5 Best Survival Shelters and How to Build Them

5 Survival Shelters that Are Easy to Build and Most Effective Based on Season and Location

If you find yourself in a survival situation, setting up your own shelter is one of the most important things to do. Food and water are important things to think about as well, but if you don’t give yourself some sort of protection against the weather and the elements, you can encounter a myriad of problems.

The worst weather conditions are capable of killing a man in a matter of hours, so it’s vital to know how to set up your own shelter. Fortunately, mankind has developed lots of great methods over the years, with shelters designed to suit all sorts of conditions and environments. In this article, we’ll look at five of our favorites, as well as telling you how to build them.

lean-to shelter example

Classic Lean-To Shelter

The Lean-To is one of the most basic shelters you can set up. It doesn’t take long to get this shelter built, and you don’t need a lot of resources to prepare it either. It’s the ultimate low-maintenance shelter that is perfect for those situations where you don’t want to spend too much time or energy to keep yourself safe. As its name suggests, the lean-to is made by leaning several branches against a solid support.

To get this shelter built, you’ll first want to find a long, solid branch or pole. You can then place this pole between a pair of trees. Then you simply have to line up several other branches along one side of the pole to form a wall. You can add leaves or grasses over the top of this wall for extra protection and insulation.

The lean-to won’t keep you particularly warm or safe, and it needs to be built with the wall in the right area, otherwise the rain and wind will be coming into your face. This shelter isn’t perfect, but it can be a good option.

quinzee snow shelter

Quinzee Snow Shelter

Stuck in a snowy area? Building a shelter in wintry conditions is incredibly important. The human body can suffer greatly in cold conditions, with hypothermia being a common killer. Fortunately, the quinzee exists. This is a snow-based shelter formed in the shape of a dome, quite like an igloo. You’ll still be cold inside, but you’ll at least be a little warmer and protected from any winds and blizzards. One great advantage of the quinzee is that it can be prepared with almost any kind of snow.

To make a quinzee, you should bundle your gear together in a ball, and wrap it up with a tarp. You can then pack snow all around the tarp, continuing until the snow is about two feet in thickness. Now you’ll need to gather around thirty or forty similarly-sized sticks, with each one being about a foot in length, and insert them all around the dome.

Finally, you should dig your way into the dome and get your gear out. Get inside the dome yourself and carefully excavate outwards until you see the bottoms of your sticks. Do this for every stick to ensure that your dome is balanced all the way around.


Tarp Hammock

There are many different shelters you can build with a tarp, but we like the versatility and protection offered by the tarp hammock. If you’re in a wet or bug-infested area, it’s nice to have a shelter that keeps your body away from the ground. In addition, the tarp hammock is very easy to set up, so you won’t need to waste a lot of time getting it ready. This hammock can even keep you safe against other animals like snakes. We recommend spraying some bug repellent around the lines to make it even more effective.

To prepare your tarp hammock, you’ll need a simple tarp and some rope or cord. Put the tarp flat on the ground and then roll one of the longer sides in towards the center. Do the same on the side so that the two edges meet in the middle. Next, tie some cord or rope at each end, leaving plenty free to tie around the trees.

Try to find some strong-looking trees that are about ten feet apart. Tie your hammock around them, using half hitch knots for extra stability. Remember to tie the hammock quite high up, as it will sink a little when you climb into it. If you have an extra tarp, tie it above your hammock as a roof.


Insulated Round Lodge

The round lodge has been used for thousands of years by various civilizations and tribes all around the world. It’s a basic, effective design that can keep you safe against all of the elements, as well as offering good protection against animals and other threats. You can even start up a fire in this type of shelter, provided you make it large enough. Before preparing your own round lodge, you’ll need to gather a lot of long branches.

Making the round lodge is simple. You just need to stand up your branches in a circular pattern, with each branch meeting the others in the middle, remembering to leave a gap at the front for you to get in and out. You can dig the bases of the branches into the ground slightly for a bit of extra stability and security. You can also add grass or leaves over the roof and walls for extra insulation.


Ramada Sun Shelter

If you’re in a sunny area, shelter might not seem as important, but it’s still vital to keep yourself protected from the sun’s rays. Shade is your ally in these areas, as issues like dehydration and sunstroke can quickly arise if you spend too much time in sunny spots. A ramada is built with a flat roof to provide a barrier between your skin and the sun’s UV rays. The good thing about this shelter is its versatility; you can use a variety of materials to make the roof.

To prepare a ramada, you simply need to dig four posts into the ground and then place the roof over the top. You can use a tarp or mat as the roof, tying it into place with rope or cord, or you might simply be able to find some large leaves and balance them in place with extra branches and supports. This is an ideal shelter to set up in desert environments.

About the author

Mike Paris

Mike is the editor of NWT Outfitters and as you may expect, an avid outdoorsman... When Mike isn't logged into the NWT backend, he's camping, climbing, hunting, fishing, or doing some combination of the four.

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