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How to build a shelter in the snow: survival tree pit

Ready to learn how to build a shelter in the snow? Let’s get to it.

tree pit snow shelter

Figure #1 Tree Pit Snow Shelter

5 Steps (how to build a shelter in the snow)

Why build a tree pit shelter around the base of a tree? Because it provides a 360-degree field of view, you might need it in combat or without the rule of law environment. Let’s take a look at the 5 steps to build a tree pit.

Step #1

Find a Tree that is the right size for the snow shelter with bushy branches that will provide overhead cover. Also, the tree should be at least 10 feet tall and have a trunk of at least 18 inches in diameter.

Step #2

Cut or dig a hole in the snow around the tree trunk until you reach the depth and diameter you desire or until you get to the ground.

Step #3

Dig a trench around the tree trunk at least 2 feet deep and 3 feet wide. Pack the snow around the top and inside the hole to provide support.

Step #4

Find and cut other evergreen boughs and line them inside the bottom of the pit for insulation.


Create an overhead structure of evergreens boughs to give you extra coverage.


The major drawback to the tree pit snow shelter is it requires a lot of digging and can be quite labor-intensive to make.

Additionally, the survival snow pit is not as warm as some other snow shelters, so you may need to supplement with a sleeping bag and natural insulation.

Warmest snow shelter

If adequately insulated, a tent is the warmest shelter for winter camping and survival. The warmest option is a double-walled tent (one layer of fabric with an inner layer of insulating material). The inner layer will keep the heat in and the cold out.

Warmest snow shelter (natural materials)

The snow cave is the warmest winter survival shelter because the snow has excellent insulation qualities. to make one hollow snow bank to create an interior room. To get the shelter even warmer, line the cave inside with insulating materials such as furs, blankets, or pine boughs.

To learn more, check out the Ready Squirrel article, How to build a snow shelter.

Ideal Location for a Winter Survival Shelter

The ideal location includes trees and snow deep enough to block wind once the hole is dug. Following are seven indications that a location is good for survival shelter building.

#1 Materials

The shelter location has materials to build the type of shelter you choose. In the case of the tree pit, you need a tree, preferably a pine tree with overhanging boughs. Next up, concdealment.

#2 Concealment

If you need to build in an unpermissive environment, meaning you don’t want to be seen, use natural materials like sticks, twigs, dead wood, and pine boughs to conceal the shelter.

#3 Protection

Dig your pit around a tree and build the edges with snow and natural materials to block wind and blowing snow.

#4 Widow Makers

Avoid placing your snow shelter in an area with a lot of hanging dead wood and leaning trees that could come down and land on top of your shelter.

#5 Avalanche & Rockslide

Don’t put your tree pit in the path of possible avalanches or rockslides.

#6 Elevation

It is important to avoid putting your snow shelter in low-lying areas because these areas act as a cold sink decreasing temperatures compared to higher elevations. Up next, shelter placement and wind direction.

#7 Wind Direction

Place a shelter on the leeward side (opposite the direction wind is blowing) of hills and mountains to avoid the blast of cold air.

Thanks for hanging out with Ready Squirrel. Drop us a note in the comments section if you have questions or suggestions.

Keep on prepping!

Kind Regards, Scott

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