How To Build A Long-Term Survival Shelter

Bushcraft shelters in the woods, with moss covered roofs

How To Build A Long-Term Survival Shelter

If you are a seasoned survivalist, you know it is easier to survive in an unknown remote location with proper planning. 

As a survivalist, you’d be well prepared to face what lies ahead. You will also be mindful enough to face unexpected situations and circumstances that come your way.

Firstly, you must know how to build a shelter. Without a shelter, you will not be able to survive for long due to the heat, cold climate, wild animal attacks, and many more reasons.

You may wonder what type of tools you require to build long-term shelters. Read on to learn how to build a long-term survival shelter and understand more about this subject.

What Is A Long-Term Survival Shelter?

One of the three basic needs for survival is shelter, with the other two being food and clothes. A shelter will protect you from the harsh effects of the environment.

You’d be safe in a shelter from wild animals, extreme weather conditions, wildfires, and many such catastrophic conditions. You can also stay warm and comfortable in your shelter.

Many people want things to happen easily and try to build shelters quickly and easily. However, these shelters will not last for long and will not protect you from adverse weather conditions. Building such a survival shelter will be a waste of time.

A long-term shelter will protect you from the environmental effect and help you stay dry. You can even stay for months in a long-term shelter without any problem.

How To Build Long-Term Survival Shelters?

Building a survival shelter is quite simple. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Find The Ideal Location

You have to be very mindful when choosing a suitable location to build your shelter. Poor choice of location is one of the main reasons many survival shelters don’t last for long.

The location will determine how long you’ll be able to stay at your shelter. It will also determine whether you can sleep peacefully inside your tent at night.

Below are the factors you must consider when selecting a location to build your long-term survival shelter.

Close To A Water Source

Water is one of the essential things everyone needs for survival. Without water, you are highly likely to survive no matter what else you have.

The best thing to do is to build a shelter near a water source. It should be within walking distance from your shelter. 

Energy conservation should also be given priority here. You don’t want to expend much energy on a trip to the water source. The water source should not be more than 200 feet away from your shelter.

Proximity to fuel sources

As much as you need water for survival, you must stay warm. Freezing cold temperatures will not do any good to you in a survival shelter.

You should be able to keep your fire burning without going a long distance or hiking to collect wood. Your fuel collection areas should be close to your shelter.

Level ground is the best location to build a survival shelter. It’s easier to start fires on level ground.

Exposure To Environmental Elements

Exposure to environmental conditions should also be a concerning factor when choosing a location to build a survival shelter.

Building a shelter somewhere that frequently faces harsh weather conditions will put additional stress on it.

Here’s what you have to be considerate of when building a shelter:

  • Be mindful of the direction of the wind. The wind could blow water and smoke inside your shelter and make it difficult to keep it feeling warm.
  • Avoid building your shelter too close to a water source, as it could get flooded.
  • Keep away from muddy, wet, and bumpy grounds.
  • Scan for wildlife in the area. Stay away from places close to animal tracks.
  • Don’t build your shelter under broken trees as you are in danger of being hit by loosely-hanging branches.

Step 2: Identify Your Needs

Once you’ve chosen an appropriate location to build a shelter, the next thing is to consider your needs. Who will be staying in the shelter? Is it only you or more people? What are the general climate and weather conditions of the area? For how long do you want the shelter?

The answers to these questions will help you determine the structure and size of the shelter that you need to build.

These concerns may not apply to short-term shelters, but if you plan to build one for the long term, then you must consider all of these factors.

Step 3: Choose The Design For The Shelter

Similar to houses, survival shelters also have many designs to choose from. Every design has unique qualities and needs that they meet.

Based on your needs, you can choose a suitable design that fits your requirements. Long-term shelters that take considerable effort and time are the best ones.

Below are some of the best long-term survival shelter designs to choose from.

Lean-To Shelter

The lean-to-shelter is easy and quick to set up. It requires very little energy to build. Here’s what you need to build one.

  1. Get two thick, strong, long poles and fix them about six feet apart.
  2. Find a thick piece of wood and tie the branch across the two poles using a rope. It should form a reversed U-shaped frame.
  3. Arrange the branches across the frame at a 45-degree angle from the bottom going up and secure using a rope.
  4. Line up the walls with the branches. Use branches, thick leaves, debris, and poles to fill the gaps.
  5. Lay a sleeping pad or a lot of leaves on the ground. It will help keep you dry.

Snow Cave Shelter

A snow cave shelter is ideal in an area with deep snow. However, it is also a dangerous shelter as you can be buried alive if the roof caves in. The same may occur when the shelter suffers from low oxygen levels.

Here’s how to build a snow cave:

  1. Burrow snow on the sides and form a tunnel.
  2. Keep digging to make a flat and level platform to rest.
  3. Make a hole with a diameter of 6 inches in the roof to provide ventilation to the shelter.

Wicki-Up Shelter

There’s more work to do in building a wicki-up shelter than a lean-to shelter. Here’s how you do it:

Collect several branches of the same length and combine them to create a freestanding teepee frame. The size of the shelter determines the size of the frame.

After making the frame, cover it by placing leaves, branches, grasses, bushes, debris, and other vegetation to cover the gaps.


A quinzee shelter is shaped like an igloo and is made of snow. It is easy to build, and here are the steps involved:

  1. Make a pile of snow and smooth the outer part.
  2. Dig up the pile to create an entrance to your shelter. Continue digging to create a space for you to rest. 
  3. Create a 6-inch diameter hole on the roof for ventilation.
  4. Make a sleeping pad using leaves if you don’t have one. 

Tarp Shelter

Tap shelters are excellent as long-term survival shelters. You can also use them when building other long-term survival shelter designs such as lean-to, quinzhees, and teepees. If not, you can use it individually to build a separate survival shelter.

The following are the different types of tarp shelters available:

  • Tarp burrito
  • Wedge tarp
  • Tarp hammock
  • Tarp wing
  • Desert tarp
  • Tarp tipi
  • A-frame tarp shelter

Tarp shelters are excellent as they protect you from heat and rain. You can layer it with leaves and moss to add extra insulation.


Teepees are great survival shelters as they allow for proper ventilation. However, they are much harder to make than other types of shelters. Here’s how you can make a teepee:

  1. Tie three steady tall beams together at the top.
  2. Start building the walls by arranging small sticks on the support beam.
  3. Cover the gaps with branches, leaves, or any other vegetation to keep water from dripping into the shelter.
  4. Leave the top uncovered in an area with a warm climate. In cool climatic conditions, seal the top to prevent water from getting in through the opening.


Ramada is an excellent survival shelter in a heaty environment as it provides shade. It has a non-waterproof flat roof that protects you from the sun.

Below are the steps involved in building a ramada.

  1. Arrange four strong poles in the shape of a square.
  2. Get another four poles and arrange them on top of the first four.
  3. Fill the top of the shelter with small branches.
  4. Add branches, bushes, and leaves to the roof for added protection.

What To Stock In A Long-Term Survival Shelter?

If you want to stay for a long time in a shelter, you must stock it up with all the essentials required for survival.

  • Food
  • Water
  • Clothing for all types of weather conditions
  • Hiking boots
  • Hat 
  • A blanket and a sleeping bag
  • Hunting and fishing gear
  • Best survival flashlights 
  • Matchboxes
  • Toolbox
  • Cups, plates, and other utensils
  • First aid kit
  • Heavy duty gloves
  • Toiletries
  • Extra cash
  • Personal Identification 

How To Make The Long-Term Survival Shelter More Comfortable?

A few additions to your long-term survival shelter can make it more comfortable to stay in. Here’s what you can do to make your survival more comfortable:

Conduct Regular Maintenance

No matter how well you build your shelter, you must maintain it regularly. The effects of the harsh weather in the environment could take a toll on your survival shelter.

Check the roof coverings, wooden structure, and bedding area to see if they need any patch-up or maintenance work. 

Add A Fireplace

Lighting a fire in your shelter will keep you warm. However, fires may not be ideal for all types of survival shelters.

To make a fire in your shelter, you must ensure proper ventilation. Your shelter should be tall with a high roof to avoid catching fire.

If you have used vegetation for the roof, ensure they are wet or fresh, as these are less likely to catch fire. 

If building a fire inside the tent is too risky, you can do the same outside of it. Make sure not to build a fire too close to the shelter.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to build a long-term survival shelter will be useful at some point in your life. You should start by selecting the best location to build your shelter. Being considerate of the environmental conditions is vital when building a shelter.

Ensure you choose a location close to a water source because it is essential for survival. Also, there are many types of shelter designs to choose from depending on how many people will be staying inside the shelter and for how long you will be staying in it.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Heat Survival Shelters?

Dig a hot rock heating pit in the floor of the shelter. The pit should be a little bigger than a bowling ball.

How Do You Waterproof A Survival Shelter?

Using a waterproof tarp is the best way to waterproof a survival shelter.


Header Photo by Caspian Dahlström on Unsplash

Article images by @aedrian

Printer Friendly, PDF & Email