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How to Build a Shelter in the Forest

If you get stuck in the woods, you'll need to know how to protect yourself from the elements.


  • Step 1: Find a depressing in the earth Look for a depression in the earth--a ditch, a gulley, or just a shallow place.
  • Step 2: Cover the depression Cover the depression with branches and logs, then climb beneath them to keep the wind off you.
  • TIP: Keep your shelter as compact as possible; a large area will zap your body heat.
  • Step 3: Make a lean-to No depression? Use fallen deadwood and branches to construct a lean-to or shack with an inclined roof, supported on one side by trees. Your objective is to create an area that’s out of the wind.
  • TIP: Since most weather systems travel west to east, making the opening to your shelter face east will help protect you from rain, wind, and snow. Also, your temporary home will be warmed by the sun first thing in the morning.
  • Step 4: Look for a fallen tree If you can’t find enough debris to build a structure, look for a fallen tree. If there’s one around, line it with branches and tuck yourself underneath it.
  • TIP: Don’t sleep directly on the ground. Create a buffer from the cold by laying down branches, boughs, bark -- whatever you can find.
  • Step 5: Build a leaf hut Build a leaf hut (also known as a 'debris' hut). Simply make a huge pile of whatever you can find -- leaves, bark, branches, pine needles -- and then crawl into it.
  • FACT: The human body can survive long periods without food more readily than it can survive long stretches without shelter.

You Will Need

  • Ingenuity
  • Forest debris
  • like branches
  • leaves
  • pine needles
  • and logs

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