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Micro Ventures: How to Build a Shelter

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

Shelter building is fort building with a few key rules. During Wild Skills events, SheJumps volunteers teach kids the importance of being able to build a shelter in case of an emergency but this is a skill that can be utilized in many different situations. Picnic on the mountain sideswiped by rain? No problem, build a shelter and keep the party going. Kids dying of boredom during your family outing? Not a big deal, build a shelter and put those little minds to work.

Get members of your crew involved and create the two types of at-home shelters.

Micro Ventures, a free digital program to engage all ages in nature-related activities. Stay tuned for a different "Micro Venture" each week this summer.

In-home shelter gear list

Below is a list of things that you will use to make your in-home debris shelter:

  • Blankets

  • Pillows

  • Sheets

  • Couch cushions

  • Laundry

  • Anything your housemates will spare

Shelter building basics

The first step in building a shelter is picking a good location. It should be in an area with easy access to building materials and free from hazards like insect nests, areas where water will pool or from falling objects like rocks.

Next choose the size of your shelter. You want to make a shelter that will be cozy or a little cramped to help keep the warmth in a compact area. The size of shelter depends on how many people will be in your shelter.

Now that you have picked your location and size of shelter you now need to decide what type of shelter you will build. This is dependent on what supplies you have in your pack. Do you have a tarp or will you need to use branches? Your shelter should be built strong and secure to make sure you are safe and will not collapse on you when inside.

Once the frame has been built focus on insulating and covering your structure with the tarp, plastic bag or branches depending on what you are building and supplies you have. For insulation you can use ferns, small branches, grass, pine needles, or leaves. This layer is to keep you off the ground, dry and warm.

To make your heat source you can snuggle with your partner and group or build a fire. If building a fire be careful not to catch your shelter on fire. Make sure if you use fire to have an adult to help with this.

Things to remember: Shelters do not need to be extravagant, they need to be functional and quick to set up.

SheJumps downloadable PDF view on shelter building.

Types of shelters

There are many ways to build shelters. If you're in the house you can use tables, chairs, the sofa or bed. Use your imagination there is no wrong shelter, just make sure it is safe!

When outdoors you can use a tarp between two trees or you can make a debris hut. The type of shelter depends on the supplies you have. Now that you know the shelter basics and the types of shelters, try and build one yourself!

Tarp tent

Gear: Tarp, rope, and stakes.

First, run a sturdy rope between two tree trunks. Secure it to both trunks, taut with no give.

Second, place the tarp over the rope in an A-frame configuration. The rope serves as the peak of the roof.

Third, pull the sides of the tarp down and away from the centerline and then stake (rocks or sticks) the corners.

Fourth, fore more wind or rain protection, consider covering the openings.

Debris hut

Gear: Hatchet and rope.

First, build it by making a tripod with two short stakes and a long ridgepole.

Second, secure the ridgepole. Prop large sticks along both sides of the ridgepole wedge-shaped ribbing effect.

Third, place finer sticks and brush crosswise on the ribbing. These form a latticework that will keep the insulating material (grass, pine needles, and leaves) from falling through the ribbing into the sleeping area.

Fourth, add debris until the insulating material is at least 1 meter thick–the thicker the better. Place a layer of insulating material inside the shelter and pile material at the opening that you can drag to you once inside the shelter to close.

What's next?

Remember to have fun and experiment with the different shelters. Be safe and happy shelter building!

Share your fun by tagging @shejumps or #SheJumps on social media with your photos.

SheJumps values providing low-to-no cost opportunities for our members. In the current state of the world, our ability to continue providing these programs relies on the availability of limited resources. If you find this education valuable, please consider a donation to support the future of our programs. Contribute to SheJumps ⟶

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