Master the Art of Shelter Building Using Natural Materials in the Wilderness

Are you an adventurous spirit, always ready for a backpacking trip or a hike in the great outdoors? Or are you a survivalist, preparing for any situation that may arise? Either way, knowing how to build a shelter using natural materials can be a valuable skill to have.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to use your surroundings to create a safe and comfortable place to rest, no matter where you are. From finding the right location to constructing a sturdy shelter, we’ve got you covered.

So let’s get started and learn the art of shelter building in the wild using only natural materials!

How to Build a Shelter Using Only Natural Materials?

There are many ways to build a shelter using only natural materials, depending on the resources available in your environment and the climate you are in. It is important to practice building shelters in a controlled environment before attempting them in the wild.

Here are some general steps you can follow to build a shelter using natural materials:

Finding the Ideal Location for Your Shelter

The first step in building a shelter in the wilderness is finding the right location. There are a few factors to consider when choosing a spot for your shelter:

1. Protection from the elements

Look for a spot that provides protection from the sun, wind, and rain. This could be a spot under the cover of trees, behind a rock formation, or in a depression in the ground.

2. Access to water

Make sure there is a nearby source of clean water, such as a stream or river, so you can hydrate and purify water as needed.

3. Elevation

Choose a spot that is elevated to avoid flooding in case of heavy rainfall.

4. Distance from hazards

Make sure your shelter is a safe distance away from any potential hazards, such as large animals or hazardous plants. The specific location you choose will depend on the environment you’re in.

For example, in a forest, you might look for a spot under the canopy of trees, while in a desert, you might look for a spot in the shade of a rock formation.

Gathering Materials for Your Shelter

Once you’ve found a suitable location for your shelter, the next step is to gather the materials you’ll need to construct it.

Some common natural materials that can be used to build a shelter include:

1. Sticks and Branches

These can be used as the frame of your shelter and can be tied together using vines or strips of bark.

2. Leaves and Grasses

These can be used as insulation to keep your shelter warm and can be packed tightly to create a waterproof barrier.

3. Mud and Clay

These can be used to seal the gaps in your shelter and provide extra insulation.

4. Rocks and Stones

These can be used to create a foundation for your shelter and to hold the frame in place.

To gather materials efficiently, it’s helpful to have a good understanding of your surroundings and to know where to find the resources you need.

For example, in a forest, you might look for sticks and branches on the ground or in low-hanging branches, and in a desert, you might look for rocks and stones in rocky areas.

Constructing Your Shelter

Once you’ve gathered all the materials you need, it’s time to start building your shelter. Here are the steps involved in constructing a shelter using natural materials:

1. Build the frame

Use sticks and branches to create the frame of your shelter. Tie the branches together using vines or strips of bark to create a sturdy structure.

2. Add insulation

Cover the frame of your shelter with leaves, grasses, or other insulating materials to keep it warm. Pack the materials tightly to create a waterproof barrier.

3. Seal any gaps

Use mud or clay to seal any gaps in your shelter, especially around the base and edges. This will help keep out wind and rain.

4. Add a foundation

If you’re in an area with soft ground, create a foundation for your shelter using rocks or stones. This will help keep the shelter off the ground and provide extra stability.

5. Add a Waterproof Layer

If you have waterproof material, use it to cover the roof of the shelter to provide additional protection from the rain. Using tarps as a waterproof material can also be a good option, especially if you have access to one.

Tarps are lightweight, durable, and can be used to create a variety of shelter designs, from simple A-frame structures to more complex designs. You can check our detailed review article on the best bushcraft tarps.

To use a tarp as a material to make the shelter waterproof, you will need to find a way to anchor the tarp to the ground, such as using stakes or rocks and tying the corners of the tarp together to create the desired shape.

6. Finishing touches

Once you’ve completed the basic structure of your shelter, you can add extra features to make it more comfortable.

For example, you might add a layer of leaves or grasses on the floor for added insulation and comfort, or create a ventilation system using sticks and grasses.

Types of Shelters that can be Built in the Wilderness

There are many different types of shelters that can be built in the wilderness, each with its own pros and cons. Some common types of shelters include:


A lean-to is a simple structure with one sloping side that is propped up against a tree or other support. It is quick and easy to build and provides some protection from the elements.

However, it may not provide as much warmth or protection as other types of shelters.

Debris Huts

A debris hut is a shelter made from natural materials, such as branches, leaves, and grass. It is more time-consuming to build than a lean-to shelter.

However, it provides better insulation and protection from the elements.

Bough Beds

A bough bed is a bed of branches and leaves that is used as a sleeping platform. It can be used in combination with a lean-to or debris hut for added insulation and comfort.

Maintaining and Upgrading Your Shelter

Once your shelter is built, it’s important to take care of it to ensure it stays in good condition. Here are a few tips for maintaining your shelter:

1. Keep the structure of your shelter sturdy

Check the frame of your shelter regularly to make sure it is still sturdy and secure. Replace any broken or damaged branches as needed.

2. Repair any leaks

If you notice any leaks in your shelter, patch them up using mud or clay to keep out the elements.

3. Keep the shelter clean

Remove any debris or trash that accumulates in your shelter to keep it clean and free of pests.

4. Add extra features

As you become more comfortable with building shelters, you can try adding extra features to make your shelter more comfortable and functional.

For example, you might try adding insulation to keep the shelter warm or creating a ventilation system to keep it well-ventilated.

Importance of Having a Shelter in the Wild

In the wilderness, having shelter is essential for survival. A shelter provides protection from the elements, such as wind, rain, and snow. It can also provide protection from animals and insects.

A shelter can also serve as a base for other survival activities, such as building a fire and finding food and water.


Building a shelter using natural materials is a rewarding and practical skill to have, whether you’re an avid outdoors person or just looking to gain some new skills.

It’s important to note that building a shelter using only natural materials can be challenging, and it may not provide as much protection as a shelter built using more advanced techniques and materials.

Additionally, it’s always a good idea to practice these skills in a controlled environment before attempting them in the wild, and have a backup plan in case your shelter does not provide adequate protection.

So next time you’re on an outdoor adventure, remember to use your surroundings and be resourceful to create a safe and comfortable place to rest.