Skill: Build a Debris Hut

Squirrels are kings of survival in the forest. Have you ever wondered where squirrels sleep?
 Next time you’re in the forest, look high up in the trees and see if you can spot a ball of dry leaves and twigs nestled in the branches. This is a squirrel’s nest—an insulated home that uses leaves to keep the temperature inside comfortable, just like a debris hut. You too can be a king of forest survival with this fun-to-build shelter that serves as both a tent and a sleeping bag. Each hut is unique and perfectly sized for the person building it.


  •     One long, sturdy stick roughly twice your height
  •     Rope—about one metre
  •     Lots of smaller sticks—half to one metre long
  •     Lots and lots of debris—leaves, grass, cattails, 
hay and/or straw


1. Find a flat spot next to a sturdy tree. Tie one end of your long stick to the tree at waist height and rest the other end on the ground so it makes a ridgepole above the flat area. 

2. Lie underneath the pole with your head at the trunk and use some sticks to mark out your body’s outline on the ground.

3. Lean all of the smaller sticks that you found against your ridgepole with the base of each stick just outside your outline. Place enough sticks to cover your debris hut on both sides and around your feet like a tent. Leave an opening on one side of the tree trunk big enough to crawl through—this will be your door.

4. Cover your new home with all the leaves and debris you can find. A 30-centimetre-thick layer of debris will keep out the rain; an arm’s length will provide insulation for survival through a cold night.

5. Block the door with your back pack or anything else you can find—this will seal in the warmth.


This article first appeared in the 2009 Late Summer issue of Canoeroots and Family Camping magazine. Read the issue in our free iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch App or Android App or read it online here.

This photo is by Flickr user JustTooLazy and licensed through the Creative Commons. 



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