How to build a Survival Shelter

Learnig how to build a Survival shelter could save you one day

How to Build the Perfect Survival Shelter

Finding yourself stuck in the wilderness overnight without shelter is a scary situation! you will be definitely be wishing you knew how to build a survival shelter. Having quality shelter in a survival scenario can truly be life-saving. In this guide, I’ll walk through everything you need to know about building a survival shelter like a pro.

We’ll chat about:

  • How to pick the ideal spot to build your survival shelter
  • Different types of survival shelters you can make
  • Customizing your survival shelter for maximum protection
  • Why proper shelter is so critical in a wilderness emergency

This info could one day save your life, so let’s get you shelter-ready

build a survival shelter<br />

Choosing the Best Survival Shelter Location

Picking the perfect spot to build your survival shelter is super important. You want quick access to water, fuel, and natural protection without wasting energy. Here are pro tips:

  • Near water – Save energy by building near a water source. Don’t hike miles for water!

  • Close to fuel – Situate your shelter within range of wood and tinder for fires.

  • Slightly elevated ground – Take the high ground for drainage if it rains. Avoid valleys.

  • Natural wind protection – Use hillsides and thickets to block wind and weather.

  • No dead trees overhead – Watch for standing dead trees that could fall on you. Yikes!

  • Away from animal dens – Pick a spot safely away from signs of bears or mountain lions.

Nailing your survival shelter location sets you up for success.

Types of Survival Shelters You Can Make


With some wilderness know-how and scavenging, you can create all sorts of survival shelters from natural materials. Here are some of the most reliable types to try:

Debris Hut

This classic survival shelter is built by mounding a small hill from sticks, leaves, pine needles and other forest debris.

How to Build a Debris Hut:

  • Gather armfuls of debris – look for long sticks, branches, grasses, leaves, pine needles. The more the better.
  • Start piling the debris into a mound, criss-crossing the longer sticks and branches.
  • Stack and layer the debris upwards into a small hill, about 3-4 feet high and 4-5 feet in diameter.
  • Hollow out the center of the mound by crawling inside and digging it out. Create a protected hollow just big enough to lay in.
  • Line the inside densely with more soft insulating debris like leaves, grasses, ferns.

Pro Tip: A thigh-high entrance tunnel blocks wind and traps warm air inside! 



This slanted shelter is built by leaning angled poles and logs against trees or rock walls. It’s quick and efficient.

How to Make a Lean-To:

  • Cut 3-4 sturdy poles 6-8 feet long. Straight green saplings or sticks work well.
  • Lean and angle the poles against a tree trunk, rock outcropping, fallen log, or embankment at a 45 degree angle.
  • Anchor the poles by criss-crossing shorter sticks and logs on top. Or wedge between boulders.
  • Layer waterproof debris like bark, leaves, evergreen branches across the poles to create a slanted roof.
  • Pack overhanging debris on the roof like shingles to block rain, wind.
  • Stack rocks, logs, or debris along the sides for protection from wind and exposure.

Pro Tip: Angle the open side away from the prevailing wind direction.

Tarp Tent

With some rope or paracord and poles or hiking staffs, a tarp becomes a versatile waterproof survival shelter.

How to Make a Tarp Tent:

  • Tie rope between two trees (or use hiking staffs) to make a ridgeline.
  • Lay a waterproof tarp over the rope, draping it to make a tent. Weigh down the edges with debris.
  • For an A-frame tent, tie the ends of the tarp to trees or branches as angled support poles. Secure with knots.
  • For a cube tent, suspend the tarp with rope over a square frame made of lashed together poles or branches.
  • Tie or prop up tarps against embankments, overhangs or bushes to create enclosed survival shelter.

Pro Tip: Layer tarps or weave in debris for improved insulation and waterproofing.

Customizing Your Survival Shelter

Dial in insulation, waterproofing, and ventilation to make your survival shelter livable:

  • Insulate with leaves, grass, pine boughs to retain body heat. Critical for warmth!
  • Reinforce walls with stacked rocks or logs to block wind/rain getting in.
  • Waterproof the roof with layered bark, debris, mud to stop leaks.
  • Ventilate to prevent dangerous CO2 buildup from fires inside.

Customizing your survival shelter can mean the difference between comfort and calamity!

Why Proper Shelter is Absolutely Essential


In any wilderness emergency scenario, constructing quality shelter provides:

**Critical Warmth**

– Traps body heat to maintain safe temperature through the night or cold days
– Shields from wind chill that quickly steals warmth
– Insulation from ground cold to avoid hypothermia

**Protection from the Elements**

– Keeps you dry by sheltering from rain, snow, and moisture
– Blocks harsh winds that exhaust and threaten to knock down
– Shades from direct sun exposure that can cause heat issues

**Safety from Hazards**

– Shields from falling tree limbs, rocks, and other objects
– Creates a barrier from predatory animals seeking an easy meal
– Allows rest without fear of danger for mental peace

**Visibility for Rescuers**

– Fire and smoke provide sight and alert signals
– Tarp shelters can stand out against landscapes
– Site location on high ground aids visibility

**Mental Fortitude to Endure**

– Provides order and calm by meeting a basic survival need
– Having shelter motivates continued perseverance
– Aids rest and recovery to gather strength for self-rescue

In survival, few things are as crucial as quick, quality shelter. Prepare and build well, as your shelter can be the difference between succumbing to the elements or living long enough to be rescued or find your way back to safety. Use this knowledge to build sturdy, insulating, protective survival shelters. The skills and preparation you gain now could truly save your life in the wilderness.

Let me know if this expanded section on the importance and benefits of survival shelter fits your needs!

Q: What should I look for when picking a spot to build my survival shelter?

A: Think about what you’ll need quick access to, buddy! Water, firewood, natural wind protection, and avoiding dead trees/animals are key things to look for in an ideal shelter spot.

Q: What can I use out in the wilderness to build an emergency shelter?

A: Look around for sticks, leaves, bark, pine needles, logs – whatever nature provides! With some MacGyver ingenuity you can transform natural materials into solid shelters.

Q: What kinds of shelters can I whip together if I’m ever in a bind?

A: Some good options are debris huts, lean-to’s against trees, tarp tents staked out between stuff, and A-frame shelters. Use what you’ve got!

Q: How do I make sure my makeshift shelter’s roof doesn’t leak?

A: Layering bark, leaves, pine needles and even mud makes a waterproof seal. Pack it on thickly like shingles! Gotta stay dry.

Q: What should I use inside my shelter for insulation?

A: Pile in ALL the dry leaves, grasses, boughs you can find! The thicker the debris insulation, the more it’ll trap your body warmth.

Q: My shelter walls are pretty flimsy – how can I reinforce them?

A: Stack up rocks, logs, compacted snow – anything to make those walls sturdy against wind and rain. Get creative with materials!

Q: Is ventilation important for my survival shelter? Why?

A: Absolutely! You gotta have airflow to prevent dangerous CO2 buildup from small fires inside. Don’t suffocate yourself!

Q: How can I improve my shelter’s visibility to rescuers?

A: Build on high ground, keep the entrance facing trails, clear trees for aerial views, and light smoke signals!

Q: What size should I make my wilderness shelter?

A: Just big enough to curl up and sleep, friend! 2-4 feet wide and 3-5 feet long minimum. Conserve that body heat!

Q: How can I stay dry in my makeshift shelter?

A: Waterproof roof, elevate off wet ground, and dig rain drainage trenches! Keep the water away from you.