Essential Shelter Types: From Tipis to Treehouses

emergency shelter made of flysheets.

Finding safe and reliable shelter is crucial during times of disaster. It protects individuals from harsh weather and hazards and can be a matter of life and death.

There are different types of shelters such as emergency, temporary, disaster, and homeless shelters. Understanding these variations helps individuals prepare for storms or homelessness.

Round Lodge

A nomadic tribe teepee on a rural field in the mountains of Northern Mongolia

The round lodge, also known as a tipi or yurt, is a traditional shelter used by various cultures worldwide. It has a round base and a cone-shaped top, made from natural or synthetic materials.

The central fireplace provides heat, light, and a cooking area, while the smoke hole at the top allows smoke to escape. The round lodge offers numerous advantages, particularly its durability and stability.

Its circular design helps it withstand strong winds, and its conical shape effectively sheds rain and snow. However, constructing a circular cabin is time-consuming and requires abundant materials that may not always be available.

Frame Shelter

Aurinkovuori Lean-to shelter in a sunny winter day. Vaaksy,Asikkala, Finland.

A frame shelter, also called an A-frame or lean-to, is a simple type of survival shelter. It comprises two poles leaning against each other at the top, with additional branches or poles laid across.

To shield from the weather, the structure is then covered with leaves, grass, or other insulating materials. This type of shelter can be constructed swiftly with minimal materials, making it a practical choice in emergencies. However, it has limited space and may not offer sufficient protection during severe weather.

Tarp Shelter

white tarpaulin taut, shading from the sun and rain over the terrace of the restaurant, on the playground in the kindergarten, on the platform. just a mast and taut ropes attached firmly to the ends, tarp

A tarp shelter is a versatile and lightweight option that involves using a waterproof tarpaulin. It can be rigged in various configurations depending on the situation, such as a lean-to, A-frame, or makeshift tent.

Tarp shelters are easy to set up, portable, and ideal for hikers, campers, and backpackers. However, they offer minimal insulation and may not withstand harsh weather conditions.

Debris Hut

wilderness survival camp - man building tree branch hut in forest in winter

A debris hut is an insulated, one-person shelter that is constructed as a lean-to. To create it, construct a sturdy frame using branches or logs and insulate it with leaves, grass, or debris.

Debris huts are ideal for cold climates due to their effective insulation. However, they have limited space and can only accommodate a single individual.

Lean-to Shelter

Modern-made lean-to shelter at Hughes, ACT, Australia on a winter morning in August 2019

A lean-to is the easiest shelter to build. To create one, lean branches or poles against a tree or rock and cover them with leaves, grass, or insulation.

Lean-to shelters can be constructed swiftly and with minimal materials, making them perfect for emergencies. However, they offer limited protection from the elements and are best for short-term use.

Snow Cave

Happy boy and girl looking out from a snow cave they made in a snowdrift

A snow cave is a shelter dug into deep snow. It is similar in design to an igloo but easier to construct. The interior is hollowed out to create a sleeping area, and a small tunnel serves as an entrance.

Snow caves provide excellent insulation and protection from extreme cold and wind. However, they require a substantial amount of snow and effort to build, and there is a risk of collapse if not constructed properly.

Hammock Shelter

Wise Owl Outfitters Hammock Tent with Rain Tarp, Stakes & Bag - Grey

A hammock shelter is a suspended hammock covered by a tarp for rain and wind protection. It is lightweight and portable, keeping you above the ground and away from bugs and wetness.

Hammock shelters are popular among backpackers and campers due to their ease of setup, comfort, and elevated sleeping position. However, they are not suitable for cold weather as they offer minimal insulation.

Tree Platform

A tree platform is a shelter constructed on tree branches. It can be a basic sleeping platform or an intricate treehouse with walls and a roof. Tree platforms provide safety from ground predators and insects while offering a panoramic view.

Nevertheless, they necessitate significant time, expertise, and resources to construct, and tree climbing carries potential injury hazards.

Underground Bunker

An underground bunker is a fortified shelter dug into the ground, equipped with air circulation, electricity, and provisions for food and water. They provide effective protection against severe weather, fallout, and disasters.

However, constructing such bunkers requires significant resources, time, and expertise, rendering them impractical for emergency situations.

Survival Tent

Go Time Gear Life Tent Emergency Survival Shelter – 2 Person Emergency Tent – Use As Survival Tent, Emergency Shelter, Tube Tent, Survival Tarp - Green 2 Pack

A survival tent is a portable, lightweight shelter made from waterproof material. Survival backpacks often have reinforced seams, strong zippers, and bright colors for visibility.

These tents are easy to set up and can withstand tough conditions, making them ideal for outdoor enthusiasts and emergencies. However, they may not offer as much insulation as other types of shelters and can be vulnerable to damage in severe weather.

Regardless of the shelter you choose, it must protect you from the weather and potential dangers. Knowing how to build and use survival shelters can be life-saving in emergencies. Remember, preparation is crucial – the more knowledge you have, the better prepared you’ll be to handle any situation.

By Anita Brown

Anita Brown is our go-to contributor to our emergency preparedness website. Anita brings a wealth of personal experience and professional expertise to the table, having weathered several awful natural disasters. Anita is currently working towards obtaining her Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certification.