We all dream of having a little spot in the woods to call our own. You might see people at a bushcraft camp on YouTube or in a magazine. Creating your own DIY bushcraft camp is well within your reach. If you have the right tools and skills it can be very easy. Some survival gear won’t hurt, either!
Your bushcraft camp can be as big or as small as you like. You can create a full-blown A-frame structure with beds inside or you can just make a simple lean-to. Either way, you are gonna have a ton of fun at your new home base.
Sure, it would be nice to have this camp on a few dozen acres of land, but it can also be right in your backyard!
Ideally, you are looking to create a place where you can go to practice your craft on a regular basis. You might even be interested in taking others.
Planning the DIY Bushcraft Camp
Planning is everything. No matter what you do in life it's always better when you prepare. Remember, you are a builder now. You are building a structure. Even if its something as simple as a lean-to, just a little planning will go a long way.
Not only plan what you are going to build but also what you are going to bring. Consider what types of materials you are going to be processing to make this new structure.
Another important thing to understand is the area in which you will be building this camp. If you are in an oak forest of old-growth, you might not have the right-sized trees to build a large structure. You will need to understand your resources and have the tools to process them.
This will assure that you have all the survival gear and tools you need to make this undertaking a success. There is always room for improvisation and sometimes that can be great but don’t set yourself up for failure by not preparing.
When you figure out what you are building and the materials you need, then its time to consider location. There are some things to consider in any location and its much like picking a camping location.
The first thing to consider is safety. You want to find a location that is on high ground, away from flooding waters. Don’t put all the work in and then watch your camp wash away in the next rainstorm. Of course, this is also about staying dry as you sleep.
Take note of the trees around you. Look up! It’s so important to build your camp around trees that are healthy and alive. You do not want a tree to fall on you or your camp. There are also widowmakers to consider when you look up.
Widowmakers are large branches that have broken off from the tree or are dying on the tree. These can be snagged by branches or just be hanging on the tree, ready to crush you down below.
The terrain you are standing on is another very important part of the deal. You need terrain that can be dug and manipulated but also that drains well.
Essential Survival Gear for Building The DIY Bushcraft Camp
The building of your bushcraft camp is all the fun. It is hard to believe we let other people build our homes because it's so much fun to build forts when you are young, and just as fun to build wilderness shelters.
Before you tether a single pole or even unravel cordage, it is best to gather the hard materials for building your shelter. Through planning, you should have identified which type of shelter you are going to build at the base of your camp.
Cut down all the wood you are going to break down into poles to become walls, the roof, or whatever else you are going to include.
If you collect most of your base materials first, the shelter will build up quickly. It is much better than tying down a ridge pole and then spending the rest of the evening walking around the woods looking for the wood you need.
You can also collect leaves, vines, or other debris as you collect materials. Keep your eye out for short, strong sticks that can become stakes.
There are many things you will need to be able to do and plenty of survival gear you will need to have on hand.
Wood processing will take up most of your time, by a long shot. It's very important that you have the right tools for this. There are many interesting pieces of survival gear out there for processing wood. You will use a shorter woodsman’s axe and folding saw more than you will use anything else in your survival kit.
That is the nature of wood processing. You might even consider adding a larger survival knife for splitting wood, too! Your survival knife could be recruited for this task but it's not the best use for your blade.
You might not think of it but your bushcraft camp is going to require that you have some storage. While you could build storage into the planning of your structure, you might also just opt for using something like a haversack.
A simple haversack will give you a place to store all your tools. You could fashion a hook to hang that haversack or you could use the sling to hang it from a pole. This all depends on preference.
The quality haversack is one of the best pieces of survival gear you can have on hand. It allows you to take smaller amounts of gear on short trips away from camp or you can store things like cut wood in your sack and carry it back to camp.
Whether you are purifying water, cooking dinner or keeping warm, the fire is essential to your bushcraft camp. It would do you well to make the fire ring in your bushcraft camp and area where people can sit and talk.
This is the dining room of the bushcraft camp.
Another massive resource in the process of building a bushcraft camp is cordage. You are going to need plenty of cordage to tie ridge poles and create ridgelines. Whether you decide to carry 550 cord or Bankline, you will need something strong that you can depend on.
While you could create cordage from things like bark and vines, that is going to take a lot of time. If you are creating a large bushcraft camp this could take a lot of bark and vines, too! Keep that in mind.
While it won’t serve the purposes of an axe or saw the survival knife is a very important piece of survival gear for building a DIY bushcraft camp. The survival knife is there for you when all else fails.
The survival knife will also be one of the few tools that you can use for intricate carving tasks around the camp. Say you want to play around with a bow drill fire set, well, good luck trying to carve one with only an axe!
Do you know what makes a good survival knife? Invest in one that will follow you around for life.
Adding Furniture and Details
Once you have the base design of your camp and your main structure up, you can start adding things. Some people will be happy to live in the confines of the A-Frame and the fire pit. Others will want to add more.
Over time, it is likely that you will create several different pieces of furniture and maybe even alternate structures around your camp. If the site you chose has the space, and the resources, it is likely that you are going to improve your situation.
Stools or Stumps
One of the first things to consider adding to camp is somewhere to sit. At many campsites you see people sitting around on big stumps. These are pretty good but hard for the average bushcrafter to replicate. Your folding saw is not going to be large enough to crosscut large trees to create them.
You might investigate fashioning some simple stools from smaller poles that can be tethered together using Bankline.
You can start with a simple square made from four sticks and build crisscrossed legs on each side. They can be tethered together by a supporting pole. Then you just lay sticks across the square base to create a seat.
Simple racks made from to isosceles triangles that cap longer thin poles can create simple and effective shelving for hanging clothes, stacking cookware or whatever else you can think of.
These racks are often semi-permanent and will breakdown over time unless you build them of large diameter hardwood sticks.
The simple tripod is an easy way to increase the quality of mealtime. By tethering three sticks together a few inches from the top you create a place to hang your cook pot.
If you can find or cut three poles that are the same length You can wrap each a few times with the same length of cordage and then wrap up and down between the hashes that bring the poles together. This keeps them all connected but allows you to articulate each one in a different direction.
You might also want to trim the feet of each into a simple point to keep it in place while you cook.
Fence or Porch
If you want to create a fenced-in area for pets or a porch that extends off your camp its pretty simple. Both are true examples of details. You don’t need either one, but this becomes something you look to add later in the project.
A fenced-in area off the main structure can also be great if you have small children. They can have some shoves and safe tools to ‘build’ within that fenced in area and you don’t need to worry about them wondering off into the woods.
The porch lends itself to truly enjoying what you have created. These can be made by trenching some dirt in front of your structure and burying parallel poles ¾ of the way in that dirt. Fill the gaps with more dirt and add your sitting furniture to the mix.
Many bushcraft camps include simple beds that can get a camper up off the ground. Now, to clarify, when we talk about making beds, we are not talking about something that you can just lay out on as is. These are more like bed frames that you can roll a sleeping pad out on.
These are just rectangle structures build a few inches off the ground. Four stakes can be used at the four corners to determine the height and to tether your rectangle perimeter on. From there you are going to find or make the straightest poles you can and lay them side by side lengthwise.
This will be the base of your bed. Here you will roll out your sleeping mat and make your bed. These are nice if it's been wet or if you have a late trip to the camp. You can roll up and make a quick bed without having to hang a hammock.
One of the best additions to camp is hooks. You can make a bunch of hooks that attach to your main structure and the trees around it. Making hooks is very simple and just requires that you find a stick with a nice crook in it. This crook is going to create that hook.
These can then be tethered to the trees in camp or the trees that make up your structure.
Hooks keep your gear up off the ground and can keep essential tools at arm’s length.
Enjoying Your DIY Bushcraft
To sit around the campfire in your own, handmade, bushcraft camp is something very special. Maybe you are sitting amongst the crickets whittling with a Mora knife by your side. Perhaps you are even alone!
While the planning of things like location and building are very important, you should also plan on how you are going to enjoy this thing! What are you going to do there? Are you going to bring the family? Are you going to go it alone?
Maybe this will be an area that you bring your son and his friends to create something that has long been lost through organizations like the boy scouts. All of this is possible if you have a simple bushcraft camp with a fire ring and a place for people to gather and engage.
You could also add things that are particular to certain hobbies. Maybe you are into archery or bowhunting and it might be worth clearing 30-40 yards and setting up a simple stacked hay bail target. Here you can not only hone your craft, but it could be a place to teach others.
Don’t discount what you have created here! This is a place to train, it’s a place to improve and a place to enjoy. Make sure you do a little bit of that each time you visit your DIY bushcraft camp.