Build a Simple Shelter to ensure your survival

Build a simple shelter 1

Survival skills – build a simple shelter

By Mitra Cazaubon

Waiting till building a shelter is your only option, isn’t a wise idea. If you are a camper, hiker or just an outdoor enthusiast, make shelter building one of your skills. In a survival situation time is of the essence and having to rebuild a shelter because it wasn’t done well, is not the best use of your time and energy.

In this article, you will learn the general principles of building a shelter and detailed instructions on build a sturdy A-frame debris shelter. You will need a knife or suitable cutting tool.

#1 Find a Suitable Location

Avoid low line areas as they may be prone to flooding or rising tide. Choose an elevated spot but keep in mind the higher up a mountain you go the colder it gets. It should be flat and cleared of overhanging branches and dead standing trees. Also, remove all debris to ensure there are no dangerous critters on the ground.

Consider the availability of materials you will need and other necessities, such as water. Expending all your energy to carry materials to your site will leave you too tired to build a good shelter, or the loss of sunlight may leave you without one.

#2 Collect Your Materials for Shelter

When collecting wood, avoid using any trees with white milky sap. Most are poisonous.

Find two Y branches and cut it your height. Also, get one ridge pole twice your height to use as the spine for your shelter.

If you can’t get any Y branches two straight ones can work. Ensure that these branches are straight and sturdy. Collect small sticks and branches.

For the roof you will need leaves, small twigs and debris lying around, so hold onto the off cuts.

#3 Build Shelter

Before you start building your A-frame debris shelter find the direction of the wind. Your entrance should be parallel to it.

Lift the two Y sticks and ensure the base is no more than 4ft apart. Dig two small holes where you placed them and join the Ys at the top. Now, put your ridge pole between the Ys.

Dig a small hole at the opposite end of the ridge pole to keep it in place. If you didn’t get the Y sticks use your two straight sticks and use a tripod lashing to achieve the same effect.

To see how to tie tripod lashing check out:

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Your survival shelter needs to be big enough for you to lying down in it and sit in the entrance. At this point, you’re A-frame shelter should look like a triangle from all sides.


Place small sticks and branches on either side of your ridge pole. Alternate the sides then add a stick the same length of the ridge pole to hold your branches in place.

Weave tiny sticks, vines or tree back (natural cordage) between the sticks to form a lattice. This is to keep debris from falling between the sticks and also to keep them in place.

Now start adding the off cuts and leaves. You can weave them between the cordage.

This layer of leaves and debris needs to be at least 1ft to 2ft thick for protection from the wind and rain.

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Add whatever is available after you have put your small twigs and leaves.

Keep an eye out for snakes and scorpions when picking up debris.

For the floor of your A-frame shelter, you can add some big leaves for comfort and insulation. An asset would be a mylar blanket which will provide added insulation; this should be in your survival kit.

Optional – Make a door using big leaves or build a reflector wall to block the wind.

Build a simple shelter

Practice building a shelter until you can build one in under one hour. Familiarize yourself with the best wood in your area and techniques to help you improve your time.

Having a shelter is a basic need, whether in a survival situation or just enjoying an overnight camp with friends.

The best gear you can have is your skills so add shelter building to your list.

Here is a video made that shows the finished shelter:

Multiple Contributor | Website

Mitra Cazaubon is a nature-loving, free-spirited explorer from the small island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean.  You will have her energized with the mention of camping or sustainable living.

When she isn’t blogging about her adventures she is writing and giving relationship advice. Her soon-to-be-open blog will feature thought-provoking philosophies and her journey to finding true happiness.

She is married to the love of her life, a survivalist, and they spend most of their time gardening in their off-grid home. The remainder of their time is spent keeping up with their active son.

10 thoughts on “Build a Simple Shelter to ensure your survival

  • August 27, 2020 at 10:12 am

    I have never had to build such a shelter. And I hope I won’t have to. But it is an essential and useful post. Each of us may be forced to stay overnight on the trail, for example, due to collapse weather or if you lost your path. I want to try if I can build this simple shelter for an hour.

  • August 27, 2020 at 8:01 am

    A great guide for camping in the outdoors and one can never tell when the situation demands and you got to be up and about. Agreed, finding the correct location free of debris, bushes etc. would be key to ensuring the foundation is strong and so true can’t be carrying all materials around. I like the idea of making a door using bigger leaves, building a shelter in under one hour would also double up as an adventure activity haha! Gotta try it out 🙂

  • August 26, 2020 at 6:50 pm

    This is really a cool lesson! We never know when we will need it, but like you said, it’s good to practice. We have a big yard and lots of branches and trees. I think it’s time to practice!

  • August 26, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    Some great tips on how to build a shelter for survival. Never done this before, but will remember when I will go camping. Collecting Y sticks for building is a good idea as it will help in giving shape. Working on the roof is also an important tip, by weaving tiny sticks, so that leaves don’t fall down. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with this.

  • August 26, 2020 at 11:51 am

    Wow, that is absolutely cool. I would love to practice something like this shelter so I am prepared when I need to be. I never thought one could actually build a shelter using the twigs and sticks. Really awesome and I will try making it the next time I go camping.

  • August 25, 2020 at 6:59 pm

    I never really thought of the fact that there might be a time when I would need to build a shelter in the wild. Practicing until you can do it quickly is sound advice. And regularly practicing too. Your instructions make it look like it is something that I could do.

  • August 25, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    That is so interesting! I am not really a camping person but this is such useful info! I remember building stuff like this with my friends when I was little. It used to be so much fun and who would know it can be so useful in adult life.

  • August 24, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    I would have thought to not build near water and the tide but would not have considered the higher up I build, the colder it would be, that’s a life saving tip for me! Your shelter is picture perfect; I am shocked you were able to construct that in 1 hour! That is a skill for sure

  • August 12, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    Some great tips on survival skills whilst camping. It’s not for everyone and specially if you trying for the first time good to keep these things in mind. Using nature for shelters a great way to embrace it. Thanks for sharing.

    • August 24, 2020 at 4:21 pm

      This is a comprehensive and well thought out. I am a novice at camping and will keep these things in mind. It will surely come handy. Even after finding a great spot, it can be a challenge to find things. But that’s the essence of camping.


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