My son and I, 12 years old, went out this afternoon to attempt our debris shelter. We took my small pack that I have on me during hikes or hunting trips and used only tools that were in the pack. A detailed list of the pack and information on what I carry is located here. PACK LINK
A picture of the pack.
A picture of the only knife used during the construction of the shelter.
If you're not familiar with North/Western Washington, it's extremely thick and covered in blackberry brush and sticker bushes. There is also mostly evergreen trees and the foliage that is on the ground deteriorates extremely quickly. This was very challenging.
Here is a photo of the location we were in.
A machete would have made this a lot easier. We had walked for an hour, fighting the blackberries and underbrush, and never found any sort of clearing. We finally got near the top and found a power-line clearing. Near the power-lines, Ashton found a tree and small opening that he thought he would use. So we went for it at that location.
It was also raining hard the entire day. The tree that Ashton found was a large Cedar which protected the shelter from the majority of the rain. It stayed dry at the shelter location, even through a heavy rain that never stopped.
Before we left for this adventure, I had showed him some examples of debris shelters and asked him his opinions on what he saw and what he would do differently. He said he thinks the majority of your body heat is lost through your head, so he would move the door and use a tree as the base to help insulate his head area. I don't know any better, and it sounded like a good idea to me, so we took his design and ran with it.
The spine branch fit securely into the tree, however we went ahead and found a forked branch to secure the spine.
Here is a close up of the spine into the forked branch and into the tree for strength.
Inside the pack we had 20' of paracord which we used to tie off supports every 4 feet or so. This thing was extremely strong and not going anywhere.
Ashton working on a support. You can see the clearing cut for the power-lines in the distance. That was the only clearing we found the entire day. This place was thick.
We continued to stack wood up against the spine. Since we had no problems with strength, and the one natural resource we had a surplus of was wood, we really took our time and built up a few layers of supports.
Inside the pack was a cheap plastic parka. Even through rain was not an issue due to the location, we decided to split the parka (This will end up being a huge mistake)
and put it over the shelter towards the head location. The thought was, it would help keep additional body heat in the shelter.
In this picture you can see where Ash wanted to put his door. He also liked the idea of being able to have a fire going outside of the door.
Now we just continued to collect leaves and build up the shelter. This task took an extremely long time due to the lack of deciduous trees and material on the ground. The majority of the material on the shelter is actually mud. We found ourselves walking farther and farther to collect leaves. We were getting extremely soaked when leaving the dryness of the Cedar tree.
We built up the shelter with a substantial amount of debris, covered the floor area and stuffed the attic area. Here is a picture inside of the shelter looking towards the head area.
And towards the feet.
At this point, we finished the door. We had decided we were going to construct a door frame and use one of the survival blankets to cover the front and back. Ashton climbed into the shelter.
Closing the door. (I did not help him get the door closed in securely, or straighten out the material. I wanted to see if this would work or if we had failed.
Completed and totally shut and locked down for a long night.
Here are a few miscellaneous shots from our day.
Here is what my son and I learned.
-Not all forests are created equally. Over in Eastern Washington, around Colville, this would have been a lot easier. The thickness of the underbrush in our area made this very difficult.
-Sacrificing the poncho was our biggest mistake if we would have had to survive. As my son observed and pointed out, we were soaked to the bone. If we were really in a survival situation, we would have had to worked at staying dry. Preserving that poncho.
-The lack of foliage on the ground really made this difficult. I would imagine that we would have continued to collect additional material if our lives really depended on it.
-Most importantly, getting out and practicing and teaching our kids is great way to spend the day.