If you’re anything like me you might have a huge passion for the outdoors and adventure. You might like to push your boundaries to understand your limits. I’m a very enthusiastic outdoorsman and I feel comfortable surviving in the wild for a few days with nothing but my hands. I started pushing my limits when I was a lot younger and very broke. I live in an area known for having some of the most amazing outdoor activities in the world within minutes of the big city. I decided to take advantage of the outdoors because I couldn’t afford to go out every weekend. I took to the mountains for something to do because it was free. I might have had a little larger ambition than I was prepared for because I decided to make my own trail one day and ended up getting lost in the mountains without anything except a lighter, a light jacket, a half empty bottle of water, an energy bar, and the shoes on my feet. Needless to say I was very unprepared and paid the price. I got lost as the sun went down and knew it would be best to wait for the light to come back before making any decisions on what to do. I nestled up against a tree and wrapped myself in my jacket. I lit a small fire at my feet and tried to sleep. I think I was able to get about 20-30 minutes of sleep before the sun came up, and I was exhausted and terrified. The sun welcomed me with its warm rays and I felt a little better about my situation. I found the nearest river and started following it down. The mountains I was hiking in are very close to the city and I knew that all the mountain rivers feed the city below. Because the brush was so thick it took me a few hours before I was able to get any distance behind me. I was too far off the original trail to consider turning back. After about 4 hours of hiking down the river, I finally came upon a trail that I knew headed down to the road. Exhausted and all scratched up from the thick bush I had to make it through, the road was such a welcoming sight. I had to hike about a mile up the road to get back to my truck but I was elated. I was pretty upset that I let myself get into that situation in the first place. I was mad that I went into the wilderness so unprepared with no gear on me for such an event. Most of all though, I was so excited that I had actually gotten lost in the wilderness, pushed through the cold night, and navigated my way out. Granted the whole experience wasn’t too life threatening, but it taught me so much about myself.
From this experience I learned to always be prepared and trust your instincts. I never head to the woods without my backpack full of gear. A lot of people make fun of me for carrying a knife, two bottles, a blanket, multiple lighters, food, first aid kit, compass, etc. for just a simple two-hour hike. You never know what you’re going to get into so it is best to be prepared and I had to learn that the hard way. Ever since then, I’ve been studying and learning ways to make survival, first of all possible, but most of all, easy. The more comfortable I get with my skills, the further I push my adventures and the cooler stuff I get to see. I have more fun out in the woods now and don’t stress about getting lost as much or running into a situation. I’ve spent years learning ways to adapt and overcome. I came across this video and knew I had to share it. Primitive Technology has put together a short video on how to make one of the best outdoor survival shelters I have ever seen. It is called a Wattle and Daub structure and has been used by civilizations for over 6,000 years now. Now this might be a bit much for an overnight stay but you never really can say how long you will need to wait for rescue if there is no plausible way out of your location. Trust me it happens more than you can imagine to people who you would never expect it to. Take a look at these step by step instructions on how to make a wattle and daub shelter with your own two hands.
First things first, you need to find yourself a good level ground with plenty of resources around. This type of shelter won’t work in most desert areas due to a lack of resources, but anywhere with trees and leaves will provide everything you need. Clear the area you will be working with and make sure it is about 10 feet by 10 feet.
I always carry a good knife but if you are caught stranded with nothing to your name, you’ll need to find something that will cut down small limbs. A good flat rock can be chipped at in order to make a sharp cutting tool. Make sure it’s a larger rock in order to let the weight and momentum do most of the work, saving those precious calories you are going to need to ration.
After a little chipping using a round rock against a flat rock, a good heavy blade can be made, which with enough effort will cut down the trees you’ll need.
You want to find branches that are between 2 and 3 inches thick. Cut them by hacking at the base with your sharp stone. Break them off and clear them of the limbs.
Use the stump from one of the trees you cut down as a sturdy base to cut your pieces to the proper lengths.
Using a digging stick, you should pound some holes into the ground that your base columns will stick into. Use a large rock to pound the stick into the ground. This will create some holes to insert your main support poles.
You’re going to need some vine. You can find this almost anywhere in the woods. From very small branches to roots, almost anything thin and pliable will work.
Insert two poles about 7 feet tall on the outside center border of your area. Lash a cross beam between the two, holding them together and upright. You will need to make the same thing only about half the size toward the edges of your area on both sides of your main center beam.
Using smaller branches that have been lashed together at the two ends you can create the roof structure that will simply lay into place. The roof branches are tied together where they meet at the top. If you gather 4 or 5 of these, it will provide more than enough support for the roof.
Next you will need to gather a bunch of leaves. It is better to gather leaves that have already fallen because they will not change shape as they dry.
Gather some long straight twigs and fold the leaves in half with their natural bend. Pierce the top of the leaf with the twig and spread them apart evenly. This will create your roofing.
Using your lashing material, tie the roofing leaves to the main roof supports while starting at the bottom and working your way up. This will create a waterproof structure allowing water to flow off the edges of your roof. If you can’t find enough lashing you can use shoe laces or strips of fabric from your clothing.
Next, you need to provide a little more structural support. Do this by lashing some cross beams between your main supports. Do this to both open sides of your wattle and daub shelter while leaving one missing. This will be your entrance. This shelter, as is, will work for survival for a few days, or even a week or two. If rescue is unsure and you don’t know how long you’ll be sustaining your existence, you’re going to want to take things a few steps further.
Using the cutting stone, you can cut limbs that will create an elevated sleeping platform. Pound the 4 posts into the ground and lash a beam between the front two posts and the rear two posts. Then lay long and flexible sticks between the top and bottom posts and there you have it, an elevated platform. If biting bugs are a concern, you can coat the bottoms of your bed posts with sap to keep the bugs from climbing up.
The next step will ensure that you are safe and comfortable during even the most wicked storms. Using your cutting stone, split your small branches in half. Be very careful as to not hit your hands because a cut will lead to infection which is one of the worst things to happen during survival.
With your branches cut in half they become very flexible. Weave them in and out of your wall supports from the bottom and work your way up alternating your weave.
This will create a very solid structure and give you protection from the elements outside. This will be the main weave that will hold the daub in place.
Now this always looks so easy on TV survival shows but trust me, making a fire by hand is very difficult if you’ve never done it. I had to practice in my yard many times before I felt comfortable doing it in the wild and even then I can’t get it going most of the time. For the next few steps of a wattle and daub shelter you will need a fire. This is why I never go into the woods without a few lighters or fire ignition device.
It looks like he had fairly easy success getting his fire started. You will need some very dry wood and some very dry and fibrous kindling. Once you’ve created an ember, softly place it into your kindling pile and lightly blow. Next you pray for ignition. A fire can mean the difference between life or death in a survival situation. Not only because it is protection, warmth, and a means of purifying water but the mental accomplishment is unlike anything else when you are all alone in the middle of nowhere.
The next step is to create the daub. Daub is a muddy concoction containing organic plant matter, water, and mud. It is basically a primitive concrete. He found a good place with a heavy consistent supply of dirt and mixed in water and fibrous materials to create the daub. He carried it back to the hut and mashed and mixed it all together.
This is a time-consuming step but it will create tools and much more that you will need to complete your shelter and provide yourself with some very convenient amenities.
Using the daub, roll it into “snakes” and place them on top of each other. Continue up for about 7 to 10 inches in order to create a storage bowl to carry water which you will need for the next step. If you have a waterproof shoe or possibly a collapsible dog bowl on you, you are in luck and can skip this step.
Use the “snake” method to create your containers because they will be more sturdy and consistent. If you try to shape a bowl with your hands it will most likely fall apart when you try to dry it.
He created 7 bowls in no time at all and set them out to dry a little.
After the bowls were slightly hard to the touch he placed them in a pit filled with leaves and dry twigs.
A slow burn around the new clay bowl will harden it and allow it to carry water without falling apart. The fibrous material inside the clay acts like rebar holding concrete together.
Wait for the bowl to cool and carefully remove it from the fire. You now have a convenient water carrying device.
Next you will need to transport water back to your shelter for creating a lot more daub that will be used to insulate and protect the walls.
While these walls would work good to keep you shaded and out of a light rain, they will not insulate you at night or keep a heavy rain out. You will need to create a lot more daub and mash it into your woven wall of branches.
He used mud from right on the outside of the shelter in order to create a small drainage ditch that will keep the base of the wattle and daub shelter dry. Once you create the daub by making mud out of dirt water and fibrous plant materials pack it into the wall.
You will want to do this on both sides, interior and exterior for maximum support and protection.
Grab some of those coals you created earlier and start a small fire inside the shelter. This will begin to dry out your newly formed walls. He took things a step further and created a permanent fire pit right next to the bed.
If you are in an area with heavy rains, you will need to take your roofing to the next level. He used his cutting stone and stripped very large pieces of tree bark to use as shingles.
He used as much of one tree as possible by climbing it and stripping bark from places he wouldn’t normally be able to reach. Stripping the bark off of a tree will kill it so try to use as little as possible.
Place the large bark panels on the roof, layering them from the bottom up so the water running down during a rain will have nowhere to go except for off the roof.
Next you’re going to want to knock a small hole out of your newly dried wall. Do this at the opposite end of your entry door. Be careful not to destroy the wall you are working on and take out small bits at a time.
If you do break out more than you intended to, be sure to patch it with some more daub.
Using his water bowls and the ground next to him, he started to build a small fireplace that will be on the outside of the wattle and daub shelter.
He started a small fire in the pit and started layering up his muddy material up and above it.
Higher and higher it goes. The fire inside the structure created a lot of smoke at night so this is the permanent solution to the problem. A chimney!
Because he wanted the chimney to extend above the shelter he had to close in the wall completely. This allows him to keep building the chimney up the side of the shelter. This will also provide more protection from the elements and keep you warm at night.
With a little reach, the final piece is put on the top of the chimney making sure it extends above the roof line. This will prevent any fires.
The opening on the inside feeds air from the entry into the fire. The smoke escapes from the chimney while the heat stays inside the shelter.
From the looks of it, you would be able to survive here forever as long as you had a good food and water source. This is one hell of a structure that should take you no more than a day or two to build. I must say that I would much rather spend the night in one of these rather than underneath a tree freezing.
Take a look at the video below for more detailed instructions on how to build a wattle and daub shelter.
When it comes to exploring and taking on adventures the biggest rule is to be prepared. Knowledge is key. You can go out into the woods with as much gear as you can imagine, but if you don’t have the knowledge on how to survive without it, you may as well not even bring it. Gear breaks and gear fails, tents leak, and knives break so you should never learn to rely on them but rather let them assist you. I like to use the phrase, “Please Remember What’s First” whenever I adventure into the unknown. If you take the first letter of each of those words you can remember what to do and what order it should be done in. Please, P, stands for protection. Always protect yourself from any dangers first. Stay away from old trees or widow makers as we call them, understand any predators that may be in your area or other threats. Remember, R, stands for rescue. Try to set up for rescue using anything brightly colored. Display whatever you can to let anyone know you are in trouble. Make an S.O.S. sign out of whatever you can and make it visible from far away. What’s, W, stands for water. Water is the main concern at this point. Search high and low, look for river beds or washes. Look for areas that may be greener than others and hope you find some water. First, F, stands for fire. Like I said earlier, fire can make your mental state improve enough to get you out of the situation you are in. Many times we give up not because of our bodies or the area we are in, but simply because we don’t think we can survive. Fire is a huge confidence booster and can make or break your situation. This how to build a wattle and daub shelter video falls into the “protection” category. Shelter will keep you from suffering from hyphen Mothermia and protect you from any predators afoot. This shelter is a bit much for an overnight stay but who is to say when you will be rescued or find your way out? Knowledge is key and I’m a little more confident with my survival skills. Push yourself and go out and adventure, just make sure to take on what you’re comfortable with and the rewards will stay with you for the rest of your life!