Bushcraft Survival Guide: The A-Frame Shelter (Double Lean-To Wall)

Did you know that without a shelter you can die within hours, especially in a harsh environment? Having the skills and the knowledge to make even a basic shelter could save your life. 

For outdoor enthusiasts, survivalists and preppers, knowing the basics of an A frame shelter is essential. You don’t want to be caught off guard in the forest without knowing how to construct a shelter to protect yourself and your loved ones. 

We want you to be safe and secure by equipping you with the information you need to confidently make an A frame shelter. We’ve studied the best ways to build one and have created this easy to follow guide with everything that you need to know about A-frame shelters.

What Are A-Frame Shelters?

An A-Frame shelter takes its name from the letter A and the triangular shape that it forms. It is different to other shelters such as the lean-to shelter as it has two sides supported against one another. 

The frame of this type of shelter is made up of a ridgepole which runs along the top, and two arms forming the entrance to the shelter. Ribs are then put in place to support the walls of the A frame. 

A-frame shelters are made from collected wood, branches and debris such as leaves. If you have a tarp this can be used as additional protection. Generally you’ll want your A-frame shelter to be cozy rather than spacious so that it retains as much of your body heat as possible. 

Why Use an A-Frame Shelter? 

A-frame shelters are easy to make. This is one of the main benefits of an A-Frame shelter. If you’re in extreme conditions or building a shelter when you are physically exhausted or in a state of shock, you don’t want to be thinking about complex designs or following complicated instructions. 

It’s really important that you can quickly and easily construct a shelter to protect you when you really need it. You don’t need any previous experience to construct an A Frame – although it’s always useful to practice your shelter building skills to give you peace of mind that you’ll be able to do it if SHTF. 

An A-Frame shelter is quick to construct. By making it and staying in it to keep warm, you’ll have a place to be able to rest. If you are waiting for rescuers to find you, it allows you to stay in one place which will increase the likelihood of you being spotted from above. 

The design of an A-Frame shelter means that you are protected from both sides. This is in contrast to a lean to shelter where you may still be exposed to the elements on one side.

What Are the Best Materials to Build an A-Frame Shelter?

If you’re in the wild and you’re building an emergency A Frame shelter, you may not have the luxury of choosing the best materials for your shelter. Luckily, many natural resources are ideal for building this type of shelter so you should be able to find appropriate materials to use. 

Here are some of the key materials that are really useful for your A Frame shelter: 

  • Sturdy tree branches: These can be used for the ridgepole which has to support the ribs and arms of the A frame. They’ll need to be strong enough to offer good support and to withstand weather conditions such as wind and rain. 
  • Thick branches: These will be used for two main jobs: 
  • To support the ridgepole. You’ll need to make sure these are securely wedged into the ground so that they aren’t knocked down when you pass through the entrance of the shelter. 
  • To create the ribs. These will need to be strong enough to support the walls of the A frame shelter.  
  • Tarp : This is a really useful piece of equipment if you happen to have it in your emergency bug out bag. 

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You can tie it down over your ridgepole for excellent protection from extreme weather conditions as well as insulation. Don’t panic if you don’t have a tarp as you can always find a natural alternative such as large frond style leaves or pine branches. 

  • Debris: This can include anything from dried leaves to long grass and moss. The most important thing if you’re using piles of leaves is to ensure that they are as  dry as possible. You don’t want to add damp leaves to your shelter. Ultimately, the leaves will act as insulation so there’s no limit to the amount of debris you’ll want to collect. 
  • Ground cover: You’ll want to avoid sleeping directly on the ground wherever possible as this will zap the heat from your body. Whether you use clothing or natural materials such as leaves or pine boughs, try to have as little contact with the bare ground as possible. 

How to Build an A-Frame Shelter

An A-frame shelter is one of the easiest types of shelter to make so don’t panic if you’re doing it for the first time when in the wild and under pressure. If you do get a chance to practice making an A frame in advance, it’s really helpful and will help you feel more confident when it comes to a real life setting. 

When learning how to build an A-frame shelter it can be helpful to watch real life demonstrations. Many people learn much better when seeing things being done visually than when simply reading instructions. This Youtube video is really helpful and acts as a great visual reference. 


1. Find your location

This is almost as important as building the A-frame shelter itself. Make sure you find a site for your shelter that is clear of any obvious danger – either on the ground or overhanging. 

You may want to look around to see what natural resources are nearby. Having a good source of debris and branches will help you when collecting materials to build your A-frame shelter with. You’ll also want to ensure that you aren’t at the bottom of a stream or waterfall, and that you’re exposed enough that rescuers searching from above can see you. 

2. Get your ridgepole

This will be the top post of your A Frame. You’ll want to find a branch to use that is as tall as you are – this will mean you won’t have to duck when entering your A frame shelter. Put one end of the ridgepole on the ground or use a tree stump to support it if there is one available. 

3. Source the arms for your ridgepole

These are the two branches that you’ll lash together in the shape of an A. They form the front of your A-frame shelter. 

4. Collect the ribs for your shelter 

Find as many thick branches as possible to add support along the ridgepole. Ideally they should all be of similar thickness. 

Place these branches every 8-12 inches and make sure that they are sunk 2-3 inches into the ground. If you have a small hammer or mallet and can secure them firmly you’ll have the reassurance of extra security. 

5. Fill in any empty spaces and start to add insulation

You can move along the ribs and use smaller sticks to start filling in any gaps between them. If you have more time you might want to consider weaving materials such as saplings or dried grasses through. 

Start adding insulation by using any soft materials you can find – moss, twigs, dried grasses and leaves are all good and quantity  is key. Keep going by adding as many layers as you can. A warm shelter and avoiding hypothermia can mean the difference between life and death. 

6. Don’t forget to insulate the ground

Ideally, you’ll have a sleeping mat or emergency blanket in your equipment or bug out bag. Don’t worry if not – you can use leaves or branches to insulate the ground beneath you. 

The important thing is to avoid sitting or lying on bare ground. This can drain the heat from your body and take away all the benefits of your warm shelter. 

Keep making improvements

Once you’ve got your A frame shelter constructed, don’t stop there. If you end up spending more time than you’d imagined in your shelter, why not add to it? Woven birch bark can be a brilliant way to insulate the walls of your A frame shelter. Or you could continue to add ground insulation and piles of dried leaves and moss. 

When to Use an A-Frame Shelter

An A-Frame shelter is an excellent survival shelter that you can use at any time when you’re in need of protection and a place to stay warm and dry. They are an excellent shelter option in extremely cold conditions as they trap heat and warmth. Being enclosed on all sides means that they are warmer than lean to style shelters. 

You should always consider using an A-Frame shelter if you’re in an area with lots of trees available. Without trees it can be very difficult to make an A-Frame shelter and you may want to consider another type of survival shelter.

An A-Frame shelter is good to use when you need to quickly construct a shelter. If you’ve got resources such as good sized branches and a tarp available, you can set it up within 10 minutes. Being able to set up a shelter so quickly could save your life. 

Although they’re quick to construct there’s no limit to the amount of time you can spend on it. Lots of survivalists and outdoor enthusiasts enjoy improving their A-Frame shelters if they spend additional time there. You can add woven tree bark for support and warmth, or keep piling up leaves to add insulation. 


Learning how to build an A-frame shelter doesn’t take much time and it could easily save your life. Shelter is essential for survival and an A-frame shelter is quick and easy to construct. 

Take the time to learn about what you need to make an A frame shelter and the best ways to construct it so that you’re fully prepared whenever an emergency or disaster situation occurs.

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