Best Survival Shelter Ideas For Handling Awful Weather

By "Just In Case" Jack | Updated: 12/03/2023

survival sheltersToday I have something really important to share…

A Complete Guide To Building, Finding & Deploying Survival Shelters

Because there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

And even more ways to make survival shelters in the wild.

But only IF you know what you’re doing…

TOPICS IN THIS GUIDE…    ↓(click to jump)
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3 Lifesaving Shelter Tools

Emergencies are, by definition, unplanned events:

“A serious situation or occurrence that happens unexpectedly and demands immediate action.”

The most important word here is UNEXPECTEDLY.

  • You were caught off guard.
  • You didn’t expect the event, but never-the-less, stuff happens.

We cannot prevent ALL emergencies from our lives…

However, we CAN prepare for the unexpected.

Or, as they say,

“Expect the unexpected.”

So how do we do this regarding shelters?

1. Best Survival Tarp
AquaQuest Defender Tarp - 100% Waterproof

By purchasing a tough-as-nails survival tarp and stashing it in your vehicle, or your bug-out bag, your day pack, etc.

I'm often asked which survival tarp I consider "The Best."

Best is a loaded word, but I like the Aqua Quest Defender Tarp.

It's 100% waterproof, extremely durable, lightweight, and compact, and it includes over 20 reinforced loops for a versatile setup in any situation.

It's made of durable 70D nylon with a Heavy TPU coating. Plus, reinforced stitching and heat-taped seams.

No, it's not a cheap big box store tarp.

Remember, when it comes to survival tarps, you get what you pay for.

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↓ AquaQuest Waterproof Tarp

Before we move on, one more quick note of caution:

  • Not all tarps are created equal. Cheap tarps rip.
  • Cheap tarps don’t have grommets.
  • You need lots of grommets to make all the tarp shelter variations.
  • Cheap grommets will rip the tarp under very little tension.
  • Cheap tarps will deteriorate under UV light exposure.
  • Cheap tarps are not good for survival.

Don’t use a cheap tarp.

Get one worthy of survival.

You’ll also need several feet long of paracord to go with it.

2. Best Paracord For Survival
1,000 LB SurvivorCord XT | 100 FEET

And as we’ll cover in more detail shortly, you’ll also benefit from having a bit of paracord with you at all times.

Paracord has many survival uses, but with shelter building, it's essential for securing tarps and lashing wood together.

And while some paracord is better than others, most will work for building survival shelters.

I recommend getting some SurvivorCord. It's proven, tough, and ideal for survival.

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↓ Tital SurvivorCord Demonstration

3. Best Emergency Blanket / Tent
TACT Bivvy Emergency Sleeping Bag

This one is MY top pick.

IT's an incredible piece of survival gear.

Small enough to fit in your hand, this survival blanket utilizes Mylar.

Mylar provides the highest quality, most effective emergency blanket around.

And because it's taped together, it traps your body heat inside more like a sleeping bag than a blanket.

The Tact Bivvy is the best bang for your buck when you compare weight to warmth.

It provides maximum heat with minimal weight.

Making it perfect for bug-out bags, get-home bags, survival packs, or glove boxes.

Not only that, but it is windproof, waterproof, easy to use, and includes a small stuff sack.

This helps keep it stored neatly when you are not using it.

And the best part? It's affordable. At this price, it's an accessible survival tool for everyone.

Field Tested

We even tested the Tact Bivvy on a chilly 40-degree overcast day. "Just In Case," Jack (our managing editor) recorded temperatures inside the Tact Bivvy, and after only 10 minutes, it was a warm 82 degrees.

It was so warm inside the Tact Bivvy that he got out shortly after 10 minutes to keep from overheating.

If it works this well on a cool 40-degree day, it's a legitimate lifesaver in below-zero survival situations.

The bottom line is - The Tact Bivvy works and is excellent for cold-weather survival.

I recommend you get one for your bug-out bag, one for your medical first aid kit, one for your car, and your home.

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↓ Survival Frog TACT Bivvy Review

So with just these three simple items (a survival tarp, quality paracord, and a Tact Bivvy) you can protect yourself in a pinch.

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Why You Should Learn How To Build A Shelter

I love the great outdoors.

But I hate feeling exposed.

Wait, don’t those two statements contradict each other?

Yes, they do if you don’t know how to build a survival shelter.

But if you can build one…then the answer is: No.

Let me explain…

Riding out Mother Nature’s worst without shelter is not only a crappy time; it’s also deadly.

When unprepared humans go up against extreme weather, weather wins.

And even if the weather conditions “play nice,” knowing how to build a safety barrier between you and the rest of the world is comforting.

Cold, wet, heat, and dangerous animals all reduce your chances of survival.

And at the extremes (blizzards, torrential downpours, heat waves, and attacks), you’re survival window slams shut.

So if you can’t build, find or deploy a shelter in the harshest conditions, you’re done for in mere minutes.

That’s why sheltering is essential to survival.

Whether you’re planning a bug-out or want to be ready for an unexpected emergency, everyone should learn to build, find, and deploy shelters.

Now before we continue:

Different Shelters For Different Environments

Not all shelter designs work in all environments.

For example:

A good forest shelter will not work in deep snow or the hot desert.

So I’ll also break this article into the following categories as well:

  • Forest Shelters
  • Snow Shelters
  • Jungle Shelters
  • Desert Shelters

So let’s start things off with the simple lifesaving emergency shelter tools.

Because you should never make survival harder than it needs to be.

Wilderness Survival Shelter

10 Best Survival Shelters Ideas For Last Resort

Forest Shelters

We’ll start off with wilderness shelters in a forest setting.

Whether getting lost on a hike or injured on a hunting expedition, the following forest shelter options will keep you protected and alive.

1. The Simple Tarp Shelter

Here’s a video sharing an easy way to build a tarp shelter with a survival tarp:

↓ 8 Easy Tarp Shelters for Survival

Now, you could make a more elaborate shelter (which we’ll get to shortly).

But they require more time and calorie commitment.

Not ideal for a single night in a rare emergency.

But a night or two is exactly where the tarp shelter excels.

Here are a couple takeaways before we continue.

There are good shelter locations and bad locations.

Take a few minutes to find a good location.

If you have some extra time and are not minutes from hypothermia, look around for a good base location.

You want the natural surroundings to help reinforce your shelter.

Also, you need to figure out the prevailing wind direction.

In the United States will be from West to East.

So you’ll want to have the back of the tarp facing West.

That way, the tarp will deflect the driving rains and howling winds.

If you build your shelter’s entrance facing the prevailing winds, the winds will enter and push rain into your shelter.

Not fun.

Pro tip: Understanding prevailing winds is key for all shelter setups, not just tarp shelters.

2. Stealth Shelters

Here’s a video focusing on stealth camping you can use in an emergency.

↓ 10 Stealth Camping Shelters

So as you just saw, each of these designs will keep you HIDDEN, warm, and dry.

Now, building a one-night shelter becomes labor-intensive if you don’t have a tarp!

However, it’s worth learning these skills for a worst-case scenario.

The forest floor offers an abundance of resources.

Fallen trees provide ample amounts of logs and sticks.

They also provide pine straws and leaves.

These are your basic building blocks to survival shelters.

3. The Debris Shelter

This simple frame shelter is best if you’re without a tarp.  

Here’s a video showing how to build a debris hut shelter.

↓ Survival Skills – Debris Shelter


First, take advantage of what nature can provide.

I’m talking about outcrops, caves, large burrows, or natural depressions.

If you can find a place protected from wind and rain, then, by all means, use it.

Take what nature gives.

Don’t spend hours building a complex shelter when there’s an empty cave nearby.

Hopefully you have a few essential survival tools.

At a minimum, you’ll want a high-quality survival knife.

And for the more heavy-duty survival shelter builds, you’ll need a:

Assuming you have these, you can construct the following survival shelters.

4. The Japanese Spider Hole Shelter

This long term shelter is ideal for solo survival.

↓ Digging a Japanese Spider Hole

Now, if you stay for the long haul, you might add a few upgrades over time.

↓ Surviving 24-hrs UNDERGROUND

The spider hole shelter is a relatively simple, proven design.

But it takes time and effort to build.

5. The Wickiup Shelter

A Wickiup shelter is more elaborate and will take more time and energy to build.

However, you can scale this design to include larger survival groups.

↓ How to Build A Wikiup

Now, if you’re planning an extended stay, it makes sense to invest some effort in making it more comfortable.

You could upgrade your shelter over weeks or months.

So here’s a video series on upgrading your wickiup from surviving to thriving.

↓ Shelter Part 1 – Alpine Debris Bed

↓ Custom Firepit

↓ Making The Door

And lastly, here’s a video of bushcraft shelter ideas (which includes the simple lean-to shelter):

↓ 5 Bushcraft Shelter Ideas Everyone Should Know

Jungle Shelters

For emergencies in a jungle, your best bet is a tarp shelter.

If you don’t have one, then you can build a debris shelter similar to the ones we previously covered.

The tree species and debris will differ, but the concept is similar.

So let’s move on to my favorite long-term jungle shelter: The Survival Hut.

6. The Survival Hut

Jungles provide unique natural materials you can use to build with.

They have thick vines, hollow shoots, and large leaves, and the ground is often made of clay.

Plus, you’ll likely have abundant water .

A survival hut starts by using the wattle technique to interlace shoots and sticks.

Wattling creates a simple fencing structure.

Then you use the duab technique to smear a clay-like substance onto the wattle and allow it to dry.

These two methods can create a substantial survival hut.

Now, feel free to use tools to make your hut.

But to show you what’s possible, the following hut was built with no brought tools.

He makes tools with just the resources around him.

↓ Primitive Shelters: Wattle and Daub Hut

Cold Weather Hiker 1

Snow Shelters

So far, we haven’t discussed shelters for winter and snow.

Forest shelters can still work if they’re trace amounts of snow.

But if you’re dealing with multiple feet of snow, you won’t find the wood or debris necessary to build them.

So instead, you’ll need to take advantage of the snow.

7. A Snow Cave

Snow caves work well as emergency survival shelters.

You dig a snowhole and get in.

It’s fast, quick, down n’ dirty.

The reason this works is that snow has insulating properties.

So while snow is cold, it also does a fantastic job trapping heat.

So if you dig a hole in the snow and then bundle up inside, the cold air temperature inside the snow cave stay near freezing.

THAT may not seem “warm” but it will stay that temp no matter how cold it gets outside.

Plus, it will protect you from the wind, which is the biggest concern in a severe blizzard.

However, be careful when building a snow cave.

There are some dangers you need to be aware of.

First, you need to remain dry at all times.

Avoid extreme sweating while building it because wet and cold can lead to hypothermia.

Second, over the years, cooking in a snow cave has been attributed to several mountain climber deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Here’s an article that covers more snow cave dangers.

This video shows you the basics of building a snow cave.

↓ How To Dig a Large Snow Cave

Now in an emergency where time is of the essence, you wouldn’t make it nearly as large.

Just big enough to get in fast.

Snow caves are relatively straightforward to build.

But they’re unsuitable for longer-term situations.

Snow caves will eventually collapse in on themselves.

A full-out collapse typically takes several days of warm weather or rain,

But they are not meant for months of sheltering.

And that’s where the iconic igloo comes in…

8. An Igloo Shelter

By design, igloos are made to last.

Obviously, snow melts in warm weather, but the integrity of an igloo (if properly built) is impressive.

Check out this video on how strong and durable igloos are.

↓ Igloo Strength, Stability & Durability

So how do you correctly build an igloo by yourself?

Here’s a step-by-step video showing you how to build your own survival igloo.


Note: Cold weather survival skills include more than just building snow caves and igloos.

Make sure you understand all aspects of cold weather survival.

Next up, the opposite of cold and snow; heat and desert.

broken down vehicle in remote desert

Desert Shelters

Desert survival takes a unique set of skills.

Many people make the mistake of thinking survival shelters are not necessary for a desert.

↓ Deserts 101

They think “it doesn’t get cold in a desert,”; which is false.

Deserts at night can get brutally cold.

For example:

America’s most infamous desert, “Death Valley,” often drops into the ’30s over the winter months.

And many people also forget about the need for shade in the heat of the day.

This article points out the large differences between temperatures in the shade vs. direct sunlight.

So while it’s blistering hot during the day, you need a shelter to shade you from the sun.

But as evening sets in, you’ll need shelter to keep you warm.

The bottom line:

You need shelter in a desert survival scenario.

So it’s best to learn how to make one.

Now, if you’re stranded in the desert due to a broken-down vehicle, you already have a decent shelter…

The vehicle itself.

So in most cases, it makes the most sense to stay with your vehicle.

There are exceptions, but if you’re stranded, lost, and hoping for rescue, use your vehicle’s as your desert survival shelter.

If you’re stranded on foot, a good tarp will work wonders.

But if you don’t have a tarp with you, you’ll have to improvise.

Use what the environment gives you.

The desert often means miles and miles of juniper trees and sagebrush.

9. A Juniper Tree Shelter

Here’s a video showing how to use a Juniper Tree to improvise a shelter in the desert.

↓ Improvised Juniper Tree Shelter

10. Dug Out  Shelter

And for a longer-term survival stay, you could build a dugout shelter in a sandy area of the desert:

↓ Modified Dugout Shelter

Of course, this one takes quite a lot of work.

So if you plan on building this sort of shelter in a desert, you’ll want a survival shovel.

Otherwise, you’ll quickly suffer from dehydration.

You also need to think carefully about the location.

Flash floods in the desert are extremely dangerous.

The last thing you want to do is build a dugout shelter in a washout basin:

↓ Amazing Flash Flood

Final Thoughts

It’s time to get outside!

No matter what environment you live in or what season it is right now, you can build yourself one of these survival shelters.

Practice making them in a safe location today when you’re not under extreme stress.

Make them close to home, where the consequences of a screw-up are not life-threatening.

Practice makes perfect, and mistakes help you learn.

Ensure you’re making safe mistakes before putting your skills to the test.

Also, as discussed at the beginning of this article, get a survival tarp and paracord to help make your shelter builds easier.

Also, invest in lifesaving Tact Bivvy.

Then add these tools to your car emergency kits, day packs, get-home bags, and bug-out bags.

I always keep all these tools with me, just in case, and you should too.

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