Today’s episode is about lean-to survival shelters. Lean-to’s are one of the oldest types of shelters. They are usually made to fit one to two adults. One side should be roughly a 45-degree angle from top to bottom, while the other side is most commonly left open. Very often, a fire will be placed directly in front of the opening. This keeps the occupant warm but also helps scare off wild animals at night. 

The frame is traditionally made of wood, but in a post-apocalyptic world, they could make it with other materials, such as metals, plastics, or other debris. An example would be if there was a tornado and you found a bookcase in the woods. You could use it as a lean-to. Perhaps more than one would be needed. The wood is tied together with rope or plant materials such as cattails, reeds, willow, or other pliable materials. Post-apocalyptic characters might use scraps of cloth, dental floss, or even phone charger wires. 

Historically, the frames were covered with moss, leaves, or other materials. They were placed in thick layers up to four or more feet to insulate them from rain, snow, ice, wind, cold, or other elements. The slope keeps the water flowing away from you and keeps the weight from building up in snows or ice, risking a collapse of the lean-to. Also, the slope protects against wind and should face so the wind blows over the shelter and not into it. Nowadays, people place tarps over the frame and the moss or leaves over the tarp for extra insulation. 

Remember, your character will need to add leaves, possibly branches, or things of this nature to the floor of the lean-to. This is to retain heat by staying off the ground. 

Making a lean-to can be easy for some people and hard for others. It is best to have known and practiced this skill before needing it, but it could be done for the first time in a need-to situation. However, the first time will likely have a few issues, including sagging roofs, the frame slipping if it was not put together correctly, or the ropes being too loose. 

Fun fact: Most of today’s building add-ons are designed off the structure of a lean-to shelter. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

Likely to go wrong: 

 Your character should have put more leaves and other things on, and now it leaks when it rains. 

Likely to go wrong: 

 Your character were not paying attention and placed wet leaves inside the lean -to. Being damp can lead to hypothermia in the wrong conditions. Also, no one wants to sleep in wet clothes.

Likely to go wrong: 

You could get guests, including but not limited to spiders, snakes, bugs of all kinds, and mosquitoes.

Possible to go wrong: 

Sometimes the wind changes directions. Where the wind was going over the shelter before, it would be blowing right into it later. This can be both cold and can cause the shelter to be torn up. 

Possible to go wrong: 

The wind blows the smoke into the lean-to.

Unlikely to go wrong: 

It is possible, but unlikely, that a bear, wolf, coyote, or other predator will tear through the back of the shelter. 

Unlikely to go wrong: 

The weight of snow or ice on the lean-to can cause it to collapse.

Improbable but technically still in the realm of possibilities:

 Your character could catch the lean-to on fire by placing your fire too close, or something popping out of the fire and an ember setting it ablaze with your character inside. 

Helpful Links to Learn More:

An Article on How-To Make a Lean-To complete with videos:

How to Video:

Watch Someone Make a Very Nice Lean-To: