Top 5 Wilderness Shelters Using Natural Materials

Top 5 Wilderness Shelters Using Natural MaterialsThe ability to build wilderness shelters is an important factor to your ability to live through a cold weather survival scenario. We should all respect Mother Natures since her angriest periods can defeat even the most experienced survivalists. If you learn how to build these five wilderness survival shelters using natural resources, you will have a fighting chance against Mother Nature’s fury.

During this time of the year, keeping the body’s core temperature in optimal limits requires a special talent. It is important to find and construct wilderness shelters as soon as you realize help is not coming.  You should think about building an insulated shelter that should satisfy the basic needs.

All the wilderness shelters you plan on building should be safe and effective, and cover the following:

  • Good protection from the elements
  • Stable base and construction
  • Retains heat
  • Free from natural hazards
  • Provides good ventilation

Before you start building wilderness shelters, you should carefully plan your action. In a previous article, we discussed about the importance of planning, before starting the building process. Once you cover your needs, you can continue to refine and improve your structure.

Here are my top 5 choices for wilderness shelters


This is one of the best emergency wilderness shelters if constructed properly. It is very sturdy if you construct it properly and you can build it fairly quickly with materials found all around you. To build this type of shelter, you will need a long, almost straight pole or branch to form the length and ridge of the shelter. The pole should be longer than the height of the person so he can lie underneath.

The ridge is held off the ground at one end by two shorter and sturdier branches.  These anchors should be angled outwards to form the entrance of the shelter.

If possible, try to find sticks with forked ends that can lock into place with the ridge pole. Afterwards, you will need a lot more branches or sticks to lean against the ridge at appropriate angles, all along the length of the main pole. Try not to extend them too much above the ridge otherwise, the wind may affect the integrity of your shelter.

Once the walls are formed, you will need to use sticks, saplings or other materials to weave them into the walls to provide extra support for the walls. Cover the entire structure with pine branches or ferns. Use leaf litter starting at ground level to cover the entire structure.

Related article: Planning A Shelter In The Wild

Lean to

This is another one of the wilderness shelters that can be built easily with materials you find around you. It employs a horizontal pole or branched, lashed to two trees and/or vertical supports that are firmly secured to the ground to form a ridge. You can provide extra support to the ridgepole by using noggins which are also tied to the tree. You will need a long pole placed on and pegged to the ground parallel to the ridgepole at the foot of the shelter.

Various roof poles, depending on the size of the shelter need to be positioned and lashed evenly along the length of the ridge linking up with the ground pole. The outer poles need to be positioned on the inside of the trees to prevent outward migration. Side stakes are used to help form lateral walls. Use saplings or small branches to form the skeleton of the shelter by weaving them between the roof poles and walls. Cover the walls with ferns and large leaves. This shelter works perfectly in conjunction with a long log fire.

Overhang natural formation

When I spend time in the wilderness, I often look for rock overhangs and caves. These ready-made, natural wilderness shelters are ideal and can protect us from wind, rain or snow. If you manage to find small natural formation, you can shield them with a tarp or vegetation to protect the entrance or sides from the elements.

One thing to keep in mind is that these wilderness shelters are often frequented by fauna, so you need to be careful. You need first to start checking for tracks or droppings before you settled in. This is a critical aspect if the local wildlife is dangerous. Another thing to look for is loose boulders or cracks in the rock since these are clear indications that the natural shelter may not be safe.

Tree pit

I learned to build this shelter to use it in deep snow conditions in wooded areas, but I had the chance to use it only once.  If you find yourself in an area with deep snow, a large tree with thick low branches should be chosen as those branches will form the roof of the shelter.  You will need to dig out the snow from next to the tree trunk and remove any obstructing branches.  Keep them on hand as you can use them to improve the roof of your shelter.

Try to keep the shelter as small as possible to reduce the area that needs to be heated. After you dig the pit and reach the bare ground, you should pack the snow on the side and top of the walls. Use any available materials to insulate the walls and pit floor.

Snow cave

To build a suitable snow cave, you need four things: a good amount of snow, a lightweight snow shovel, sufficient time/daylight and waterproof clothing. The first thing most people do when building a snow cave is going big! Rather than spending a lot of time and energy on building a large snow cave, start by making a simple first room. Later, you can add passageways to other rooms and cubby holes.

Fresh powder snow is too light and dry to use for a snow cave. Stacking the snow up in a mound will cause it to compress and settle into a harder mass. Digging time will vary according to the complexity of your cave. If you need to accommodate more than one person, you should make the building process a collective effort. A one-room shelter will take at least two hours to complete. More complex designs with multiple passageways can take you all day.

Related reading: Staying Outside Longer During The Winter Months

Always use gloves when digging your snow cave. It will help you preserve heat and you will avoid frostbites. If you have a poncho in your bugout bag, you can use it to haul snow out once your tunnel or room starts taking shape.

Since cooler air sinks to the ground, make the entrance tunnel rise a bit so cold air flows away from you. The sleeping area should be carved in the side of the wall, a few feet higher than the floor.  When it comes to snow caves, many people avoid using them since they are afraid of collapsing roofs.

In well-compacted snow, you’ll need only about one foot of snow for a strong roof overhead. In less consolidated snow, plan on at least two feet. Make sure to poke an air vent through the ceiling once you finished digging. An air vent is a must directly above your kitchen area. Keep in mind that if it’s snowing, you need to clear the vent hole every once in a while.


As a prepper and survivalist, you are the type of person who likes to be prepared for a variety of scenarios. If you want to be ready to survive in the wilderness during harsh weather conditions, it is essential to have enough knowledge to build some of these wilderness shelters. I hope this article has given you some insights on the most simple options available for constructing wilderness shelters.

Other Useful Resources:

Survival Lessons from the 1880s

Find Out What’s the Closest Nuclear Bunker to Your Home

This ONE THING Can Help You Terminate Your Store-Bought Dependency

Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation

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