Episode 101 S3-20
Emergency Shelter: Building a Debris Hut
The Walls of Freedom Ch 20
James E. Hart
A great shelter for a short stay is a lean to structure. You can always keep adding to it. Make a canopy on the front or enclose the sides to make the shelter more permanent.
Check out how the Native Americans were living in your area for a clue on how to build a survival shelter appropriate to your weather.
If you build a debris shelter right, large enough, and maintain it, you could survive four to five years in it. If you use the right materials and keep adding to it, you could eventually have a permanent home.
To build a debris hut, you start with larger logs and limbs to construct the frame. Then you use smaller limbs as cross members that are weaved into the larger ones. After that use small bows, leaves, grass and mud over the top to start forming a barrier from the weather. As a final step you can cover it with sod harvested from the surrounding area. This should add a water proofing that will keep you dry and concealed.
When harvesting sod, be sure to brush debris over the areas you have harvested it from to try and return the forest to the original state. Using this sod, scraped from the ground, and packing it in tight will create a rain barrier and help keep it cooler in hotter temperatures.
When you are building this shelter you are going to get muddy, cold and wet if it's raining so make sure you have someone starting a fire as soon as possible. Fire can be a source of danger around the debris hut so you need to exercise caution. The lean to is a good shelter because the fire can be build outside with a backstop behind it to direct the heat back into the lean to. Figure out which way the rain is coming from and put the back of your lean to into the wind and rain. Then you can build a cover that extends from the lean to so the fire is partially protected from the wind and rain. Your wood pile can be stacked on one side. That way it will help to create a wind barrier and give you a place to hang wet clothes to dry. The inside should be dry and snug, reserved for blankets and sleeping purposes.
Carrying a tarp helps to make your shelter building task much easier. You can make a lean to and use the tarp as cover. If you are worried about camouflage, cover it with debris so it is hidden.
Using a small trench to supply oxygen to an inside fire is a useful idea, as long as your shelter is big enough to accommodate a fire. Dig a small trench that extends to the outside of your debris shelter and cover it with small sticks, tightly packed together. Then cover that with mud. Traditionally this type of trenching system was used with Native American dome shelters that were twenty foot in diameter, give or take, depending on the side of the family.
Dakota fires, digging two holes and connecting them with a tunnel, are better for small shelters because the flames are located in a hole in the ground. make sure your secondary, outside hole, is not downhill where it will collect rain water.
You will need to use wood that is strong but bendable for your debris hut. Cottonwood, Willow, Birch and other soft woods make great shelter material.
Teepees are also easy structures to build, especially when you have a good sized tarp. It is easy and safer to maintain a fire in it.
Featured Quote From Today's Chapter:
"I have to stay strong for them."