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The Best Materials for Roofing Wilderness Shelters

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Have you ever built a primitive shelter? There are many ways to build an emergency wilderness shelter. Arguably the most important part of the process is creating a barrier between you and the elements. This is true for shelters like the lean-to or even a basic debris shelter.

Picking a location for your shelter is important to but having a roof to keep out rain and stop powerful winds will make all the difference.

Do you know what natural resources make the best roofing materials? Let’s look at three that can be used in a wilderness environment.

Tree Bark Shingles

Fallen trees are the best option for this or standing deadwood. If you rip bark of living trees you are going to kill them so don’t do that.

However, fallen trees are separating from their bark and you can use a good knife to cut the bark into large “shingles” that can be laid on your roof. If shingled properly this bark can be a great option against the cold and elements.


If you live in an area or if you are building in an area that has lots of moss you can use that moss as a roofing material, as well.  This moss can be pulled off the ground like removing carpet. It can be taken in large sections and placed atop your shelter. This will absorb water and protect you and your items inside the shelter.

Clay Tiles

For the more advanced primitive builder, we can look at clay tiles. You harvest clay from the ground and if you know the process you can knead this into usable material. After cutting and firing these tiles you will be able to shingle them just like the tree bark and you will have an even better “more modern” style roof.

Clay tiles are certainly a time investment and might be a good option for a structure that is a little more permanent.