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.
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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.
Related: 13 Shelters That You Can Build With A Military Poncho
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.
Related: When the Snow Falls, Make Sure These Items Are in Your Trunk
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.
Thank you for the removal.
Aren’t you glad that when you were a little kid building a tree house or some kind of a shelter or some sheets in your room or in the living room to make some kind of sheltered place to hang out in with your friends.
But now it’s for real.
Building a shelter will be so much different now, because you just might be living in one.
This article again gets the mind thinking about how I can take care of myself or my family by providing a place to shelter.
Thank you for the info…
Only thing you gave out … was herpes to chuck
Why not have a real house, in a remote area that’s dependable? Some areas, like SE California, are desert and don’t have forests and streams. We have private water wells, can see people approaching for a mile in any direction, and the soil can be improved to grow food. I’ll take this over a tarp shelter or teepee.
Penny, not everyone can afford a ‘real’ house as you refer to. This article is geared for when the $hit hits the fan and you have to survive with what you may have, or not have.
Maggie: I live in Arizona. What you say is true, but we have houses here that were abandoned around 1200 AD and can be made liveable with some work, mostly making adobe mud and lathes. If you don’t care for that, then make a wickiup and throw some old blankets over it. Does it get cold here? Yes, Arctic! It gets so cold in my area we actually get frost a few times in winter. I even saw snow, once. No, I’m not kidding! Opposite that, there are other goofy jokes about not kicking piles of rags on the sidewalk: It’s tourists that melted in out gentle desert sun. I had to go to Tucson, today, but the trip back not a lot of traffic because many headed up to Mt. Lemmon with winter gear. It only got to about 73 F up there.
Post-SHTF, every housing development is a gold mine. Penny will be rolling in wealth and with less much chance of starving or dying in a blaze of glory from roaming gangs. She’ll have access to solar arrays, batteries, wiring, glass for greenhouses and home. Like to garden? Most nurseries down here carry old-time desert-adapted vegetables and fruits. During the Great Drought, people moved into the canyons and terraced, and had plenty to eat, tho they lacked red meat. That was taken care of by trading east and west. Whale meat is red meat. Buffalo meat came from towns along river like the Rio Grande. Salt, a commodity that caused major slave trades with inland peoples in Africa, Asia, Canada, and Europe, is common here. niio
What idiot would want to live in a Desert … Even most natives didn’t do that for the obvious reasons .
(People need to read up on what sustain living means.)
nice article but i would love to see people showing a video on it.
There are plenty of YouTube videos on emergency shelters but this site doesn’t do videos. What it does do is get the brain cells working. From here, you can do your own research. Pleasant web surfing, Murder….
Leaderless: Say what? It’s not Penny who’s clueless. Most civilizations started and thrived in deserts and most are there today. It’s easier to make a living and a life in a savannah like SE Kali than in Wisconsin. Even during the great drought in the southwest that last over a century, people had plenty to eat. They moved into canyons and terraced them. Mesquite, today a gourmet item, will make a crop on as little as 2 inches of rain a year. It grows fast, makes firewood and nitrogen, as well. Yucca has a tasty root and tasty weed pods. The height of summer was spent in cool mountain heights gathering pinyon pine cones, 2 types of sweet acorns, strawberries, hunting, and so on. Digs find storerooms with plenty of corn and beans, as well. It’s a long, long list of things which does not include thousands of acres burning off killing thousands of people.
Rabbit roundups are still used in some places because they get too thick. There are rivers, springs, and everything from copper to gold if you know where to look. Archeological digs show feathers from wet-tropics birds, shark teeth, vanilla beans, cocoa beans, pottery, and so on. There is a road, a real road, that stretches from the Four Corners are almost to Mexico City. The city, a desert city, held over 600,000 people when Cortez arrived, and there were a lot of cities all over.
X-spurt, you’re still an ignorant Troll, and it’s so obvious when you try to hide under another name
Penny, I love Arizona and can see your point. My angst over anything Kali is hordes of people wandering around and devolving into gangs. But, that’ll be truer in wetter regions than with our states and there, gangs will last a lot longer than here. We can always retreat into the mountains to fort-up, and kali has tons of areas no one is allowed to live. The forests are thick and accessible, and unlike where the clueless Murder lives, very few people have ever had to suffer a forest fire. Most fires in wetter areas are caused by arsonists. Once things settle, we’ll have the springs back. Water will fill ancient basins again and springs will rise. We can walk into canyons to plant and harvest as people did for thousands of years.
Keep writing. Talk about both good and bad there so we can see what you see. niio
Red, I really enjoy your posting, you share wisdom. Mt Lemmon? I’ve watched some spectacular lightning storms there from the Oro Valley when my wife and I visit Tucson. Your posts have closely Identical timeline events of food gathering practices as the book I am reading about the Apache People. I’m not an expert as I don’t live in AZ (only a visitor every few years), but there is an abundance if one lives with and not against the desert regions. Thank you sir.
Knowing how to build a temporary shelter, or how to maintain a traditional shelter (house, apartment, van…..) is where it’s at. Preparedness gives us hope and strength.
…field-expedient shelters on up to more permanent shelters, a decent discussion brewing I am sure.
I like to watch History Channel’s Alone show… it’s neat seeing what different people come up with out there in the wilderness. I think my first exposure to that besides the Boy Scouts was watching Swiss Family Robinson long ago…. awesome stuff they improvised from parts of a ship.
At last, a discussion that doesn’t immediately require us to decide whether Trump or Biden is to blame.
both and everything else from the last 100 years
Blake: Biden, obviously. 🙂 niio
We live out in the country and are over 60 years old. We live in one of the least likely areas that we would need to bug out from, but we do have a plan for if something happens. We have a bug-out vehicle that enables us to live in near-home comfort if SHTF and we have to bug out due to fire or something. We probably wouldn’t need to build a shelter even if we didn’t have our vehicle either because there are so many caves near here.
If you’ve ever tried to sleep overnight in the forest with no gear at all, just the clothes on your back, as i did one time, you appreciate this article and it makes you remember that experience and reflect on how you’d do it differently now.
Did SERE Winter course and it was very eye opening.. I do chuckle when i hear the avg prepper talk about hiking 40 miles a day with a “bug out bag”
My body now says ‘glamping’, my brain says Camping!
Such is the ravages of time..
You gotta have this, you gotta do that, there are thousands of memoirs by Veterans from the Civil War to Vietnam where soldiers have spent weeks and months in terrible conditions lacking food, water, shelter, basic sanitation and having to survive bombardments, suicide charges, mass attacks, endless rain, subzero conditions w/o shelter, think of the troopers in Fallujah humping 80 pound packs under fire in 110F! Plain old ordinary human Americans are a lot tougher than you/they think you are. HaHa, I see the City of Dallas has discovered the evil poisonous water hemlock growing around White Rock Lake, an actually wonderful 2000 acre park, they’re going to Roundup all over the Hemlock, sometimes I think we are strong, sometimes that we are weak and doomed.
2 tarps, 11X15, rip stop fabric with metal grommets. Don’ t leave home w/o.
Considering diarrhea killed the majority of civil war soldiers……and, marines rode in trucks before a dismount. Plus they where physically fit before hand.
True, though I was thinking more of individuals and small groups instead of camping out with 100,000 buddies and all their poop.
there is more to “shelter” than creating something to protect you from the elements, you also need to monitor your own body heat production and loss, skin exposure to sun, cold, and wind, as well as try to remain dry no matter the conditions to avoid hypothermia and/or overheating whether dry or humid – either way can harm and kill.
The author focuses on making shelters in forested areas, but I did not see any mention of making shelters in terrain where trees are scarce, is that because the author has no real knowledge how?
He did mention tarp type shelters,, which is what most would have to settle for in non wooded areas unless they can find a cave or build a cave like structure, such as the Adobe homes red refers to. .Without shelter building materials there is no shelter, I guess. But ingenuity must reign. As a child I delighted in improving upon “my cave” , an old undercut spot in the nearby river which had been left high and dry for many years, as the river had cut into the soil far below. The day the “gubmint” decided to “improve” the area by widening the whole riverbed with tractors, wiping out all of the foliage that had grown there over the years and turning the richest farming area in the entire desert state into a terrible flash flood magnet was lamented by children for fort-destroying reasons as much as it was by local farmers who had faithfully paid their water rights for years, only to be completely wiped out in one year to accommodate a state senator or some such and his brilliant idea for selling wind farming opportunities to Chinese investors. There are no farms there now, wind or otherwise. And all shelter areas there have been turned into windswept desert like all the surrounding areas always were. Ah, progress!
Because deserts are stupid places