How To Build A Survival Shelter In The Wild

How To Build A Survival Shelter In The Wild?

Last Updated on by Alex

Take advantage of the warmer months and practice some of your outdoor skills by learning how to build a survival shelter in the wild. Knowing how to make this kind of shelter is vital in survival situations. Here we are going to look at multiple designs for survival shelters, as well as guiding you on choosing the right materials and locations for the best results.

Choosing The Right Location

You will have to choose a location to build your shelter based on how long you will be using it. Short-term shelters will need to be placed in a different place to longer-term ones.

nature

For short-term shelter, you want to look for fallen trees, caves, or rocky overhangs. Trees are a great source of shelter and can also provide you with the materials you need to build it as well.

If you know you will need the shelter for a longer period of time, there are a lot more factors you need to consider. You want to be near food and water sources. Another thing to think about is whether you want to visible or hidden for your survival needs.

Different Types Of Shelter

Here are some of the different types of survival shelter which we will be exploring in more detail below:

  • Frame and tarp shelter
  • Body heat shelter
  • Lean-to or open shelter
  • A-frame shelter
  • Teepee shelters
  • Subterranean shelter
  • Log cabin for long-term shelter

Frame And Tarp Shelter

One of the best things you could ever carry in your survival backpack is a tarp. If you are well prepared, you can use your tarp along with a simple wooden frame to create a shelter for short-term survival. Creating a frame is easy. All you need to do is lean the poles against a tree trunk or low branch so that the tarp will fit over it.

tarp shelter

An important thing to remember about this kind of shelter is to remove sharp edges from the wood. You may also want to wrap leaves around the corners so that the tarp doesn’t get ripped or punctured. In a real emergency, you can forget about the poles and wrap yourself in the tarp as a quick makeshift shelter.

Body Heat Shelter

Another short-term and easy to build a shelter is one made specifically for body heat. These shelters are great for emergencies and can comfortably accommodate two people.

To begin building a body heat shelter, you need to find debris on the ground like leaves, dirt, and twigs. Create a mound out of this debris and then use larger sticks to frame it. Now clear a hole in your mound that is big enough for you to crawl into, sort of like a cave. Block the opening so that airflow is limited to keep the warmth in. When your body emits heat, the warmth gets trapped in the shelter and will keep you cozy through the night too.

snow shelter

You may be thinking about wintery weather, and what you would do with this shelter in the snow. That’s easy! If the ground is covered in snow, then use that to build your mound instead. Snow may be cold, but it is an excellent insulator against the outdoor elements and will trap your body heat just as effectively.

Lean-To Or Open Shelter

Open shelters and lean-tos have the added advantage of protecting you against rain and wind and can fit up to four people. Building this type of shelter could take anywhere from two to five hours, depending on what supplies you have on hand. 

To start building a lean-to, you need to look for downed trees. The branches have to be low enough so that it can support the top of your shelter. Then you will need around five or six poles to lean against the top support of your shelter, aka the branch. The poles need to be placed at 45-60 degree angles, creating enough space to fit your team and any gear you have underneath it comfortably.

a frame shelter

The next step is creating your grid. Get 5 to 6 more poles and place them across the frame. You can even add in leafy branches to form a sort of thatch roof for your shelter as well. Walls can also be added in for extra protection against the elements. Tarps and blankets can also be hung from the door as a sort of curtain for privacy.

A-Frame Shelter

A-frame shelters are made in a similar way to lean-tos. The difference here is that the main branch you use as your top support will need to lie on the ground and then extend up into a tree. You then attach poles to the support branch in a way that gives you enough height to sit underneath it.

Teepee Shelters

Teepees have the advantage of not needing a downed tree. They can stand alone or use the help of a tree trunk for construction. It can be easier to use a slender tree as the central support of your tepee, attaching the rest of the poles around it to create a cone shape to shelter under.

How you build your tepee will depend on what you are using the shelter for. You could either close the roof off completely or leave a gap for ventilation if you plan to use fire inside. 

teepee

Once you have a sturdy frame constructed, you can fill in the gaps with whatever materials you have on hand. This could be leaves, mud, or grass. Having a material such as these on the outside of your shelter will stop rain from leaking into the structure.

Subterranean Shelter

Subterranean shelters can be a short term shelter solution that is built from a mound of earth, much the same as a body heat shelter. The best place for this kind of shelter is around the roots of fallen trees so that the mound has more support to stop any cave-ins.

This kind of shelter can also be built for the long-term, but it will require some careful planning on your part. A shelter like this would be something you build in advance for SHTF situations as opposed to building it in the wild when you are already in a survival predicament.

underground shelter

Any survivalist who wants to build one of these structures has a lot of different designs to choose from. The most extreme ones are completely kitted out with their own power supplies, home comforts, and even functioning systems for defense.

Log Cabin

If a disaster emerges that puts an end to the world as we know it, you may want to understand how a long-term shelter is built. Log cabins are dependable and solid and are built using the materials that surround them. This type of shelter takes a long time to build, as well as the resources and energy in spades to be able to do it.

Log cabins are built using a framework of logs that interlock at the corners, forming a rectangle. The ground you choose to build on will need to be clear and level. You may also want to place large rocks before starting your construction so that the cabin is off the ground a couple of feet.

Survival Tools Needed For Building A Shelter

Tools and materials should be a big part of your survival backpack gear. Certain tools are a must-have when you find yourself needing shelter in an emergency.

equipment

To make sure you have all of the tools needed to survive out in the wild, think about what tasks you will be doing as part of building a shelter. De-branching, notching, cutting, lashing, weaving, and digging all require tools that can easily be carried in your pack.

Here is a list of the best survival supplies you should have on hand to build any type of shelter out in the wild:

  • Fixed blade knife – Can be used for cutting cord and small branches, removing bark from poles and logs, and notching poles for a secure fit before lashing.
  • Multitools – Can be used for sawing through smaller branches, filing down sharp corners to stop tarps from tearing, removing splinters, and loosening knots in cords.
  • Hatchet – Can be used for cutting and debranching larger trees, cutting down trees when building a log cabin, and preventing your knife from dulling.
  • Folding shovel – Can be used for clearing the ground before building your shelter, digging in the snow or dirt to build a body heat shelter, leveling out the ground for your support poles, or for excavating large rocks to make stilts from.
  • Tarp – Can be used as a door or roof for any shelter, wrapping around you and your gear for protection and warmth in inclement weather or for making a sling to store your supplies off the ground.
  • Blankets – Can be used as a roof or door for your shelter, wrapping around you for extra warmth or for making a sling for supplies, so they are protected from wildlife above the ground.
  • Cords and ropes – Can be used for lashing poles together to create the framework of the shelter and many other applications.
  • Zip ties – Can be used for attaching smaller branches and poles, fastening your tarp to the top of your structure to create a barrier from the rain or substitute for rope when doing light construction.
  • Gloves – For protecting your hands as shelter building is hard work.
  • Lighter – Fire can be used to melt the ends of your cords and rope so they won’t fray and cause instability for your shelter.

Precautions To Take

No matter where you have chosen to place your shelter, you must always be conscious of the wildlife around you. The land should be surveyed before any shelter is built so that dangers such as snakes can be removed beforehand.

bear

Leaf piles and bushes are where creatures will be hiding the most. Using a stick, gently prod any piles before exploring further with your hands. Stored food should also be tied up and then hoisted into a tree. This will stop creatures from being attracted to your shelter.

Foliage is something else you need to pay attention to when building a shelter out in the wild. Any that has a chalky white color to it is moldy, which could then spread throughout your shelter and have significant impacts on your health. Trees that contain a lot of lacey leaves should also be avoided as this is a sure sign of an insect infestation.

beautiful nature

Summary

Now that you know the basics of planning and building your shelter, the next step is to have a go and practice constructing one for yourself. Skills such as lashing and weaving can be practiced in your garden. When it comes to building a shelter in the wild, you need to get out there and get some real-world experience. Take note of all the factors involved, such as the materials you needed most and how long the overall build took. Knowing these things can be a life-save in any disaster scenario. 

What Precautions To Take When Building A Shelter?

Leaf piles and bushes are where creatures will be hiding the most. Using a stick, gently prod any piles before exploring further with your hands. Stored food should also be tied up and then hoisted into a tree. This will stop creatures from being attracted to your shelter.
Foliage is something else you need to pay attention to when building a shelter out in the wild. Any that has a chalky white color to it is moldy, which could then spread throughout your shelter and have significant impacts on your health. Trees that contain a lot of lacey leaves should also be avoided as this is a sure sign of an insect infestation.

What Is A Subterranean Shelter?

Subterranean shelters can be a short term shelter solution that is built from a mound of earth, much the same as a body heat shelter. The best place for this kind of shelter is around the roots of fallen trees so that the mound has more support to stop any cave-ins.
This kind of shelter can also be built for the long-term, but it will require some careful planning on your part. A shelter like this would be something you build in advance for SHTF situations as opposed to building it in the wild when you are already in a survival predicament.

How To Choose The Right Location When Building A Shelter?

You will have to choose a location to build your shelter based on how long you will be using it. Short-term shelters will need to be placed in a different place to longer-term ones.
For short-term shelter, you want to look for fallen trees, caves, or rocky overhangs. Trees are a great source of shelter and can also provide you with the materials you need to build it as well.
If you know you will need the shelter for a longer period of time, there are a lot more factors you need to consider. You want to be near food and water sources. Another thing to think about is whether you want to visible or hidden for your survival needs.