Debris Shelter


In most cases of wilderness survival shelter will be your number one concern since hypothermia can kill you much faster than starvation or even dehydration.  One of the easiest and fastest shelters that can be built in the wilderness is the debris shelter.  One person, with no equipment, can put one together in less than two hours with the material that is available in most forested areas.  If you find yourself stranded in the woods facing a cold night, before thinking about a fire, get a quick debris shelter built, here’s how.


  1. Locate a health tree that doesn’t have any visible dead branches, you don’t want one falling on you. Ideally, it will have  Low crotch, knot, or other contour that will allow you to securely lean a ridge poll against it.
  2. Gather up a few sticks or rocks to use for marking.
  3. Lay down with your head about 2 feet from the tree and your feet facing away from the tree.
  4. Place the sticks or rocks that you have for marking 1 foot on each side of you, and 1 foot beyond your feet. This is to mark the approximate size the shelter needs to be.
  5. Find a strong ridge poll that is at least 3 feet longer than you are tall.
  6. Place the fatter end of the poll at the marker that was just beyond your feet, and lean the thinner end against the tree. If you have any cordage, secure it to the tree.
  7. Gather smaller pieces of wood to place every 8 inches or so down each side like ribs, leaning them against the ridge poll. The bottom of these pieces should be places where the sticks or rocks are that you marked with earlier.
  8. Gather smaller pieces with branches and lay them perpendicular to the ribs. This is to keep the insulating debris from falling through.
  9. Heap loose material like pine needles and leaves onto the structure until it mounds up.
  10. Make a bed of loose material on the floor of your shelter.
  11. Make a pile of loose material near the entrance so that you can pull it in after you to close your shelter once you are inside, better protecting you from the elements.

It won’t be the most secure shelter ever, but it will keep your body heat from escaping and keep you alive without any tools are equipment.

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