A simple A-frame tent can protect you from the elements. But who will protect you from yourself?

Building a Shelter in the Jungle

A good shelter is important for many reasons. It shields you from the elements, hides you from wildlife intruders and provides the psychological comfort needed to remain calm and in control -- a survival necessity.

When choosing a place to build your shelter, stay near a source of water if possible and avoid natural hazards like dead trees and cliffs. Make use of anything you find or already have with you. A length of rope and some ripped plastic sheeting or poncho can be of great use in the jungle. For a basic rain shelter, simply tie the poncho or plastic between four trees to form a canopy. You can fashion a tent shelter by running rope down the center of the poncho between two trees and staking the sides into the ground using sticks to create an A-frame. Another simple lean-to shelter can be made by tying two opposite corners of the poncho to trees. The other end slants diagonally to the ground and can be secured with stick stakes or heavy rocks.

If you don't have any rope, build a one-person tent from tree branches:

  • Take a forked tree branch and wedge it into the ground about a foot deep, with the "Y" pointing up.
  • The ridgepole is the center ceiling support and should be straight and sturdy. Run it from the ground to the fork, resting in the "Y."
  • Create an "A" for the tent door by resting sturdy diagonal branches opposite each other that meet at the fork.
  • Use vine to lash together all three support points.
  • Create a ribbed frame with branches set diagonally along the ridgepole, wide enough so you have room inside.
  • Once you have your frame built, drape your cover over the top and stake it down with sharp sticks.

There's no snow in the jungle, but that won't stop us from showing you every possible shelter option.

If you don't have a poncho or any kind of plastic sheeting, build one from natural items. It's basically the same method, but you use foliage to cover the frame. Natural materials can be effective insulators and rain shields. After you build the frame, use branches, palm fronds and any other large leaves for your roof. Think of your shelter roof as being shingled like a house. Work in layers from the ground up and keep the branches pointed down for rainwater runoff.

You can read more about other sheltering techniques in How to Build a Shelter. On the next page, you'll learn how to travel through the jungle.