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How to Make and Use a Swamp Bed

The survival community will always put an emphasis on things like fire, shelter, and water. One of the details of shelter that is often overlooked is the importance of your bed and sleeping. If you are in a true survival situation there is a good chance that sleep will be fleeting. It will be hard for you to sleep when you are comfortable let alone if you are on the cold wet ground.

The swamp bed is a design that can be used for much more than sleeping in swamps but it can be very helpful when you need a better bed and a better sleeping experience. I can tell you right now, successive nights of poor sleep are only going to decrease your chance of survival.

We all know the benefits and the feeling of a good night’s sleep. That is what you want when you are facing a wilderness emergency.

Swamp Bed

What is a Swamp Bed

The swamp bed is a simple bed design that is built from thick branches or saplings. This bed is built on stilts and is designed to keep you up off the ground. There are four posts on either side and a collection of logs or branches that are cut to be the same length. These are lined up side by side nice and tight to create a flat surface for you to lay your sleeping bag on.

Although it is called a swamp bed it can also be used in cold weather situations to keep your sleep system up off the ground. That will make a world of difference when you are trying to stay warm.

Axe, saw and knife

What Materials and Tools are Needed

To build your own swamp bed you are going to need some tools. You are going to be cutting wood across the grain, you are going to need to lash wood with cordage, too! Here is a list of the tools that you will need to build a swamp bed.

Pine needles on the ground

How to Make a Swamp Bed

The process of making the swamp bed is actually not that tough but you are going to need to get all your materials processed and then lash them together.

  1. Try and find 4 young trees that are growing in a rectangular cluster. Hardwood trees or bamboo are going to be your best option. These trees are going to become the 4 legs of your bed. This is the easiest first step but if you cannot find that cluster of 4 trees then you are going to have to source 4 poles and drive them into the ground in that rectangular shape. (We are going to proceed with the process assuming you found that cluster of trees)
  2. Open your folding saw and cut those trees down leaving no more than a foot of length coming out of the ground. The biggest mistake I see when watching people make swamp beds is they have the bed lifted too high off the ground. The whole thing will be more sturdy the lower it is. However, If you are dealing with some kind of ground threat like scorpions, flooding, or deadly snakes, then there is reason to lift it up higher.
  3. Using your saw again you are going to cut two more strong poles that create the longer outline of the rectangle. This wood might even come from the trees you cut down. Just make sure they are strong enough to hold your weight.
    Lash those two poles to the tree stumps that are paced out the farthest.
  4. Now you are going to use your folding saw to poles that are all the same size and as close as possible in diameter. You want the poles to be long enough to span the width of the bed but hang over the edges of your two secured poles.
    This collection of poles is going to be set side by side and run the length of the bed. This is why they should be consistent in diameter. You don’t want a wider pole pressing into your back all night.
  5. I like to lash one of the short poles at one end of the bed and one at the other end before starting to fill the bed out with the rest of the poles. Try to fit the poles as tightly and snugly as possible so they do not shift too much while you are sleeping on them.
  6. Finally, you can top this bed with grasses, pine needles, leaves, and whatever else to add some good padding. I put my sleep pad right on top of this and then my sleeping bag and it is a nice comfortable night’s sleep.
Winter bushcraft camp with campfire

A Swamp Bed for a Better Night’s Sleep

Your skill in building a survival shelter is very important. If you are in the woods a lot then you should be able to seek shelter quickly to evade things like storms and other forms of exposure. However, when inside that shelter you should also be able to set up some comfortable areas for sleeping and resting.

In an emergency or disaster, you will still need time to recover. It is important to be as fresh and well-rested as possible to deal with these high-stress situations. If you can create a quick swamp bed and get yourself up off the ground then it could make a world of difference for you.

For more information on building survival shelters, check out our page on Shelters.