Remarkable & Effective Survival Shelters With Table Of Difficulty

FragOut Inc breaks down survival shelters with table of difficulty.

Whether you are in warm weather or deep snow winter, taking in the air is good for your health.

Whether it is for a day hike or a camping weekend. 

Take advantage of the time outdoors to practice the invaluable skill of building a survival shelter.

That’s right, you need to get out of your comfort zone.

Leave your four-person tent and goose-down sleeping bag aside.

Try to build a shelter with only the items that would be available to you in the event of disasters.

This will also give you the time needed to use your survival gear you have purchased.

This includes your survival hatchets, tact bivvy, and other items.

It is certain that summer is the perfect time.

If something goes wrong you can always retreat to your tent and try again the following night. 

The summer camping months provide the perfect opportunity to hone your survival shelter skills before an emergency situation happens.

However, keep in mind that when the need arises, you won’t have the luxury of choosing the time of year.

So picking the perfect items that will work in any situation you find yourself in is a must!

See our other article on military survival kits.

Practice building survival shelters year-round.

If you live in a four-season climate where hot desert summer and deep snow winters present dramatically different survival scenarios.

Why learn to build a survival shelter

Food, water, shelter – the essentials of survival. 

The shelter can protect you from the harsh air temperatures.

This is including the elements and wildlife, as well as keep you warm and dry.

This means finding suitable shelter can literally be the difference between living and dying in a survival situation. 

No matter what your situation, you want to be sure that you can prepare a suitable survival shelter.

Possible situations that may require impromptu or planned shelter include

  • Evacuation
  • Homecoming scenarios
  • Getting lost while hiking or exploring
  • Caring for an injured person while hiking
  • Exploring or getting caught in a storm. 

Depending on your situation, your survival shelter needs may differ.

In a homecoming scenario, you may only need short-term shelter for a few hours.

An overnight stay, whereas when you evacuate you may be left alone indefinitely. 

The need to build a shelter can arise when you least expect it.

Learn how to build a survival shelter in a number of different locations and with different resources.

Some Most Common Shelters Include

  • Debris survival shelter
  • Tarp Survival shelter
  • Snow Caves

These are just a few examples and will go over more later in this article.

Choosing The Best Location For Your Survival Shelter

Cave shelter
Cave shelter

Choosing the best location to build your survival shelter will depend on how long you intend to use it.

The best case will be a short-term shelter.

Knowing that will be different from those required for a long-term shelter is a worst-case.

When looking for immediate and short-term shelter, look for trees especially fallen trees, rock overhangs, and caves. 

Any advantage you can find that is half made or fully made for you by nature will help save time.

Trees are an obvious source of shelter and have many useful parts for shelter construction, including the trunk.

The trunk of the tree can be used as a support.

The branches can be used as a frame

The foliage can be used as support and used as an insulating material as well.

Rock overhangs and caves make great areas for cover.

Depending on your location or time of year, may not be an option.

Remember in extreme conditions animals can take up shelter in these locations so be aware of that.

Don’t panic

Whether you’re in the desert or in the middle of winter, you can still put together an effective survival shelter.

In desert terrain with few or no trees.

Consider using the slope of the terrain for protection and the steep side of a dune for hot desert survival shelters.

Keep in mind that the gradual side indicates the direction of the prevailing wind.

Therefore the steep side will provide a natural refuge.

If it is the middle of winter and all available building materials are frozen.

Snow will have the same insulating effect as a built shelter,.

Snow caves can block harsh winds and other elements just as well.

Also, always look for a shelter where the ground is dry.

If it rains, streams can overflow, and streams can form.

If you have to build a shelter for the long term, there are many more factors that you will need to consider. 

When looking for long-term shelter, look for areas near water and food sources if possible.

You would also benefit from being in an area with sufficient visibility to see.

This will allow you to see what is going on around you or having the position to signal for help.

In some cases, staying in hiding can be more beneficial for your survival.

Types of Survival Shelters

TypeHow many PeopleHours to ConstructDifficultyResources needed
Simple frame and Tarp method1 to 2Less than an hourEasyCheap Tarps or poncho
3-4 long straight branches
Rope to secure the frame
Several rocks to anchor the tarp.
Knife or survival hatchet to cut wood and rope
Shelter to keep the heat – simple1 to 2Less than an hourEasyLeaves, twigs, dirt, or snow
Sticks to support the opening
Shovel to build the mound
Open shelter or lean-to1 to 43-5 hoursModerateTree branch to use as a ridge
10 long straight branches to form a grid
Ropes and/or zip ties
Leafy branches, grasses, bark for roofing
Knife or multitool for cutting wood and rope
A-Frame shelter1 to 33-5 hoursModerateTree trunk to use as a ridge support
8 pairs of straight branches to form the sides
Ropes and/or zippers
Leafy branches, grasses, bark for roofing
Knife or multitool for cutting wood and rope
Tipi variants1 to 23-5 hoursModerateThin trunk for support post (optional)
10-15 long straight branches
Rope for lashing
Leafy branches, grasses, bark for roofing
Knife or survival hatchet for cutting wood and cord
Underground survival shelter1 to 2

4 to 8
1 hour

Weeks to months

Single-mound of dirt or snow, shovel

Complex-shipping container or other wall and floor materials, excavator, tools, plumbing and electrical supplies, power source
Long term log cabin1 to 4WeeksDifficultLong, straight logs
Gravel for drainage and rocks for stilts
Tools for shaving bark and notch logs
Shovel for clearing soil
Saw for cutting trees

Simple Frame and Tarp Method

Tarp shelter
Tarp shelter

If you are lucky enough to have survival gear or equipment with you then you may be in possession of cheap tarps.

These can be used in conjunction with a simple frame to create a shelter for the night. 

To create a frame, tilt the stakes against a lower branch or tree trunk in a way that will fit under your tarp.

Be sure to remove any sharp edges from the wood or wrap the leaves in the corners.

This will make sure you do not puncture the tarp. 

If you’re lucky enough to have a fishing line or paracord with you

Tie it at an angle between two trees and drape your tarp over it.

You can also place rocks on the sides to hold the tarp in place.

This will help prevent the wind from blowing it away like a parachute.

In an emergency when weather may be an issue at the moment you can forgo the frame.

Simply wrap yourself in a poncho and settle in a hollow of a tree or other sheltered spot until morning.

Simple Emergency Shelter To Keep Body Heat

This shelter is quite simple and easy to build.

It is useful for short-term or unforeseen situations and can comfortably accommodate one or two people in a pinch.

To build such a shelter, use soil debris such as dirt, leaves, and twigs to create a mound and use larger sticks to frame them. 

Make a hole just large enough to crawl in and cover the opening to block airflow and limit open space. 

Your body heat will be trapped inside the shelter, keeping you warm throughout the night.

If you packed a tact bivvy or something similar will help even more.

If you are looking for shelter in the winter and the ground is covered in snow, use the snow to build your mound. 

Even if the snow is cold, it will still serve to insulate you from the outside elements.

Then use your tact bivvy or trap your body heat.

Open Emergency Shelter or Lean-to

The advantages of an open shelter or lean-to are that it provides additional protection against the elements.

These also can accommodate up to four people.

If you have ever watched Survivor on TV this is the type of forest survival shelter the group usually fabricates.

Depending on the number of materials available, construction can take anywhere from two to five hours. 

Start by looking for trees that have fallen that have branches low enough to support the highest point, known as the ridge. 

If you only find one tree, use it as a ridge crest.

Tie-down in place if necessary.

If you find two downed trees close to each other, lay a sturdy branch between them.

Gather about five to six posts to lean against the ridge at an angle of about 45-60 degrees.

This will be enough to create a comfortable space to accommodate your team and gear below it.

This will serve as a grid. 

To create the grid, tie 5 to 6 branches across the frame. 

Weave flexible branches between the posts at right angles.

Then use bark or foliage to finish the roof.

Start at the bottom and working your way up similar to how roof shingles are laid down.

You can add additional walls for extra protection using the same method. 

If you are lucky enough to have cheap tarps, you can hang them over the opening to act as a curtain.

A-Frame Emergency Shelter

The A-Frame shelter is constructed in the same way as the lean-to.

The only difference is that the ridge starts on the ground and extends up to the tree.

These are usually anchored at a height that leaves enough space to sit below. 

In this way, two sides are constructed to create the A-shaped shape.

This will provide additional protection from inclement weather or cold air temperatures. 

For extra warmth in cold weather survival situations make your fireplace near the opening.

Variants of The Tipi

Tipi variants
Tipi variants

A teepee can stand on its own or be built around the thin trunk of a tree. 

In some cases, it may be easier to use a thin tree as a support for your center.

Surrounding it with stakes to create a cone-shaped shelter, which will provide a solid frame, but also limit your indoor space.

It’s up to you to decide whether you choose to completely surround the outside.

Create an opening in the top for ventilation or to keep the top out of the rain and leave a door open. 

In cold weather survival, always make sure to take ventilation into account.

If you intend to build a small fire indoors.

For freestanding teepees, start with three long, straight poles and use a tripod tie to attach them. 

Try placing a long post with a Y-shaped joint at one end. 

This will ensure the stability of the frame as the next pole can rest in the Y shape.

To build the teepee, continually add pairs of the same size poles and join them together at the top.

Leaving the base wide enough to fit and roll up and be large enough to sit comfortably.

Once the frame is built, fill in the spaces using the available materials, including leafy branches, vines, mud, and grass. 

Start from the bottom.

The same as you would with house tiles.

This will be done so that the rain drains onto the overlapping layers instead of flowing into your teepee.

Underground Survival Shelter

For short-term shelter, an underground survival shelter can simply be dug into a mound of earth.

This will be creating a warm place to sleep. 

An optimal location is the base of the roots of fallen trees, as the roots provide structural support.

For a longer-term refuge, considerable planning and effort will be required with a lot of extra time needed.

A long-term underground survival shelter is something you would build in preparation for when SHTF. 

Those who choose to build a long term underground survival shelter build one on their property or outside. 

Designs can range from simple cellar-style rooms to complex homes fully equipped with electrical power.

Furnished with necessities and comfort items, and with functional defense systems.

Way more advanced systems are made out of stuff other than cheap tarps.

Long Term Log Cabin

Long Term Log Cabin

If a crisis or disaster situation really falls into chaos.

You may find yourself in a situation where you have to build a strong and reliable house. 

Most importantly, a lot more comfortable than a tarp survival shelter or debris survival shelter.

Obviously, this type of survival shelter requires a tremendous amount of time, resources, and energy.

Therefore, it will be more beneficial for you to educate yourself beforehand on how to build a survival shelter.

These will take a lot of extra time that in a true emergency situation would not grant you.

A  long-term log cabin is built using a method similar to Lincoln Logs; the general idea is to put a frame of logs which interlock in the corners to form a rectangle. 

Thoughts Before Beginning

Before you begin, you will need to clear the land.

This means level it, and cover it with a layer of gravel for drainage.

If this is not done properly your structure will not be easy to assemble.

Locate large rocks that can serve as stilts to keep your cabin.

This will make for a stable on the ground and place them at all four corners.

With the rocks in place, locate the base layer of the logs.

The threshold logs, which will need to be larger than those used for the walls – about 12 inches in diameter. 

Once the threshold logs are in place you can add floorboards or skip this step and build the walls.

For the walls, look for trees 7-10 inches in diameter.

Cut them according to the dimensions of your floor plan. 

To prepare the logs for the walls.

Flatten the top and bottom so that they fit together and notch the ends to fit together.

Form a solid wedge – also, cutting a notch in the top log avoids building up a lot of water in the joints if you live in more humid climates.

Once you’ve reached your desired wall height, start using logs of decreasing length at each end to create the top. 

Notch and place two long logs perpendicular along the entire length of the cabin.

This is to serve as a support for the roof. 

Beneficial Survival Gear & Equipment To Have

Beneficial Survival Gear & Equipment To Have

Without a doubt, you should have included tools and materials.

Weather in your disposal or in recovery bag that lends themselves to shelter construction something other than cheap tarps.

However, it is important to consider which tools are essential.

If an unexpected need for shelter arises, such as while on an expedition or hiking you need to have them.

To make sure you have the right tools.

Take an inventory of the different tasks you will need to perform when building shelters such as

  • Cutting
  • Disconnecting
  • Notching
  • Securing
  • Digging
  • Weaving

Think about what tools could help you with these tasks.

If you can find one two or a couple of tools that can handle multiple tasks would be a plus.

Here is our list of the top survival gear and supplies.

These are essential to have on hand when building survival shelters:

Wilderness Precautions

Wilderness Precautions

No matter where you choose to set up shelter, always be aware that wildlife may be around you. 

If you have found a great spot you are probably not the first to find it.

Be sure to survey the land.

Make sure there are not any snakes in the leaves or under. fallen trees.

To flush out any creatures lurking in the brush or bushes, use a stick to push the area before continuing.

Additionally, store any food you have up in a tree to avoid attracting unwanted critters into your shelter.

When it comes to the wilderness, avoid any foliage that has a chalky white appearance.

This is a mold that could spread throughout your shelter, and impact your health. 

Also, if a tree has a lot of lace leaves, it indicates that it is likely infested with bugs.


Now that you have the basic skills to plan and build your forest survival shelter or snow caves.

The next step is to get out there and practice! 

While techniques like weaving and stowing can be practiced in your yard.

Building an effective survival shelter, there is no substitute for the real thing.

Hands-on always gives better skill building of what works and what doe not work.

As you practice, be sure to take note of relevant factors such as the time.

Knowing that the time may vary depending on the actual disaster scenario you will experience or the number of people you have with you.

Be creative, resourceful, and most importantly – stay alive!

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