DIY Wilderness Shelters – Crafting Survival Homes in Nature
Survival in the wilderness without shelter depends heavily on your location and weather conditions, but honing bushcraft skills to build one may come in handy in an emergency situation.
Find a low area and dig out an area you can crawl into, then cover it with moss, leaves and pine boughs for added insulation.
Lean-to shelters are basic survival shelters designed for wilderness environments that can be constructed quickly from materials found nearby. A lean-to shelter offers an easy and quick solution for keeping warm when in an emergency survival situation – you can build them out of branches, leaves, pine needles and bark as walls – plus making a fire will reflect heat back into your lean-to shelter and further keep you toasty warm!
To build a lean-to shelter, find an object such as a fallen tree or rock outcropping that offers enough room beneath for crawling in and setting your fire, while providing enough protection from rain and wind. This will be key in creating your shelter.
Scavenge or cut wooden poles to form the frame of your lean-to. Make sure the length reaches from the ground to about a foot past your foundation log or ridgepole; these should also serve as support posts. As for roofing material, try using either a tarp if possible or other insulation materials such as palm leaves, pine boughs, moss, grass and/or ferns (in an emergency, blankets can even suffice!).
Consideration should be given when selecting a location for your lean-to shelter based on wind direction and precipitation patterns, aiming to place one side facing into the current wind direction so any rain or snow that falls will be dispersed away from its entrance and away from being an issue for your shelter.
Another crucial aspect of creating a lean-to shelter is selecting an area that won’t draw animals into it. You should avoid places near game trails as their pathways could come close by at night and make sleeping hard an option. Therefore, positioning it far away from any animal tracks allows for uninterrupted nights’ rest.
Consider keeping emergency supplies like sleeping bags, blankets, and food handy in case you become disoriented in the wilderness for an extended period. This will keep you warm and cozy while waiting for rescue.
Lean-to shelters are well suited to warmer environments, while A-frame shelters provide more protection and comfort in colder conditions. Their design helps prevent hypothermia in wet and chilled conditions by completely enclosing you to reduce hypothermia risk. Aframar shelters use debris layered together as layers for warmth, waterproofing, fire resistance and water resistance – it is easy to construct this type of survival shelter using a tarp; just drape it over yourself and secure its corners to branches near by.
This type of shelter should be constructed on a raised platform about 12-18″ off of the ground to avoid direct contact with the earth and allow your body to retain more heat. Find a sheltered spot in the woods and cushion it with debris such as pine boughs, twigs, grasses or leaves; alternatively an emergency blanket could even serve this purpose.
Once you have a thick layer of insulation in place, construct the frame of your shelter. This can be accomplished in several ways: log cabin style; Lincoln Log style or simply stacking long and short logs on top of one another until the desired shelter cavity size has been reached; finally secure them using jam knots (see our list of 5 wilderness knots to know).
If you have access to cattails or tall grasses, a thatched wigwam or wickiup shelter could provide more comfort and warmth, though construction takes a bit longer than with lean-tos or A-frame shelters.
Another option for creating an A-frame survival shelter quickly and simply is finding a large branch several feet longer than you are and tying it between two trees, then gathering sticks and debris from around its sides to form an “A” shape and lay them over it. However, this method will likely be very noisy and won’t provide as much warmth than its more efficient alternatives.
Shelter can serve more than one purpose – it can act as your safety net in times of trouble. If you find yourself caught out in inclement weather and find yourself alone in the wilderness, using a tarp hammock as an emergency measure could keep you off of the ground while providing protection from creepy crawlers and raindrops.
This survival shelter design is an effective means of protection in jungle settings with plenty of insects and predators, especially mosquitoes. To build one, start by finding a tree with branches several feet longer than your height; tie one end of paracord to each end of one branch while using another end to secure two shorter sticks beneath. Tie the tarp around those two shorter sticks using that cord while making sure it remains taut and secure.
Once your tarp hammock is secure, you can begin adding debris as insulation. Gather leaves and other organic matter and pile it in the center of your structure. This acts as a natural sleeping bag which insulates against heat loss while providing protection from cold ground temperatures. Adding bendable branches or twigs may further support and comfort to make for an optimal sleeping experience.
Tarps make excellent survival shelters due to being waterproof and lightweight, though you must consider what kind of wind will impact their use when choosing their location. Stronger winds necessitate more sturdy construction – more so if there are rainstorms.
In windy environments, it is also wise to secure your survival shelter with guy lines. There are various knots you can use to anchor this line; one such popular wilderness knot is known as a clove hitch.
As with any shelter, an A-frame, lean-to or tarp hammock requires having a door in order to retain any heat generated within. Without one, any warmth built up inside your shelter could quickly escape through cracks in its exterior walls and into the cold night air overnight. In cold climates where this might not be feasible, try weaving sticks together into two flat panels in order to form a doorway instead.
Fire pits are essential components of survival shelters, enabling safe and efficient operation of fire-based heaters while helping keep smoke at bay, improving air circulation and keeping you warm at night. To construct a fire pit in your shelter, you will require access to dry materials that can easily be ignited with matches or lighter. Dry leaves, grass and bark make excellent choices, as do small branches and paper. Alongside natural tinders, it’s also smart to include commercial fire starters in your survival kit. These white-hot sparkers make excellent emergency firestarters. Additionally, collect any loose lint from clothing such as an old suit jacket or pants you no longer use – although firemen may scoff at collecting such materials, when dry they provide excellent insulation for survival shelters.
When setting up a fire pit in your shelter, be sure to locate it at least several steps from its entrance. This will prevent hot embers from blowing in and damaging it, while you should build a chimney or opening in the roof to vent out any smoke that does make its way inside – too much smoke is hazardous to health and can even cause you to suffocate!
Cocoon shelters are among the easiest shelters to create. Simply assembling dry leaves and debris quickly can make this basic survival shelter, insulating you from ground and weather elements while acting as insulation from heat loss. To build one quickly, quickly gather dry leaves and debris until forming a pile that towers a few feet higher than you and slightly longer than your height – then burrow yourself inside it, using it like a sleeping bag to provide thermal protection and keep out bugs!
Tarp caves are another easy yet effective shelter option, made up of just plastic tarp and cordage. Tarp shelters can block wind effectively to help you remain warm and dry; to construct one in an emergency situation simply choose a low spot in the ground to place one of your tarps over it and anchor the second tarp securely over top with sticks or cordage; leaving about an inch gap between both tarps.