How to Build a Bivouac

Posted on Posted in Bushcraft & Survival

With summer having officially come to an end, the weather will quickly become colder and wetter. This means that for outdoor survival, the ability to prepare shelter from the elements becomes increasingly important. One of the most important methods of shelter is a bivouac, defined as a simple camp that does not use tents or covers. In this article, we go through the essential steps to creating a bivouac.

What you need

Before beginning to build your bivouac, you will need to prepare the following:

  • A wood cutting tool. Ideally a saw, although an axe would work as well.
  • Twine, rope or cord
  • A supply of branches. (Try to use fallen branches where possible unless it really is a survival situation)
  • A suitable location (more about that later).
  • A sturdy tree to support one end.

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Where to locate your bivouac

The most important role of the bivouac is to provide shelter from the elements, particularly wind and rain. With this in mind, it is best to choose a location that offers the greatest amount of cover. Be sure to observe which direction the wind is coming from and set up the shelter to face in the opposite direction. Also avoid ground that is likely to become a water channel or pits where water can collect.

Building the bivouac

Obtain 3 Y-shaped branches, ideally around 10cm thick and at least 2.5m long below the the fork. The fork itself should be around 30cm long. These will support your main roof strut.

Prepare a long, straight branch of around 10cm thickness to serve as the roof strut. Ideally, this wants to be a little longer than you are in height.

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Using the tree as one of the supports, create an A-frame and support the horizontal pole in the forks of the branches

Using your rope or cord, tie the end branches and strut (away from the tree) tightly to secure them in place.

Using the smaller branches that you have collected, begin to build a protective layer by leaning them against the main roof pole. Pack them as tightly together as possible and choose leafy branches wherever possible for maximum protection.

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To increase protection, begin piling leafy branches and smaller twigs at the base of the roof and work upwards.

Test your shelter – before sliding under your shelter to get some shut-eye, make sure it is firm enough to stay up and won’t collapse on top of you in the night!

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It might sound simple, but there is a fine art to building a strong and effective bivouac. Want to learn how from the experts? Why not sign up to one of our popular bushcraft and survival courses to learn all the essential outdoor survival techniques you need. Click here to find out more.


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