These are the shelters for you when you’re in it for the long haul

Hello all! Rob Raskin of Las Vegas here again, and this week we’re back for Part 3 of our winter survival series. While some survival situations will be temporary, such as the aftermath of an earthquake or a short-lived episode of civil unrest, other situations will stretch out for longer—and sometimes even permanently.


In these situations, you’ll need to worry about long-term survival in all four seasons, especially if you’re in a climate that freezes in winter.


If the SHTF in winter, the first thing you’ll need to do is find shelter. Last week we discussed emergency shelters you can put-together in a hurry. This week we’re going to take a deeper look into shelters that will allow you to live in a more comfortable situation that is better suited to long-term survival.


When it’s cold, it is critical that you stay dry. In the wild, your options for materials to keep yourself dry may be limited. Even if you don’t have many materials available, you can still build a shelter that will keep you dry, warm, and alive beyond the initial crisis.


Once you have your emergency winter shelter in place, if the situation is stable, you may be ready to build a permanent or semi-permanent shelter that will allow you to live more comfortably in the wild in any season. This article will give you the ins and outs of building a long-term winter survival shelter. Consider this your starting point for further research.


Location, Location, Location

Just as with any other type of real estate, location is everything. This should be the first thing you’re worried about when you’re choosing the perfect spot to build your shelter. When you’re deciding whether or not a spot is the right choice, you’ll want to look for potential danger like vulnerability to flash floods or exposure, either to the elements, predators, or other humans.


When you’re choosing your location…

  • Use the sun as your guide. The earlier you get to work on your shelter each day, the better. Start as early as possible each morning and stop while the sun is still high enough in the sky to allow time to return to your temporary emergency shelter before nightfall.
  • Make sure there’s plenty of access to fuel and building materials. You’ll need to be able to get to both things quickly, so they need to be close.
  • Look for a place with natural wind barriers in place, such as large rocks and trees or caves. Make sure there’s no heavy snow drift, look for ground you can easily clear, and avoid steep areas that might be difficult or impossible to reach if it’s icy.
  • Steer clear of trees or rocks that look like they might fall.


Water Sources

You don’t want to be too close or too far from water. In winter any streams might be frozen, but you still may be able to see signs of how high the water can potentially rise when spring comes on nearby trees or rocks. Even if there are no marks, keep in mind that streams can rise as many as ten feet at night, and lakes can, too.


Local Predators

You’ll want to familiarize yourself with local predators and their habits so you can keep protecting yourself in mind when you’re choosing a shelter location. Avoid building at night, when predators will be out hunting. Predators are also something to keep in mind if you’re thinking of settling too close to a water source where they may come to drink.


Semi-Permanent and Permanent Shelters

Now we’re going to take a look at two different shelters: the igloo and the cabin. These are two popular options that each have benefits and drawbacks.



While the igloo won’t last once the weather warms up, it’s an excellent choice for areas of deep freeze and heavy, deep snow and ice.


To build an igloo, you’ll need to start by using an axe to cut a triangle-shaped block of ice or form one out of snow and pack it tightly. Next, begin making trapezoidal-shaped blocks with tapered edges. From the first block you’ll want to arrange the rest of the blocks in a circle, stacking them inward until the dome shape is formed. The final block you’ll put into the center of the ceiling of your igloo is known as the keystone. Make sure you leave a door and a cold well, that you create holes for ventilation, and that you’ve built a sleeping platform inside.



If you’re fortunate enough to have timber and nails, you can build a cabin. This is only an option if you have a lot of time to safely build. One of the best things about cabins in winter is you can warm it up with a stove. The cabin will hold the heat in while protecting you from elements like wind and snow. If you want access to plenty of wood, find a location with a lot of trees nearby. Once you’ve got your frame in place, you can use your axe to split trees and nail them to the frame. The more earth, leaves, etc. you can pack around the walls of your cabin, the better.



This video will teach you how to build an igloo by yourself.


Learn more about cabin building on a budget.