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Debris Huts – Group Shelter

The group debris hut is quite an investment in time and energy. It is not a survival shelter, it is more like a semi-permanent dwelling that allows you to live comfortably in the bush. This shelter hoovers up lots of natural resources, especially dead leaves – so make your life easy and build where the resources are abundant!


To build this modified wikiup, start by collecting strong forked uprights. When hammered into the ground, you want the base of the Y’s to be at low-sternum height. Then add the cross beams… these should be strong enough to hang off – they are going to support a lot of weight!


Next add your longest and strongest rafters. Once each corner has three long poles jammed into place it should start to lock solid.


Then add lots of long, light ‘leaf trapping’ rafters. There is no need to weave branches (like in the survival books), this wastes time and energy… just keep adding branches and light brash.


Then comes the thatching. Lots of dead leaves, and forest floor debris are required to rain-proof and insulate this shelter, but it is worth the effort! Unlike the other one-man and two-man varities, this shelter allows for a fire inside, which makes it very warm. It is importand to insulate the interior from the wind to allow the smoke from the fire to draw upwards and not swirl around inside.


Try to sleep ‘head to head’ and ‘feet to feet’ to avoid anyone getting accidently kicked in the night!


Keep this shelter as small as you can get away with, it will keep you warmer and take less time to construct. Have fun!

Illustration are from Ray Mears – ‘Bushcraft’ and ‘Essential Bushcraft’ © Ben McNutt
Photographs are also © Ben McNutt

Debris Huts – Two-man Shelter

The classic two-man debris huy starts off in life as a modified tripod, with two long legs and one short. The short forked upright should have an off-set fork, to allow you to pound it into the ground. The long poles should be dead wood, but strong and long; about twelve foot long.


Now it’s time to add the rafters – the beauty of this shelter is that every lenght of stick has a home, so it’s just a case of dragging in all the sticks in the vicinity.


Load the sticks onto the main frame so that they are perpendicular to the ground and not the long angled poles. For bad weather, it is worth thatching down the inside of the long poles and making a small porch roof.


Now it’s time to thatch it with dead leaves and forest floor debris. A full finger tip to elbows’ depth of leaves is required to keep you water tight. It is resource heavy and time consuming – build where the leaves are located!


In fine weather it is quite nice to leave the front open to benifit from the warmth of a small fire.


This shelter should take two people about two hours to build. Make sure to crown it with a big armful of leaves, so there are no sticks protruding to act as rain channels.


Illustration are from Ray Mears – ‘Bushcraft’ and ‘Essential Bushcraft’ © Ben McNutt
Photographs are also © Ben McNutt

Debris Huts – One-man Shelter

There are many styles of natural shelter. This one is designed for fair weather camping in broadleaf woodland. It is based on an aboriginal design.

First select three slightly curved forked sticks. These provide the main frame of the shelter, so take a little time to find the right shapes, with gentle sweeping curves.

one-man shelter frame

Try to get the forks to interlock.


Then it’s simply a case of piling on lots of light curved sticks to trap the leaf mould.


This debris hut is quite leaf intensive, so alway position it where you have an abundance of thatching material.


The shelter is a perfect size to acomodate one person sleeping in front of a small campfire, with room for a rucksack tucked away at the back of the shelter.


Happy camping!

Illustration are from Ray Mears – ‘Bushcraft’ and ‘Essential Bushcraft’ © Ben McNutt
Photographs are also © Ben McNutt

One of the best books on the importance of Tracking ever written!

The art of tracking the origin of science – Louis Liebenberg.pdf

To build a fire on snow

In winter conditions, it can be difficult to build a fire on snow. In shallow snow just dig down to bare earth and use a dead wood platform to light your fire on. Deep snow needs a bit more planning, as you need to make a use a platform for the fire – otherwise you will end up sitting round a hole! Simply dig a pit and fill it with alternate layers of green boughs and snow, with a final ground-level platform of green logs. Digging down is the preferred option, as you can sculpt a sheltered seating area, and it is much easier to disguise the fire site when leaving. Remember – do not site your fire under snow-laden trees!