Options for Survival Shelters In a SHTF Situation

If you've been prepping and preparing for a potential bug out for any length of time, the thought of building a shelter has definitely come up. Cold is debilitating, not only physically but mentally. If you get wet and it is windy you will be in serious trouble. Water extracts heat from the body twenty-five times faster than air, and the wind-chill factor can increase this loss many times. In a survival situation, finding or making a good shelter is essential not just to your comfort, but to your life.

Shelter comes in many forms and has only to meet your needs at the time. It may be a cave, overhang or some other form of natural shelter that just needs a small amount of work to make it suitable. More likely, you will have to construct a shelter from scratch. Building a shelter can be difficult for the first-timer, but if your shelter keeps out much of the wind and rain and you can survive the night you have done a reasonably good job.

Many people are guilty of using the word "survival" when going out and managing in the wilderness with a small amount of equipment, but it is very important to be able to differentiate between survival and bushcraft as these are two very different subjects. Survival is really just that, you will be plunged unexpectedly into an hostile environment, possibly injured with little or no equipment, and you have to keep yourself alive. In this situation your largest problem is likely to be a mental one. If you have bushcraft skills these will be of great use in the situation.


Caves and rock overhangs may provide a quick and simple solution to your problem, but remember that it may be the home of something else. Large cats, bears, bats, scorpions, spiders and snakes are all possible tenants. If lightning storms are a possibility, be mindful that a current can travel down down wet fissures to where you may be. There is also a danger of suffocating if you build a fire and the cave is not well ventilated. Building a fire in a cave is best done at the back so the smoke tracks along the roof and out of the cave. If you build it in the entrance, it is likely that the wind will blow the smoke back inside the cave.

Natural Hollows

These occur in many places, and even a small hollow will offer some protection from the wind. With a little work, a roof may be fashioned to give a reasonable shelter in a very short time. But shelter in a hollow would not be the first choice if it looks like heavy rain.

Rock Shelters

In rocky areas a simple shelter can be made by collecting rocks and building a small, circular structure about three feet high. This will keep the wind off and if time/materials allow, a roof can be fashioned quickly.

Felled Tree Shelter

If you were prepared enough to bring an ax, you can cut through the trunk of a small tree a shelter can easily be made. This works best with coniferous trees although any tree will suffice. Locate a straight tree around six metres tall, partially cut through the trunk about a meter up from the base and push it over into the wind. Work from the trunk end taking off all the branches from the base forming a tunnel on the bottom about two and a half metres long. Put these branches on the outside and block-off one side of the trunk entrance. Cut additional branches from other trees for additional outer protection. If it is likely to rain cut off all outer branches that point upwards as the rain will track down and into the shelter. Lay these branches across the top to make as watertight as possible.

Windfall Shelter

You can make a surprisingly simple shelter with little or no tools by collecting branches, making a frame and covering it with ferns, turf, grass, leaves etc. This type of shelter is easily and quickly constructed in autumn when the materials are plentiful.

Survival shelters need to be quick and simple as making shelter will be only one of your tasks. Finding food, water, direction and generally keeping yourself safe soon become top priority and are very time consuming. But in a survival situation, having adequate shelter should be your first priority when it starts to get too dark to continue traveling.