How to survive up fisherman’s creek without a bivvy

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Survival- it’s a messy business
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Imagine the scenario: after a satisfying day’s fishing far away from civilization, the cold, dark night begins to creep in so you decide to get your bivvy erected. Trouble is, you’ve forgotten your bivvy — Doh!

It’s too far to walk home, the light is fading fast and the cold is beginning to snap at your bones — what do you do? You transform into Ray Mears and build a bivvy — obviously.

The decision

well built bivvy

A well built bivvy will help you survive
Photo by Dominic Alves

Survival is about making decisions — choose the correct steps in a survival situation and you dramatically increase your chances of survival.

If presented with a situation where you’re cold, wet or exhausted, building a shelter is one of the most important moves you can make. A good shelter will shield you from the elements and also hide and protect you from wildlife.

Using the terrain

tree shelter

Ready made bivvy
Photo by Chip 2904

If you don’t have much time and the terrain is favorable, then work with what’s already there.

Caves or overhangs can provide shelter from the wind and rain, tree branches will provide an instant canopy of thick cover and fallen or standing hollow trees can be used as sleeping burrows.


beware crocodiles

Read the signs
Photo by Dale Mastin

Before building a shelter you need to decide where you’re going to build it.

Keep away from potential hazards like dry riverbeds and cliff tops and heed warning signs. No really!

Working with what you have

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Use what you have – hopefully you’ve remembered your knife
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Using what you have or what you can find is essential in a survival situation. There may be debris around you can use like bits of old rope or ripped plastic sheeting.

If you’ve brought basic tools like a multipurpose survival knife, fishing wire and a good torch, then things should be a lot easier. And don’t forget your poncho …

Poncho Shelter


Pack a multi-purpose poncho
Photo by Gary Leeming

If you’ve brought a poncho with you or happen to have some plastic sheeting, then you’ll be able to make a simple shelter.

The objective is to make a shape like a tent with the poncho and get underneath.

Simply run a length of rope under the poncho, attaching each end to a tree and then stake the sides into the ground with sharpened sticks. Or attach each corner of the poncho to four trees like in the picture.

Field expedient

stick bivvy

The field expedient bivvy
Photo by John Bointon

If you’ve come truly unprepared, then the field expedient shelter is probably your best bet as it is built using only natural objects found in the immediate vicinity.

The first step is to make a simple frame using a long ridge pole, which can either be supported by placing one end on a rock, tree or Y-shaped branch stuck in the ground and the other end on the floor.

Next create ribs by leaning branches along the ridgepole, which can be secured by vines or reeds. Then cover the frame with pine boughs, leaves and smaller clumps of foliage to provide insulation.

Handy tips

Avoid sleeping directly on the floor as you will lose lots of body heat; instead insulate the floor with pine needles and grass. Place rocks or stones heated on a fire inside the shelter for extra warmth. When you’ve built your shelter, get a brew on and cook a fish supper.