Wed. Oct 20th, 2021

A shelter is more than just a safe haven from the elements; it is also the closest thing we have to a landfill. If you want to have a more authentic camping experience or spend a lot of time in the outdoors, building your own permanent shelter in the wilderness is an excellent goal to strive for.

Building a permanent shelter in the wilderness begins with a thorough examination of the area for potential issues or complications. Avoid areas prone to natural disasters or unwelcome animal presence. Following that is deciding on the best structure to base it on, with each offering a vastly different set of benefits.

Permanent wilderness shelters take time and money to build, but they aren’t nearly as difficult as people think. Camping in a tent or improvised shelter is already a wonderful experience, but putting some effort into something more long-lasting can only improve it.

Building A Shelter In The Wild

Find Your Spot

Building a long-lasting shelter necessitates a wealth of information. Getting a sense of the terrain is the most important step in creating a long-lasting shelter.

The most straightforward consideration is climate. Shelters are designed to protect you from the elements, with different elements necessitating different methods of mitigation. A lean-to would provide adequate protection from sweltering heat and rain but would do little to alleviate frigid winters. Knowing the weather is essential for giving yourself a reasonable idea of what to expect within your planned shelter.

Check The Area For Disaster Possibilities

The next step is disaster proclivity, which is essentially troubleshooting what could go wrong. Areas may be vulnerable to rockslides or flash floods, both of which leave little time to prepare if any at all.

Building on sandy or marshy ground exposes the foundation to erosion over time. Water may drain into your shelter if you build lower than the surrounding terrain. Building on uncompacted materials raises stability concerns, which could jeopardize the shelter over time. Locate areas with firm, level ground.

Building higher may make the house vulnerable to strong winds. In some cases, these have been known to rip the roofs off shelters or completely collapse them. Consider natural windbreakers in the area, but only if they do not pose any other safety risks. Notable examples include cliffsides that may drop rubble or runoff water, as well as trees that may collapse.

Unwanted wildlife should also be considered. Anthills and wasp nests near your intended shelter are too dangerous to ignore. They’re also attracted to sweets and food crumbs, which could be a problem. Most insects are drawn to deep grass and still water, so keep these in mind as you scout your future. 

Animals are common threats, and they are typically nocturnal. Mice are a common problem in both cities and the countryside, and they will not hesitate to disturb your sleep in order to get to their food. Bears have an extremely strong sense of smell and have been observed to be drawn to unusual scents such as human urine.

Check for signs of animal activity – tracks, droppings, and tufts of fur – before deciding on a location. If there is any indication of a bear in the area, it is best not to build. Bears have been known to crumple car doors and outrun humans in a chase.

Chek Your Resources

A readily available source of running water is ideal. Not having to rely solely on the water supplies you brought with you frees up time you would have spent micromanaging your intake, as well as allowing you to carry less weight on future trips.

Still water is a breeding ground for bacteria and insects, but it can be purified with some effort. Running water is preferred because it is usually cleaner and may provide a good fishing spot. Do not construct near bodies of water, as rain can cause flash flooding, causing damage to your shelter. Rivers are also known to attract animals, so a safe distance from the shelter is required to keep unwanted intruders at bay.

Wood is a great resource to have on hand for homestead construction, as it allows for significant cost savings. The presence of trees also reduces the risk of erosion for nearby soil, making the entire area safer. Large trees make excellent building material, while smaller branches and twigs make excellent kindling.

Building materials that are readily available may also save time and money. Stone is a useful building material because it does not catch fire and acts as a great buffer around firepits. Clay is another good option that can be found on riverbanks and used to windproof a house. Large leaves can also be woven together to provide waterproofing, with palm being the most common example.

Decide On What To Build

Lean To Shelter

A lean-to is by far the simplest permanent shelter to construct, and it can even be constructed entirely from materials found in the surrounding area.

Clear the soil around the building site until it is as flat as possible. Cut a few short logs of wood and stack them, with a few small stakes wedged around them to keep the logs from rolling. This keeps you off the ground and provides comfortable flooring. Make sure to space the log sets 8 feet apart – this provides just enough space for most people to lie down comfortably.

Drive two sets of long poles deep into the ground in front of the flooring for the main supports. This can be done with a single-pole, but using two or more greatly improves the lean-stability to’s in the event of rain or snow. Connect the two poles with some long, sturdy branches.

Finally, the roof is formed by long branches leaning on the structure’s top – hence the name. Simply stack a layer of branches on top of the existing foundation, preferably at more slanted angles to allow the roof to shed unnecessary weight from debris or rain. To provide some weatherproofing, cover the slanted roof with foliage or a tarp.

In hot weather, a lean-to provides shelter from the sun and rain. The extent of what snowier regions have to offer is limited to dry flooring and elevation. The openness of the lean-to may also expose people to pests such as rodents and raccoons.


The wikiup provides significantly better protection than the barebones lean-to but requires significantly more time and effort to complete. It is a shelter that is commonly associated with Native Americans and is still in use today due to its practicality in most environments.

Gather a few long branches capable of supporting the structure – three can suffice, but six or more main support structures for the wikiup’s frame is preferable. Set them firmly in the ground, then bend them inward to form the roof’s centre. Tie the pieces together with paracord, rope, or vines.

Reinforce the wikiup with ropes or other softwood branches tied around the foundation’s circumference at various elevations. Make a point of tying them around points of intersection. Fill in the structure’s gaps with additional wood and greenery as needed. Remember to insulate the ground with protective layering – foliage will work well in any environment.

The wikiup is a multi-purpose shelter that protects from wind, heat, and cold. Larger structures can even accommodate an indoor firepit. This is useful in warmer climates but is especially useful in colder climates. With construction efforts being brisk, the wikiup is ideal for long-term use.

Log Cabin

The log cabin is most likely the most grandiose permanent shelter to construct, as well as the most resource and time-consuming. There isn’t much to offer in terms of concrete plans because each log cabin is tailored to specific specifications and different available means.

The most important consideration for log cabins is planning. Unlike lean-tos or wikiups, preparation entails more than just flattening the area and digging a few poles into the ground. The average log cabin can take anywhere from 9 months to 22 months to build, depending on the legal considerations and budget allocation.

Log cabins are subject to permitted development rights, which allow homeowners to make certain changes to their property. These are usually subject to restrictions, such as being limited to a certain square foot area or not being used for living quarters.

The main takeaway is that the project’s construction efforts require all legal concerns to be cleared and adhered to. Otherwise, you risk losing all of the money you put into the project, and you may even face legal consequences.

Log cabins are excellent investments for permanent shelters, but they are much more expensive than alternatives. The scope of the project necessitates legal considerations that other permanent shelters rarely necessitate. Log cabins are one of the most enjoyable and protective dwellings available if those concerns are planned for and addressed.

How To Build A Permanent Shelter In The Wilderness Bottom Line

Permanent shelters are ideal places to unwind and enjoy the natural environment. Furthermore, they are a good investment for emergency preparedness. It’s critical to think about what each shelter has to offer and whether you’re willing to put in the time and effort to pull it off.

By Beth

I'm Beth Nunes, the proprietor of preparing in the city. My family is the most important thing in the world to me. I couldn't bear the thought of my three small children going hungry, so I became obsessed with finding simple and practical ways to be prepared for the future by building food storage and gathering other emergency preparedness items.

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