Survival Shelters

Survival Shelters

Survival shelters form the second stage of the survival rule of 3’s. After air, without which you can only survive three minutes, shelter is the next most important element for increasing your chances of survival. Three hours is the excepted amount of time that a person can survive in poor conditions without a suitable shelter to protect them from the elements. This time will change depending on your situation.

What if you don’t have a tent, a car, or many supplies?  You need to think on your feet.

Here are some ideas for temporary survival shelters that can help you survive your situation.


A debris hut is one of the most simple and warmest forms of survival shelter that doesn’t use fire to provide warmth.

What you need:

One long log/stick – this will form the “spine” of your hut

Lots of sticks in a variety of sizes

Debris – leaves, moss, etc and lots of it

How to make it:

Find a suitable campsite and clear the area where you will be constructing your shelter.

Place your long “spine” stick against a support – for example, a tree or make your own Y support from two sticks crossed and tied together at one end and the other end stuck firmly in the ground.

Place the smaller sticks along the long stick to form a tent-like shape. A door can be made by making a tunnel at one end of the hut which can then be plugged with extra debris to completely seal the shelter later on.

Once the sticks are in place and the shelter is in the intended shape, cover it completely with debris. Use leaves, moss, tree branches – the more debris you put on the shelter, the warmer it will be – the debris layer can be up to three feet deep.

Fill your shelter with more debris to fully insulate it before getting inside and plugging the entrance


  • Provides warmth without needing a fire
  • All materials can be found in nature
  • Relatively easy to construct
  • Protects from small animals and pests


  • Time consuming to make
  • Physically challenging to build – collecting enough debris and logs
  • Needs attention to ensure debris is not getting blown away in wind
  • Low level of protection from human or large animal threats.

Tarp Shelter

This type of shelter can be made in so many different ways. I consider a tarp to be near the top of the list for any Survivalist to always have with them.

What you need:

A tarp

Cordage – either find some natural cordage or carry paracord

Stakes – again, natural stakes can be made from sticks, or carry your own with you

How to make it:

Find a suitable campsite – you are looking for a site with two trees around 10 – 30 feet apart depending on the length of cordage you have and how big you need your shelter to be (if trees are scarce at your campsite, two tall sticks can be used to attach your cordage.)

Use your cordage to make the ridgeline for your shelter. Tie your ridgeline to the trees (or sticks). It needs to be taught to ensure your shelter will be strong and effective. It should be tied around shoulder height.

Place your tarp over the center of your ridgeline so it is folded in half over the line.

Most tarps have holes at their corners enabling you to place a line through and use it to stake the edges down. Make sure these lines are pulled tight before staking them. Again this will help give your shelter strength and support.

Lay another tarp or make a bed of leaves underneath your shelter and this is now ready to use.


  • There are so many different survival shelters you can make with a tarp – your imagination is your biggest limitation.
  • Tarps are light and can be folded small so they take up very little space in your kit.
  • Quick to construct and easy to adapt to whatever weather conditions you face – lower ridgeline for more shelter from wind and rain, increase height of ridgeline to provide shade but allow cooling breeze to blow through.


  • Can lack strength and reliability if made incorrectly
  • Basic knot tying skills required
  • Low level of security provided – anyone can get into a tarp shelter whether they are invited or not! However it will keep out small animals and pests if staked close to ground.

Swamp Bed

These are perfect if you are having to shelter in a marshy area or if there is standing water on the ground.

What you need:

Four trees that make a rectangle formation – if this is not possible then strong support using logs can be made.

2 logs that are similar in size.

A collection of sturdy sticks.


How to make it:

Secure your two logs to either side of the rectangle created by the trees. Ensure they are fully secure with cordage to prevent your shelter from collapsing when you get on it.

Create a frame for your bed by placing the sticks across the gap between the two logs. Again these will need to be fully secured to ensure shelter stability and effectiveness.

Lay leaves, branches or any other soft materials over the sticks which you will be laying on. Once this is done your swamp bed is complete.


  • Relatively easy to make
  • All materials used can be found in nature
  • Keeps you protected from any non-climbing animals (depending how high off the ground you build the bed)
  • Keeps you off the ground and out of any standing water – this shelter is perfect if you are in a swamp or marshy area


  • Insects like mosquitoes, flies, etc, are still an issue (a mosquito net could be placed over the shelter)
  • Not the most comfortable shelter you can make
  • Larger animal attacks will not be prevented – a fire will help

These are only 3 of the large number of survival shelters you can make. By learning how to make as many as possible will give you the best chance of survival in emergency situations.

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