We are in a Robinson Crusoe situation where we're stranded on a tropical island (lonely or not). We've to setup our camp.

How to determine the right piece of land? For example you might wanna have a hill covering the "weather side" and a water source nearby.


3 Answers 3


This depends greatly on the situation at hand and there are enormous amounts of factors that will effect your decision to build in a specific location.

For example, if you are in an extremely remote location and are more likely to be stranded for a long period of time, it may be more beneficial for you to seek shelter as a means of survival rather than focusing on gaining attention from rescuers. This may affect your decision on the "right piece of land" as much as weather can.

Ideally, you would want to construct your shelter in an area that can withstand mother nature but this depends on many factors.

A Few Factors to consider

  • Weather - Direction of incoming weather. Tropical storms? Hurricanes?
  • Terrain - Is the island flat? Can you take shelter in a cave (beware of animals, thanks @njzk2)?
  • Climate Zone - are you located in a temperate climate?
  • Resources - can you build a strong structure that can withstand the weather? If so, you may want to build in an area that can also help with visual distress signaling.
  • Distance to food sources - If the food is located on the other side of a 5 mile wide island, I would try to relocate to that vicinity.
  • Distress Signals - As mentioned above, you may want to consider how you plan on creating distress signals. If the high point of the island where you set up your signal fire is on the other side of the island. Getting there in a hurry from your structure may not be fun.
  • 3
    beware of animals in caves, though
    – njzk2
    Dec 4, 2015 at 20:09

Shelter is by far the most important initial consideration. Since you are stranded there anyway, you will have the opportunity to move your camp.

Since you specify a tropical island, you want shelter from the sun more than anything else. You won't freeze to death in the tropics if you aren't on a mountain top.

So in order of importance based on time before it becomes critical:

1) find shelter from the sun (that's going to be your strongest and most consistent element you need to get out of.

2) find a place to shelter you from wind and rain.

3) figure out clothing (remember the sun?)

4) find a source of fresh water (rain ketching is good but inconsistent out of the rainy seasons)

5) food

6) nutrients - you won't starve from lack of proper nutrition, but you will weaken over longer periods of time (measured in months and years) This is not an emergency survival need, this is a long term health need.

7) medicine - I am placing this dead last because you either have your meds or you do not and there is nothing you can do about this.

  • 3
    +1, for shelter from sun, but water seems too far down the list.
    – ab2
    Dec 4, 2015 at 22:11
  • 1
    Shelter, clothing, water,food that's the order
    – Escoce
    Dec 4, 2015 at 23:31
  • The relative importance of clothing depends on the environment, and odds are you're likely to have somewhat suitable clothing on you from the outset. In any case clothing is essentially portable shelter, and shelter is primary like you say.
    – Erik
    Jan 13, 2016 at 3:00

Always go for shelter then water. Then food because you can survive three weeks without it and only three days without water if you're lucky

  • 4
    I think "Generally go for..." would be better than "Always go for..." There may be some cases where potable water is priority 1, especially in OP's specific case. Ex: You've drifted for a day without water already before making landfall, and the conditions are pleasant enough that you won't die from the elements today... shelter today and water tomorrow will put you on your third day without water, which could be your death if you cannot get any that day. My point: just be careful when using the word "always".
    – Loduwijk
    Jun 6, 2018 at 14:09

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