try filling in all the cracks with leaves and pine needles. Then, I will make one of the sides by gathering more limbs, sticking one end of each limb into the ground and taking it straight up making a ninety-degree angle. These limbs will lie against the 45-degree angle wall I built against the trees. I will do this until I have covered up one whole side of the shelter. Once again, I will take the leaves and pine needles and try to cover up all of the holes. Now I have two sides down and the third side has my door and trees, so now all I have to do is my last side and then I will have a shelter for my friend and I. My friend has been keeping notes on what we have been doing, but since it is getting late my friend will gather more limbs now and I will be pushing them down into the ground and taking them straight up just like I did with the opposite end. I will continue to do this until I have all side done. Then we will gather more leaves and pine needles to fill in as many of the holes as possible. Just to make sure that our shelter is sturdy enough to keep under any circumstances I will take the wire off my spiral notebook and tie any sticks that don’t look real sturdy together to make my shelter safer. If I need more string or wire to tie my sticks together for our shelter I will cut the strings off of my backpack with my knife that I keep in my pocket. By the time I get all this done it’s getting dark out so my friend and I will go to sleep and hope somebody finds us.

After spending a somewhat comfortable night, the next morning we were going to look for food but it was unnecessary because our rescuers found us. They commended us for staying in the area the group had traveled thru. They were also quite impressed with our shelter. We were able to relay our adventure because we had written everything down in our journal with our pencils from our backpacks.



*This essay was written by a student as part of an annual contest to promote engineering concepts. It is not the work of an engineer or of an outdoor survivalist. The ideas included represent creativity and ingenuity; however, facts may not be accurate and the actions described may not be the most appropriate in an actual survival situation. Please see the contest announcement for more information.