Category Archives: Bushcraft Skills

Welcome to Bushcraft For Kids Learning Bushcraft

Bushcraft4Kids Helps children learn to take risks and have adventure in there lives

Welcome to Bushcraft4Kids-Learning Bushcraft.

All children, parents and families benefit from being outdoors. Learning bushcraft gives everyone skills that will help them have a greater understanding of nature and the world around them. Learning bushcraft is more than learning new skills. It builds stronger bonds between family members and improves communication between everyone.

Bushcraft, A Way For Adults, Children And Families Develop New Skills And Start On A Journey Of Personal Development And Healthy Living

As Individuals learning bushcraft skills increases knowledge of children and adults, plus it helps take them on a journey of personal development. Everyone seeing improvements in confidence, motivation, self belief, the ability to

Bushcraft4Kids Helps children learning Bushcraft

Bushcraft4Kids Helps children learn to take risks and have adventure in there lives

make decisions and deal with stress. Additionally there are the health benefits of being outdoors and being active.

Society is becoming obsessed with Risk and at an early age children are told things are dangerous. If it is dangerous or there is any perceived risk children told they must not attempt the activity. We need to educate out children to assess and manage risk and see challenge as a good thing as long as we minimise the risks involved. This is something Bushcraft is excellent at helping people understand.

Put Adventure Into A Child’s Life Experience Bushcraft

Let’s take our children into the amazing world there is outdoors, all around us. Step out of their front door into a world of adventure where they can have fun whilst learning about the world they live in. We can all start to make a difference. Take the first steps and encourage your children to have an adventure.

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Building Bushcraft Shelters for kids and everyone

Lessons in build a shelter

Building Bushcraft Shelters From Tarpaulin or Natural Materials

Type of Survival Shelter using a Tarp or Poncho.

If you have read the previous articles about selecting a shelter site and the first lessons of shelter building, you will realise it isn’t just about starting to build bushcraft shelters. Once you have answered the question posed previously you will be ready to start looking at what type of shelter you are going to build and how to build bushcraft shelters.

If you are lucky you will have some resources at hand to create a simple shelter. It is a piece of kit that is versatile and has been used over time for many uses. It is the Tarpaulin “Tarp.” Or as was used and still is by some soldiers the poncho.

The Lean-to Shelter.

The lean-to on one of two simple and effective shelters that can be erected quickly and provide effective shelter from the elements (Sun, wind, rain and or snow) One benefit is that you don’t need any tools and minimal resources.

Lean To Tarp Shelter Building shelters

Lean To Tarp Shelter Building Bushcraft Shelters

The Lean-to is the most basic shelter and all that is needed is a tarpaulin and 2 to 3 meters of some sort of twine/cordage (Paracord is often used for this purpose and is recommended to be carried when outdoors because it is versatile and strong.) Ideally you also need three or four stakes approx. 30cm (one foot) long. These can easily be made by sharpening one end using a knife or large rock. The final element needed is two trees two or three meters apart. You can use poles for this either improvised ones made from fallen branches, walking poles or tent poles.

Prior to starting to construct the center you should have selected a suitable area. With this shelter you should consider the wind direction. You want the back pointing towards the incoming wind. Some people have suggested you can have the wind coming from the side and the side will be blocked off by some other means. What ever you do don’t have the wind blowing directly into the front of the shelter. It will make it un comfortable sleeping in it, cold and wet if it rains. Plus, your shelter might be blown away at any time.

If using a poncho remember to tie off the hood or you might have a leaking shelter.

  1. Cut your Paracord/cordage into two and tie one piece to the corner grommet of the Tarp and the other piece to the other adjacent grommet.
  2. Tie a “Drip stick” approx. 5 to 10 cm from each grommet. These sticks should be approx. 10cm long. The purpose of these is to stop any rain water from running along the paracord/cordage back towards and into the lean-to. This technique can be used along any grommet on the shelter. Tying a drip stick to a short length of cordage can help control the water caught on the tarp flowing back into your shelter.
  3. Tie the cordage at the corners to the trees around waist height. It is good to get into the habit of using quick release knots for this. It makes it easier when breaking camp. Keep the tarp taut between the two trees
  4. Spread the tarp out tight and fasten it down using stakes through the grommets.

Additional tips.

If instead of using trees you use stakes in the ground, you will need to use additional guy ropes to keep these tight.

If you are going to be using the shelter for more than one day you need to put a center support. If this is a poncho you can tie cordage around that and over a branch. This will stop water pooling in the center of the tarp. Some people suggest using large rocks to cause water to pool at the bottom of the tarp and cause it to wear quickly.


Tent Style Shelter.

There are benefits and disadvantages to the tent style shelter. The low profile gives increased shelter and traps the air around you in the small area. The disadvantages are it has less storage space and is restricted when getting in and out.

To build this type of shelter you need a tarp or poncho, two lengths of paracord or suitable cordage each 1.5 to

Tent type Tarp Shelter Building shelters

Tent type Tarp Shelter Building Bushcraft Shelters

2.0meters (5 to 8 feet) long. Six sharpened sticks approx. 30cm long and two trees approx. two to three meters (7 to 10 feet) apart

Again, start by tying off the poncho hood if using a poncho, as you would with a lean-to shelter.

Tie a 1.5 to 2.0meter length of paracord/cordage to the center grommet on each side of the tarp. The opposite ends need to be tied  to the trees creating a tight ridge line for your tent style shelter. The sides of the tent style shelter should be pulled tight and pegged down using the wooden stakes through the grommets in the corners of the tarp.

If you are going to be using the tent style shelter for more than one night you should use a center support. This could be the same as with the lean-to shelter, tie a piece of paracord/cordage around the hood and over a low branch.

An alternative is to build an additional A-frame outside, over the center of the tent. To do this use two stakes approx. 120cm long, one with a forked end. These rest together forming an A-frame for the center line to attach to. The only issue here is stability of the A-frame. To improve this you can use additional lines tied from the a frame to the trees.

The tent style shelter, can be made using stakes instead of trees. A pole should be put from the ground to center grommet along one side of the tarp. The same should be repeated on the opposite side. As with the Lean-to style shelter you will need additional guy ropes to make this stable. If this method is used it reduces even further the room available for accessing and exiting the shelter.

Survival Shelters From Natural Materials

Bushcraft Shelters using What nature provides.

The following shelters can be made in a wooded area using materials that can be found or made from what nature provides. All you need is a knife or blade tool (Even this can be made.) In this article I won’t be going into making cordage. When starting to build these types of shelter I would suggest using Paracord and learn to make cordage as a separate task. Then you can concentrate on making a good strong structure. When working with young people I would recommend the same course of action. These types of shelter take a lot of time, effort, energy and resources over shelters made using a tarp.

Lean-to Shelter

To get started you will need the following.

Lean to Shelter Building shelters

Lean to Shelter Building Bushcraft shelters

  • Two up trees (or strong upright poles) about 2 meters (7 feet) apart.
  • One pole approx.. 2 meters (7 feet) long At least 2.5cm (1 inch) in diameter.
  • Five to eight poles approx.. 3 meters (10 feet) long 2.5cm (1 inch) in diameter
  • Cordage/Paracord for lashing horizontal beams to the trees
  • Saplings to cover/crisscross the beams.

How to build a lean-to shelter.

  1. Lash the 2 meter (7 foot) pole between the two trees or support at approx. waist height. This will form the horizontal support.
  2. Place the 3 meter (10 foot) poles on one side of the horizontal support. As with the lean-to made with a tarp ensure the shelter is facing with the front exposure facing away from the incoming wind.
  3. Alternatively if you have access to many long poles, put a 2 meter (7 foot) poles on either end of the horizontal support. Then lash an extra 3 meter (7 foot) horizontal support half way up between the two poles you have placed at either end of the top supporting pole. Then prior to moving onto the next step place more 2 meter (7 foot) poles next to each other creating a solid lean-to shelter roof. The continue to step 5.
  4. Crisscross saplings or vines across the beams
  5. Cover this with Brush, leaves pine needles or grass. Start at the bottom and make your way to the top.
  6. The thicker this final covering the better the insulation above you.
  7. For additional warmth at night some people recommend heat deflectors. There are arguments as to whether there is any benefit from these deflectors given by these. Personally I would recommend if you have a tarp hang it over the front of the lean-to creating an enclosed sleeping area, with the option of having it open. I believe that this along with additional insulation is the best way of keeping dry and warm.

Adaptations Of This Lean-to Shelter.

Once you have mastered this technique of building structures it is possible to make more adaptations. The Obvious one is to make it into a design similar to the Tent style shelter made with a Tarp. These structures if made well can last years and with a little maintenance will be as efficient as the day you built it. But the time effort and materials needed to make these means it is worth taking time to start making what you want from the beginning with the view to expand. For example, instead of building a straight forward tent style Shelter I would consider a design with a small log wall to give a little more head space.

The Debris Shelter.

This shelter in its basic form is one of my favourites to build with young people. Although they are quite small they are very efficient at keeping in the heat and keeping you dry. The principles involved in building this are simple, the key to success is building it well. It is time consuming but worth the effort.

To start building this you need.

  • A ridge pole, between 2 to 3 meters (7 to 10 feet) ideally over 4cm diameter
  • Two poles to make a Bi-pod to hold the ridge pole up at the entrance. One with a forked end.
  • Sticks of various lengths to stand against full length of ridge pole.

Building A Debris Shelter.

  1. Take the two pieces for the entrance and place them together. They need to provide a support for the ridge pole.
  2. Place the remaining sticks along both sides of the ridge pole. These need to be able to support some weight. As seen in the picture. These need to be relatively close together. Gaps will be closed in the next stage.
    Debris Shelter Building Shelters

    Debris Frame Shelter Building Bushcraft Shelters

  3. Take finer sticks, weave them along the sides, starting to fill in gaps and make the sides stronger. Continue weaving these sticks until stop small debris like pine needles, leaves, grass etc from falling through.
  4. Start adding fine, ideally dry debris to the structure. Although the lattice is to stop this debris falling through, I would recommend trying to start with larger debris. Try and start with dry leaves, a layer of dry leaves will close most smaller holes. There is nothing more demoralising to put effort in to collecting debris to then watch the majority fall through gaps to the floor of your shelter. It is like taking two steps forward one back.
  5. Debris Shelter Building Shelters

    Debris Shelter Building Bushcraft Shelters

    After you have your initial layer on the shelter continue putting the debris until you have at least 1 meter (3 feet) of debris on the shelter. It is a case of more the better. A good judgement is that it should be as thick as the length of an adult’s arm, hand to shoulder.

  6. For the entrance make a lattice door that can be pulled over the door when you are inside. The thicker the better. Once you have you lattice door weave thin saplings into the door. Keep as many leaves on as possible. You can also push leaves or grass into the structure. The thicker the door the more insulation it will create.

Additional Insulation for Shelters

When we are outside we need to remember the importance of keeping warm.  the rule of 3 in survival is an innovative formula, it prepares you to fight with the incapacitating power of nature and give life a fair chance to live. It prioritizes your basic needs in order of priority.

You cannot survive:

3 minutes without air

3 hours without shelter

3 days without water

3 weeks without food

As you can see shelter is second in the list, stating you can only survive approximately three hours without shelter. This statement is based on the assumption that your core body temperature can fall without action being taken to a level you will cause you to die. This can happen day or night to anyone, it is important you are aware of your environment and take action to keep warm. At night it is important that you take precautions before you sleep.

Most heat is lost at night through the ground when people are sleeping. There are two things you can do. First and most important is to ensure you have insulation between you and the ground. The best way to do this is put a layer of material under you like a mattress. Use thin branches, pine needles, grass and dry leaves. Ensure the material is dry and is approx. 30cm thick. Do not use bracken as it often has ticks which can lead to Lymes disease. Saying that, if it is all you can find it is better than hypothermia.

Items of use for building shelters and den building.





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Prepared to Build a Shelter-First Lessons Bushcraft

Build A Shelter – First Lessons

Are you prepared to build a shelter?

The initial thoughts people have when asked the question “Are you prepared to build a shelter” is “Yes of course I am.” But in reality there maybe questions you haven’t thought about previously. When we teach young people about Shelter building we need to do more than teach how to build a shelter or tie a knot.

Lessons in build a shelter

Lessons in shelter building

It is looking at what our needs are and are we able to meet those need in the time we have. Planning is one of the most important skills you can have to be able to survive. When planning to build a shelter in a survival situation you need to plan more than where should I build it.

Many articles have been written about shelters. Very often the focus is the environment you find yourself, for example a snow hole when there has been heavy snow. Although this may be a factor when considering a shelter, there are many other factors to be considered. Some of these are more important considerations an individual may have to consider.

In my opinion, the most important consideration to be made is what are your needs. Although shelter is a priority in a survival situation, it is also a task that can take a lot of valuable, energy, time and resources. So, your first thoughts should be to answer questions surrounding the following areas.

  • Purpose of your shelter. Build what you need
  • Time, A valuable resource.
  • Resources, Building with what you have not what you want.

What is the reason to build a shelter?

This is where most people make a mistake and a point that many articles fail to cover. So, before you decide to start building it is important you stop and think about what you need. If you are planning to stay outdoors for a long period of time it may be a idea to build a substantial shelter that one that will take more time, energy and resources in the near future. Once you have decided what type of shelter you need you can then consider other critical issues. You might not need a water proof shelter, but you may need one that provides shelter from sun and or wind. Creating the wrong shelter can cost you a lot of time effort and energy.

Time. A valuable resource.

Time is something that has an impact on everyone, no matter what situation we are in. Whether it is our busy everyday lives, at home or at work or a survival situation where your life could depend on it. The first “time question” should be “Why do I need a shelter? You might be thinking that’s obvious, to keep you warm and safe. The problem is you don’t gain anything from that. You need to change your perspective on “Why you need a shelter.” Is it to survive a night or possibly two or are you planning on using your shelter long term. The answer will have a huge influence on what type of shelter you need.

Secondly, how quickly do you need the shelter and how long do you have to build it. If it is getting late on in the day and you need shelter it is unlikely you are going to build a shelter that will last days let alone weeks or months. So, you may have to build an initial shelter that

time prepared to build a shelter

time to shelter

is temporary, until you are able to build a shelter suitable to your needs. That simple shelter may be all you need if you are in a situation where you believe you are only going to need it for a night or two at the most.

I would rather spend a brief period of time to build a shelter that will meet my needs for one night in a limited amount of time than attempt to build something that is half finished and leaves me vulnerable during the night.

Resources, you can’t build with what you don’t have.

You may have decided on the type of shelter you need, but do you have access to the materials you are going to need. Initially you may look around and think “Sure I do, I am in a forest” But collecting sufficient quantities of materials that are suitable for what you plan to do can take a lot of energy and time. There may be plenty of resources but collecting it may take longer because you don’t have enough energy or time. You may need a temporary shelter to enable you to get the resources you need.

When making these decisions you also need to bear in mind do I have necessary tools to coolect the resources needed to build your shelter.

As you can see when it comes to building a shelter it is important you take time to plan what you need, what resources you need, how you will collect them and what shelter you may need in the interim. Planning is important in a survival situation as much if not more than everyday life. Your life may depend on it.

When doing activities with young people you may start with simple den building activities and make the activities more difficult as they build on their skills. To make the activities varied for young people you can add scenarios to the activities. These can be…

  • Providing them with limited resources
  • Limited resources
  • Time limits
  • To build a shelter for a designated environment or situation.

Adding these variations lets the young people learn new skills but also how to develop skills that are useful in everyday life. Plus, it can make the activity much more fun.

We all need to have the practical skills to survive, we also need to have the skills and abilities to use those skills in a way that you meet your needs when you need to.


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One Skill to Teach Your Children. Observation Skills

observation, children learn skills with parents

Observation Skills, What to teach your children

I have worked outdoor in one way or another most of my adult working life. During this time I was fortunate to do jobs in the police that some people don’t even know exist. Some of these people would say at times are exciting and at time dangerous. They involved going through various assessments and test to see if I had the right skills to do the job. One skill that came up time and time again was observation skills. You would think that these are skill that all police officers have, but you would be surprised at the level many officers display. From the few that end up taking the assessment there is a large failure rate. I was also involved with surveillance along with various forms of evidence gathering. I learned skills that developed and added to my love of nature and the outdoors. Perry McGee recently described it to me as “Sign Awareness”

Using the term Sign Awareness instead of “Tracking” means there is a better understanding of the skills and the purpose and use of those skills in a positive way. Rather than the stereotypical belief that the skills are soley for hunting

I may have been lucky and observation was something that came natural. I have always been good at remembering what I saw and had learned various skills at school. Being dyslexic at school when I was a student was something that wasn’t often noticed. I struggled with writing and English, Never mind French. But I learned that I could learn lessons off by heart and it didn’t effect me as long as it looked like I had written my notes.

I try and pass these skills on to my children. Not because they are dyslexic, because they are skills that can be fun and very useful. Especially if you decide to have a career where you need to notice small details under pressure. These are skills you can teach your children by playing simple games.

First is a simple game to play in the car or whilst walking around. I will ask my daughter what colour a car was that drove past in the opposite direction, or how many people were stood at a bus stop. You can ask more difficult questions as your child’s skills develop. You can eventually start asking what a car vehicle registration number (VRN) of cars you see

Beware though. As your child develops observation skills, they will start asking you questions. So keep alert and keep your observation skill up to the same standard as your children. It is a win win situation for you and your child as you observation skills improve.

Memory and Observtion Skills

To help you child remember numbers they can learn mnemonics. A simple one that is of great help to children is to use  the rhyme method. Each number is represented by am image that rhymes with the number. Here is a list of common words.

If these aren’t suitable you can change them for ones that suit you or you child. The image that first comes to mind is the best and one that can be made into funny pictures. I know men who use boobs for 8, I am sure you can work out why, all though that isn’t recommended for your child.

Once these ten words are known any number can be remembered. you use the relevant words and link them together with a funny story.

  1 - Bun
  2 - Shoe
  3 - Tree
  4 - Door
  5 - Hive
  6 - Bricks
  7 - Heaven 
  8 - Skate
  9 - Line
  10 - Hen

You can easily remember words using a similar system. If you have a list of words you can link them together using a funny story. You can then remember the funny story, whilst reciting the story in your head you will be able to recall the list you remembered.

The more you use these types of techniques and games observation skill increase and so does memory. You find that you can remember much more. Using your memory will improve it naturally. It has been shown people of all ages and abilities can improve there memory and observation skills through practice. If you want to know more about the subject. I would recommend one author called Tony Buzan. He has written various books on memory and other subjects, they all are very practical and useful for adults and have skills you can pass to your children.

Developing these skills will also be beneficial for children learning Interpretting Sign/Sign Awareness or as many people know it, Tracking.

Bushcraft Knots, How To Tie Clove Hitch, Timber Hitch And Tripod Lashing

Clove Hitch

Bushcraft Knots Clove Hitch, Timber Hitch and Tripod Lashing

Bushcraft Knots

The term “Bushcraft Knots” is a title I have creates. It is to label some knots that can be used in bushcraft and survival skills. There is no specific set of knots that fit this category. The Clove hitch and Timber Hitch are easy to tie and useful to fasten rope or cordage to something temporarily. They use friction to keep tight so if you use finished wood like in the videos you will find they sometimes slip. That doesn’t mean you haven’t tied the knot correctly it is just that the wood is so smooth there is not a lot of friction.

These are two good bushcraft knots to teach children because they are quite easy, especially the Timber Hitch. When tying a clove Hitch you will find an explanation on the net how to tie the knot making loops. This is “easier”, but  can cause problems. If someone needs to tie the knot, and the loops can’t slip over the end, the knot can’t be tied. So a little more practice to tie the Clove Hitch using this method means you can tie it in any situation.

These bushcraft knots are useful to start building Bushcraft Shelters, dens and equipment and tools around your camp


After watching these videos please subscribe to the Bushcraft For Kids YouTube channel here

Clove Hitch

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Timber Hitch


Tripod Lashing

Den Building, Basic Bushcraft Shelters For Kids

Clove Hitch

Den Building, Basic Bushcraft For Kids

When I think back to my childhood den building was something I loved to do. Whether it was permanent dens in trees or hidden away, or temporary dens that lasted a few hours of fun. The main thing I remember is the fun, sometimes it would be cowboys and Indians others, Robinson Crusoe, living out tales or adventure and fun. Other times I would be a spy building a hide to watch my quarry. As time went by these developed into more substantial structures made to keep my friends and I dry and warm whilst we tried to stay outdoors in all weathers.

When I mention we are going to den building or shelters the reaction is always the same, excitement and smiles. If you aren’t confident being outdoors you can start at home either indoors or in the garden and start using cardboard boxes. if you decide to start with cardboard boxes make sure you check the weather. There is nothing worse than cleaning up soggy cardboard and watching your hard work slowly collapse into a soggy mess.

Uses of Den Building/Bushcraft Shelters.

When you build your first shelter it is likely just to be a fun thing to do with your children. When you have finished you will see your children’s imagination come alive, whether they are pirates, marooned men like Robinson Crusoe, Cowboys and Indians, playing with teddy bears and dolls, or what ever the latest television show is about. The point is they get a chance to be outside getting fresh air and having fun whilst using their imagination.

When children are a little older they may be interested in watch wildlife, nature, bushcraft, fishing or some other outdoor activity. Making a simple shelter and camouflaging it can be fun and either keep you dry or out of the sun depending on the weather. In the UK you are likely to have to do both within the space of a day or even a few hours. When you set out bear in mind the colour of the Tarp you are using. Even if you camouflage it orange or fluorescent yellow will still stand out.

The final activity you might like to do with your child is sleep out. Whether it is in your shelter or under the stars, it will be something your child will never forget. I believe every child should experience sleeping out under the stars with their parents at least once. It doesn’t matter where you do it, it can be in the garden or further afield and part of a bigger adventure. What ever you decide to do it will be a memorable time for everyone. Starting in the garden can be good for your first attempt then if it rains or you have any other reason you can retreat indoors.

Being Prepared For Den Building.

The best option is to purchase a few basic items. This will allow you to build a more substantial den/shelter. You can then re-use your den building equipment again and again. You can take it with you to the beach or park and have fun den building anywhere. You could start with a piece of plastic (A Tarp) and a length of Paracord. you would be amazed at the variety of shelters you can make with these two items and a couple of trees. But with a few more items you can do a lot more and learn a few skills along the way.

Here is what you will need for your den building experience:

  1. A piece of plastic, or a “Tarp”;
  2. Paracord;
  3. 6 long pieces of wood, log broom handles are suitable;
  4. Dozen tent pegs.

Remember: When you are building this shelter the size of tarp and the lengths of wood determine the size. Using Broom handles will make your den quite low to the ground, but suitable for young children.

Den building is fun and exciting and gives parents a chance to learn and share with their children. The skills taught here will also give you some basic bushcraft skills you can the develop further and build shelters in the woods.

Den Building Skills.

When you are building a den or a bushcraft shelter you are likely at some point going to need some or all these skills. They are all quite simple and will come in useful when you practice other bushcraft skills with children.

Don’t let these names scare you they are easy to learn with a little practice you will have your “Bushcraft Kid” helping you with these.

Here are some links to get what you need to build shelters and dens with your children. Whether it is in the garden or somewhere further afield in a park or local woodlands.

Clove Hitch

Clove Hitch

Remember  At least two poles are needed for den building, unless you have two conveniently spaced trees. you can use broom handles. Or an alternative more sturdy method using 6  broom handles.

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For some simple simple ideas for shelters visit Basic Den Designs.

If you decide to use Cardboard you can use the Basic Den Designs, but it is best to let the children use their imagination and you to be the chief labourer adding some knotting and lashing skills.

Basic Survival Shelters And Dens Designs For Bushcraft, Survival And Family Fun

Double Sided Lean to Survival Shelters and Dens
Lean To Style Survival shelters and dens

Lean To Style Survival shelters and dens

Basic Designs For Survival Shelters and Dens.

Once you have learnt Clove Hitch, Timber Hitch and Tripod Lash you can create numerous designs for survival shelters and dens. Whilst you and you child are learning these basic knots you can still have fun designing you den. You can start with a blanket and a couple of chairs or even cardboard boxes. Children are amazing when they are encouraged to use their imagination and build. Depending on you and your child’s confidence and if you plan taking your adventure outdoors you can give various guidelines. Six year olds understand that if you get wet and, or cold you can become ill or die. So challenging your child to think about keeping dry and how you will keep warm are good issues to start of with.

Uses And Issues Surrounding Survival Shelters And Dens.

Here are a few discussion points.

  • Why do Homeless people sleep out doors?
  • What do they use to keep warm?
  • Why do they use cardboard boxes
  • Can we help in anyway?
  • What is hyperthermia and hypothermia?
  • What types of slopes are Best?
  • Will the roof hold water or will it drain off?
  • Is the roof strong enough?
  • Will the survival shelter and den design blow away?
  • How can you fasten it down?
  • What can Survival shelters be used for?

The final question is good to ask children you might be surprised at the replies. There are the obvious sleeping under, play, keeping dry and warm when outside at the beach or park, or using it as a hide to watch and or photograph local wildlife. The list goes on and on.

Building shelters can help you look at various issues from design, social problems, outdoor skills uses of Survival shelters and dens.

Double Sided Lean to Survival Shelters and Dens

Double Sided Lean to Survival Shelters and Dens

Below are some sketches of some basic shelters. These shown are using a “Tarp” and poles. You can buy poles specifically for making a bivi, survival shelter or den. Alternatively you can make some from brush handles or branches you find in the wild. There will be another post showing some techniques for making survival shelters.

Lean To Style Survival shelters and dens

Lean To Style Survival shelters and dens

When designing the shelter you need to think about whether you will need a crosspole to help support the tarp or whether a taut piece of Paracord will do the job. You will also need to think about where the guy ropes will go. Guy ropes will serve two purposes.

  1. Giving strength to your structure, or keeping a piece of Paracord taut to support your tarp.
  2. To hold your survival shelter and Den in one place if you experience wind.



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Bushcraft Survival Shelters And Dens

Bushcraft Survival Shelters And Dens

When you start building dens and shelters, it is best to start simple. Remember there is no right or wrong when you start with your child.Imagination is important when starting out. They may want to be pirates, in a space ship or their favourite T.V. Survivalist. It gives you time to have fun and learn with your child to talk and laugh together. Bushcraft skills are great because you get to be with your children and not have modern day distractions.

Sweet Chestnut-Castanea Sativa Tree Identification

Sweet Chestnuts branch

Sweet Chestnut/Castanea Sativa

Sweet Chestnut is a deciduous tree that grows up to 35 m tall, with a trunk up to about 2 m in diameter Sweet Chestnut is a deciduous broad leaf tree, common in UK.

Overview: mature Sweet Chestnut trees grow to 35 m and can live for up to 700 years. The bark is grey-purple and smooth, which develops vertical fissures with age. The twigs are purple-brown and buds are plum,red-brown and oval in shape.

Sweet Chestnuts branch

Sweet Chestnuts branch

Common Name: Sweet Chestnut

Scientific Name: Castanea Sativa

Family: Fagaceae

Download our worksheet and look at the examples we give to help learn about tree, identifying trees and uses in bushcraft.


Sweet Chestnut leaves are oblong and toothed with a pointed tip, and feature around 20 pairs of prominent parallel veins.


Sweet Chestnut Leaf

Sweet Chestnut Leaf

The flowers of the Sweet Chestnut are long, yellow Catkins of mostly male flowers, with female flowers at the base. Sweet Chestnut is monoecius, this means both male and female flowers are found on the same tree.


Insects pollinate the Sweet Chestnut tree?, female flowers develop into shiny red-brown fruits wrapped in a green, spiky case. The trees begin to bear fruit when they are about 25 years old.

Look Out For:

Teeth around the edges of Sweet Chestnut leaves are widely spaced. The seeds develop inside the prickly green seed cases.

Identified in Winter by:

Bark on the Sweet Chestnut has fissures which spiral around the tree.

Where to find Sweet Chestnut.

The Sweet Chestnut is thought to have been introduced to the UK Isles by the Romans but today it can be found commonly throughout the UK in woods and copses, especially in parts of Southern England, where it it still managed to form large areas of coppice.

Value to Wildlife.

The flowers provide an important source of nectar and pollen to bees and other insects, and Red Squirrel eat the nuts?. A large number of micro-moths feed on the leaves and nuts.

Mythology and Symbolism.

There is very little mythology surrounding the Sweet Chestnut in the UK, probably because it was introduced. However, the ancient Greeks dedicated the Sweet Chestnut to Zeus and its botanical name Castanea comes from Castonis, a Town in Thessaly in Greece where the tree was grown for its nuts.

How bushcraft Uses Sweet Chestnut.

  • Sweet chestnut timber is similar to oak but is more lightweight and easier to work. It has a straight grain when young but this spirals in older trees. It can be used in carpentry, joinery and furniture.
  • In south east England sweet chestnut is coppiced to produce poles.
  • The chestnuts can be roasted and used in a variety of recipes, including stuffing. Inner bark cordage makes superb fishing lines and nets.
  • Nuts are edible, can be roasted. Some people say remove shells prior to roasting. However it is sometimes better to leave the shells on and just cut a small ‘X’ in them. This helps keep them cleaner and they peel so much easier. They also cook more evenly so the outside has less chance of being charred


Sweet Chestnut has been found to be susceptible to fungal diseases. Chestnut blight has recently arrived in the UK, which causes bark cankers and can lead to die back and death.


Small Leaved Tilia Cordata Tree Identification

Tilia cordata (small-leaf)

Lime, Small-Leaved Tilia Cordata

There are far fewer Little Leaf Lime trees than there used to be.  Lime trees used to be known as Linden. This old English name hints at the common etymology of the word “line”. The likelihood of this is that the inner bark, also known as bast, has always been an important source of fibres for cordage and rope making.

Tilia cordata (small-leaf)

Tilia cordata (small-leaf)

These lovely trees can be found across mainland Britain, from the south of England all the way through to Scotland. Different members of the Lime family have leaves that vary in size, however they all have a similar shape. The leaves are similar to Hazel leaves, but they feel more flimsy and smoother. Often you will see many sprouts coming from the base of mature lime trees. These are often so thick that you can’t see the trunk.  Where the trunk is visible, the bark remains smooth until the trees are quite large.

Download our worksheet and look at the examples we give to help learn about tree, identifying trees and uses in bushcraft.

Common name: Lime, Small Leaf

Scientific name: Tilia Cordata

Family: Malvaceae


Lime Leaves are heart shaped with a pointed tip and the length varies from 3 to 8cm in length. The leaves feel flimsy and smooth to the touch. They are hairless except for brown tufts on the underside of the vein-joints. 


Limes are hermaphrodite, this means both male and female reproductive parts are present within each flower. Flowers are green/yellow with five petals and hang in clusters of 4-10, they are known for their pleasant smell.


Limes are pollinated by insects. The flowers develop into round/oval fruits. These are smooth with pointed tips.

 Wildlife Value

The flowers of the little leaf Linden attract bees and hummingbirds, and the soft wood often provides nesting sites for cavity-dwelling birds.


There is evidence of the little leaf linden being planted and used for social purposes as early as 760 A.D. In the Germanic and Norse countries, the tree was known as a favourite of Freya (the goddess of love) and Frigga (the goddess of marriage love and the earth). Maidens would “dance wildly” around the village linden, and women hoping for fertility would hug the tree or hang offerings in its branches. In Scandinavia, it was a good tree to avoid after dark because it was thought to be a favorite haunt of elves and fairies

Uses Of Little Leaf Lime Trees In Bushcraft.

  • Inner bark for cordage;
  • Friction fire-lighting;
  • Young leaves are edible;
  • Young flowers can be used for making tea, but caution should be taken because using older flowers can produce symptoms of narcotic poisoning.



Common Beech-Fagus Sylvatica Tree Identification

Beech branch with fruits

Beech, Common (Fagus Sylvatica)

Overview: Mature Common Beech trees grow to a height of more than 40m and develop a hug? domed crown. The bark is smooth, thin and grey, often with slight horizontal etchings. The reddish brown, torpedo-shaped leaf buds form on short stalks, and have a distinctive criss cross pattern.

Interesting Fact: Common beech can live for several hundreds of years. However with coppiced stands  it can live for more than 1,000 years.

Download our worksheet and look at the examples we give to help learn about tree, identifying trees and uses in bushcraft.

Scientific name: Fagus sylvatica
Family: Fagaceae

Identifying Common Beech


Leaves, Common Beech

Leaves, Common Beech

Young Common Beech leaves are lime green with silky hairs, which become dark green and loose their hairs as they mature. They are 4–9cm long, stalked, oval and pointed at the tip, with a wavy edge.


Common Beech is monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers grow on the same tree, in April and May. The tassel male catkins hang from long stalks at the end of twigs, while female flowers grow in pairs surrounded by a cup.

Beech branch with fruits

Beech branch with fruits


The Common Beech nut, becomes woody once pollinated, and encloses or two beech nuts (known as beech mast). Beech is wind pollinated.

Look Out For:

When identifying Common Beech the edges of the leaves are hairy. Triangular beech nuts form in prickly four lobed seed cases.

It can easily be confused with: Hornbeam (Corpinus Betulus). Beech leaves have wavy edges with small hairs as opposed to the serrated margin of hornbeam.

Identified In Winter By:

Common Beech, leaf buds distinctively, sharply pointed and not pressed against the twigs.


Where to find Common Beech:

Beech Tree

Beech Tree

Its natural habitat extends over a large part of Europe, UK precisely. Common Beech requires a humid atmosphere and well-drained soil. It can be sensitive to winter frost.

It usually grows on drier, free draining soils, such as chalk, limestone and light loams. Beech woodland is shady and is characterised by a dense carpet of fallen leaves and mast husks, which prevent most woodland plants from growing. Only specialistshade tolerant  plantscan survive beneath a Beech canopy.

Value to Wildlife:

Due to Common Beech having a dense canopy,rarer plant species are associated with Beech woodland, such as box, coral root bitter cress, and varieties of orchidsincluding red helleborine. Beech woodland makes an important habitat for many butterflies, particularly in open glades and woodland rides.

Common Beech folliage is eaten by caterpillars of a number of moths, including the barred hook tip, clay triple lines and olive crescent. The seeds are eaten by mice, voles squirrels and birds.

Native truffle fungi grow in Beech woods. These fungi are ectomycorrhizal, which means they help the host tree obtain nutrients in exchange for some of the sugar the tree produces through photosynthesis. Remember take expert advice before picking or eating any wild fungi.

Because Common Beechh trees live for so long they provide habitat for many dead wood specialists such as hole nesting birds and wood-boring insects. The bark is often home to a variety of fungi, mosses and lichen.

Mythology and Symbolism:

Common Beech is associated with femininity and is often considered the queen of British trees, where oak is the king.

In Celtic mythology, Fagus was the god of Beech trees. It was thought to have medicinal properties Beech leaves were used to relieve swellings, and boiling the leaves would make a poultice. Forked Beech twigs are also traditionally used for divining.

Uses Of Common Beech In Bushcraft:

  • Nut known as Masts, they are eaten raw or cooked
  • Fresh young leaves are eaten.
  • Leaves are used as insulation in shelters
  • The wood burns well and is used to smoke food
  • Roots are used as withies
  • Dry beech leaves are a good tinder
  • Masts are used to make coffee.
  • Older trees can be tapped for sap


Beech Trees are sometimes susceptible to root rot from a variety of fungal pathogens, including Phytophthora. Some trees can suffer from beech bark disease, caused by a combination of a sap sucking scale insect, Cryptococcus fagisuga and Canker fungus, Nectria Coccinea. Severe infections can kill affected trees. It is also very vulnerable to bark stripping by grey squirrels.

When sleeping in woodland you should always check for “Widow Makers” dead wood in trees that could fall on you campsite or bed. Beech is susceptible to wood falling from the canopy.


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