Building a home in the woods

If you plan on visiting the woods anytime soon, knowing how to make a shelter is one of the most important skills that you can learn. Sure, you can always cover yourself in leaves, or burrow into the dirt, to stay warm overnight if you find yourself stranded. But what if it rains, snows, or begins to storm? You’ll need to know how to make a shelter in the woods to ensure survival. Follow these expert tips to learn the ropes.

Building a Shelter in the Woods

Debris-type structures are the most commonly used shelters and are the easiest to build. No matter what type of woods you find yourself in, there is almost always enough material for a debris shelter. These shelters can be erected in 10 to 20 minutes and need minimal energy or skill.

1. Select and prepare an area

The first step to building a shelter in the woods is selecting and preparing a suitable area. For a debris-type shelter, this could include an area with a tree stump, a large rock, or a sturdy tree with a low branch. Avoid areas with a high number of tree roots or rocks in the ground as it will require more energy than necessary to prepare for your shelter.

Once you’ve selected a suitable area, lay down on the ground and measure a space slightly longer and wider than your body. This will be the measurement for your shelters frame. After you’ve measured your space, clear the area of rocks, leaves, and other debris. Make sure to keep these materials close at hand as you will need them later.

2. Gather materials

Next, you will need to gather as many materials as you can as quickly as possible. Conserve energy by starting as near to your selected area and work your way out in a spiral-like pattern. Collect branches, small logs, leaves, bark, rocks, and anything else that isn’t rooted in place.

Don’t worry about whether you have enough materials to finish the entire shelter. Focus on gathering everything within eyesight of the proposed building site. You can always collect more.

3. Build the frame

The frame is the most crucial element to building a safe and proper debris-type shelter. You can erect suitable frames using several different methods. Depending on your location, and the available materials, these methods include a-frames, lean-tos, and roundhouse or teepee-type frames. If you are alone, a small A-frame will need the least amount of materials and effort. For groups, large lean-tos and roundhouse-type frames are more suitable.

To build your frame, begin with the largest and sturdiest branch. For an a-frame, you will place one end of the longest branch on the stump, rock, or low tree branch that you found earlier. This branch, the center-pole, will be the backbone of your shelter and should measure anywhere from eight to ten feet in length. Next, you’ll place the smaller branches, or ribs, along both sides of the center-pole creating an “A” shape. Leave a small space on one end for an entrance.

For lean-tos, place your center-pole across two stumps, large rocks, or low tree branches. Place branches only on one side of your center-pole. Once completed it should appear as an open-faced half A-frame-like structure. Roundhouses, or teepee-type structures, are easiest to build around a tree. Begin by placing branches against the tree at a slanted angle and work your way around. Leave an area approximately two feet wide open for an entrance.

4. Weatherproof the frame

Depending on several factors, including the season and location, weatherproofing is a critical step. All the debris you removed from your designated building site will now come into play. You will also need to collect more leaves, dirt, rocks, and small branches for the completion of this step.

Begin at the bottom of your frame and evenly place rocks all the way around the base. Next, place a layer of leaves over the entire frame from bottom to top, then add dirt, twigs, branches, and whatever other debris you can get your hands on. Once you have accumulated two to four feet of insulation you have completed your weatherproofing.

5. Final touches

If given the opportunity, there are several final touches that can make an extreme difference in your level of comfort. For example, a bed made of boughs, moss, or leaves will make sleeping not only more comfortable but will keep your body warmer through the night as well. Bark, branches, and vines can be fashioned into a door to keep out the wind.

A stone fire pit can also make a huge difference if you are in the woods during winter. Keep in mind that unless you’ve built a roundhouse-type shelter with a smoke hole in the center, your fireplace should always be at the very front of the shelter. Also, It should never be left burning without someone watching it closely.

A Final Word About Making a Shelter in the Woods

Knowing how to make a shelter in the woods is a great skill to have. Whether you simply enjoy a natural approach to camping, or you find yourself stranded, knowing how to make a shelter in the woods will help you survive in the wilderness.

If you’re lucky, you may be able to find and modify a natural shelter like a cave, rock ledge, or large tree trunk. Remember to check for loose rock, rotting wood, and signs of animals. You’ll also want to build a small wall across the opening with stones or branches.

Do you have a favorite type of shelter to make in the woods? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments section below!