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Learn How to Waterproof a Survival Shelter [Step-By-Step]

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Every explorer should know how to keep themselves safe and alive in the wilderness. The great outdoors can be unkind at times, so it’s best to be fully prepared before venturing into it. One of the most important things an adventurer should know is how to waterproof a survival shelter. 

Grass, leaves, reeds, and moss are just some of the ways you can waterproof a survival shelter in the wild.

Waterproofing options are limited and heavily dependant upon the materials you have on hand.

But, with the right skill set, you can make your way out of any tricky situation. 

If you ever find yourself stranded due to unavoidable circumstances like heavy rain, you’re going to have to begin to prepare yourself to combat nature’s harshness.

Luckily, we’ll go over the different ways in which you can create a survival shelter and waterproof it, including other helpful tricks and recommendations!

How to Construct a Safe Survival Shelter?

Before you can start to waterproof your shelter, you need to make sure that the one you’ve set up is stable enough to withstand the pressure of heavy rain and forest flooding.

Here’s how you can build your very own survival shelter:

How to Waterproof a Survival Shelter, forest trees and dry floor

1. Settle in a suitable location

Before you can start setting up the shelter, you must find suitable land upon which to build it.

Try finding a site that is stable and doesn’t have loose mud or broken soil.

Don’t forget that dryness is also important!

If the land you’re building the shelter on is excessively damp or entirely wet, it won’t be able to hold the structure up. 

If you’re building a survival shelter to stay safe during a thunderstorm, try and find a camping spot that’s a safe distance away from trees with heavy branches.

All too often, thunderstorms cause branches to break off and fall to the ground.

And if you’re not careful with where you place your shelter, you might end up getting hit by a stray branch!

Alternately, it would serve you well to keep away from trees that have low-hanging delicate branches.

Such branches can often be seen flailing around in the wind whenever there’s a thunderstorm.

They might even end up hitting your shelter and harming it, so try and find a spot that’s a healthy distance away from such trees and branches.

How to Waterproof a Survival Shelter, forest in the autumn

2. Prepare Supplies

You can’t build a shelter out of nothing!

So, pull out your survival knife and use it to begin cutting through the branches.

Scout for tree limbs that are roughly 3 inches wide (in diameter) and saw through them.

The branches should be several feet long, much taller than you and your companions (if you have any).

Your best bet would be to find relatively straight branches.

Bowed branches are no good when building a shelter.

All the cut pieces should be roughly equal in size, or else your shelter might collapse. 

How to Waterproof a Survival Shelter, large rocks in a forest

3. Find a Shelter Framing

Scout for a large object of a good height.

A large boulder or stable rock makes for excellent candidates.

Use either of them as the base for your shelter.

You can also use a two-forked tree after shortening the branch length to around two feet.

The bifurcation point between both branches must be high enough for you to be able to crouch behind. 

If you can’t find either option, you may build your own triangular frame with branches.

How to Waterproof a Survival Shelter, broken wooden shelter

4. Begin Building!

This step requires you to layer the cut tree limbs you collected earlier against the framing object.

Start with larger pieces of wood and end by layering the smaller or thinner ones.

Make sure they all adopt a slanted position without any significant gaps present.

Last but not least – don’t forget to leave an entrance open!

Waterproofing the Survival Shelter

Now that your shelter is all ready, you can begin working on finalizing your waterproof survival shelter!

Here are some all-natural options you can use to prevent rainwater from entering your survival shelter:

1. Grass

The grass isn’t the best option out there, but it can be used if nothing else is available.

Unfortunately, grass doesn’t last very long.

Dehydrated grass also has a habit of shrinking and splitting when it dries out.

You’ll need a massive amount of material to waterproof your shelter.

If you settle for grass, be sure to use longer ones (tall grass) and try threading thick tufts of the material through your shelter’s gaps. 

2. Reeds

Avoid using reeds that are too thick.

Instead, go for thinner varieties that resemble a straw.

To use reed as a waterproofing material, tie them together (using single stalks) and stack and stuff the bundles across your shelter’s outer walls.

3. Leaves

Large leaves are a reliable way to keep out most of the rain.

Luckily, the wilderness is brimming with leaves.

Gather the largest ones you can find and use them to cover your shelter.

You’ll need a large amount and you might need to layer them, but it’ll be totally worth it!

Leaves that are large enough can be woven through the branches of your shelter.

Try finding leaf options that are at least over a foot long, like ones from the monstera plant.  

4. Moss

Certain types of moss, like sphagnum, can be seen growing in abundance in areas that are prone to thunderstorms and rain.

One can easily spot moss carpeting the forest floor.

All you need to do is use your knife to cut through the carpeting and place it across your shelter.

Try placing a second layer on top to ensure none of the rainwater gets in.

5. Spruce Trees

If you find yourself in an area that’s riddled with smaller spruce trees, you’re in luck!

Cutting through the bark of these trees might prove a challenge, but it’s worth it because they’ll provide excellent protection from the rain. 

Once you’ve gathered enough cut trees, let them lean against your shelter’s exterior, lining them up in a slanted fashion.

Don’t use trees that are too large or heavy, as they could fall upon your head and make the entire shelter collapse!


Waterproofing your emergency shelter can be essential to keep yourself dry, especially when you’re in a rainy and humid area.

By using the tips given above, you can easily waterproof your survival shelter with the help of all-natural materials.

Even better, all of these materials are already readily available in the wild!

Now, what’s your favorite material for keeping your shelter nice and dry?

Have you ever practiced your shelter-building skills out in the wild?

Leave your answers below!


Why is waterproofing important for a survival shelter?

Waterproofing is crucial for a survival shelter because it helps protect you from the elements, such as rain, snow, and wind.

By preventing water from entering the shelter, you can stay dry and maintain a comfortable living environment, reducing the risk of hypothermia or other weather-related issues.

What are the materials commonly used to waterproof a survival shelter?

Several materials are commonly used to waterproof a survival shelter:

  • Tarpaulin – A durable, waterproof fabric that can be draped over the shelter or used as a groundsheet.
  • Plastic sheets – Lightweight and affordable, plastic sheets can be used to cover the shelter or line the walls to keep moisture out.
  • Waterproof coatings – These coatings, such as silicone or polyurethane-based sprays, can be applied to the shelter’s exterior to create a water-resistant barrier.
  • Sealants and tapes – Specialized sealants and waterproof tapes can be used to seal gaps or repair leaks in the shelter.

How can I effectively seal the seams and openings of a survival shelter?

Sealing the seams and openings of a survival shelter is crucial to prevent water from seeping in.

Here are a few methods you can use:

  • Seam sealing – Use a waterproof seam sealer specifically designed for outdoor gear. Apply it along the seams of the shelter to create a watertight bond.
  • Waterproof tape – High-quality waterproof tape can be used to cover seams, openings, or tears in the shelter fabric to prevent water from entering.
  • Zipper lubrication – Applying zipper lubricant or wax can help maintain the waterproof integrity of zippers, ensuring they close tightly and keep water out.
  • Velcro or snap closures – Check the closures on your shelter and ensure they are in good condition. If needed, replace damaged closures to maintain a secure seal.

How can I improve the waterproofing capabilities of my shelter’s roof?

Enhancing the waterproofing capabilities of your shelter’s roof can provide additional protection.

Here are a few tips:

  • Slope the roof – Ensure that your shelter’s roof has a slight slope to allow water to run off easily instead of pooling.
  • Reinforce seams and ridges – Apply a waterproof sealant or tape to the seams and ridges of the roof to prevent leaks.
  • Add an extra layer – If possible, place a tarp or plastic sheet over the shelter’s roof to provide an additional waterproof barrier.

Are there any additional measures I can take to waterproof my survival shelter?


Here are a few additional measures you can take to enhance the waterproofing of your survival shelter:

  • Elevate the shelter – Choose a higher ground or create a raised platform to keep the shelter away from water accumulation.
  • Proper site selection – Before setting up your shelter, carefully choose a location that offers natural protection from rain, such as under tree canopies or against rock formations.
  • Maintain and inspect – Regularly inspect your shelter for any signs of wear, damage, or potential leaks. Repair or reinforce vulnerable areas promptly to ensure ongoing waterproofing.
Evelyn - atlantic survival gear
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Evelyn Claire, a young and adventurous spirit fueled by her unwavering passion for the outdoors and survival. From an early age, she was captivated by nature's beauty, and her thirst for exploration knows no bounds.

Evelyn's love for the wilderness extends beyond admiration. She has dedicated herself to mastering survival skills, from building shelters to foraging for food. Fearless and determined, she embarks on thrilling expeditions, conquering rugged terrains and embracing the challenges that come her way.

As an advocate for environmental stewardship, Evelyn strives to protect and preserve the landscapes she cherishes. Through her inspiring journeys and responsible outdoor practices, she encourages others to connect with nature and discover their own inner strength.

Evelyn Claire stands as a beacon of inspiration for young women seeking adventure and a deeper connection with the natural world. Join her on an unforgettable journey of discovery, self-reliance, and the boundless beauty that awaits in the great outdoors.

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