6 min read
Have the right materials. To build a makeshift tent, you’ll need rope or a line of some kind to string between two trees, a tarp or poncho to hang on the rope, and something to anchor the tarp to the ground. If you don’t already have these materials available, you won’t be able to build the makeshift tent.
Find a good location. A makeshift tent will require two sturdy trees located a few feet apart. The trees should be far enough so you can comfortably lay down between them, but not so far apart that you cannot tie your rope between them without running out.
Tie a line between the two trees. A clove hitch is a good knot to secure the rope to each tree and prevent slipping. Make sure the rope is taught and low to the ground. You want as little space as possible under the tarp to help keep in warmth.
Hang your tarp over the line. Your support brace (the rope or branch) should be low enough so that that tarp reaches the ground on both sides. Make sure to stretch it tight to keep extra air out of your sleeping space. Spread the edges as wide apart as possible to keep the tarp taught.
Look for a good building site. A lean-to is a simple outdoor construction, and only requires something for branches or a tarp to “lean” against. Long boulders or fallen trees can be ideal for acting as a horizontal brace to lean other sticks or brush against. Any large, immobile object can work.
Find sticks to lean against the horizontal brace. These sticks should be somewhat sturdy, as they will form a side of the shelter. Be sure that there is enough room between them, the brace, and the ground for you to crawl inside comfortably.
Pile small debris over the frame. You can use leaves, grass, and moss to build a wall on the outside of your lean-to. These will provide further insulation and protection from the elements. Nearly any small forest debris will work. Just make sure to pack it tightly on the wall frame so it won't blow away readily.
Dig a pit for a fire. Another way to help keep warm under your lean-to is to build a fire. Dig a small hole for your fire on the open side of your lean-to. Be sure to keep it a safe distance from any underbrush and your shelter.
Find a good location. You’ll need a tree stump, or a tree with a low crook that you can comfortably lodge a branch into. In addition, you’ll need to be in an area with lots of sticks and debris to cover your frame.
Prop a branch against the stump. You’ll want a long branch, probably close to 8 feet, that is sturdy enough to support your weight without breaking. The space underneath this branch between where it rests on the tree and sits on the ground should be just large enough for you to fit in.
Set up ribbing sticks. Find long sticks to create the frame, or ribbing, of your hut. These sticks should be long enough to lean against the horizontal branch. As you get further away from the tree stump, they will get shorter. These sticks only need to lean against the branch, but if you have rope or twine you can bind them together for a little more stability.
Fill out the frame. After you have set up this frame, add more sticks perpendicularly on top of this wall frame to create latticework. This will give you something to pile debris on without having it fall on top of you while sleeping.
Pile debris on the frame. This will be any natural material you can find nearby, so leaves, grass, or pine needles. Ideally your debris layer will be 3 feet thick to provide solid insulation. Thicker is always better. Just remember to leave an entranceway for you to get in.
Add more branches to the outside. Once you have packed your debris tightly on the frame, lay a few more branches on top of your hut. This will help keep your insulation material from blowing away in strong winds.
Block the entrance. Once you are snug inside your hut, make sure you close up the entrance to minimize air circulation and trap heat. Additional debris can be harder to gather together behind you, so you may consider something like a shirt stuffed with leaves.
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