Skip to Content

Debris Shelter

This shelter is one of the simplest and most versatile. It is made of sticks and branches, covered with leaves and other debris materials.

Location: Before you begin building a debris shelter, pick your location for it carefully. Look for a relatively dry, well-drained area. There should be an abundance of leaves, grass, pine needles, or similar debris close by. It would also help if you can build your debris hut in a dense stand of small timber or bushes. It would be a natural barrier to make your shelter more effective.

STEP 1: Look for a sturdy (waist high) base to use as an anchor for the shelter – a fork in a tree, a stump or a rock. Find a long sturdy piece of wood you can use as a main beam. Prop and secure one end of the beam onto the anchor just high enough so that you can get under it.

STEP 2: Use your body to measure for the width of the shelter. Mark the ground no more than a hand’s length away from your body all around. You want a tight space to maximize warmth.

STEP 3: Gather strong branches and lean them against both sides of the main beam with the bottoms reaching the marks you made on the ground. Create a ribbed effect being sure to leave an opening large enough to crawl into. Make sure the opening is not facing the wind. The branches should not overlap the main beam too much. It will create a funnel effect causing water to gather and flow inside. You want to keep the slope steep for water to drain off.

Debris Shelter

STEP 4: Weave finer sticks through the rib frame creating a screen or net. This will keep the debris from falling through the ribbing into the shelter.

STEP 5: Gather leaves, twigs, pine needles, and any light, dry materials you can find and pile them onto the ribbed frame. The debris should be piled on thick and high for protection, holding in the heat, and keeping dry (the thicker the better) Remember to keep the walls steep for shedding water. Lay some additional lighter branches or sticks on top of the debris to keep it from blowing away. If available, you can also use bark to create shingling.

Debris Shelter 2

STEP 6: Pack the inside of the shelter with layers as dense as possible of dry materials. Crawl inside to compress the debris and pack again. Repeat until you have a very thick layer of padding beneath you. Stuff once more, loosely for insulation around the rest of the shelter.

STEP 7: The last step is to seal up your entrance. Gather a large pile of leaves and sticks near the entrance to drag in with you. After you crawl inside, lay the sticks over the opening to keep the debris from falling out. Push the debris against the sticks to seal the entrance.