Shelter in the Woods

Camping is meant to be a time to get away from the stress of daily life and commune with nature. Unfortunately, people sometimes complicate the simple process of camping by taking along all sorts of fancy tents and shelters that require hours of assembly. Why not forget all that and use natural materials at hand to create a shelter? Here is a simple plan for a shelter that is comfortable, safe, and doesn’t cost a dime.

One of the easiest types of natural shelters is known as the lean-to. If you don’t have much experience with building things, this simple design may be ideal for you. All you need is a hatchet, a hammer, and some string.

Begin your lean-to by assembling natural materials to construct the single panel of the structure. You will need lengths of tree branches to form a six to seven foot square. Make sure the branches are at least a couple of inches in diameter. Along with the four branches used to create the square, cut six to eight additional lengths for the grid on the square. Go for branches that are more or less straight and strip them of any foliage.

Create the basic frame by laying four of the branches into a square. Secure the corners using string or twine. If you forgot the string, don’t worry. Look around for sturdy vines or long grasses to use instead. Tie the string or vines in a criss-cross fashion to make the frame sturdy.

Once the basic frame is secure, place the remaining lengths of branches into the frame. Place half the remaining lengths up and down the frame. Secure in place using more string or vine sections. Follow up by placing the remaining sections running side to side on the frame. Tie the last set of branches in place to both the perimeter of the frame and at any point where the lengths cross over the other branches. The end result will be a single panel that resembles a square grid.

Take the grid and locate two trees that the structure can lean against. Make sure there is enough room to easily move in and out of the structure between the two trees. Determine how much angle you want on the structure and lean the grid against the trees. Secure the top of the grid to the trees with string or vine sections. Keep the bottom of the grid from sliding by cutting two or three short sections of wood and pounding them along the base of the lean-to.

The final step involves covering the grid. Cut short lengths of leafy branches to lay on the exterior of the grid. If desired, secure with more vines. If the foliage is thick, one layer may be sufficient to provide protection from a sudden rain. Two layers of foliage usually work even when using pine branches.

If you like, it is possible to add sides to the structure once it is place. Simply cut branches to fit and secure them to the main grid. Cover with more foliage. You can even create a door of sorts using a smaller grid covered with leafy branches if you want a complete enclosure.

Learning how to construct a simple shelter in the woods means less equipment to store at home and carry along when you decide on a quick weekend getaway. Best of all, you don’t have to tear down and cart the shelter home when you leave the campsite. The shelter will not harm anything in the environment, and may even provide a nice touch for the next camper.