Survival Lean-To Shelter

If you are in a wooded area and have enough natural materials available, you can make a field-expedient lean-to shelter without the aid of tools or with only a knife. It takes longer to make this type of shelter than it does to make other types, but it is longer lasting and provides excellent protection from the elements.

You will need two trees (or upright poles) about 2 meters (7 feet) apart; one pole about 2 meters (7 feet) long and 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) in diameter; five to eight poles about 3 meters (10 feet) long and 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) in diameter for beams; cord or vines for securing the horizontal support to the trees; and other poles, saplings, or vines to crisscross the beams.

Field-expedient lean-to shelter

To make this lean-to, you should:

  1. Tie the 2-meter (7-foot) pole to the two trees at waist to chest height. This is the horizontal support. If a standing tree is not available, construct a bipod using Y-shaped sticks or two tripods.
  2. Place one end of the beams (3-meter [10-foot] poles) on one side of the horizontal support (structure in forefront of the drawing).  Set them at a 45 degree angle and push the footing into the ground as far as possible.   As with all lean-to type shelters, be sure to place the lean-to’s backside into the wind.
  3. Crisscross saplings or vines over the beams to form a latticework frame.
  4. Cover the framework with brush, leaves, pine needles, or grass, starting at the bottom and working your way up like shingling.
  5. Place straw, leaves, pine needles, or grass inside the shelter for bedding.

In cold weather, add to your lean-to’s comfort by building a fire reflector wall. Drive four 1.5-meter-long (5-foot-long) stakes into the ground to support the wall. Stack green logs on top of one another between the support stakes. Form two rows of stacked logs to create an inner space within the wall that you can fill with dirt. This action not only strengthens the wall but makes it more heat reflective. Bind the top of the support stakes so that the green logs and dirt will stay in place.

With just a little more effort you can have a drying rack. Cut a few 2-centimeter-diameter (3/4-inch-diameter) poles long enough to span the distance between the lean-to’s horizontal support and the top of the fire reflector wall. Lay one end of the poles on the lean-to support and the other end on top of the reflector wall. Place and tie smaller sticks across these poles. You now have a place to dry clothes, meat, or fish.

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