I have been trekking nearly for a decade now and all those years I have never had a tent with me. It was roughly a couple of years ago, I bought my first tent. :-) I had always relied on natural caves and structures. Sometimes I still do.

It was very recently that I had gone for a long jungle trek with a fellow and we were supposed to reach a cave before sunset. But we got stranded and would have had to stay up in the middle of nowhere in the forest. We had all the stuff except for a shelter. So I could somehow manage to get an idea of where we needed to go and then we set a small campfire, cooked our food and walked into the forest to reach the cave something around 3 am.

This idea still tickles me what I could have done, or anybody can do, to make a shelter without wasting much of the time and energy, especially when it's raining. Has anybody tried making a kind of thing that comes closer to what a tent looks like?

On a personal note, I would love to try that instead of staying up in a tent.

  • 3
    Here's a nice link for you: artofmanliness.com/2014/08/07/…
    – pheidlauf
    Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 19:23
  • It sounds like you may be looking for a tarp rather than a traditional tent. The weight is minimal (as low as 220g for some models), as is the setup time compared to many "survival shelters".
    – requiem
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 6:35
  • 1
    I would start packing a large tarp and some rope or strong cord, you can do quite a bit with just a tarp and cord and they don't take up a lot of weight or room in a pack, they are essentials if you ask me.
    – Nate W
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 15:02

2 Answers 2


What kind of shelter you can build will depend on what is around you at the time. If you are in a forest or woodland you will obviously have more to utilise than in a desert or moorland, but from my own experiences I've built shelters in British deciduous and coniferous woodlands.

During Girl Guides (bit like Scouts) and school based Team Building weeks we would build shelters (this kind sometimes called a 'lean to') mostly comprising of sturdy sticks leaning against a tree branch that had grown horizontally, then cover this with branches that still had their leaves on. Using a horizontally growing branch helped give the shelter structure but you can use two smaller trees even, there are plenty of variations. The thicker and type of foliage on top of the shelter though the less likely you will get dripped on by water - and obviously it will keep you a bit warmer in colder climes. But these kind of structure you can see throughout British woodlands as often kids build small ones as 'dens'.

This would do for no more than a night or two really, we never built them to be sturdy - but you can see a few examples by Ray Mears and he explains how you can then use a one sided shelter with a fire pit to keep warm. Here is one example of him making a shelter - we never made them to this extent however.


You can improvise a tent-like shelter with a sturdy rain poncho and some cord.

Tie one corner to a tree a 18" (~1/2 meter) off the ground, then spread the poncho in a diamond shape. Pull the corner opposite the tree somewhat taut and tie it to a peg or stick. Spread the other two corners and secure them likewise.

For the hood, tie it off so rain can't get in, then pull up and tie to a branch (if available or to the tree on which you started.

A sturdy poncho with grommets in the corner weighs about a pound (~450g). Army surplus stores or camping supply stores most likely have this item in stock.

The whole thing takes less than 10 minutes to put up and just a couple minutes to put away.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.