How To Build a Shelter in the Wilderness

Helpful in an Emergency!

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It doesn't matter if you are lost into the wilderness, hurt, have no camping gear or simply prefer to use what Mother Nature has to offer you as sleeping arrangements -- this type of shelter will help you out. Even during the winter season, you can use this type of shelter as it can also keep you warm. Of course, a fire pit helps also, unless it's too close for comfort, but this shelter can make an enormous difference when you need protection from the elements.

  1. Find an appropriate site! Look for a site that is underneath one or two tall trees, preferably an evergreen such as a fir or pine tree. It would be best if you could build it near water, as water is a source of life. It could quench your thirst, clean a wound, keep a fever down, help you cook, keep you clean and clean clothes and bandages. If it is winter time, snow will provide the same benefits when melted on a fire pit. Also make sure that the shelter's ground is higher than the water level as in case of heavy rains, the river may flood your shelter.
  2. Ties are helpful! Without the luxury of shoe laces, string or fishing line, you may need to use natural ties such as small roots, tall grass or small flexible branches. These ties will be used in building your shelter. I suggest that you find about 25 natural ties as you may need as many during the construction of your shelter.
  3. The top of the shelter. Use some ties to tie some of the largest evergreen branches together. Tie each of the branches on the side to other nearby trees. In the absence of nearby trees, use two large dead branches to stick deeply into the ground, stumps, or fallen trees. Make sure the top of the shelter is on an angle of 45 degrees or smaller to avoid accumulations of snow and rain that could fall into the shelter. Cover these main branches with extra evergreen branches. There should be at least two layers.
  4. The sides of the shelter. Cover each side of the shelter with at least two layers of evergreen branches. Just like the top of the shelter, make sure the tip of the branches will be on the bottom as the snow and rain will slide off the needles by following their natural path. Fir tree branches are the best type of branches as they are flat and full of needles. The sides of the shelter will also protect you from the wind. In the winter, use some snow to insulate the sides by covering them with it.
  5. The ground of the shelter. Cover the bottom of the shelter with branches of evergreen. It will keep the bottom drained, dry and it will keep you warm. You can also keep some extra ones to cover yourself in order to keep you warm. It will also make more comfortable as it will cover any rock or uneven surfaces that could cause you some aches and pain.
  6. The front of the shelter. Cover most of the front of your shelter with two layers or more of evergreen branches in order to protect you as much as possible against the elements. Keep a few branches near the entrance in order to block it off at night or when the weather is really bad.
  7. Dig a moat! Use a big branch, rock or stick to dig a moat around your shelter in order to drain rain and snow away from it, avoiding flooding. Dig the moat to a distance of about a foot away from the base of your shelter as you do not want it to be wet. Make it as deep and wide as possible. If you can do it, guide it toward the water in order to drain it well.
  8. Safety tips. Never put any food in your shelter; it may attract intruders. Put it in a bundle tied to a rope and hang it on a high branch of a tree that is not home to your shelter but away from it. Never build a campfire too close to the shelter as sparks and smoke on a windy day may claim your shelter and your life. In the winter, check the accumulation of snow on top of your shelter on a regular basis and dust it away as heavy snow will cause your shelter to collapse.

If you either need to use such a shelter or wish to try it out, you will be surprised to see how well it protects you. Building a shelter takes some time and energy but in the end, it will be worth it. If you decide not to follow all the steps, your comfort and protection levels will diminish and so will its efficiency. Rest is good but in this case, a bit of work may save your life!


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I think you have provided extremely useful information. Your article should be tucked away in every camper's pack.

By Alan Hammond

Good advice for an emergency. However, I hope that people note the word 'emergency' in the subtitle. Let's keep our forests pristine.

By Kathy Steinemann