Finding yourself out in the elements and very much in need of shelter can happen to just about anyone. Whether you’re a camper or hiker who finds themselves having to find shelter for the night or a mountain climber who has suddenly become snowed in, it happens all of the time. It can even happen to people who weren’t planning on spending any significant amount of time in the wilderness. For example, a traveler trapped by the side of the road when their car breaks down.

In those circumstances, you’ll need to find shelter as soon as possible—and if a shelter isn’t readily available, then you need to build one and build one quickly. That’s because in those situations hypothermia is a real threat and can put your life into danger rather quickly. And hypothermia can happen in warmer temperatures that most people think. A person can develop hypothermia outdoors in temperatures as warm as 50-degrees Fahrenheit (10-degrees Celsius), especially if the person’s body or clothing is wet.

Unfortunately, although shelter building is a lifesaving tool, few people know how to make them. At one point in time, building a shelter was common knowledge for most people, but it seems this art has become lost to modern generations. That’s why we’ve decided to write a guide on the subject. A guide that will help everyone build an emergency shelter. Before we start, however, we would like to take a few moments and talk about an ancillary subject that goes hand-in-hand with shelter building, and that is dressing properly in the wilderness.

Dressing Properly For The Outdoors

One of the best ways that people can be prepared for the outdoors is by wearing the proper clothing. What you’re wearing is the first line of defense you have against the elements, so it’s always important to wear clothing appropriate for the conditions. During the winter months, that means wearing multiple layers of clothing with a waterproof exterior layer, followed by layers of wool or synthetic materials.

Why wear multiple layers? It’s important to wear multiple layers because if you’re walking or doing physical activities in the cold, then you can begin to sweat, and sweat is deadly during winter conditions because it can quickly lead to hypothermia. However, if you begin to sweat while you’re wearing multiple layers, you can shed a layer or two to prevent that from happening. And then if you get cold again, you can add back layers as needed.

Make Sure To Carry EDC Items

Another thing that you should try to do is to carry everyday carry items that will make building a shelter and/or fire easier. We recommend that people carry a knife, paracord, and a fire starter on them at all times to ensure that they’re prepared for whatever happens during a day. If you’re carrying these three items, then even if you get stranded in the woods during the coldest winter months, you still have the tools you need to survive the situation.

If you’re planning on camping, hiking, or mountain climbing, then you will want to take a bivy sack with you for sure, but you also might want to pack one in the trunk of your car for any emergencies that can occur while traveling. Remember, disaster can strike at any time, so it never hurts to be prepared to meet any challenge.

Building An Emergency Shelter

Now that we have mentioned some of the basics of outdoor survival, now we’re going to talk about some of the emergency shelters that a person can build while they’re out in the wilderness. Although the following shelters are only a small sampling of the shelters that a person can build, we think that they’re the simplest and easiest for any person to build.

Lean-To Shelter

One of the easiest shelters for just about anyone to build is a lean-to shelter. A person can lash together a few limbs to build a basic frame, top it with some pine branches or leaves, and reinforce it with a tarp, trash bag, or even a poncho. And best of all, it can be built without having to do a lot of woodcutting.

Tarp Roll Shelter

Another makeshift shelter, and one that’s even easier to build than a lean-to shelter, is a tarp roll. This is an easy way for a person to shelter themselves in an emergency, but it’s not the best solution. It involves the person using a tarp, or sleeping bag liner for their shelter. They simply roll themselves in it and lay on a pile of leaves. It won’t protect the person from precipitation, but it can give them quick warmth in otherwise dry but cold conditions.

The A-Frame Shelter

The A-frame shelter is another one that’s easy to build. All a person needs is to have two sticks 4-5 feet long, and one stick that’s approximately 10+ feet long. The shorter sticks are propped up into the shape of the letter “A” and the long stick is situated at the top of the “A” to form the shelter’s spine. The sticks are then tied together with cordage at the point where they come together. When that’s done, the shelter is topped with leaves or smaller branches, and the inside floor of the shelter is padded with leaves.

Tarp Shelter

One of the easiest shelters for anyone to make is the tarp shelter. All that’s needed for the shelter is a tarp, some type of cordage (such as paracord), a couple of rocks, and trees that are close enough together. This shelter is made by tying the cord between the two trees, throwing the tarp over it to make a makeshift tent, and securing the edges with rocks. This is a quick and easy shelter anyone can make.

Shelter Building Tips

  • Below are some tips that will help to make the constructed shelter better at doing its job of protecting you against the elements.
  • Avoid building a shelter along ravines or river beds.
  • Avoid building on damp ground.
  • The ground is a heat sink, so be sure to elevate yourself off of it.
  • Avoid building a shelter on exposed ridges.
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