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Conquering the Emergency Shelter Challenge

Welcome back to another Marksman Challenge! For this one we’re pivoting to the survival skills side of the site. With fall approaching, which means hunting season and cooler weather hikes, I want to focus on constructing a field-expedient emergency shelter.

This challenge is about speed.

More importantly, it’s about how quickly can you set up a shelter from the elements using nothing but a few basic supplies such as a poncho or tarp, cordage, and some stakes. This is a valuable skill, especially if you’re out in the backwoods and bad weather suddenly rolls in on you. The ability to quickly get yourself out of the rain or snow is a huge factor in survival.

Add in some fire-making ability, and it becomes downright livable. 

But we’re not there yet. 

So let’s talk about the Emergency Shelter Challenge itself.

The Emergency Shelter Challenge

There are two levels to completing this Marksman Challenge. Both are based on the time taken and the equipment used. 

To complete the challenge at Level 1, you must construct a livable emergency shelter in less than three minutes.

There are no requirements around the type of shelter you construct, such as a lean-to, plow-point, or A-frame. Though I’ll certainly give you a shout out if you can do it with one of the more complicated configurations like the plow-point.

To reach the Level 2 achievement, then you must construct the shelter in less than one minute and thirty seconds (1:30). The same rules apply, though I imagine you’ll probably want to attack the lean-to shelter with this time constraint.

In either case, the shelter kit must start folded up in its storage configuration and resting on the ground. Your time begins as soon as you touch the shelter kit and begin to unroll/unfold it.

Posting Proof

To be scored, you must share a video of you constructing the shelter within the time limit.

You can use a video sharing site like YouTube, or social media like Facebook. Share the link to the forum and we’re good to go. Here’s an example from a YouTube channel I follow, Corporal’s Corner, executing his version of the challenge.


Equipment and Materials

The idea behind this challenge is partly to build yourself a compact emergency shelter kit. You can keep it with you during outdoors excursions, or packed away in a vehicle. Keeping things lightweight means that you’re doing this with a minimum of materials.

The following items are permitted for the challenge:

  • Tarp or poncho to serve as the shelter
  • Up to four stakes
  • Cordage (i.e. paracord or bank line), unlimited length
  • An edged tool such as a blade (you probably won’t need this)
  • Any natural materials you happen to find around the site, such as rocks or sticks

No bungees, slide toggles, or other gadgetry that might make this easier is allowed. Keep it simple and rugged.

Tips and Tricks

Completing this Marksman Challenge, especially at Level 2, requires preparation. I’m posting a few videos below to help give you some ideas. Feel free to prepare you shelter system by pre-tying a few lengths of cordage at key points to make it easier to deploy.

This example is using a lean-to style shelter, but remember that the challenge does not require any particular configuration to complete. The only requirement is that the end result be of sound construction for the elements and then you were able to set it up within the time limit.

Knowing Your Knots

I already wrote up an article listing some of my favorite knots. For this particular challenge, I suggest practicing to quickly tie the following:

  • Trucker’s hitch
  • Adjustable grip hitch
  • Siberian hitch
  • Bowline knot
  • Prusik knot
  • Double fisherman’s knot

You probably won’t need all of these knots at the same time. And don’t forget that building your shelter kit means you can pre-tie several of these ahead of time so you’re not trying to do it in the moment.

Suggested Materials

Just in case you need to start from scratch, here are a few suggestions to get you started. You don’t need all of them, but you’ll want at least a tarp/poncho, cordage, and stakes to start.

Good Luck on the Challenge!

With that, I’ll step back and let you go at it. I look forward to see what you post in the forums for your results!

  • Sunshine Shooter
  • Cutright
Picture of Matt


Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.


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Sunshine Shooter

I like this one! I’m going to have to brush up on my knot tying.


Just saw this page. Did anyone consider the Whelen lean-to? It always intrigued me, ever since reading “Mister Rifleman” in the late 1960s. A few years ago I approached a canvas tarp manufacturer to ask if they could make me one, based on the dimensions I provided. At first they agreed, but then I heard nothing more from them. Made of medium weight canvas, it should not cost too much, offer fair protection, and be convenient enough to haul in a ruck, whether bug-out or other.

Replying to  Matt

Thanks. They are not producing much tentage now, I see, but production should gear up ere long.

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