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3 simple shelters you can build yourself

It’s nice to be in the woods and easy – but also a bit boring – to bring a tent or tarp to sit under in nature. With a dose of creativity and ingenuity, you can build a shelter yourself, or shelter, as it is also called. 

What to consider before you get started

Before you start the big construction, you need to find a suitable place to build your shelter. When choosing a camp space for your shelter, here is a to-do list of points you should be aware of and consider.

Think about the location

The area where you build your shelter should have space for you to lie down, and the ground should preferably be fairly level. Check the trees above your construction site for dead branches, which could be a danger if they fall onto your shelter.

Notice wind and water

Orient your shelter so that the entrance faces away from wind direction, avoiding unnecessary cooling. Also, avoid areas too close to water such as rivers or riverbeds. These are the places with the greatest risk of flooding during heavy rainfall.

Consider how long you will be using your shelter

Do you need to build a solid shelter that can withstand a lot of wind and weather for a longer period of time, or do you just need to spend the night in it for a night or two before heading on? The more nights you need to use your shelter, the more solid the shelter should be.

Unpleasant insects

Avoid placing your shelter in areas with many insects on the forest floor or in the trees around you. It can be anthills, wasp nests and hives. Therefore, it is a good idea to clear the ground of ground cover such as twigs and leaves, so you are sure not to lie down on unpleasant creep.

Prepare from home

You can easily build a lot more different kinds of shelters without aids, but it’s easier to cheat a little from home. Therefore, it is a good idea to bring strips, rope or string for the construction as well as a knife or a multitool.

Always build the roof from the bottom up

To get the tightest and most water-resistant construction, you should start by covering the roof from below and working your way upwards, in the same way as you put roof tiles on a rooftop.

Here’s how:

Type 1 – Lean-to

A lean-to is a canopy constructed of large and small branches placed between two tree trunks.

  • Find two thick branches about 2 meters long, preferably with a Y-shape (cleft) at one end, and place one up each tree trunk at an angle of about 45 degrees with the ravines upwards. If necessary, dig the straight ends a little into the ground for better stability.
  • Find another thick branch long enough to reach across between the two trees and place it into the clefts of the Y-shaped branches. This is your ceiling beam.
  • Collect several thinner branches of 2 meters length and place them up one side at an angle of about 45 degrees so that they form a canopy. The sticks should preferably be fairly tight. If necessary, do the same on the sides for better protection from the elements.
  • For covering the roof, branches from conifers such as spruce, pine or tuja are really good. Collect a large amount of smaller branches with lots of needles on them and place them on top of the canopy from the bottom up. The thicker the layer, the less wind and rain can penetrate. If light can penetrate your roof, so can the weather, and then the roof is not tight or thick enough.
  • Finish by covering the entire roof side with leaves from the forest floor for extra insulation. It is also a good idea to cover the ends well so that the shelter is only open to one side.
  • Gather a large pile of leaves and moss from the forest floor, as well as smaller branches and twigs from spruce, pine or tuja, into ground cover so that you are isolated from the ground.

Type 2 – Wedge-shaped lean-to

The principle is the same as a lean-to, but the construction has two sides instead of one, and slopes downwards.

  • Find a thick branch of 2.5-3 meters and use it as rafters. Put the thickest end in the ravine on a tree if you can find one with a ravine no more than 1-1.5 m above the ground. If not, use two branches of about 1 m with Y-shape (cleft) at one end and place them in an inverted V-shape with blocked resting on top. Let the opposite end rest on the ground.
  • Place several shorter, thick branches along the sides of the frame at an angle of 45 degrees and cover the roof and possibly the entrance with coniferous branches and leaves built from the bottom up.
  • Collect a large pile of leaves and moss from the forest floor as well as smaller branches and twigs from spruce, pine nor tuja into ground cover so that you are isolated from the ground.

Type 3 – Tipi

A tipi shelter can be built around a tree for stability, but it limits the space inside a bit. Fortunately, it can also be made entirely from loose branches.

  • Find a lot of long, thick branches for the skeleton and pick out the three largest.
  • Tie them together at one end, the top, raise them and spread your legs out like a tripod so you can lie between them. Dig all three branches a little into the ground so that they cannot move on them.
  • Line most of the tripod tightly with the remaining branches by lining them up against the tripod except for the entrance. Stick the branches in the ground or hold them in place with stones so they can’t move.
  • Now it’s just a matter of covering the entire structure with an insulating layer of, for example, ferns, pines, spruce or tujagrene and lots of leaves from the forest floor, so you can better keep rain and wind out and the heat in.


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