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In the vast wilderness, finding a safe and secure place to rest can seem like an uphill task. Did you know that building temporary shelters could mean the difference between life and death in extreme situations? This article dives into the art of survival by showing you how to construct different types of temporary shelters using basic materials found in nature.

Stick around, if being savvy with your survival skills is high up on your bucket list!

The Importance of Shelter in Survival Situations

A man Building Temporary Shelters in the rainforest

survival shelter in the wilderness is a must-have. It keeps you safe, warm, and dry. Shelters guard your body from wind and bad weather. A good spot can also stop wild animals from getting too close.

Being able to build a shelter can save your life. So, it’s one of the most useful survival skills to learn for staying off grid in this world. You need some tools like an axe or folding saw, plus strong wire or rope for support joists.

Knot tying skills are vital too.

Understanding the Basics of Building Temporary Shelters

A temporary shelter in the rainforest

A survival shelter is a crucial element in any survival situation, providing protection from the elements and keeping you safe. It’s important to differentiate between a survival shelter and a bushcraft shelter, as they serve different purposes.

What is a Survival Shelter?

A survival shelter is a safe spot you build. It keeps you warm and dry. In an emergency situation, it can save your life. You make it from what you find in the wild or items you bring with you.

Your survival shelter could be as simple as a tarp stretched between two trees or a snow cave dug into a hillside.

The right kind of shelter also stops danger from animals. Small trees are often used to make firm support joists that hold up the rest of your structure. So, getting good at building survival shelters can give you protection when things get rough outside!

Difference Between a Survival Shelter and a Bushcraft Shelter

A survival shelter and a bushcraft shelter are not the same. A survival shelter is made for harsh times. It keeps you safe from bad weather. You use it when you don’t plan to stay long in one place.

On the other hand, a bushcraft shelter is meant for longer stays in the wild. It’s built with care over time and used many days or weeks. Both shelters need tools like a folding saw, an axe, and strong rope to build.

Knot skills help hold your cords tight on support joists cut from small trees that are 10 to 20 inches thick.

The Three Basic Types of Temporary Shelters

The three basic types of temporary shelters are the lean-to shelter, A-frame shelter, and debris shelter.

Lean-To Shelter

A shelter strung up between two trees

lean-to shelter is a great type for survival in the wilderness. You can build one fast and it keeps you warm. To make this kind of shelter, you need to find two trees close by or a fallen tree.

Cordage ties the top between the trees. Then lay long sticks down from this cordage to the ground, making a frame. Use leaves or pine needles as insulation on top and sides of the frame.

This makes sure your body heat stays in and cold air stays out! It’s best to also have a sleeping bag inside for extra warmth during cold weather.

A-Frame Shelter

A temporary A-frame shelter in the rainforest

A-Frame shelters are a popular choice for temporary survival shelters. They are easy to build and provide good protection from the elements. You can make an A-Frame shelter using just a tarp and some cordage.

Simply tie one end of the tarp to a tree, then stretch it out and secure the other end to another tree. This forms the frame of your shelter. To keep yourself warm and dry, you can cover the tarp with leaves, branches, or any other natural materials you find around you.

This will provide extra insulation and waterproofing. A well-built A-Frame shelter can help you stay comfortable in harsh weather conditions while you wait for rescue or until help arrives.

Debris Shelter

A debris style shelter in the jungle

Debris shelters are temporary structures that can be built using natural materials found in the wilderness. They offer protection from the elements and can be constructed by utilizing fallen trees, branches, leaves, and other debris.

Building a debris shelter involves creating a framework using small trees as support joists and covering it with evergreen tree branches for insulation. The exterior is then covered with layers of branches, leaves, and dirt to provide additional insulation and water deterrence.

Debris shelters are effective at trapping body heat and keeping you warm in cold weather survival situations.

Guidelines for Building a Survival Shelter in the Wilderness

A great location in the rainforest for a shelter

Learn how to choose the right location, plan and design your shelter, and select the best insulation materials to build a survival shelter in the wilderness.

Choosing a Suitable Location

To build a survival shelter, you need to choose the right location. Here are some important factors to consider:

  1. Structural Soundness: Look for a location with sturdy trees or structures that can support your shelter. Avoid areas with dead or weak trees that may fall.
  2. Weather Resistance: Find an area protected from strong winds and potential flooding. Look for natural barriers like cliffs, large rocks, or dense vegetation.
  3. Proximity to Resources: Consider the availability of water, firewood, and edible plants nearby. Being close to these resources can make survival easier.
  4. Elevated Ground: Choose an elevated spot to avoid water accumulation during rainstorms or melting snow.
  5. Visibility: Select a visible location that can be easily spotted by rescuers in case of an emergency.
  6. Privacy: If possible, find a spot away from popular trails or areas where people may pass by frequently for privacy and security.
  7. Natural Cover: Look for areas with natural cover like bushes, shrubs, or caves that can provide additional protection from the elements.

Planning and Designing Your Shelter

Designing your shelter properly is crucial for its effectiveness and your survival in the wilderness. Here are some important factors to consider:

  1. Location: Choose a suitable location for your shelter that is away from hazards like falling trees or flooding areas.
  2. Size: Determine the size of your shelter based on the number of people it needs to accommodate and the available materials.
  3. Shape: Decide on the shape of your shelter based on the weather conditions you’re expecting. A low, rounded shape is better for wind resistance, while a steeper pitch is ideal for shedding snow.
  4. Insulation: Select insulation materials like pine branches or moss to keep warm in cold weather and help trap body heat within the shelter.
  5. Ventilation: Ensure proper ventilation by leaving openings near the top of your shelter to allow for fresh air circulation.
  6. Structural Integrity: Use strong support joists and secure knots to ensure that your shelter can withstand harsh weather conditions.

Selecting the Best Insulation Materials

To keep warm in your survival shelter, it’s important to choose the right insulation materials. Here are some options:

  1. Evergreen tree branches: Use branches from pine or other evergreen trees. These branches have thick needles that can act as insulation and help trap heat inside your shelter.
  2. Leaves and moss: Collect fallen leaves and moss to create a layer of insulation on the floor of your shelter. This will provide additional warmth and comfort.
  3. Dirt and debris: Covering the exterior of your shelter with dirt, leaves, and other natural debris can help insulate it from cold air and provide an extra barrier against water.
  4. Pine boughs: Gather a pile of pine boughs or small branches to use as a bedding layer. This will add cushioning and insulation between you and the ground.


Building temporary shelters is an important skill to have when it comes to off-grid survival. Whether you find yourself in the wilderness or facing extreme weather conditions, knowing how to construct a shelter can mean the difference between life and death.

By understanding the basics of survival shelters, choosing suitable locations, and utilizing natural materials for insulation, you can increase your chances of staying safe and protected in emergency situations.

So make sure to learn these skills and always be prepared for whatever challenges may come your way in the great outdoors.


Find additional information on ‘Building Temporary Shelters‘ below or click the following link to read more on ‘SHELTER AND SHELTER BUILDING‘.

What materials do I need to build a tarp shelter?

To build a tarp shelter, you’ll need two tarps, some paracord or rope, and stakes or rocks to secure the ends of the tarp.

How do I build an a-frame shelter?

To build an a-frame shelter, you’ll need two long branches or poles, a rope or cordage to tie them together at the top, and additional branches or vegetation to cover the frame for insulation.

What is a lean-to shelter?

A lean-to shelter is a simple and efficient design where one side of the shelter is supported by a fallen tree or other vertical structure, and the other side is open or partially enclosed with branches or a tarp for protection.

What if I don’t have a tarp to build a shelter?

If you don’t have a tarp, you can use other materials like large leaves, branches, or tree bark to create a makeshift shelter.

How can I build a temporary shelter using a fallen tree?

To build a temporary shelter using a fallen tree, you can start by finding a fallen tree that is sturdy and long enough to provide the structure for your shelter. Use branches and foliage to create walls and a roof, and make sure to secure everything tightly.

How do I build a snow shelter?

To build a snow shelter, start by finding a location that is sheltered from wind and avalanches. Dig a large mound of snow and hollow out the inside to create a living space. Make sure to leave a small ventilation hole and pack down the snow walls to increase stability.

Can I use a tree to make a shelter in the wilderness?

Yes, you can use a tree to make a shelter in the wilderness. Look for a sturdy tree with low-hanging branches. Utilize the tree’s natural structure and foliage to create a shelter that provides protection from the elements.

What is a survival hammock and how can I use it to build a shelter?

A survival hammock is a lightweight, portable hammock that is designed for wilderness survival. It can be used to build a shelter by suspending it between two trees, creating a comfortable and protected sleeping area.

What should be the highest part of the shelter when building a temporary shelter?

When building a temporary shelter, the highest part of the shelter should be the peak of the roof. This allows for better water runoff and helps prevent water from pooling and leaking into the shelter.