What Every Prepper Ought To Know

Part 1: Shelter

The rules of three states that shelter is required within three hours of becoming lost or stranded or during any type of crisis. You need shelter for protection from the elements and from animal and human predators. Shelter has a tremendous psychological effect on humans as well. Aside from the crisis itself, your biggest threat during any situation is other humans. You simply cannot survive without a shelter and it must always be a priority.

Bug In

Typically, survival experts will tell you that it is safer to shelter in place. You cannot provide yourself an adequate shelter if you are on the move. Additionally, if there are rescue operations being conducted rescue personnel will search for people at all know addresses. Movement also exposes you to the elements and other risks. You should only evacuate your shelter if your life is in danger. It is recommended that you “bug-in” during any crisis other than a verified chemical, nuclear or biological attack in your area or there is a mandatory evacuation order issued.

However, the disaster may have caused damage to your shelter, so you have to evaluate your home for livability. Just because you home is damaged does not mean that you have to flee for parts unknown. Shelter in place and use the current infrastructure to your advantage. Your home while damaged can still be used to store supplies, provide materials for a temporary shelter, and give you a sense of comfort.


Your home is the ideal shelter and even if damaged can be used during a disaster. To help prepare your home gather up plywood sheets, waterproof tarps, rolls of heavy plastic, nails/staples and duct tape. Use the plywood sheets on the outside of any damaged opening and to cover holes in the roof. You can use the tarps to cover opening in the roof or walls if the weather is temperate. Use mosquito/insect netting/screens if applicable along with the tarps to cover openings to the outside. Plastic and duct tape can be used from the inside to help seal up openings but use with caution around children and do not seal the home to the point it is airtight.

Use plastic and tape to seal openings against certain chemical, nuclear or biological attacks if you are unable to leave. Basements can be used as shelter to help protect you during these types of situations.

Alternative or Backup Shelters

You can erect shelters on your property such as tents or take advantage of outbuildings for shelter. If you evacuate and do not have a destination in mind that can provide you with a shelter, you are much safer bugging-in. Prepare now to shelter on your property by gathering portable shelters or making plans to use a detached garage, barn, carport, workshop or storage building for temporary shelter. Ensure you have cots, sleeping bags and/or blankets available to place in the shelter. Use tarps and plywood to enhance and fortify any temporary shelter.



Picture courtesy of

Though the pictured shelter is prefabricated, you can easily construct ones that are similar with limited tools and supplies. Use tarps and canvas to cover the top and take advantage of fallen limbs and other damaged structures for material.


Portable Shelter

Picture courtesy of

The Ideal Shelter

The ideal shelter provides protection from the rain, snow, cold and animals. You must also be able to defend your shelter against other humans. In the case of defense, it may not be the shelter itself you are defending but the location. You want to limit access to your area by using natural barriers such as lakes, rivers, rock walls and steep terrain. You want to limit and control access to your location by funneling any animal or human through a point you can defend.

Wilderness Shelter Options


Lightweight nylon tarp and choose one with grommets so it can be secured to the ground or trees, this tarp weighs less than 1lb. Connect more than one together to make a larger shelter and use forest debris for support poles or secure between several trees.


Survival Tarp


Add insect netting or fill in the sides with vegetation to protect against the cold and if using a fire inside the shelter make sure you have a smoke hole. Ensure the top is slanted enough so it does not collect rain or snow and if not put a sapling in place to elevate the material to allow rain and snow to runoff.

Survival Tarp


Make sure when using natural cover along with a tarp shelter that there are not any dead limbs overhead or vegetation that can collect snow and then drop large volumes of snow onto your shelter.

snow cave

Snow cave using leaves and snow. Form into a cone shape and then make a sleeping area. Make sure the inside area is large enough so your body does not have to make contact with the sides or top. Use ground insulation to protect the body such as thermal blankets, pine boughs and/or any available loose vegetation.

Shelter Cave


Use the natural terrain to your advantage along with forest debris and any materials you may have with you.

Rock Shelter

Be careful using fire in confined spaces and remember rocks with high moisture content can fracture when exposed to heat from a fire.


Survival Shelter

Construct using forest debris and this particular shelter uses a live tree as the center support. Saplings and vegetation is used to fill in the sides. This shelter can be constructed with limited to no tools using what is available in a wilderness environment.

Steps Material and Tools Needed To Create Shelter Away From Home

The natural shelters depicted above may not be available and to assume otherwise may mean you do not prepare properly by carrying the essentials needed for shelter.

Always carry shelter material and tools to help with construction. You need at least 100 feet of quality nylon rope, machete, small axe or wood saw to construct a satisfactory shelter and to improve upon tarp shelters. Tarp shelters do not provide adequate protection from the cold so they must be fortified.

First, construct the shelter in a secure location. This means you do not set up camp in any dry wash because of flash floods or in an open area close to a water source. Predators begin to hunt at dark and they will hunt near a water source. Make sure you are not on or near a game trail as well.

Concealment may be a factor so if you feel you need to hide your location you have to leave a small footprint. In other words, do not begin cutting vegetation and limbs in the area of your shelter. Use live vegetation to your advantage for screening. You can secure a tarp or saplings between live bushes with heavy foliage for camouflage. If you have to cut, live trees and bushes do so as far away from your camp as practical.

Check back with us next week for Part 2



Posted on by Suburban Prepper in Shelter 12 Comments