Arctic Wisdom: Inside Glenn’s Emergency Shelter

“If you have to abandon ship, you need a lifeboat.” – Glenn Villenueve

Several episodes ago, Glenn Villenueve returned to his camp in the Brooks Range. Glenn’s life at 65 miles north of the Arctic Circle is completely isolated from civilization, and if a bear attacks his cabin, he’s on his own.


A nature purist dedicated to subsisting off the land, Glenn lives in the Alaskan bush with no modern technology, electricity or running water. Instead, Glenn burns wood for heat, melts snow to drink, hunts for game and eats wild roots and berries. Glenn may be able to sustain himself on the tundra, but warding off predators is a more difficult task.

From mauling him in his sleep to pushing over his wood stove and setting his cabin on fire, bears are Glenn’s number one threat to his subsistence lifestyle in the Arctic. Should a bear take out Glenn’s already-damaged habitat, he needs a contingency plan. a backup shelter to keep him safe and warm. On this week’s Life Below Zero, he takes action to protect himself.

On Glenn’s property is a sod house, made from spruce poles covered in grass and soil. It’s not an ideal habitat, but Glenn hopes to fix it up to serve as an emergency hideout in case his main cabin meets a disastrous fate.

Glenn’s first task is clearing the snow out of the sod house – because what good is a shelter if it’s just as snowy as outside?


Since the house’s cold floor won’t work to keep Glenn warm, he needs to lay a spruce bough carpet and use the branches as insulation, a trick he learned from the Cree Indians in Quebec. As it turns out, the store-bought string he uses isn’t as sturdy as his homemade twine he crafts from caribou hide, and continues to break.


Soon, Glenn manages to conquer the spruce boughs, laying the needles in a special way that won’t hurt his feet when he walks around barefoot. To light his new habitat, he builds a lamp fueled by moose fat with a sphagnum moss wick.


With a newly insulated floor, an entrance made from caribou hide and a safe, sustainable light source, Glenn’s emergency shelter now has the goods to keep him safe in the winter months.


Don’t miss an all-new LBZ on Thursday at 9P.



  1. Karyl Smith
    Argyle, Texas
    June 18, 2014, 11:42 pm

    thanks for the new clips. Love the show and especially enjoy watching you enjoy your life there.

  2. Catherine Coyne
    Phoenix, AZ
    June 19, 2014, 4:22 pm

    I’m sure people don’t realize how hard Glenn works at what he does just to exist. Is there someway, though, he could add more to his diet??

  3. Joanna
    June 20, 2014, 7:47 pm

    Glenn, you do a wonderful job of educating folks on what you are doing, how you do it and why. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. I truly look forward to each episode and what you have to share each week.

  4. Dan Mccraw
    United States
    July 11, 2014, 3:50 pm

    Glen I would love to live like you do.

  5. jimmy calaway
    mcdonald tn.
    October 6, 2014, 10:26 pm

    i love the is the way of life that only real men can do.thanks for showing what ot takes to be a true free life!

  6. jimmy calaway
    mcdonald tn.
    October 6, 2014, 10:28 pm

    i love the is the way of life that only real men can do.thanks for showing what it takes to be a true free life!