How to build a Survival Shelter

Build a Survival Shelter and Set Up Camp

three survival shelters in a rowA survival shelter is a priority once you find yourself lost or stranded or you simply realise you cannot make it back home before dark.

The rule of three for survival state you will need a shelter within three hours. However, if in a cold climate, you will need a shelter almost immediately to prevent hypothermia.

A shelter protects you from the elements, predators, and insects and provides comfort. Essentially, you need it as much for your mental well-being as you do for your physical well-being.

Shelter Materials

Ideally, you will have shelter material in you pack along with tools and materials such as quality cordage, knife, small axe, wood saw or machete.

Otherwise, you can use materials found in your environment and you can take advantage of natural features.

Poncho, tarps, thermal blankets, snow and local vegetation can be used as survival shelter materials. Once you realise you are lost, you must have a shelter constructed before dark. It is always recommended that you shelter in place and begin setting up camp immediately. Always stop for a minute and evaluate your surroundings for material.

< Emergency Mylar Blankets


Secure your tarp to the top of the downed tree and slant to the ground on the north side in cold weather. Secure with wooden stakes or rocks. It is always worth carrying an emergency tarp like this Tough Tarp/ Basha shown here – it will get you out of lots of situations…

When it comes to tarps, do not buy cheap. You will definitely regret it and when you do it will be in the middle of the night when it’s windy and raining..!!!

A quality tarp will ensure a dry nights sleep and stay put if theres any wind as well. Even a compact tarp like this Aqua-Quest Ultra Lightweight Tarp will help to protect from th eelements.

Quite often it’s a good idea to use short Bungee Straps to secure your tarp rather than rope or paracord. This will ensure a bit of movement in windy condition and prevent any extra force on your tarp.

If you do not have a tarp, you can slant saplings or a thermal blanket and vegetation to create a windbreak and to provide overhead cover. Build your fire so the heat is reflected into the makeshift shelter. Fill in with vegetation to leave just enough room to enter. If the log is flat to the ground, excavate the soil to provide a depression that will fit your body.

A survival shelter constructed without using tools

survival shelter using brancjesA live tree is used as the centre support.

Find a tree that is bent slightly or can be pulled closer to the ground and secured to use as a support pole.

Lean vegetation and other forest debris along the sides.

camo ponchoUse cordage or find a low limb to put the poncho over to make a quick shelter. This survival shelter using ropetype of shelter as depicted may not be suitable in cold weather unless you fill in the ends and sides with insulation, such as leaves, snow and other vegetation.

< Waterpoof Poncho Woodland Camouflage

An ordinary Tarp is ideal for emergency survival shelters and can be set up in a matter of minutes survival shelter tarpusing what you find in your environment.

Once constructed use whatever is available to provide additional insulation.

If you carry tarps in your pack, ensure they have grommets so you can secure with rope or combine tarps together to make a larger shelter.


 Thermal Blanket Shelter

A survival shelter can also be constructed using thermal blankets.

mylar blanket shelterFoil Survival Emergency Blankets  are easily packed and you should always have at least six in your pack. You can use them as ground insulation, as well.You have to use caution with a fire near the thermal blankets yet you want the heat to reflect inside the structure.Build a fire at the opening and set up a reflector behind the fire so the heat is directed toward the opening.

You can put a series of stakes in the ground and pile up green vegetation to direct the heat toward the opening.

A snow cave survival shelter

This is constructed using snow, sticks and leaves.

snow shelterYou should not burrow into deep snowdrifts because the snow can collapse. Build a standalone shelter from snow so if the structure does collapse you can extract yourself otherwise you may suffocate.

Built the cave big enough so your body is not touching the sides of the shelter, your body in contact with a cold surface will drain the heat from your body.

Make sure you have insulation between you and the ground, such as pine bough, thermal blankets, and pine needles, leaves and so on.

Take advantage of your surroundings.

survival shelter under tree

Excavate the snow under a tree down to the bare ground and pile the snow along the sides.

Then place pine boughs,tarps or ponchos over the top for overhead cover.

Build you fire inside the shelter being sure to leave room for the smoke to escape.

Building a survival shelter is the most important thing you can do if you find yourself stranded in the wilderness. A shelter will make the difference between surviving and not and you will find you can survive extremely harsh conditions if you have protection from the elements. Wandering around looking for help will only slow down rescue personnel. Stay in place, and set up camp and wait for rescue.

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