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Essential Survival Shelter Building Tools

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Do you consider yourself a survival expert? You may have good knowledge about what essentials to carry in your backpack if you are planning on hitting the wilderness. You may even be mentally and physically prepared to deal with any unforeseen circumstance. But, however useful those skills may be, they alone won’t cut it. That’s because, in order to achieve the master survivalist title, you need to be a pro in building a survival shelter.

What is a survival shelter?

A survival shelter is a proverbial roof over your head, temporarily of course. It will be your safe spot and your comfort zone in the wilderness. Take note that not just any large outcropping of rock or some old tree will do the trick. No, a good survival shelter is one which meets the following criteria:

  • Easy to build
  • High and dry
  • Protects against the weather
  • Protects from wild animals
  • Open to natural light during the day
  • Near a good source of clean water


Why do you need a Survival Shelter?

You may need a place to kip under when you are out hiking or camping. You may need one to safely rest while you are out taking a trek through a jungle. Or you may need one during a freak accident leaving you stranded in the middle of nowhere or in the unlikely event of a zombie apocalypse. At any rate, a few tidbits of knowledge never go amiss, and knowing how to build a survival shelter can only add to your badass skillset.

What Essential Gear do you need to Build a Survival Shelter?

Now that we have sufficiently established the need for a shelter and why it is important for you to know how to erect one, let’s talk about what gear you need to build one.

The following items may come super handy in such a situation:

Rope or Paracord

A good, sturdy bit of rope or cord is the most useful tool for building a shelter. This one’s our favorite: Multifunction Paracord.


You will need a strong sharp knife to cut materials like wood and rope. Read Choosing the Right Survival Knife to get tips on buying the best knife.


A tarp is the most versatile bit of hardware which can be extremely beneficial in building a survival shelter. It’s a good idea to always keep a tarpaulin in the trunk of your car for emergency purposes.


If you happen to have a parachute available, that can prove to be quite useful. If not, any fabric, like a military poncho or something similar can do the trick.


Not essential but definitely has its uses like digging holes for fire, or securing poles into the ground.

Duct Tape

Again, not absolutely essential, but quite handy in sealing loose ends.

Shelter Kit

The Nato Shelter Kit is originally designed for soldiers but it fits perfectly in a bug-out-bag or keeps as an emergency bushcraft kit. See details.

This guide on 10 essential survival gear items can help you decide what else you should buy.


How to use this gear?

Now that we know about some of the most essential survival building tools, the next step is knowing how to use them. For your convenience, we have compiled ways to build 3 super easy survival shelters.

Things you will need are:

  • Tarp
  • Rope or a paracord
  • Short, thick wooden poles
  • Shovel
  • Branches and rocks

1- Tarp A-Tent

A tarp tent is a triangular or A-shaped shelter which can be constructed in under 10 minutes! Yes, it’s that easy.

How to build:

  • Pick a location. It should be someplace on dry, elevated ground, somewhere between 2 large strong trees and ideally near a source of freshwater. If the woods are thick enough to provide cover from strong winds or harsh sunlight, that’s a bonus.
  • Clear the selected area of dried leaves and other debris.
  • Tie the rope or cord between 2 trees, high enough to reach your shoulder.
  • Drape the tarp over the tightly tied rope so that it falls equally over both sides.
  • Pull the sides as further away from the center as possible and secure the ends using wooden poles and rope (you can even use some large rocks to firmly secure it)
  • A triangular tent will be ready for you to take a cozy power nap in no time!

Pro tip: If you don’t have a tarp available, you can still construct the A-Tent using a large canvas type fabric, a military poncho, or even a used parachute.

2- Tarp Teepee (or Tarp Tipi)

A tarp teepee is a pyramid-shaped shelter that is also simple and quick to build.


How to Build:

  • Pick the perfect location.
  • Clear the land.
  • Collect 4 long sturdy pieces of wood to use as poles.
  • Fix one into the ground, up straight in the center.
  • Push the remaining 3 poles into the ground in a triangle around the center pole.
  • Bring them all together at the top and tie the 4 poles together with some rope.
  • The skeleton of a teepee is ready.
  • Now simply drape a tarp over the skeleton and for added sturdiness, secure the ends with some rope or rocks.
  • A tarp teepee is ready!

Pro tip 1: There will be a small hole at the top where all the poles are secured together which might let in the rain so you can cover that up with another piece of tarp or even some branches.

Pro tip 2: Make this hole bigger on purpose when building the teepee and you can build a fire inside to stay warm! The large hole will act as a chimney to allow the smoke from the fire to pass through.

3- Lean-On

A lean-on is a type of shelter which can be built using only branches and rope. Although easy to make and roomy, it may not provide many shelters from the cold unless you build a fire in front.


How to build:

  • Pick a location that is dry, offers natural shade from surrounding trees, and preferably on elevated ground.
  • Collect lots of wooden branches and sticks, 4-5 feet long each.
  • Find a large thick pole, about 6 feet in length (or longer if you want more room).
  • Tie up the thick pole between 2 trees, shoulder height. This will act as your mainframe.
  • Now simply lean all your collected branches and sticks against the mainframe on one side to make a slanted wall.
  • Cover the wall with thick leafy branches for added protection.
  • The lean-on is ready for you to sleep in!

Pro tip 1: Scrounge up some soft hay or heather, or any soft leafy shrubbery and pile it up inside the lean-on to act as a makeshift bed.

Pro tip 2: A few feet in front of the lean-on, dig a shallow hole using a shovel and build a fire and keep it burning. This will provide some warmth as you rest inside the lean-on. If it’s raining, this guide can teach you ways to build a fire despite the moisture.

These are the easiest yet quite effective shelters to build for wilderness beginners. But as an added bonus, here are 2 more ideas:

1. Hammock

Tie up a poncho, a used parachute, or any large piece of cloth between 2 trees and hop on. Although not protective against the weather, it does provide safety from critters on the ground and it is quick to set up and disassemble if you need to move.

2. Snow Cave

If you are stranded on a snowy mountain, the best thing to do is to build a snow cave. Find a spot on sturdy ground, build a deep hole into the snow with a narrow mouth. Snow can act as natural insulation as it traps body heat. This will allow you to huddle inside your snow cave to stay warm as well as shield you from the freezing wind.

Summing up, with the help of this article we’re sure you will be safe, well, as safe as can be reasonably expected in the wilderness, by constructing a survival shelter from the different ideas mentioned above.

Stay safe, stay sheltered!