How to Make a Lean-to Shelter

Written by emilia lamberto | 13/05/2017
How to Make a Lean-to Shelter
(Emily Lambert)

A lean-to shelter is one of the most basic and easiest to build. If you're stranded in the forest or need to rest before you continue on your way, a lean-to shelter probably is the best option. Creating a lean-to shelter may take a hour or so, but once finished it will provide protection by keeping you out of the sight of animals and by providing shelter from the rain.

Look around the area where you intend to set up your shelter. Look for any signs of predators, insect infestation or areas prone to flash floods (near rivers or lakes). The area should be on flat land.

Gather two branches, about four feet in length, that have forks on one end. Find two more branches, about six feet long, and other strong, straight branches of different sizes.

Dig a hole into the ground, about one foot deep, and place one stick y-side up into the ground. Fill in the hole with dirt and make sure the branch is secure in the ground. Do the same with the other stick about six feet from the other branch.

How to Make a Lean-to Shelter

Place a six-foot branch across the top of the two y-shaped branches. The stick should rest on top of these y-shapes, creating a bridge between them (see image).

How to Make a Lean-to Shelter

Place six-foot branches on this bridge at about a 60 degree angle (see image).

How to Make a Lean-to Shelter

Place sticks on the sides of the shelters vertically (see image). This is the basic structure of the lean-to shelter. You may cover the sides with broken logs, large pieces of bark, or small sticks if needed to help keep heat inside.

Cover the lean-to structure with large leaves, grass or ferns. Be sure to start layering the brush from the bottom and work your way upward. This will allow water to fall off your shelter instead of in.


Build a fire in front of the shelter if needed.

Tips and warnings

  • Build a fire in front of the shelter if needed.

Things you need

  • (2) 4-foot y-shaped branches
  • (6) 6-foot straight branches
  • 12 branches of various size
  • Brush (leaves, ferns, sticks, grass)

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