According to the survival rule of threes, you can die in as little as three hours without adequate shelter during bad weather.
This fact makes shelter a critical aspect of our survivability. The problem is that there are hundreds of styles of shelters that one could construct in a survival situation.
With shelter building being calorie intensive, it is essential to take the time to learn how to create a few different styles of shelter before you find yourself in a survival situation.
I have selected the following five survival shelters because they fit a variety of situations and are tried and tested designs.
When choosing a spot to camp, you should always consider the five Ws:
Wood: You need to have an adequate supply of wood for both construction of the shelter and to burn in your fire.
Water: Water is essential to life, and we need an accessible supply, but you also need to consider how water could move in relation to your camp in the event of rain.
Wind: Always consider the direction of the prevailing wind and build your shelter to prevent the wind from entering your shelter or filling it with smoke.
Widow makers: Look above your camp area and ensure that no dead branches or trees may fall on your shelter.
Wildlife: Do not set up a camp along game trails or in areas where you find evidence of significant animal activity.
There is also the matter of insulating yourself from the ground. You can use tree boughs, a foam pad, or a raised bed to prevent your body heat from being sucked into the Earth by conduction.
If you are using natural materials, such as tree boughs, you should be attempting to create a bed that is four inches thick when compressed. This will provide an adequate level of insulation from the ground.
A tarp shelter is by far the fastest shelter to set up and requires that you have either a tarp, large garbage bag, emergency blanket, or a large section of plastic, and some cordage to set up.
With a bit of practice, you can have a simple lean-to-tarp shelter set up in less than five minutes. There are dozens of tarp shelters, and learning to set up various styles to suit different conditions is worthwhile.
It is also a good idea to practice sleeping under various tarp shelters under various conditions to better understand the advantages and disadvantages of each style.
The significant advantage of a tarp shelter is that they are quick to set up, but they do suffer the disadvantage of needing to carry a tarp and cordage with you. Tarp shelters also have virtually no insulation properties, so they are not the ideal choice in cold areas.
A debris shelter consists of a frame made from sticks which are covered in leaves, boughs and other debris found on the forest floor.
The advantage of this shelter is that it requires no special gear or tools, but the disadvantage is that it takes a significant amount of time to build. I constructed a debris shelter for a previous article, which took me several hours to make.
Debris shelters have the advantage of not requiring any cordage or tools but suffer a significant disadvantage of being very labor intensive to build. They also suffer the disadvantage of requiring a lot of natural materials and thus are not suited for some environments.
The significant advantage of a teepee is that you can have a fire inside because the smoke rises up through the peak.
These shelters are set up using long poles lashed together and set out in a cone shape. A tarp or canvas is wrapped around the exterior, and an opening is left at the top to remove the fire’s smoke.
Teepees are an excellent shelter option if you are looking for a semi-permanent shelter and you have access to something to wrap the exterior and long poles to build the frame.
One significant disadvantage of a teepee is that the construction requires long and straight poles, cordage, and a large tarp or canvas.
Snow caves are an excellent survival shelter option in areas with deep snow or large snowbanks.
The construction of a snow cave is not as simple as digging a human-sized hole in the snow and calling it a night. Snow caves should have an elevated platform for sleeping, adequate ventilation and airflow, and an entrance lower than the sleeping area.
Snow caves take a significant amount of work, and therefore calories, to construct and require a shovel to move the required volume of snow. Snow caves will block the wind, and the thick walls act as good insulators, but you will still need something to insulate you from the snow while you sleep.
The A-frame is an excellent option if you want a long-term, robust, and versatile shelter option. These shelters are essentially a ridge pole supported on either end by two poles lashed together to create two legs. This forms a triangle shape which is where the A-frame gets its name.
When the basic frame is built, branches are leaned against the ridgepole to form slanted walls that often have boughs, bark or tarp laid over them to provide a waterproof roof.
The advantage of this shelter style is that they are strong, and the steep roof sheds water quickly. The open ends can have walls built to secure the shelter further.
This shelter option allows for the layering of materials that will increase the insulation and make the inside of the shelter warm and cozy. If you can construct a fireplace, you can also have a fire inside of an A-frame.
One of the significant disadvantages of the A-frame is that it does require a base knowledge of knots and construction techniques to succeed. It is also labor intensive and should be used for long-term survival, not short-term emergencies.
Since shelter is an essential aspect of survival, becoming proficient in selecting and constructing several styles is a critical element of our survival.
Knowing about different types of shelters is not enough; you must practice building them to be prepared for when you need to depend on a survival shelter in a life-or-death scenario.