How To Build Survival Shelter

When you are out trekking, find yourself in a national park, or been traveling but gotten lost, then you might be looking at the sun traveling across the sky and realize that you are going to have to camp out tonight.

How To Build Survival Shelter

If you came prepared then this is great and a wonderful experience, but if this happened by accident then this is terrible news, and you might start panicking.

However, there are ways to still have a comfortable night and not be thrust into despair.

The most important thing to do is to build a survival shelter, and it is a skill that every person should at least know the basics of.

So, how do you build a survival shelter? Well, there are a few steps to it, but it is not as complicated as you think.


The first thing you need to do is to choose an appropriate campsite.

It needs to be a place that has dry ground, needs to be on flat land – so when it rains, the water won’t sweep you away -, and not underneath anything that could fall on you – like rocks or branches.

These are all things to ensure that you won’t freeze or get hurt while you sleep.

The site should also be close to a body of water while also being at least 20 feet away from it, in case the water rises and floods your camp.

Finally, it should have a good place for a fire near where you are sleeping, that won’t cause the fire to spread or go out. (You can also make your camp hidden if you want).

Consider Your Shelter And Camp In General

After you have found the perfect campsite or at least an acceptable one, it is time to take a step back and consider your needs at this moment from your shelter.

You need to start asking important questions and answering them yourself, like:

  • How much time do you have to build a shelter?
  • Is it a shelter for long term or short term use?
  • Is it cold, and will it get colder tonight? Will the fire need to be close to the shelter?
  • Should the shelter be hidden?
  • How many people need to be in the shelter?
  • What materials do I have to build the shelter?

It will also be the time to consider what tools you have to make this shelter.

If you have even a small knife (Also check out How To Wear A Boot Knife) it will make this shelter so much easier to make, but if you don’t then that will be problematic.

The best things to have are a survival knife or machete, an axe, a saw, and a shovel.

If you have none of these, try to find a rock (like flint or jasper) you can hold in your hand with a sharp edge. It can serve as a rudimentary knife or axe for this purpose.

How To Build Survival Shelter

Type Of Shelter

For survival shelters, we are going to assume you do not have much with you to make the shelter.

However, we will explore two options: one with a material you might bring – a tarp – and another made completely from the forest (Check out The Easiest Foods You Can Find In Eastern Forests) around you – a bivouac:


A tarp is a great survival tool and should be brought with you on extended treks. It is just a big plastic sheet, but it is malleable and waterproof.

The easiest tarp shelter to make is a tarp lean- to. You take your tarp and attach it to two large trees, evenly spaced apart, that are still close enough for your tarp to bridge the gap between them.

You tie one corner of your tarp to one tree using cordage (either from the forest or from what you have brought) and the adjacent on to the other tree.

With these two corners secure, get the part of the tarp not attached to the trees and pull it behind where it is attached to a stretched 45-degree angle.

Make sure the corners on the ground are in line with the corners on the trees, before securing them to the ground. You can do this with large, heavy rocks or with cordage.

Clear out underneath where the tarp is hanging, and voile, immediate emergency shelter that should keep the worst of the weather off.


Bivouac are temporary shelters made from the materials around a person in nature. They are fantastic ports in a storm and designed to be quick to build.

The easiest kind of bivouac is the A-frame shelter.

You need to find either two trees with Y shaped trunks in close proximity or make two very secure Y shaped structures that can hold a shelter.

We will go with the first one, because it is simpler and easier. Now, you need to get a large, solid (not rotten) log that you can lift and can slot it into the Y shape in the tree.

Once it is in, and you are sure it is secure, gather a lot of fairly large, straight sticks that are solid and not rotten.

Place these sticks at a 55 to 65-degree angle against the solid log, making sure they are secure by pushing them into the (and with cordage onto the log if you can).

Each stick must be very close together so few holes separate them. Keep piling the sticks until the area between the two trees is filled with them.

Then cover the sticks in vegetation. Make sure the vegetation is not too heavy, but it needs to cover every itch and every potential hole.

Once you have finished, stand back and admire your work. It may not be pretty, but it should keep you warm and safe for the night.


Survival shelters are all about speed and necessity. If you are in need of a survival shelter now, don’t worry about how long it will last, only that it will last for that night.

The shelters above are perfect for that and should keep you safe in the long run.

Tim Roth
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