Emergency shelter

(Survival manual/ 4. Shelter issues/Emergency shelter)

 Building a Survival Shelter
There are many books and DVDs on survival and most of them cover the survival shelter. God forbid that you’ve ever in an emergency situation requiring you to survive in one. What follows is a visual listing of several potentially life saving shelters, going from a true emergency to the garden shed- cabin concept.

Poncho shelters

Primitive Lean-to Shelter
The lean-to  is the simplest and fastest Survival Shelter to build.
You will need a horizontal branch which can be tied between two trees or supported by two branches crossed over. Then branches are leaned against the wind side to create an angled roof. The roof can than be covered with branches, grass, leaves or moss.
This one is usually found near a survival cache. It’s a spot where all the basics are covered like shelter, weapons, 3 days worth of food, and water gathering materials. You make this camp in preparation of moving to a better more permanent location soon.  They are great for those of us that like being
able to Bug Out quickly without a second thought.
•  Advantages: Very quick to set up,  easily hidden, cheap.
•  Disadvantages: temporary, not easily defended, limited supplies.

Debris Hut
A debris hut is a good option when in search of warmth and it is also easy to construct.
1)  It is built by constructing a simple tripod using two short stakes and one long “ridgepole,” a sturdy pole which  runs down the length of the shelter.
2 )  Large sticks are then propped up along the length of the ridgepole. This is the shelters “ribbing.”
3)  Next, in a way similar to the building of the vertical ribbing, smaller sticks are placed horizontally to make a criss-crossed pattern or latticework. This latticework will support the insulating materials.
4)  After insulating materials (leaves, grass, etc.) are collected, they are laid over the construction until the layer is one to two meters thick. Thicker for more insulation.
5)  The floor is then covered with a 12 inch layer of the material.
6) Then a pile of material is placed near the doorway. This pile is to  be dragged to the door in order to “shut” the door. Finally, the “ribbing” step is then repeated to hold the insulation material in place.

Once again in brief: To build a debris shelter you will need a sturdy ridge-pole this will need to be propped on a sturdy log or rock, When the ridge-pole is in place, you will need to place sticks close together along both sides at an angle, leaving an opening for a door. At this stage, it will look like a backbone with ribs. Cover the roof with branches, grass, leaves or moss. For inner insulation you will need to find the softest, driest debris  possible. Pad it out top to bottom, go inside and compress it. This Survival Shelter will keep you warm if done properly.

[Photo above: Literally, a “debris hut”, but one which works in an emergency situation.]


Pallet house #1
 The average life of a Refugee camp is 7 years, with some camps maintaining residency over 50 years. There is a need for an alternative shelter to the typical tent solution that can transform a temporary living condition into a permanent home.

Pallet House by I-Beam Design, was conceived as a transitional shelter for returning Refugees. It’s a good looking house, especially for a pallet house.

Pallet house #2
The floor is made from pallets with slates abutted to each other. Can be set on a stone foundation to keep  the wood off the ground. A simple 16 by 16 foot shelter can be created with 100 pallets.
[Picture at right: A more ambitious pallet house with an interior wall. Exterior can be covered with plastic sheets, tin, or thin plywood.]

Simple building designs that can be quickly and easily erected with common materials are becoming more and more essential as climate change and population growth push the limits of traditional building. Quick, affordable and sturdy housing will only be more in demand in the coming years, so ideas like the Pallet House can be invaluable for destabilized communities.

Micro Shelter

A mini/micro shelter designed as a tiny, easy to build “escape cube” (for indoors or out), and/or a super-affordable short-term shelter for the homeless or for hikers/travelers, etc. Total cost: Approx. $100-$110. It’s a mere 16 square feet inside, but “roomier” than you might think, for something mainly built out of two sheets of plywood. [For an emergency or remote camp where such a structure could be prepositioned, the concept of the above microshelter is as expedient as it is inexpensive. Made with full 8 feet long sheets of plywood it would provide a much larger, almost solid structure to sleep or escape into in the advent of inclement weather.]
The shelter also could be put on an elevated platform for security from some wildlife, or cranked up into a tree with a come- along; even mounted on a utility trailer frame and filled with other camping or emergency supplies for vacation or ‘bugging out’. The beauty of this shelter is that it can be built in under a day, by someone with very little building experience.  Build it yourself.

Ideas for a precut garden shed/ emergency shelter/ cabin
Lets say the basic structure will be a common wood product garden shed as seen below, including a view from the outside and inside. You might want to have an extra, optional window installed for cross ventilation (2 windows minimum). These sheds are commonly sold by Home Depot and Lowe’s and can be bought as a kit or  professionally constructed on site.

Exterior additions
By adding a lean-to roof to the shed, you have an outdoor ‘porch’ or workspace;  by enclosing the lean-to roof, the space becomes a shed or an additional room. Solar panels could be installed on the roof to maintain a 2-4  sealed, deep cycle battery electric storage capacity, with which to charge your personal electronics (cell phones, Ipod, iPad, CD player, portable DVD player), a fan, lap top computer and for night time illumination.


Once you see and can imagine everyday furnishings set in a garden shed and begin to think about electrifying that small space, the livability of such a common enclosure becomes evident.
An 8’x12′ or 10’x16′ gargen shed could easily become a comfortable, interm emergency dwelling.

Add preparedness functionality with:
Coleman stove set under window, several wash basins, Big Berky water filter, rain barrel, shed roof gutters, small wood burning stove with chimney or catalytic heater and appropriate size propane tank, bunk bed style camp cots, folding leaf table and chairs, porta-pottie, solar panel-battery storage, fan, 12 volt interior lighting, Zeer pot refrigerator, chest of drawers, overhead storage below rafters, outdoor clothes line….

With this concept in mind, all that you would need for ‘long’ term survival situation (this is not a complete list, but is a very good start) would be some cash, a bag of pre 1965 silver coins, a galvanized trash can filled with dry goods, another filled with canned foods, a stack of boxes of freeze dried and dehydrated foods, a solar oven, 1-2 sanitary fifty gallon drums of water with rainwater catchment or  several gallons of household bleach disinfectant, sleeping bags, cold and warm weather clothing (ie shorts, wide brim hat, long johns, hoodie, coat) some rat traps and conibear traps, a .22LR rifle and 12 gauge shotgun and  medications. The items in this last paragraph are- or will be, discussed in greater detail else where in Survival Manual, see the Categories or look under the Survival Manual tab at the top of the 4dtraveler home page.

Actual living conditions. What people have done, or are doing now…
In an emergency you CAN live in ‘small’ and you can probably do better than  much of what follows, below:

Russell Lee Home Sweet Hovel December 1936. “Mrs.Charles Benning sweeping steps of shack in Shantytown. Spencer, Iowa”

A temporary shelter packed in to a remote area piece meal, undergoing construction.

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