Building A Debris Hut

23 11 2010

I’ve written before about my survivalism bug. My recent foray into on- and off- trail backpacking has given me good reason and opportunity to practice various survival skills. One essential skill for any survivalist to have is emergency shelter construction.

That was the agenda on a recent hike in the Galena area. A debris hut is one of the simplest shelters, and an abundance of dead wood made Galena a perfect place for my first attempt at it.

The Shelter's Frame

The Shelter's Frame

Construction begins by securely propping up a central bar on which to lean shorter pieces of wood. In the photo above, that central bar is just below the apex of the leaning sticks.

Insulating The Shelter

Insulating The Shelter

Ever wonder why sleeping pads are so important? Just try sleeping outside without one. The loft in a sleeping bag is what provides the real warmth, letting your body heat warm air trapped in the down or synthetic fill. When you lay down in your bag, you compress the fill on the bottom of the bag – making it pretty close to useless. The sleeping pad provides insulation between you and the ground. You need the same thing in an emergency shelter, so in the above photo you’ll see that I started to put pine needles and leaves on the bottom of the debris hut. A good goal is ~2″ of natural loft.

Keeping The Wind Out

Keeping The Wind And Rain Out

The next consideration is keeping the wind and rain out, which I accomplished by using sheets of tree bark as shingles. The largest sheet on the far right of the shelter can be slid over to act as a door.

Finished Product, Unintentionally Camoflauged

Finished Product, Unintentionally Camoflauged

I figured that practicing survival skills is all about making practice as realistic as possible, so I crawled into the shelter and took a 20-minute nap. Fortunately the trail was pretty empty that day and I rested undisturbed. The shelter was surprisingly good at stopping the wind and the floor insulation worked. It wasn’t raining, but I didn’t see much daylight through cracks in the shingles so I expect that it would have also kept me reasonably dry.

Debris hut: check.

posted by jay




5 responses

23 11 2010


23 11 2010
rach g.


24 11 2010

Awesome. (Thanks!)

5 12 2010

Good post. I took a wilderness survival/primitive skills weekend class a few weeks ago. It was an intro. to many things, but we focused on making a debris shelter. What struck me was the sheer volume of leaves it took to make the shelter effective. I managed to sleep for two hours in mine before I got cold. I hear you about the sleeping mat. I was damn chilly the previous night in my sleeping bag. Sleeping in a debris hut really made me appreciate my bed. Take a look at my blog, if you get a moment. Thanks!

6 12 2010

Thanks, man. I’m enjoying your blog.

So you slept in a sleeping bag in a tent, but without a sleeping pad? Should have shoved a crapton of leaves under it!

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