In this section we will go over the basics of finding or building an emergency shelter. Instead of going into details about the different methods of constructing shelters, we will go over the basic principles that apply to all shelters. For an in-depth shelter building guide check out our advanced shelter guide.

When to look for, or build a shelter.

  • Immediately if your in a survival situation that requires you to get warm fast (cold, rain, snow), or if you have the need to stay hidden.
  • At least 2 hours before dark in most other situations.

Were to look for, or build a shelter.

Your shelter will be determined by your unique situation. The following or some things to consider; will I need a quick way to signal for help, do I need to stay hidden, is there a good water source nearby, are there any dangers in the area (avalanche, dead trees, rock slides, creepy crawlies, possible flooding, etc.)? Look for areas that have adequate materials for building, and plenty of room for you to lie down.

Widow Makers

  • Avoid creek bottoms, dry river beds, and low lying areas in foothills; in mountainous areas melting snow and thunder showers in the mountains can cause a rush of water to come poring into low lying areas (many campers have died this way). Always shelter above the highest water lines.
  • Always make sure there are no dead trees, or limbs that could fall on your shelter.
  • Avoid areas that have a potential for rock slides or avalanches.
  • Watch out for the wild life; don’t shelter on game trails, or too close to watering holes. Keep an eye out for insects, spiders, scorpions and snakes(you don’t want to unknowingly build your shelter on a snake den, or ants nest).
  • Use caution in and around caves; caves are usually a habitat for rodents, bats, snakes, insects, and even large predators’. If you use a cave, be careful when heating it up with your camp fire; heating cold rock rapidly can cause the rock to break and the cave ceiling to collapse.
  • In urbanized areas keep in mind that abandoned buildings may already have guest living in them (You don’t want to wake up in a crack house).

Finding/Building a Shelter

Things to consider:

  • What type of shelter do I need to protect me from the elements (Rain, Snow, Wind, Sun, etc.)?
  • Do I have the materials available (natural or man-made)?
  • Do I have the tools (natural or man-made)?
  • How much time and effort will it take?

We will not get into the details of shelter building in this section; instead we will show diagrams of several types of shelters that will provide adequate protection from the elements. For an in-depth shelter building guide check out our advanced shelter guide.

Quick Shelters

Poncho Tent

One man shelter (Man-made Materials)

One Man Hidden Cave Shelter (Natural Materials)
(This shelter can keep you very warm even in the coldest weather!) (This is my favorite shelter for concealment and warmth, but it is only recommended in cold weather because of the creepy crawlies that will try to share it with you.)

Lean-to Shelter

Tree-pit Snow Shelter

Desert Shelter