How to Make Outdoor Shelters With Wood

Written by misty s. bledsoe
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How to Make Outdoor Shelters With Wood
Building a wood shelter does not require any tools. (Axe in the wood image by yokulla from

Making an outdoor shelter from wood during a survival situation can help you stay alive while people are looking for you. A wood shelter can keep you dry and help you retain body heat by preventing you from coming into contact with potentially cold surfaces. (ref, page 1, bottom). The shelter does not need to be elaborate or have a feeling of being permanent. The state of Iowa's Department of Natural Resources states, "most people who are lost are found within 24 hours." (ref, page 1, paragraph 4). Although an axe, hatchet or handsaw will make creating the shelter easier, none of these tools are necessary to build a good wood shelter.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Axe (optional)
  • Hatchet (optional)
  • Hand saw (optional)

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  1. 1

    Locate a solid fallen log that is longer than you are or longer than the tallest person you're stranded with.

  2. 2

    Prop the fallen log up between two tree branches. Ideally, you want to be able to sit comfortably in the opening of it and still have about six to twelve inches above your head. This allows for manoeuvring and room for plenty of "bedding" to be laid on the floor later. If you only have the choice of making it very tall or just tall enough for you to sleep in, choose the latter as it will be easier to retain your body heat.

  3. 3

    Find other fallen branches to prop up against the log on both sides. Aim for a forty-five degree angle all around, forming a triangular place for you to sleep in. Put the branches as close together as possible, overlapping some at the top if necessary.

  4. 4

    Gather smaller branches and use these to fill in any remaining gaps on all sides of your shelter. Leave only enough room on one side next to the tree trunk to comfortably crawl in.

  5. 5

    Stack a variety of random tree branches--the small, twiggy kind--around both sides of the shelter. Keep stacking them until these smaller branches can stack on top of themselves and cover the outer wall of thicker branches.

  6. 6

    Gather heaps of dry leaves, if available, and pile on thick layers on both sides of your shelter. If dry leaves are not available, use branches that still have leaves attached to them and stack the branches with the leaves pointing down. Create several layers, if possible, on both sides because it will prevent body heat from escaping and prevent rain from getting in.

  7. 7

    Line the inside floor of your shelter with six to twelve inches of dry leaves or a thick mat of greener vegetation or small tree branches with leaves to insulate your body from the ground.

Tips and warnings

  • Stay put while rescue teams search for you. (ref 3, bottom, "Outdoor Safety")
  • Avoid sawing or cutting any live trees if possible. Don't smash a large branch across a tree trunk to break it unless you have no choice. Wood can fly in unpredictable directions and cause injury. (ref 2, bottom of page "breaking wood")

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