How To Build a Dugout Shelter

how to build dugout shelter

One of the core pillars of Bushcraft is being able to build shelters in the wilderness. In this post, you’re going to learn how to build a dugout shelter.

One of the oldest types of housing, dugout shelters, or sniper holes is the key to survival when you are stuck in the wild. Dugout houses work as a shield to wild animals and the cold of the night by stabilizing the temperature and hiding you from the sight of dangerous creatures.

Whether it’s adventure lovers or tough soldiers of war, dugout houses have helped millions of them survive from various risky scenarios. The right structure, design, and components will help you survive in case you find yourself stuck in a hostile environment in the wild. Having a safe shelter is surely the most essential element of survival, and that’s why it’s great to learn how to build a dugout shelter for yourself.


  • A sharp object (The most important item you need to get started with the process is something sharp that breaks the ground).
  • A shovel to get the digging going.
  • An ax or another sharp tool to cut branches or scout for already scattered ones.
  • Leaves for working up the roof.


  1. Look Out For The Right Spot
  2. Digging
  3. Make Bedding
  4. Retain The Walls
  5. Roofing

It’s easy to build a dugout shelter, especially if you are planning to work up a temporary one. In fact, you can create your dugout house while you are actually on the move, or simply while you are preparing for the same. It might not feel too comfortable, but it surely works as a safe-spot when needed.

Once you search for the right spot to build your shelter, the whole idea is to make a big hole in the ground and transform it into the dugout house. The digging is followed by reinforcing the walls, lastly, building a roof over the burrow. Below is a detailed description of each of the steps that go into the making of a dugout shelter.

Step 1) Look Out for the Right Spot

First and foremost, you need to find a spot where the soil is not too sandy. The idea is to settle for an area where you can easily break apart the soil or ground. The process requires lots of digging and you need to look for a spot where the soil seems to holds together firmly. Make sure you don’t start building the dugout shelter around a water body as it can allow water to flow in your shelter if you accidentally create a hole.

Step 2) Digging

Working up a dugout shelter calls for a lot of digging to allow enough space for you and your companions. The idea is to dig a furrow that’s around 8-10 feet deep while leaving a slope to use as the pathway for entrance and exit. Once you are done with the digging, remove the soil from the area so that no one learns that someone built a dugout. Set the top layer soil or dirt aside.

Step 3) Make Bedding

You can’t sleep on the cold hard floor in the dugout, and that’s why it’s necessary to make bedding using debris and leaves inside the shelter. Depending on your comfort, build a nest-like crib, which will also serve the purpose of keeping your body warm. Make sure you don’t alter the surrounding vegetation to make the shelter blend with the environment naturally.

Step 4) Retain The Walls

It’s essential to retain the walls of the dugout using properly stacked sandbags. You can use the soil that you just dig up, or simply go for broken branches or dead trees, rocks, or similar things that you find around.

Step 5)  Roofing

The last step is to do the roofing over the furrow using branches or logs. To cover it thoroughly, make sure to add enough debris and leaves which creates a camouflage for the shelter. Laying soil across the rood of the structure will help everything blend in and keep you protected from unwanted elements.

Avoid using the same route to the shelter every time to prevent an evident trail from developing. Additionally, keep the exit and entrance pathway uncovered to ensure a quick escape in an emergency or risky situation.


Dugout homes can be a boon when it comes to survival in harsh weather, a pressing situation, or an emergency in the wilderness. Although building this temporary housing can be tiring, it’s not a tough task to get it done. If you are prepared to make that effort and dig for a dugout shelter, the end results are going to be worth all the time and effort as it will keep you protected and warm at the same time.

I hope you liked this post on how to build a dugout shelter. If you did, you may also like our guide on bushcraft survival skills.