How to Build a Long Term Shelter in the Woods


The watch word for building long-term shelters in the woods is 'Survival.' This is because the shelter is your top priority in emergency weather conditions and most survival emergencies.

Reason being that you can die in a matter of hours if you don't have the right shelter to protect yourself from these elements.

Unlike camping, if you end up in the woods for an extended period, you will need more than a tent or an RV for shelter.

Types of survival shelters include;

Quinzhee: the quinzhee is similar to an igloo but easier to construct. Snow must be right to build an igloo, but for quinzhee, most types of snowfall can be packed together. It is a dome-shaped snow shelter. To build one, start by piling up a movable gear under a tarp.

Backpacks are mostly used for this. Pack snow over the tarp and gear. Pack the snow down, estimating when it is two feet thick all the way around. Use 3 or 4 dozen of sticks guide, insert 12 inch long sticks around the dome.

For the uniform thickness of the dome, excavate snow inside the mound until you reach the base of every stick. Then make a fist sized ventilation hole in the roof of the quinzhee.

Snow Caves: a snow cave may be the only shelter in areas with deep snow and the least advisable one. It is the most dangerous structure to build, as the inhabitants could suffer from low oxygen and even more scary, be buried alive in a ceiling collapse.

Round Lodge: this is a hybrid from many cultures. Many architectural styles influence it; a round lodge can block rain, wind, sun and cold. It is structured like a tipi. This structure usually has a small hole through the roof, also, can accommodate a tiny fire for heat and light.

Lodge styles like this abounded in the historic and prehistoric American West. This architecture worked well in wetter climates and was used in pre-Roman Britain.

Ramada: Ramada is usually built for sunny, hot periods. It doesn't give you leak-proof protection but does block all the sun from heating down on you. Many Ramada variations exist, but most are based on four posts, some light weight beams, and suitable covering. The roof can be covered with mats or tarps to serve as a sun block. This shelter is for the desert.

Wedge Tarp: this type of tarp shelter is more suitable in windy conditions and constant prevailing wind direction. The wedge tarp shelter features an aerodynamic shape which should provide protection for the most terrible wind and driving rain.

With a minimum of 5 ties down points, the wedge is safer than most tarps; it provides corners that act as rain catches.

Tarp wing: this tarp configuration is great for rain protection over a large area if you have a large tarp; or provides coverage to a smaller area when using a not too large tarp.

The wing ties up opposing corners of a tarp; two high and two in lower positions. It typically billows like a loose sail in the wind whenever I create it, but it works well to keep out both sun and rain.

Bough Bed: this is not a shelter by itself; however, it can be added to any other shelter type. To make a bough bed, you'll have to use natural resources available to you; examples are leaves, grass, evergreen bough; or other plants materials. Fir boughs make the softest bed.

For the bed frame, roll up two logs, side by side and about three feet apart. Be careful to make sure that they are of higher height than you are. In snowy conditions, you'll have to stick with the boughs. So make the mattress so thick that you're at least six inches from the frozen ground.

Leaf Hut: the leaf hut is a two-sided, wedge-shaped lean-to with much better weatherproofing and insulating qualities. Two to 3feet of vegetation covering all sides of the shelter is enough to keep you dry inside.

More types of survival shelters include;

  • Wickiup
  • Lean-To
  • Tarp burrito
  • A-frame Tarp Shelter
  • Desert Tarp
  • Tarp Hammock

The real need for any long-term shelter in the woods is to keep you secure, warm and more comfortable. Long-term shelters in the woods can be categorized into two; prepared and emergency.

  • Prepared shelters: these are built before disaster strikes, giving you enough time to build and stock it up with necessary equipment and supplies.
  • Emergency shelters: these are shelter built for impromptu purposes. These shelters are built if you have to bug out and don't have anywhere to go.

Since it is a long-term shelter, the best category to use is the prepared shelter.

Tips to build long time shelter (STEP BY STEP PROCESS)

Location: find an isolated place not too far from your home because you want to stay away from people but have a place you can run to when crisis strikes. It is always advisable to have your long time replacement shelter built close to your home, yet proximity shouldn’t be a stone throw.

This way you can have somewhere to stay in case of unforeseen circumstances and crisis. It should be built in a comfortable area where there's also clean water.

Available materials: since you are building in the woods, the most available natural material will be woods. That's one advantage you have with building a shelter in the woods. Make do with resources available.

In addition to available natural resources, think of scavenging materials as well.

For a start, you can make do with the listed supplies to build a long term shelter in the woods;

  • 400 sq 6mm clear plastic
  • Small pail of screws/nails, all different sizes.
  • Pail of mortar/cement mix
  • 1000ft thin strong nylon rope
  • 1000sq tarp, try to get black
  • 1000ft coated tire wire

You would require these basic tools;

  • hammer
  • Hand drill
  • hatchet
  • claw hammer steel shaft
  • long arm axe
  • few rolls of duck tape
  • tuck tape

Size: how big a shelter will you want to build? Be sure to know that the bigger it is, the harder it will be to heat, especially if you decide you build your long-term shelter in snowy woods.

Building a small one might also be uncomfortable. You don't need plenty of space for the rooms; however, the one thing you need plenty of space for is your storage. The storage doesn't need to be heated; it just needs to be secure. A shipping container makes storage even easier.

Insulation: many people skip this part but later regret it, as it is one of the essential elements of shelter especially in snowy woods. Building a shelter in the woods can come in handy if you need warmth as it can aid wind breaks and keeping the place warm. Be sure to have adequate insulation everywhere especially on the roof.

Either underground or above ground: the earth makes a great insulator, so underground houses are usually advisable when the location is very cold. It keeps your shelter warm during cold times and cools during hot times. If you're capable of building your shelter as a south-facing underground home, you may be able to heat it primarily with solar energy, instead of the workload that comes with heating your home.

Efficiency: your long-term shelter in the woods need to be efficient in every sense of the word. Make your structure energy efficient, water efficient, etc.

Water is very essential; it is one of your survival needs so you shouldn't waste any drop. Get a rain water collector on your roof and make sure there's a clean water resource close to where you build you structure. You can also make use of water treatment if it's not clean enough for consumption.

When I built my long term shelter in the woods, I totally wanted to make use of electricity. Imagine a structure without one; it'll be boring. I took advantage of the solar power.

You can do same, for your electricity; use solar power or wind power, as well as energy efficient lighting and other electronics. All of these resources help to aid your survival retreat and give you a comfortable structure.

The more shelter you can build for yourself, the more money you can save. While it may look painstaking, it could be worked on as a family project. During vacations, you can take the family to the structure; make the children work with you while you teach them valuable survival and construction skills.

That way, your spending quality time with the people you love while working on your long term shelter.

Making a fire, shooting a bow, tracking game, survival skills, are part of the advantages that come with making the shelter a family project. Your kids can also proudly tell their friends that they are going to the cabin in the woods, rather than telling them that they're going to a bug-out shelter.

Follow these tips, and you'll end up having a beautiful and comfortable long term shelter in the woods.

NOTE: Use something bright to mark your shelter. Natural shelters are difficult to see from a distance.

    Alison Lawrence

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