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See also   Edible Berries and fruits  Non Edible Berries   Poisonous Berries and fruits   Food Sources   Meat   Plants as food  Edible Plants
  Making Fire  Making a primitive Shelter  Obtaining Water   Making Soap  Sleeping Arrangements    "How to Make A Crawdad trap "  Using a signal mirror  Shelters -Manmade material   Making rope  Make a compass   First aid
  Back to Survival Trips

 Primitive Shelters
  Man made material shelter    Natural Materials shelter


There are two things that  need to be secured in every survival situation:
  Nourishment - Food and water
  Shelter from the elements - this would include a dwelling and clothing 

This page is still under construction and if you have something you would like to add then use our submission form or email us

In this section we will be concentrating on building a shelter from Manmade tarpaulins, fabrics and the ever popular Parachute. You may have to adapt some to meet your situation but the principles describe in here should prove to be valuable.  If you are in transit you will want to expend as little time and energy as possible yet still have adequate protection. 

First you must decide where to build and how long you expect to be in this one location. Selecting a location is critical and just because you have picked a spot it may not be the best location and you may have to accept that you should consider building a second one. Now we are not talking about a view. But other factor such as prevailing winds, pests, lack of food sources. or the location may make discovery and rescue unlikely. On the last note there is something you must consider. Relocating may put you in a location that has already been searched and will not be searched again in the future. 

Choosing a site:
Below are some things to determine when choosing your site.

Exposure to the elements
Away from areas frequented by bears See "Bears and other dangerous Animals"
The  available building supplies
Inherent danger to rockslides, falling trees or similar.
Nearby source of  water and food.
High ground to prevent flooding.
Level ground free of rock and debris

Secondly you need to consider the type of structure you are going to build. Again this will be determined by several factors:

The amount of effort it will require.
The amount of time required. 
Building materials available.
Your physical  Condition or limitations 
What tools are available (Climbing pole, levers etc)
What did you bring with you or were able to salvage.

Manmade  materials:

This is such a wide  field as there are so many man made items that would suffice to make an shelter. 

Of course if you have a tent then you only need to follow the manufacturer's directions to set it up. You should of course prepare the area where you are plan to pitch it. It is best to to build a raised platform of stone free soil. By erecting the tent on the raised area the rain will be able to run off and away from your floor. Use care to not touch or have anything touching the walls or ceiling during a rain as this breaks the surface tension of the water and will allow it to begin dripping in.

Tarps, Ponchos and plastic sheet. ( we will refer to it as a tarp)

Single sided lean-to: 

It takes only a short time and minimal equipment to build this lean-to  Before selecting the trees you will use, check the wind direction. Ensure that the back of your lean-to will be into the wind.

Stake made from a branch

  • Tie a rope  or fasten a pole crossbeam  between 2 trees about waist high.
  • Optionally you can lay some poles down from the cross beam to help support the tarp
  • Wrap the material at least one full wrap around the crossbeam and tie twine or laces around the ends.
  • Stretch our the tarp to make it fairly taut then anchor the bottom edge with soil and rocks or pin it with stakes. Use the barb on the stake to hold down a branch on the tarp so you don't have to make holes in it. 

The above and following shelters are partially built with manmade materials but in the event you don't have access to this type of material then look at the Natural Materials Shelters

Two sided Lean-to:

To give you extra protection from the elements and if you have enough material you may want to make a two side tarp lean-to. You could also do a variation of the door from the Debris hut below to close in the ends.



Three-Pole  Tepee

If you have a fairly large tarp, plastic sheet parachute or similar and can obtain three poles, make a tepee. It is quick and easy. It provides protection from the elements and can act as a signaling device by enhancing a small amount of light from a fire or candle. It is large enough to hold several people and their equipment and to allow sleeping, cooking, and storing firewood.

You can make this tepee using parts of or a whole personnel main or reserve parachute canopy. If using a standard personnel parachute, you need three poles 3.5 to 4.5 meters long and about 5 centimeters in diameter.

To make this tepee (Figure 5-4)--


  • Lay the poles on the ground and lash them together at one end.
  • Stand the framework up and spread the poles to form a tripod.
  • For more support, place additional poles against the tripod. Five or six additional poles work best, but do not lash them to the tripod.
  • Determine the wind direction and locate the entrance 90 degrees or more from the mean wind direction.
  • Lay out the parachute on the "backside" of the tripod and locate the bridle loop (nylon web loop) at the top (apex) of the canopy.
  • Place the bridle loop over the top of a free-standing pole. Then place the pole back up against the tripod so that the canopy's apex is at the same height as the lashing on the three poles.
  • Wrap the canopy around one side of the tripod. The canopy should be of double thickness, as you are wrapping an entire parachute. You need only wrap half of the tripod, as the remainder of the canopy will encircle the tripod in the opposite direction.
  • Construct the entrance by wrapping the folded edges of the canopy around two free-standing poles. You can then place the poles side by side to close the tepee's entrance.
  • Place all extra canopy underneath the tepee poles and inside to create a floor for the shelter.
  • Leave a 30- to 50-centimeter opening at the top for ventilation if you intend to have a fire inside the tepee.

One-Pole Parachute Tepee

You need a 14-gore section (normally) of canopy, stakes, a stout center pole, and inner core and needle to construct this tepee. You cut the suspension lines except for 40- to 45-centimeter lengths at the canopy's lower lateral band.

To make this tepee (Figure 5-5)--


  • Select a shelter site and scribe a circle about 4 meters in diameter on the ground.
  • Stake the parachute material to the ground using the lines remaining at the lower lateral band.
  • After deciding where to place the shelter door, emplace a stake and tie the first line (from the lower lateral band) securely to it.
  • Stretch the parachute material taut to the next line, emplace a stake on the scribed line, and tie the line to it.
  • Continue the staking process until you have tied all the lines.
  • Loosely attach the top of the parachute material to the center pole with a suspension line you previously cut and, through trial and error, determine the point at which the parachute material will be pulled tight once the center pole is upright.
  • Then securely attach the material to the pole.
  • Using a suspension line (or inner core), sew the end gores together leaving 1 or 1.2 meters for a door.

No-Pole Parachute Tepee

You use the same materials, except for the center pole, as for the one-pole parachute tepee.

To make this tepee (Figure 5-6)--


  • Tie a line to the top of parachute material with a previously cut suspension line.
  • Throw the line over a tree limb, and tie it to the tree trunk.
  • Starting at the opposite side from the door, emplace a stake on the scribed 3.5- to 4.3-meter circle.
  • Tie the first line on the lower lateral band.
  • Continue emplacing the stakes and tying the lines to them.
  • After staking down the material, unfasten the line tied to the tree trunk, tighten the tepee material by pulling on this line, and tie it securely to the tree trunk.

See a listing of Tepee makers  

One-Man Shelter

A one-man shelter you can easily make using a parachute requires a tree and three poles. One pole should be about 4.5 meters (14 ft) long and the other two about 3 meters (10 ft) long.

To make this shelter (Figure 5-7)--


  • Secure the 4.5-meter pole to the tree at about waist height.
  • Lay the two 3-meter poles on the ground on either side of and in the same direction as the 4.5-meter pole.
  • Lay the folded canopy over the 4.5 meter pole so that about the same amount of material hangs on both sides.
  • Tuck the excess material under the 3-meter poles, and spread it on the ground inside to serve as a floor.
  • Stake down or put a spreader between the two 3-meter poles at the shelter's entrance so they will not slide inward.
  • Use any excess material to cover the entrance.

The parachute cloth makes this shelter wind resistant, and the shelter is small enough that it is easily warmed. A candle, used carefully, can keep the inside temperature comfortable. This shelter is unsatisfactory, however, when snow is falling as even a light snowfall will cave it in.

Parachute Hammock

You can make a hammock using 6 to 8 gores of parachute canopy and two trees about 4.5 meters apart (Figure 5-8).



Look at the Natural Materials Shelters for ideas on how to build a shelter using only what nature supplies.


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