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Shelter Building

Before proceeding, please review Important Disclaimers about the information, resources & links contained in this website. The information provided below is for basic reference only and is not intended to be professional instruction.

Building a shelter is an underrated and often overlooked part of wilderness survival. Most people cannot survive unprotected from harsh weather for more than a few hours. Besides breathing, building a shelter is an absolute priority, particularly in areas with harsh or unpredictable weather. A good multi-tool or pocket knife will greatly aid you in your efforts to build a shelter.

An ideal shelter must:

  • Protect you from rain, snow, wind, cold and heat.
  • Provide a basic level of comfort for resting and sleeping.
  • Be conspicuous enough to be found by search and rescue crews.

To build a basic shelter:

  • Look for a transition area between forest and field with good drainage (the trees will provide good protection against the wind and cold but will not completely obstruct the warmth of the sun).
  • Find a natural structure, such as a fallen tree or boulder to serve as the foundation wall of your shelter.
  • Find a sturdy branch about six feet in length to serve as your shelter's ridgepole.
  • Plant one end of the branch into the ground and set the other end on the foundation wall.
  • Gather up non-poisonous vegetation and small braches and place them on both sides of the ridgepole to create the roof.
  • Line the surface of the shelter with dried leaves and twigs for insulation.

Things to avoid:

  • DO NOT use caves, hollow logs or bushes for shelter, as they are likely inhabited by other animals, insects or reptiles, some of which may be dangerous.
  • DO NOT camouflage your shelter, as this will reduce your chances of being rescued.
  • DO NOT over-exert yourself when building a shelter. Instead, work at a moderate pace to minimize perspiration and loss of water.

For more detailed information about shelter building, see Chapter 5 ("Shelters") of the U.S. Army Survival Manual.


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