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11 Types of Survival Shelters & Why You Need To Know How To Build Them

Survival Shelter Debris hut in the wilderness
Survival Shelter Debris hut in the wilderness

Why do I need a survival shelter? In light of the current events that are evolving in the world today, it is best to be prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. Picture yourself and your family in just such an event as a Natural Disaster or Economic breakdown. We have already experienced lockdowns worldwide. Three of the first things that might come to your mind are food, water, and shelter. While the first two are a discussion for another article, the latter is the most crucial element for a survival situation. Not having a shelter in severe weather conditions may take your life within a few hours.

The good news is that there is a wide range of survival shelters that you can build to stop this from happening. Survival shelter is a life-saving tool, and you need to know the techniques along with materials required to construct the right shelter under a specific geographical and environmental condition. But before we dive deeper into building a survival shelter, let’s learn what a survival shelter is.

What Exactly Is a Survival Shelters?

Survival shelters are a form of temporary shelter that serves the purpose of keeping you alive rather than comfortable in dangerous situations. It protects you from severe conditions such as heat, rain, wind, and cold. The microclimate of the shelter allows you to sleep, rest and hide from wild animals. It is your temporary base where you store water, food, and some survival equipment.

The Importance of Shelter In Survival

If you get lost in the wild, the first thing to plan for is building a shelter. It will protect you from a wide variety of uncontrollable and unpredictable factors in a disaster situation. You should construct a shelter even before finding water and food. It serves crucial purposes such as:

  • It provides you with shade and offers relief from the heat of the sun.
  • It provides protection from low temperatures and cold winds.
  • It helps keep you dry during rain or snow.
  • It provides a barrier against predators, snakes, and insects.

Though we take these factors for granted in our everyday lives, they play a key role in survival. Not having a shelter exposes you to the risk of hypothermia, which needs very little time to shut down your circulatory system, including the heart.

Why Do I Need To Know So Many Different Types of Shelters?

When we hear the word ‘jungle’ or ‘wild’, we often picture either a place with trees and wild animals or a place with snow or mountains. But, every region in the wild has its own unique climate and ecosystem conditions. There may even be multiple ‘micro-climates within the same jungle or mountains. Also, the location may experience extreme changes in weather conditions from season to season. Hence, it is essential to stay prepared for all the unfavorable circumstances you may face in the wild.

You can not be sure about the resources you will have away from home. Therefore, by educating yourself ahead of time, you should know about as many different shelter options as possible.

Skills You Need To Know To Build A Survival Shelter  

Making a survival shelter is not as difficult as it sounds once you know the right techniques and basic skills. You can save a lot of your time and energy making the right shelter for your survival needs. So, what are the main skills that you need to build a survival shelter?

Making Knots

Making a knot is a key skill to have when you are constructing a shelter. Knots are what keeps your shelter structure together. For a rigid shelter, you need to make rigid knots. Different types of knots serve different purposes. Once you have mastered making them, you can easily select the best-suited type of knot for any particular task. A bit of Paracord is a reliable tool to hold everything together, and it serves many other purposes as well. 

Here we have listed some of the most useful knots you need to survive away from home.

The Reef Knot

The first on our list is the reef knot. It is a simple and reliable knot. The reef knot is generally used to hold together a bundle of things like sticks, water bottles, or other survival equipment.  The reef knot is also called a square knot and the Hercules knot. 

The Half Hitch Knot

The half hitch knot is an essential knot to master because it functions as a component in many other knots. It is fast to execute but unstable on its own.  A half hitch knot is a suitable way to get a campsite organized in a hurry.

Overhand Knot 

The Overhand Knot or thumb knot is a common knot that is simple and small. It is applied at the standing end of a rope. The knot prevents the end of the rope from sliding. You may also use it to increase your grip on the rope while climbing or going down a cliff or rock hill.  

The Clove Hitch 

The Clove Hitch is another widely used knot. This knot is commonly used to start and finish lashings. It is also applied to fasten a rope to a timber, post, etc. A clove knot is easy to untie as well.

The Running Bowline knot

It is a popular knot option among climbers, boaters, arborists, and campers. The Running Bowline knot is easy to undo and forms a slip-knot.   

The Trucker’s Hitch

The Trucker’s Hitch or the Lorry knot is used for tying loads. The knot secures the load to a fixed point. The non-jamming knot remains easy to untie even under severe tension. But it is an ideal option wherever you need a tightrope to get the job done. 

The Constrictor Hitch

The Constrictor Hitch, also known as Bag Knot, Sack Knot, or Miller’s Knot is used to fasten ropes tightly around objects. The constrictor hitch is similar to a clove hitch, but the former is safer and stronger.   

11 Types Of Survival Shelters

The more you know about survival shelters, the better it is for your safety if it will be two or more days before you are able to find help or wait on a rescue. Whether you are planning an adventure trip into the woods or joining a tourist group to explore inhabited areas, you should not step in without complete knowledge and preparation. Here we have listed some of the survival shelters you can construct with links to detailed construction guides.

1. Lean-to Shelter

Primitive Lean-to Survival Shelter in the forest

This is an easy and simple shelter to construct in the wild that makes a windscreen in a hurry. You will need to find a well-drained and dry area, and wood or tree branches to complete the construction. It keeps you warm, dry and protected during wet weather and harsh environment. We have a construction guide to walk you through how to make a lean-to shelter. 

2. Pup Tent

French Army pup tent

This is a small triangular structure made with durable materials like a tarp or canvas. It is a one-man shelter. You can find many commercially available tarps at numerous retail locations. Many of them are 100% waterproof, compact, lightweight, and durable. The pup tent structure looks similar to an A-frame shelter. It is an ideal option when it comes to lightweight survival shelters. They are easy to carry or transport and are quick to set up in a short period of time on a dry spot.   

3. Debris Shelter

Survival Shelter Debris hut in the wilderness
Debris Shelter in the wilderness

A debris shelter is a versatile survival shelter. You use leaves and debris as the outer layer covering the shelter. It is a perfect suit for a place with an abundance of branches, sticks, dead materials, leafy material, dead leaves, grass, leaves, pine needles, and other debris materials you can gather in a short period of time. Follow our construction guide to learn more about this particular type of survival shelter.

4. Tree Pit Shelters

Forest Shelter of pine branches
Forest Shelter of pine branches

A tree pit shelter offers protection from environmental elements in deep snow conditions. A large tree with thick lower leafy branches is an ideal choice to construct this type of shelter. The leafy branches and raking up a pile of vegetation will help in camouflaging it as well as extra protection from the elements. Read this detailed article to learn how to construct a tree pit shelter.

5. Tree Root Shelter

Under the roots of an old forest tree is a great location for survival shelters
Under the roots of an old forest tree is a great location for survival shelters

When you are in the wild, make the most of what you find. If you find a fallen tree, analyze the structure if you can crawl under the roots. Alternatively, you can use a flat root system of a fallen tree as a sheltering wall.  

6. A-frame shelter

It is a triangle-shaped type of survival shelter that keeps your body heat close. A-frame shelter is constructed with collected wood and tarp. Many people refer to it as tarp shelters, A-Frame Debris Shelter, A-Frame Tarp Shelter, or a one-man shelter. The compact and small design allows you to trap more body heat while using natural materials such as dry leaves to prevent heat loss. Unlike a lean-to shelter, the a-frame has two sides making it a better shelter option to stay protected from rain and cold wind.

7. Igloo

snow igloo house in the winter
Snow igloo house in the winter

We are sure you have heard of an Igloo before. If you live in an area that has snowy conditions with a good pile of snow then designing a simple dome-shaped igloo might be the perfect solution to survive the cold, harsh winter. Igloos have been used for thousands of years. This shelter is suitable for a mound of snow, a solid snowbank. They can keep you warm when the outside temperature is below zero degrees Fahrenheit. 

Don’t get the igloo shelter confused with a Snow Cave, which is the most dangerous shelter. Hypothermia, Carbon Monoxide, and Cave-ins are just a few of the things that can go wrong with a Snow cave shelter. We recommend avoiding a Snow cave.

Follow our how-to build cold weather protection to learn more about how to construct an igloo.

8. Swamp Bed

Abandoned homeless bed under trees
Abandoned homeless bed under trees

A swamp bed keeps you off the muddy ground or water. Consider the available materials nearby to make the construction work easier. Explore the simple construction guide for swamp beds for more knowledge.

9. Rock Shelter

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Rock Shelters

A rock shelter or a rock house is a cave-like opening at the base of a cliff or bluff. If you are wandering near a waterfall, there is a higher probability of finding a rock shelter. Using such a natural survival shelter saves you time and energy that you can invest in other aspects of survival. If you are sheltering in a rock house, build fire in the mouth of the shelter and a reflector behind it. Building the fire inside will heat the roof, which may cause slabs to spall off. 

10. Natural Hollow 

Hollow under the tree
Hollow under the tree

Another natural shelter option to look around is a natural hollow. It can be a depression in the ground or a cave. You may use boughs to cover any depression in the ground to create your survival shelter. 

11.    Sod Shelter

Sod shelters are fireproof and strong. They are typically made of driftwood, poles, logs, etc. The framework covered with sod provides a shelter that is warm in cold weather, and one that is easily made 100% waterproof and insect-proof in the summer. Use a sod that has a heavy growth of grass so that the roots can hold together the soil.


Here are some frequently asked questions regarding survival shelters:

How do you waterproof a survival shelter?

Waterproofing a survival shelter is important to protect yourself from rain. Depending on the climate and geography of the place you are in, you will have different options to make your shelter waterproof. Some natural ways to do so are:


You may use the thinner straw-sized reeds to prevent rainwater from getting into your shelter. Tie the reeds into bundles to cover the walls or roof of your shelter. Avoid using reeds that are thick in the process. 


You will require a lot of grass to make your shelter 100% waterproof and the grass may require replacement once it dries. However, if you are in a place where grass grows abundantly and your shelter does not require it to last several days or weeks, then using grass can be an easy way to protect yourself from the rain.


In areas where there are lots of fallen leaves on the ground, they provide good material for protecting a shelter against water and wind. Build up a layer of sufficient thickness to ensure no water gets into your shelter.


In certain ecosystems, moss beds can be a resource to use for adding protection to your shelter. You can easily rip or cut the moss into a mat and layer it on the outside of your shelter. It will act as a sponge to block the wind and water. 


If you are stuck in a cold place, spruce will be an ideal material for covering your shelter roof or walls. It will prevent water from getting in and will keep you protected from the wind and cold. A layer of ground or snow on top of spruce branches will add insulation against the outside weather.

Sticks and Branches

If any of the options above are not available to you, you may also use sticks and branches to make the shelter waterproof to some extent. You will need a lot of straight sticks to lay a thick layer that will prevent the rainwater from getting in. It can be the last option if no other alternative is present. 

How to Heat a Survival Shelter Without an Indoor Fire

A fire will provide you with adequate heat to stay warm. However, maintaining a fire may not be possible in all weather conditions. And that is when you need more heat for survival. A basic solution to this is creating an insulated shelter. You may construct a scout pit to keep yourself insulated. You may insulate the floor of your shelter with leaves, reeds, or grass to trap your body heat. Insulating the shelter walls will also keep the inside of your shelter sufficiently warm. Your survival shelter should be big enough for you to move comfortably inside it, but small enough to conserve your body heat.

Why You Should Learn to Build Extreme Weather Survival Shelters

If you are a survivalist or a prepper, learning how to build the right survival shelter is very important for staying alive. It is the first thing to complete even before looking for food sources because harsh environmental conditions can kill you within a few hours. Keeping warm and being able to rest are the top two priorities when you are stranded in the wild.

Surviving in the wild is a combination of hard work and knowledge. We believe we have served you with crucial information regarding survival that will help you overcome survival challenges. Comment below your survival experiences, or your survival queries. We would love to help you in your survival adventure.    

With the Right Knowledge…

We all have heard about real survival stories. With the right knowledge, many have and will overcome the challenges offered in any emergency situation. We have heard stories about people getting lost in the wild. Hence, learning some survival skills is imperative to stay safe and alive. Knowing how to build a survival shelter is the first thing on our list to help keep you safe from the elements and creatures in the woods. Let us know what your thoughts and experiences with survival shelters are in the comments section below. We would love to hear about your adventure stories.