5 Bushcraft Shelters You Should Know How To Build
Guest Post by John Lewis:
I started participating in outdoor activities at the age of 16. I share my experiences and stories over at Epic Wilderness.
According to the Rule of 3, you can only live for 3 hours without shelter. The reason is simply because shelter provides adequate protection from extreme weathers (strong winds, rain, snows, etc). One of the major causes of death among outdoorsmen is hypothermia (when your body temperature is too low) knowing how to build a good shelter is one element to helping you keep your body temperature at 98.6 degrees.
In this post, we will talking about 5 different bushcraft shelters that you can build using the natural resources that can be found in the woods. The main reason it’s important to be able to build shelters out of natural resources is that you will be able to survive in the woods even if you have a lack of man-made materials (such as tarp, ropes, etc). Of course, if you have them with you, it will make your job much easier because building a natural shelter takes a lot of time and energy! In this post, I am assuming that you will have at least a sharp survival knife with you all the time. That’s probably the only thing you will definitely need to build these shelters. However a good folding saw or a snow saw could come in handy as well! Below you will find 5 video tutorials from Youtube that will guide you through the whole building process of each of the 5 shelters (at least the core steps).
First we have the A-Frame shelter. The name A-Frame comes from the fact the shelter looks like the letter A once it’s fully built. If you are new to wilderness survival, this is probably the first shelter you will learn how to build.
- It’s probably the easiest bushcraft shelter you can possibly build.
- You don’t need accurate geometric measurement when you are putting the materials together.
- Location friendly. you only need a tree to lean the ridge pole against.
- It can be waterproof if you mix in enough natural materials so that you cannot see any light from the outside when you are sitting inside the shelter.
- In most cases, A-Frame isn’t the right shelter if you plan to stay for more than a few days.
- Not suitable in damp areas/wet grounds.
- It is hard to have a fire near the entrance to supplement heat.
Note: As he notes in the video to make this A Frame totally waterproof he would need to add more natural materials to the outside until he could not see any light coming through from the inside.
Swamp Bed Shelter
Another great shelter that you should learn to build is the Swamp Bed shelter. It’s essentially a raised bed (or area where you can rest on) where it’s fixed above the ground.
- Great for damp/wet areas
- Can be integrated into other survival shelters such as a lean-to and swamp bed hybrid (essentially you are creating a bed inside the lean-to shelter)
- reduce the loss of heat to the ground
- It’s often not comfortable to sleep on
- vulnerable to weather like rain because there is no roof (unless integrated with other shelters)
- you need to be able to have good natural resources in the area to construct it.
As the name suggests, Lean-To are shelters built leaning towards at least one tree or even two trees.
- It’s fairly easy to build (check out the video below).
- It’s more durable than A-Frame shelters.
- Can be pretty warm if you build a wall in front of the shelter to reflect heat.
- It does take quite a bit of work if you want to build a really warm Lean-To shelter (need to reinforce the sides and build a reflector wall in front of the campfire.
- Requires a lot of natural materials to make it totally waterproof.
- Generally only suitable for 1 person stay.
A snow cave is pretty similar to an igloo. The only difference is that, you stack ice block layer by layer to build an igloo. For a snow cave, all you do is dig into a deep snow bank and then hollow out the inside. You can also buold a quinzee by piling up a large pile of snow and then hollowing it out as well. But this takes a considerably more effort to build.
- It’s much easier to build as compared to an igloo.
- It’s a great heat insulator and therefore is a very suitable shelter to build in snowy season.
- It’s only suitable for temporary stay.
- Although small there is some risk that the snow might collapse due to strong wind, poor snow quality, etc.
- The snow needs to be pretty deep to have a suitable site. The shelter needs to have at least 12″-24″ of snow on the side walls.
There are many forms of debris hut out there but I really like the one built by Survival Lilly in one of her videos. You can check it out in the video below.
- Very comfortable and warm (can be warm enough even without fire due to the compact nature of the debris hut)
- It’s easy to set up and it takes only a short amount of time because you don’t need to cut as many woods as you would have to for other shelters. (Perfect if you have limited time – it’s late at night, you know it’s going to rain soon, etc)
- This kind of shelter won’t last (unless you strengthen the structure).
- If the wind is too strong, the dry leaves might be blown away. But this can be reduced by adding an additional layer of medium weight branches over the top of the leaves.
There are certainly more than 5 types of bushcraft shelters that you can build but these 5 are definitely the basic ones that you should know. Also, I have to say I am amazed by the creativity of the survival community. While I was looking around on Youtube to search for relevant videos to be used in this post, I saw many different improvised shelters. Let me know what your favorite bushcraft shelter is in the comment area below!