How to Build a Shelter in the Woods

You never know when you might find yourself stranded for a period of time in the wilderness–and whether you’re an outdoor adventurer or not, it’s not a bad idea to learn some basic skills that could one day save your life. One important thing you should know when it comes to outdoor survival is how to build a shelter in the woods. Shelter can provide warmth, comfort, and hope in any situation whether desperate or not–keeping you safe from elements and predators until either you found your own way or help arrived. Below you will find step-by-step instructions on how you can build a shelter in the woods, no assistance or special tools required.

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Choose a Location

Before you build a shelter in the woods, you must first choose a location upon which to build it. Look for some clear area that’s not overgrown, preferably set on higher ground that isn’t at risk for flooding. While you may want plenty of trees surrounding you that will provide additional protection against the elements, you want to make sure that the place you choose to build your shelter can be seen by search and rescue, if that’s what you’re waiting for.

Select a Base for Your Shelter

If you don’t have any tools with you and have never before constructed anything even remotely similar to a shelter, a basic lean-to is probably your best bet. You’ll need a solid base for your shelter, so look around for a large fallen tree or boulder that will serve as a foundation. Your base should be something that is larger than you, something that you can lean up and rest against comfortably.

Gather Building Materials

Staying close to the area that you’ve chosen to build your shelter, walk around and look for large branches that you can use to construct your walls. The heavier the branches are the sturdier your shelter will be. Make a pile of all of the branches and sticks you’ve found and once you have a decent supply, start looking for smaller sticks and debris that will be used to fill in gaps and insulate your shelter. Moss, grass, leaves, and just about any other type of plant material will do just fine. Scour the area for rocks and stones, as well–they can come in very handy when you’re building a shelter out in the woods.

Construct Your Shelter

Once you’ve gathered enough materials to build your shelter, you’ll be ready to start constructing it. Form the walls of the shelter by placing large branches at a slant, one end resting on the ground and the other against your foundation. If you’re worried about strong winds tearing your shelter apart, use vines or some flexible tree bark to securely tie some of the large branches and sticks together to add weight and sturdiness. As you build the walls of the shelter, be sure to leave a small opening somewhere for you to enter and exit. After all of the branches are in place, put heavy rocks around the perimeter of your shelter snug against the branches. This will prevent the branches from slipping as well as small animals and cold from sneaking in around the edges. Fill in any gaps and cracks in your construction with small sticks and pack in as much plant material and debris as you can that will serve as a natural insulation. To ensure that your shelter will be able to stand up to strong winds, place small rocks and stones on top of your slanted walls to add some extra weight and keep everything in its place.

Wooded areas have everything you need to construct a shelter–all you have to do is look around you. If possible, take some time to practice building shelters out in the wilderness. After all, the best time to learn is when you’re not under pressure. If you should ever find yourself in a situation where you need to seek refuge, the ability to build a suitable shelter for yourself is a skill you simply won’t want to be without.

Guest post from Payton Price. Payton writes for