Knowing how to build a survival shelter can save your life. While lack of food can kill you in 3 weeks, and a lack of water kill you in three days, exposure can kill in a matter of a few hours! Regardless of what type of outdoor survival situation you find yourself in, you may need to build a shelter until a more permanent solution can be found.
Lean-to shelters are the easiest to build and can be constructed from almost any material. A blanket or tarp suspended on one end and weighted down on the other is considered a lean-to. Wood supported by any upright is also a lean-to. All of these will provide some protection from wind, sun, rain, snow and all can be made with items that can be found or carried in a survival backpack.
Conical structures will also provide emergency shelter and while they are a bit more difficult to create can be made from items easily located. Branches, sticks, lumber and pipe are all materials that can be used to construct a conical shelter. Arrange your support material in a circular motion. Starting with two poles on each side, prop them up so that they help support each other. Add two more on the opposite side.
Working on a north/south and east/west grid, create a circle of supports. As you fill in the gaps on each directional side you will find that the structure becomes more stable. Choose one area to leave open for your entryway. You can place a few branches or sticks sideways at this area weaving them into the outer supports to reduce the height of this opening. You can close up this opening with a blanket or a garbage bag once you are inside.
When the basic shell has been constructed you can cover this conical structure with smaller branches, cloth such as blankets, curtains, carpet and so forth. Leaves and grass also work as a covering. If your structure is constructed in an area where there is no danger of escaping natural gas or propane you may build a small pit fire inside. There will be a natural center hole in conical shelters that will allow the smoke to rise and escape from inside.
A tipi structure is also an option for some. Taller supports are tied together at the top forming an inverted ice cream cone shape. Around these poles, fabric such as sheets or blankets, carpet or plastic is placed. Again if this structure is in an area where no danger of escaping natural gas or propane is present, a small pit fire for warmth and cooking may be placed inside.
Tents and other types of pre-made shelters are useful as well. Many modern tents are small, lightweight and some are designed for very cold temperatures. While these modern shelters have specific types of stoves and heating equipment that must be used they can be a valuable shelter option for some.
Canvas was once the fabric of choice for many temporary outdoor structures. Unfortunately, it is heavy and is a poor choice today for the survival backpack. However, it is possible to pack one of those lightweight silver tarps in a backpack and then have it available. Drape it over a pole lodged between two trees, so that each end touches the ground. Anchor the ends with rocks and logs and close one end with branches, twigs and leaves.
Providing shelter during an emergency is as important as water and food will be. Before you find yourself in an emergency situation you need to practice making a survival shelter. Having the supplies for an emergency without having the skills to use them is like not having the supplies in the first place. Be prepared. Practice your skills before you need them.