Home » How to Build a Survival Shelter in the Woods (6 Design & Ideas)

How to Build a Survival Shelter in the Woods (6 Design & Ideas)

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If you’re ever stuck in the woods, you’ll want to find food, water, and shelter as quickly as possible, as these are the essentials to sustain you till you can seek help.

Sometimes you can find natural survival shelters in the woods like caves, tunnels, or even abandoned huts. Other times, you’ll have to build a shelter yourself with any available material.

Building a shelter is essential for survival, but how do you do this with limited resources?

First, you can use some available materials to make a decent shelter to protect yourself. Then, depending on the time of the year, you may have to look for a waterproof shelter structure.

When it comes to surviving in the woods, shelter is one of the most important, even more than food and shelter, since you can survive for days without any of the two. However, losing body heat is extremely dangerous.

How do you build a survival shelter in the woods with limited resources? Here is a guide discussing building a survival shelter and highlighting several ideas you can utilize to survive the wild. The survival shelter designs here use coon materials you can find in the wood.

How To Build Survival Shelter in The Woods?

Building a survival shelter in the woods depends a lot on the terrain and the types of material you can find. When it comes to material, you’ll naturally have a lot of trees and branches you can use in the wood.

However, other tools like a small utility knife and a rope can be helpful. Here’s a short guide to building a survival shelter in the woods:

Choose the Best Location

Where you site your shelter can be a huge determinant of whether the shelter serves its purpose of protecting you.

Select a dry high ground and avoid slopes and valleys as the wind settles in the valleys at night, and water can flow into your shelter if it’s sloppy.

When siting your shelter, you should consider whether you want to be found. You want to choose a site with enough room in front of the doorway to start a fire.

Some places you want to avoid include staying under cliffs and rocks that can fall and harm you and locating your shelter so close to a water body. Choosing an open place will make it easier to be found.

Assess Your Options

After you’ve got a good location for your shelter, you can look around to assess which materials are available, from the tools you have to the materials you can readily get in the woods. Consider if you want to be seen and the present climatic conditions.

You also want to consider your needs, as the best shelter type will vary based on your needs. If you’re in a group, you’ll probably need a bigger shelter or more than one.

Time is of the essence, so you want to see how much time you have to build a shelter before it gets dark or unsafe. Is the shelter for long-term or short-term use? The longer you need shelter, the stronger you should build it.

Choose a Shelter Type

There are different ways to make shelter in the woods, with each method having its advantages and requiring different tools/materials, time and skillset. After assessing your options, you should get a clear idea of the type of shelter you need.

Sometimes you may already have the materials to build a shelter without sourcing from the woods.

However, this is rarely the case, as most people must complete their tools with building materials in the woods. You’ll find a list of shelter designs at the end of this post to give you ideas you can use.

Build the Shelter

The way you build depends majorly on the type of shelter, with other factors like available materials and location also playing a role.

For example, if you’re sourcing materials like wood from your surroundings, you’ll need a sharp tool like a matchet, knife, or axe to cut down the stems and branches you need.

You do not need nails to build a shelter in the wood since it would be difficult to get them. However, depending on the level of durability you want, using rope and burying parts of the wood in the ground can keep the shelter firmly in place.

Other times, you can even leave some parts without ropes or clips, especially for short-term shelters with fewer winds.

Make a Bed

Making a bed inside your shelter is important to give you as much comfort and warmth as possible.

Gather dry leave debris in your shelter to serve as a bed; since it is soft, you’ll get comfort from using it. Ensure to check the debris for any harmful animals.

Make a Fire

You may need to make a fire in front of your shelter to keep you warm. When this is the case, you want first to ensure you have enough room in front of the shelter for a fire to avoid setting your shelter ablaze. Where possible, you’ll need some dry leaves and wood dust; other materials may include sticks, rocks, flint, and steel.

Starting a fire without matches and a lighter can be labor-intensive, so you need a lot of patience as the fire may not come on the first few tries. Some methods provide an easier route to starting a fire, but all rely on friction.

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Survival Shelter Design and Ideas

If you’re looking for ideas to kick-start the flow of survival shelter styles you can make, this section will provide you with a few fantastic ideas.

1. Ramada


This Ramada design will be a practical option if you seek protection from the sun and have a tarp or mat. It requires 4 to 6 stable posts depending on the size of the ramada, several beams, and ropes. You’ll also need cutting and digging tools to set up this shelter design.

Cut bigger stems for the post and thinner but more durable stems for the roof. Bury part of the posts in the ground to keep it firm and then use ropes to tie the beams to make the roof frame.

Using a waterproof tarp or mat to cover the top will keep water and sun out of the area. One of the downsides to this idea is the open sides which may leave you exposed, especially at night or under strong winds.

2. Wind Resistant Wedge Tarp

Wind Resistant Wedge Tarp

If you’re stuck in areas with strong winds, you’ll want a shelter that can withstand such pressures. You can build a wind-resistant tarp for strong wind areas with a tarp and ropes.

This wedge tarp shelter set against the wind will stand strong and protect from elements like water and sun.

Figure out the direction of the wind and set the door backing the winds. Next, tie-down two ends of the same sides, raise the center of the tarp on the opposite side, and tie up to provide a door area. You’ll have about five ties to keep the tarp solid.

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3. Fallen Tree

Fallen Tree

If you can find a fallen tree, you’re halfway through completing this fallen tree shelter idea, where you use them and some of its branches as a frame for your shelter. You can cover it with a tarp or add more leaf debris to open corners.

The method is quick and easy to implement, acting as great camouflage if you want to remain out of sight. However, it relies on finding a fallen tree which is only sometimes possible, and you may have to contend with bugs.

4. A-Frame Shelter

A-Frame Shelter

A-frame designs are quite common, from rooftops to loft designs. You can make an A-shape shelter in the woods with wood and cutting materials alone. You’ll need two opposite posts and a long post going over the two posts at the top.

Use several small branches to make an A-shape design, as seen in the image. You can reduce the heat from the sun this way; if you want more protection, use a tarp over the small branches or use debris to cover them. This short-term shelter idea is easy to build and great for one person.

5. Wicki-Up


This round, elevated wood shelter provides durable wood protection, especially against strong winds, since the round shape keeps winds away from the shelter. You’ll need long branches and bris to complete this idea.

Mark a circle as wide enough for the branches. Bury the branches along the circle line diagonally, so they all converge at the center with a small center open to serve as a smoke outlet. Because of the smoke outlet in the middle, you can make a tiny fire inside the shelter to keep warm.

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6. Wicki-Up

If you can find a good spot between two trees, and you have a rope and a large tarp, you can pull off this no poles shelter idea will prove effective. Tie the rope low on the two trees and overhang the tarp over the rope so both ends are touching the ground.

Use large stones to keep the ends firmly to the ground while you enjoy the warmth under the tarp of this easy-to-make design without the need to cut wood.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to build a shelter in the woods is an essential survival skill, as you never know when you may be stuck and need it to survive. The additional design ideas help your creativity as you utilize whatever material you find.