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Seeking shelter

Build a natural shelter and spend the night outdoors.
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Access to trees, dead wood and other materials for shelter building

Before you begin

  • Look around the area to make sure there are enough materials for shelter building, including trees and dead wood.
  • Make sure that everyone knows not to wander too far when looking for materials, and to follow the countryside code.

Start building your shelter

  1. Everyone should split into small teams and work together to build a sturdy shelter big enough for them all to sleep inside for the night.
  2. Set a time limit to finish the build. You could pretend that a storm will come in an hour, so the shelter will need to be finished by then.
  3. Scavenge for building materials.
    • A solid shelter makes use of straighter branches as the main structure, while smaller branches can be woven into gaps to help provide cover.
    • Make use of natural features such as fallen trees, Y-shaped branches or rocks that might help provide extra cover or save time.
    • Branches can be tested by flexing them to ensure they’re not rotten; rotten wood will flex or break underweight.
    • Use the attached downloads to help you with your structure (how to build an A-frame and shelter inspiration images).
  1. Check where you are building.
    • Don’t build a shelter near ants or insect nests, or where there are animal trails.
    • Don’t make a shelter where there are things above that could fall onto you, such as dead branches or rocks from a cliff face.
    • Set the entrance towards the east so the morning sun falls on you.
    • Protect the entrance from the wind by thinking about the position of the shelter in relation to the terrain and foliage.
    • Avoid building a shelter at the bottom of a hill or in a dip in the ground, as rain water may collect there.

Are you feeling brave? Challenge the group to sleep out in their shelter overnight.


This activity was about valuing the outdoors by using natural materials to form a shelter. How would your shelter protect you from the wind and rain? The outdoors is home to many living things, and when building shelters of our own we should take care not to damage or disturb their homes. How could you do this?

This activity was also about perseverance and grit. Were there any times when things didn’t go right when building the shelter? How did your team overcome those instances and keep trying? How sturdy was the shelter that you built? How could you make the shelter more homely?


Outdoor activities

You must have permission to use the location. Always check the weather forecast and inform parents and carers of any change in venue.

Poles and long objects

Be careful when moving poles or long items. Take care if the ends are sharp. Have appropriate supervision for this activity.

All activities must be safely managed. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.