How to Make a $2 Bug Out / EDC / Trash Bag Survival Shelter


Okay, we all know shelter is vital to survival, but the problem is… that even the most basic tarps, tents and hammock kits can cost a LOT of money and take up valuable space in a pack… and are not practical for everyday carry…


So I like to carry a 55 gallon, 3mil thick trash bag or two with some paracord in my EDC pack for a ton of survival uses including an improvised shelter.

To transform your trash bag into a survival shelter, first make a straight cut the entire length of the side… along one fold.

Now cut along the bottom seam… to finish preparing your shelter roof…

trash-bag-shelter-1e-790pxNext, find a good piece of ground to sleep on… between 2 trees at least 8 feet apart…
Now tightly string your paracord between the two trees – this will be the ridge line or your improvised tent.

To conserve paracord you can strip the 7 inner strands out of the outer casing. Use the outer casing for the ridge line and the inner strands for guidelines.

trash-bag-shelter-1f-790pxWith your garbage bag tarp draped over… and centered on the ridge line… secure the guidelines to the corners of your tarp by placing smooth stones or something like small acorns or hickory nuts behind the tarp and tightly looping your guideline around it.

Now secure each corner using the guideline and an improvised stake… tightening things up as you go.

If needed, you can add more guidelines to strengthen your tent.

Add another trash bag as a ground cover if you have it…

And there you go… a simple, suitable trash bag shelter to keep you out of the elements in a survival or emergency situation.


For your convenience, here are links to all the gear your need for this project:


4 Responses to “How to Make a $2 Bug Out / EDC / Trash Bag Survival Shelter”

  • Methane Creator

    Better than nothing and yes it will be light, as in light duty. Why not pack a more reinforced tarp. It has grommets and the same cordage can be wrapped around it. If setup correctly, it can be your floor, one wall, and roof, all in one. Tarps come in different sizes and strengths and should serve you well in an emergency. Mine is rolled up with a few heavy trash bags in it too, to use as rain flys.

    • Caleb S.

      You’ve got to remember that this is an option for those on a tight budget i.e. a poor man’s survival kit.

      It’s better than nothing and in a WCS I’d be truly grateful for it. You certainly can’t sleep on the bare ground as the cold will get to you and that can result in hypothermia even more so if the ground is wet. These garbage bags (you Americans call them trash bags) are actually pretty thick (at least the 120 L ones I get are) and difficult to rip/tear.

      Of course I personally prefer a good rain poncho and a divvy sack. I use the Sea To Summit Nylon Ultrasil Poncho and the SOL (Survive Outdoors Longer) Escape Bivvy in OD Green.


  • Caleb S.

    sorry meant *bivvy sack
    silly auto-spelling corrector!

  • Jerry

    This is pretty good. I did this many times when I was younger. Like it says it is for poor people that need to watch how the spend their money and still want to go camping.
    I use trash bags many times and never got wet.

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