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How to Make a Survival Shelter

By Survival Warehouse March 21, 2023

If you’re ever stuck out in the wilderness overnight without a tent or other survival gear, you’re going to need to find a way to build a shelter to shield you from the elements.  Temperatures can get dangerously cold at night in most parts of the world, so this is one survival tip everyone should understand.

Using Existing Shelter

While it isn’t as fun or dramatic as building your own lean-to or other shelter, it is the smart choice when you’re stranded.  Finding any type of existing shelter will give you a big advantage over building your own.  Look for cars, cottages, abandoned cabins or anything else you can get into for the night.  You can also find caves, rock overhangs, hallowed out trees or any number of other natural shelters that you can spend the evening in.

Even if the existing shelter isn’t complete, it will give you a good starting point that you can build off of for added warmth and protection.  While these types of shelters are ideal, they aren’t always available, so don’t waste too much time searching for them.  You want to get started building your shelter as quickly as possible so you aren’t stuck working in the dark.

Get Off the Ground

While technically not a shelter, this is an important point that many people overlook.  In most cases, it is going to be more important to get yourself an area that is slightly off the ground for sleeping in.  You don’t have to go up a tree or anything, but if you’re laying directly on the earth, it will pull the heat away from you very quickly.

Find the spot where you will be sleeping, and layer it with dry leaves or leafy branches.  You can also use brush or just about anything.  The thicker the layer between you and the ground, the warmer you will stay.  Also, it will provide you with a much more comfortable night’s sleep compared to the hard ground.

Building a Lean-To

how to build a survival lean to shelter

Once you’ve got your sleeping area chosen, building a shelter over your head is the next priority. A simple lean-to is an excellent form of shelter when out in the woods. The following instructions will help you to create a simple lean-to:

  1. Find several large, strong sticks and put two of them into the ground vertically, if possible.  If you have a poncho or other item that you’ll use as a roof, place them about that distance apart.  These sticks (and your ’bed’) should be near a tree or other support structure.
  2. Once secured in the ground, place the items your using as a roof across the sticks.  Secure with twine or any other items you find.  *Ideally, you can use a poncho or tarp for this.
  3. If you don’t have a poncho, add more long sticks diagonally down to the ground for added support.  More brush and sticks will be placed across these to act as the roof.  These sticks should be directed toward where the wind or rain is coming from so they will provide maximum protection.
  4. Continue placing more sticks, branches and brush across the sticks, securing them in place with twine or other items you find until you reach the ground.  If it is raining, or has the potential to rain or snow, make sure you have a strong, thick roof that will keep you dry.
  5. If possible, make the shelter at least the length of your body so you stay completely dry and as warm as possible.

This is a simple A frame shelter that can cut out the wind and rain, which are the biggest threat to your survival in these types of situations.  If you find yourself lost in the wilderness, make sure you start gathering the materials, and creating your shelter early enough to ensure it is done before nightfall.  If you can hunker down in your shelter before darkness falls, you will be able to stay warm throughout the night, and start looking for help again in the morning.


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