Primitive Bushcraft Shelter
Early spring in the Smokies can get very wet. The fog hangs low on the mountain tops, making sure the Great Smoky Mountains live up to their name. It’s a time for forest to start growing again and I figured it was a great time to make a hike back to my shelter and give it some upgrades.
If you’ve spent any nights in the woods, you know the benefit of staying off the ground. In the spring/summer, the floor is alive with creepy crawlers and in the winter, the cold will suck the heat right out of you. You can always bring a heavy tarp and sleeping pad to make things somewhat bearable, but you still want to have a good layer between you and the ground.
If you plan to stay longer than a night, you have to take the time and build a layer between you and the ground. This project had been on my radar since the shelter was first built, so I was happy to return with a friend to finish the job.
We met up near the area and drove in using one vehicle. By 0900 we had found our entry point and headed up the first hill. The constant drizzle and wet leaves slowed the pace but nothing too serious to be concerned. We broke out onto the ridge in about 45 minutes after traveling .25 miles. Another 500 yards or so up the ridgeline sat my shelter.
Time To Work
Dropped the gear and started accessing the situation. The lean to was not in good shape. The long oak support was under some definite weight so before even starting on the bed, we decided to reinforce it. After adding the extra support beam, we started collecting materials. Over the course of a few hours we felled trees, collected some nice large pieces of hemlock from a stump and laid down the foundation of the bed.
After more cutting and hauling, we laid out the top of the bed. Then it was time to collect the pine for the top of the bed. In the 4 months since I had last visited, local forest rangers had cleared some area west of us and were kind enough to leave tons of long straight pine branches.
I hauled those back up the shelter, and we started to weave those into the framework of the bed. The leftovers were used to fill in the back of the shelter and finally, 4 hours later, the job was done. But it’s still not complete. The original plan was to also add a partial wall in the front and a fire reflector, but we were short on time.
Building A Shelter – Considerations And Pitfalls
The fact that I was not able to finish everything was a little frustrating, I can’t lie. But it’s a great way to prove the point that primitive shelter building is a time intensive process that should not be undertaken lightly. If you have the tools on hand and the materials readily available, then go with the smallest shelter, just barely enough to fit yourself. Then insulate as much as possible so the maximum amount of heat can be trapped. The main point to remember is not to get in over your head. Take the extra time to search for felled trees that can serve as part of your shelter, the idea to is to build the shelter with the minimal amount of effort and time.
But this is not a life & death situation, the creation and upgrades to the large shelter is a skill building exercise that gets you to think outside the box, helps you learn about the trees in your area, what they can be used for and how to create a structure using just your wits and a folding saw. The shelter will serve a base camp for me to continue exploring deeper into the Smokies and hopefully will improve in size and comfort over time.
That’s the beauty of the building a primitive bushcraft shelter, it’s always a work in progress. Next time around, I’ll add the finishing touches, including building a small lean to the side to store dry wood in, who knows where this is heading but it’s just getting started.
Of course there are more than a few ways to build a primivite bushcraft shelter and more than a few ways to add a bed. Check out some of the links below to see how others handle this job:
Bushcraft Bed Building: http://survivalist.com/bushcraft-bed-building/
Wilderness Survival Shelter: http://www.practicalsurvivor.com/shelter
The Super Shelter: http://masterwoodsman.com/2013/super-shelter/
Check out the video below to watch the build in action and to get an idea of the size and scope of the shelter. Until next time, thanks for the support!