How to Build an Emergency Shelter in The Woods

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Picture this: you’re out for what was supposed to be a day hike with your buddies. As night falls, you realize you’re not going to make it back to camp. Finding your way is not an option. What do you do?

Having to spend a night in the wilderness may force you to build a shelter for the night. There is no need to panic. There is more than one way to skin a cat. And they’re even more ways to build survival shelters – that’s what this article is all about. It’s always smart to prepare for an emergency.

Why Should I Learn How to Build an Emergency Shelter?

Along with food, water and clothing, shelter is one of the essential elements of survival, and unfortunately, one of the most overlooked.

In most cases, people lost in the woods build shelters mainly to keep them warm. When you go up against extreme weather unprepared, the weather wins. Riding out Mother Nature’s worst without shelter can also be dangerous. Whether you have the right survival supplies or not, building a safety barrier can protect you from wild animals, insects and other elements.

It takes a few minutes to build a shelter in the woods because nature provides all the raw materials that you will need. It is, therefore, useful to understand the options that you have so that you can build a suitable shelter.

How to Know the Kind of Shelter to Build

Not all emergency shelter designs work in all environments. You will need to decide on a type of shelter.

The first thing that you would need to consider before making your shelter is how long you plan on staying. You will also need to consider the kind of tools that you can access. The location is also a critical determiner because, as mentioned, you can be under threat of cold or wild animals.

You will have to take a good look around to see if there is anything that you can use. Keep in mind that survival in the forest is all about taking advantage of anything you can because if it comes to worse, you will have to hunt for your food, but we hope it doesn’t come to that.

Some of the shelters that you can consider building to spend the night in the woods include:


This is the most common kind of shelter because it is easy to make. It is also efficient because it can protect you from the blowing breeze. To build a lean-to, you will need horizontal support that can be offered by a branch of a tree about four inches tall. Alternatively, you can stick two sticks on the ground then secure the top horizontal support so that you can place sticks on the horizontal support, and they run up to the ground to form a kind of wedge. After arranging the sticks, you can add leaves and boughs to cover up the small openings. A lean-to should shield you from rain and excess sun, but the only problem is that one side is open, and that allows cold and insects to reach you.

Basic Teepee

To build a teepee, you will need to find a long pole and stick it stiffly into the ground. Next, collect more sticks that are long enough to lean on the pole so that it creates a 90-degree angle with the ground. You will need to arrange these sticks around the center pole until you are left with a small opening for a door. Secure the surrounding sticks by tying them together. With that up, next add leaves on top of the sticks so that it can block the small spaces. A basic teepee is a perfect shield if you are lost in the woods when it is cold. It is also the ideal shield from the scorching sun.

Trench Shelter

This is a little complicated and should only be applied when it is a matter of life and death because you will need a whole lot of leaves to build a perfect one. First, dig a long vertical pit in the shape of a coffin that you can fit in properly. Collect enough leaves to create a good cover so that when you lie inside the pit, you can completely cover yourself without anyone noticing you. When building this kind of shelter, ensure that you leave enough space around the face area so that you can breathe. As for the top cover of your trench, leave it secure and disguised. A trench shelter will allow you to be untraceable by naked eyes.

Round Lodge

A round lodge looks more like the basic teepee, but the only difference is, there is no center pole, and the round lodge can accommodate more than one person. A round lodge is built by leaning sticks on each other in a circular manner so that it creates a kind of cone with a hole opening in the top. With around lodge, you can even create a fire inside because the hole at the top will create the perfect outlet for the smoke. Unlike the basic teepee, a round lodge can have a working door; hence, it is an ideal option if you plan on staying in the woods for long.

Debris Hut

A debris hut is another kind of shelter that you can build quickly in the woods where there is enough supply of leaves and sticks. The first step of constructing this shelter is joining the rods so that they form a triangle. You will then need a taller tree to connect the top of the tringle to the ground. Next, collect boughs and use them to cover the sides of your skeleton structure. A debris hut is one of the best kinds of shelters because it is easy to construct, and it usually retains more heat, making it ideal for a cold night. You can also protect yourself from the scorching sun during the day.


Ramada is composed of a flat roof supported by 4 posts like a basic house. Typically, a Ramada has portable walls so that it can be enclosed during the night. The roof can be made of sticks and bough to prevent rain and sunlight from entering. As to how high it should be, you are free to decide.


It is essential to understand that the woods can be a dangerous place, especially at night. Lack of preparation is the most deadly factor in any survival situation.

Other than building a shelter in the woods, you can always take advantage of the natural shelters provided like caves. To keep even warmer, consider building a bonfire in front of your shelter, just ensure the fire is not very close.

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