Building survival shelters without a tarp

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

Being able to create a suitable shelter when in a survival situation is necessary in order to keep yourself alive. Depending on the weather it is necessary to keep the body up off the ground away from the chill of the ground, or the heat of the ground, and cover the body to keep wind, rain, and sun out.

Bough bed

One survival shelter or rather an addition to a shelter is called the bough bed. About bed can be made using leaves, grass, Evergreen boughs, or other plant material. You can create a frame by rolling up two logs side-by-side about three feet apart. These logs should be longer than you are tall. Fill the void between the logs by laying down a bed of pine needles, boughs of cedar fir, dry leaves, lichen, or even moss. Make the bed thick enough that you are at least 6 inches from the ground when you lay on it. The logs on the side are not absolutely necessary. The bough bed is very good for keeping you up out of the snow and wet cold ground.

Lean to

A lean to is one of the simplest structures to create in a primitive setting. A lean to can be set up in less than an hour with a variety of materials. Start with a long support pole between two trees. If you have trees that sort of fork in the middle towards the bottom and you have a pole that will fit between these two forked trees, this is perfect for a lean to. This is your main support pole which you will lay other poles diagonally from the ground onto it.  After filling the support pole with other logs, sticks, or poles diagonally from the ground to the support pole, sheep up leaves, grasses, pine tree branches with pine needles, palms, and pretty much any other vegetation you can put on there. This shelter has two flaws in that it doesn’t hold heat in very well and it only provides protection on one side. If the rain is coming down in a way that flies directly into the shelter, you’re going to get wet.

Lean to


The Ramada is actually a desert shelter meant to keep the sun off of your back. The basic design is four posts lashed together with lightweight beams on top and a covering securely attached to those beams. The covering can be anything from some fabric, reed mats, or any amount of brush will do. The goal of the Ramada is to keep you from getting sunburned and overheating. If you were able to add removable walls, in the evening when the temperatures cooled down in the desert you would have a very versatile shelter.

Wicki up

A wickiup is a more an advanced lean to or teepee.  To make one you collect several dozen poles and lock them together in a freestanding tripod. Flashing the top together with twine or rope helps. Then layer on top of the poles plenty of vegetation, leaves, sticks, branches, and other materials that can be found locally. A wickiup is a fun project for a family or an outing with the kids. It can also be a lifesaver in inclement weather.


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