Building a shelter

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Building a shelterBuilding a shelter isn’t always easy. You need some time to find the right spot for your shelter, you also need patience and hard work when you want to find the best branches for it. But even that wouldn’t help you in the wilderness if you don’t have the knowledge of building a shelter properly.

For me, I had luck. I was allowed to participate at the bushcraft-program and had the chance to learn the basics of building a shelter in the wilderness with the help of our survival-guide Nick, a very smart and funny guy.

In the beginning, he explained us that we always have to check on the five W’s of bushcraft and when we have to find the right spot for our shelter. “Wind, wood, water, wildlife and widowmaker!”

“If you want to build a shelter you should always pay attention of the direction the wind is coming from. Build it laterally otherwise the wind would cool you down during the night or would push against your shelter until it gets unstable.

Wood is also important if you want to build one. Choose your spot close to the trees. Then you’ll have the chance to find enough wood for your shelter but also for a fire which keeps you warm during the night.

If you get thirsty you need to drink some water. Make sure that your shelter is close to a stream but not too close otherwise the stream would grow during a rainy day and the chance that your spot will be flooded would increase.

The fourth W is about the wildlife. Your shelter shouldn’t be in the area with a high number of bears and it also should not be close to a wasp nest for example. The reasons of “Why you shouldn’t do that” are obvious in this case.

Building a shelterThe last W stands for the widowmakers. Widowmakers are old trees that are likely to fall soon. So make sure that your shelter isn’t right next to one of those.”

After his small introduction we were finally able to build our own shelters. It didn’t take me long to find a place for my own shelter. There were several good places next to our basecamp. It was really close to some pines with a lot of branches that helped me to build a roof for my shelter and also a mattress for my bed very easily. I just had to cut them and put them on the ground. I immediately had a comfortable mattress in the middle of the wilderness. My place was also very close to a ton of old wood and a lot of sticks which was also very useful for my fire during the night.

After spotting the place for my shelter, I had to decide which kind of shelter I should build. I decided to build a lean-to shelter. That sort of a shelter is very reliable but also very easy to build. I just had to place a long branch one meter above the ground between to trees. Then I had to lean some other sticks against the branch, cover the open spots with some pines and I then I was already done with building my shelter.

I really liked it. I had a warm fire during the night, the pines covered me against the wind and I also had a small hole in my shelter where the moon was shining through directly into my face during the night.

Our bushcraft-guide Nick told me that it was a great shelter and I was really proud of it as well. To be honest he didn’t really call it a great shelter, he called it a great bunker because there was place for even two more people which actually made me even more satisfied about it.

In the end I can just recommend the bushcraft-program and I hope that you won’t forget the five W’s if you have to build your own shelter the next time!


Mike, Germany