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The Complete Guide to Bushcraft Shelters

Never forget that bushcraft is as much about enjoying your time in the woods as it is about wilderness survival skills. Many people bushcraft as a way of practicing these kinds of skills. However, it can misconstrue your take on things like bushcraft shelter.

When building your bushcraft shelters you should pay special attention to things like where you sleep and the comfort of that area. You should also pay close attention to where gear can be stored and where a roaring campfire will be placed.

Bushcraft shelter in the woods

Understanding the twofold purpose of bushcraft shelter is essential in the complete guide to bushcraft shelters.

Tools for Making and Pitching Bushcraft Shelters

There are bushcrafters out there who can build out an incredible bushcraft shelter with little more than a quality bushcraft knife. If you need a quality bushcraft knife at a great price you should check out our article on the best bushcraft knife under $100.

I am not that kind of outdoorsman. I bring the tools to get the job done quickly and effectively.

Woodsman’s Ax

The woodsman’s ax is an absolute powerhouse. This shorter ax gives you the ability to really swing it to split wood or just chop wood. The flat side of the ax is a hammer for all intents and purposes. This is an invaluable tool for making natural shelter.

Using a woodsman's axe to build a bushcraft shelter

Folding Saw

It takes a lot of skill if you are going to count on your woodsman’s ax for precision cuts. I turn to a quality folding saw like the Bahco Laplander. The folding saw gives you the option to measure and cut to exacting lengths.

When you are creating your ridgepole, which could be the basis for something like a lean-to shelter, the folding saw can make that cut exactly. The folding saw is a must and easily earns its place in the complete guide to bushcraft shelter.


You can split wood with your ax, you can crosscut the wood grain with your folding saw. To bore holes through wood, you are going to need some kind of auger.

A small metal auger with some bits that you store in a small satchel or holster is perfect for this.


I don’t necessarily consider paracord a tool but in the complete guide to bushcraft shelter, it has to make an appearance. Cordage allows you to affix poles together, ridge poles to trees, and even thread large leaves and roofing materials together.


Boring a hole in wood requires an auger but punching holes in cloth, leaves, or bark, which all can be used in bushcraft shelter making, is best done using an awl. You may or may not need an awl depending on the type of shelter you are making.

Using an awl to build a bushcraft shelter

The complete guide to bushcraft shelters might be the last place you expected to read about an awl.

However, they are light and easy to carry.

Choosing the Best Location for a Shelter

There may be nothing more important in the complete guide to bushcraft shelters than the conversation about choosing a location. You are about to invest some time into building your favorite shelter. This might even be a long term shelter.


One of the first considerations you should have is elevation. The elevation is how you deal with water more than anything. While it might be nice to build your survival shelter on a babbling brook, that brook could become a serious flood risk in the heavy rain.

It would be a shame to create bushcraft shelters with a great rainprooof roof only to be flooded out due to choosing a poor location.

Dangerous Trees

You should always look up when you are choosing a location for your bushcraft shelter. Dead trees and widowmakers have been mentioned in the complete guide to bushcraft shelter. They are serious threats that can cost you your life.

Standing dead trees can fall on your shelter and crush it and you. Widowmakers are large branches that are hung up in the trees above you. A gust of wind could knock these loose and they can come crashing down your shelter, too!

Wind Direction

Your shelter is protection from the wind. To make the best shelter possible you need to consider the direction of the wind. This is also important for your fire. You do not want the smoke from your fire blowing into your shelter so consider wind direction.

Nearby Animal Threats

When choosing a good location you will want to spend some time scouting the area for animal signs. Things like fur, scat, animal bones, and tracks are all things you should look for near your shelter. Don’t build your bushcraft home next to a bear den! If there is a lot of sign then you need to move on to a new location.

A wolf track near a possible bushcraft shelter location


Shade is more of a perk but shade blocks sun and it can also block some rain that will help your shelter stay dry during a storm. Shade can be very effective if you find a good spot with healthy trees around then it can really help you out.

Distance from Trail

For the most part your bushcraft adventures are likely to happen in public lands or other shared camping areas. If this is the case for you then you need to be a certain distance from major trails and bodies of water when you decide to build a shelter.

You do not want to invest your time in a serious bushcraft shelter if you are going to be asked to move because you built this shelter too close to a trail. That is a problem.

Wilderness Bushcraft Shelters

Here are some examples of shelters that can be built using primarily natural materials.


The leanto shelter is an easy shelter to build that requires a ridge pole. The ridge pole is tied between two trees that are around 7 feet apart and then you can LEAN poles along that ridge pole at an angle to create a roof and wall all in one.

A leanto bushcraft shelter

You can fortify that main wall with all kinds of things. to assure that it is as waterproof as possible. You can add vines and leaves and bark to create your own roof. This is a simple shelter and one that should definitely be included in the complete guide to bushcraft shelter.

Debris Hut

The debris shelter is a quick and simple build that requires you find a tree with a Y in the trunk and then you are going to find a long pole that can be propped into that Y. This will be like a ridge pole in the leanto but one side will be on the ground. Then you are going to add a few ribs on either side of that shelter.

Once you have the pole with a few ribs on either side you can use dry grasses, pine, or even bunches of dry leaves to fill out the shelter. A bed of dry leaves on the ground beneath you can be a great addition to this shelter, too.

A Frame

An A frame is a simple build that just adds another wall to the leanto to create a shelter with two angled walls to create that A frame Shelter. You can seal off the shelter at one side or both sides of the A frame. This is a great bushcraft shelter and it is pretty easy build once you get the ridge pole set up.

We couldn’t call this the complete guide to bushcraft shelters without talking about the A frame.


A tepee shelter is basically built from a large tripod made with tall poles that should be at least 5 feet tall. You start by creating a basic three pole tripod. Lash the sticks together so they are nice and secure. Then you are going to add more poles to it. You will probably need about 6 more poles depending on thickness.

A teepee bushcraft shelter

the more severe the weather the more poles you will want to create a wind break. You can run vines through those poles and then stuff the space between with things like mud, leaves, or even pine boughs.

Man-Made Bushcraft Shelters

In the complete guide to bushcraft shelters we also have to talk about shelters that we bring to the woods or pieces of gear we bring to the woods to help make shelter. Even if you plan on building a bushcraft shelter you could bring a backup hammock or tent to assure you have a shelter.


The hammock has become a wildly popular bushcraft shelter. It is not as cool as building your own shelter but remember, bushcraft is about being out in the woods. A hammock makes it real easy to stay out in the woods.

They are cheap now and you can get an entire hammock setup for around $30!


The world of tents has improved so much in the last 10 years. From ultralightweight tents to pop up tents that are all really great and make camping much easier, tents are a great option for shelter in a bushcraft adventure.

Tarp/Tarp Shelter

I always carry a tarp. The tarp can take a bushcraft shelter like a leanto and make it windproof and waterproof. It is an incredible piece of gear. It can also turn your hammock into a floating tent!


You spend 6-8 hours sleeping in one position so you better take care of your bedding situation.

We have to talk about bedding in the complete guide to bushcraft shelters because sleeping in the woods is a bushcraft skill unto itself!

Piling up leaves and dry grasses is about the best you can get from mother nature when it comes to shelter building and bedding. You can put a tarp over this bedding or just lay on top of it.

For me there is nothing better than a blow up sleeping pad. They do wonders for sleeping on the ground and take up virtually no space at all.

Adding a Fire for Heat and Cooking

You cannot bring a fire inside of all types of shelter. However, we would not be writing the complete guide to bushcraft shelters if we didn’t talk about the importance of fire in and around bushcraft shelters.

Something like a teepee or a leanto gives you the ability to bring fire into or very close to your shelter. While tents and debris shelters are not really conducive with fire at all. However, every bushcraft shelter that you build should have a firepit.

If you cannot build a fire in or close to your shelter than use a reflecting wall to stop the fire’s heat from escaping on one side. These walls can be made of piled up rocks or stacked poles.

Wrapping Up the Complete Guide to Bushcraft Shelters

There is as much fun as their is intensity in this survival skill. It is fun to build forts and shelters. You have always loved it, right? Of course, there is also a deep need to be able to shelter yourself and the people you love. When times get tough people seem to be pulled towards these skills.

In the complete guide to bushcraft shelters we have covered a wide range of information. Now, it is time for you to own this skill. That is a matter of doing. The wild places are calling you. Build yourself a simple lean to shelter and spend the night in it. That is step number one in truly learning about bushcraft shelters.