Using tents and emergency shelters

  • Two young women setting up a tent


Learn how to use a tent or make an emergency shelter.


Plan an activity where you learn to build emergency shelters and set up and take down tents. Tents are usually purchased or borrowed, and they offer excellent outdoor cover. You can also use waterproof materials, such as a tarp, to construct an emergency shelter. Following is a list of emergency shelters you could learn to make:

  • A-frame tent. To make an A-frame tent, fold the tarps or plastic in half lengthwise, and place the fold over a pole or a rope stretched between two trees. Anchor the tarp to the ground with rocks.
  • Lean-to. To make a lean-to, tie a tarp to a pole or rope that is parallel to the ground and has been lashed to two upright sticks or poles. Use ropes and pegs to hold the upright poles in place. Anchor the tarp to the ground with rocks. You can also make a lean-to by tying two corners of a tarp to the branches of two trees. Use pegs or rocks to anchor the other side of the tarp to the ground. If no tarp is available for the lean-to, you could tie branches or palm fronds to the pole or trees and pile dirt on top of the branches or palm fronds to provide more insulation, but do not gather this material from live trees.
  • Other emergency shelters. You can also create a waterproof lining in a snow cave or line a rock cave with fallen leaves and branches to use as an emergency shelter.

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