Wiki-Up Debris Shelter 4

A wiki-up is a type of shelter used by nomadic Native Americans in the southwestern United States.  Essentially it’s a conical frame covered with mating or brush.  I’ve been thinking about building a wiki-up shelter for a while now and back in November finally got around to it.  We were running a 5 Day Bushcraft Course, had some willing helpers and set to work.

We cut down 3 green sweet chestnut stems for the main tripod and then de-barked them.  I chose sweet chestnut due to it’s resilience against rot.


To make the tripod we used a simple figure of 8 lashing.  You can see in the photo below that we’ve cheated a bit here and used a modern rope and not natural cordage.

wiki-upWe oriented the tripod so that 2 legs (in between which we would leave a doorway) were running southwest to northeast, parallel to the dominant wind.  This is because I want the wind to blow across the entrance to the wiki-up shelter.


Once the tripod was positioned, we knocked in pegs to keep the structure from splaying out.

wiki-upThe next step was to collect poles to make up the sides; we’ve used green ash poles as we have an abundance of ash that are too close together and need thinning out.  Ash is also a strong yet flexible wood.


From there we collected pile upon pile of hazel stems and wove them horizontally around the ash poles.  We used hazel because it coppices well and produces long, straight, flexible stems.


Then we started to weave yet more hazel stems, but this time diagonally.  wiki-upThe next stage was to start adding some thatching; we’ve used ferns to provide a solid layer.  Longer term I want to cover the whole structure in leaf litter, leaving a gap at the top to let smoke out.  The shelter will comfortably sleep 3 people with a fire in the middle.


Effort taken to get to this stage is about 5 hours work for 7 people, so 35 hours total.  It’s a significant investment in time, but it is an incredibly robust structure and has already survived some prolonged high winds with no ill-effect.


I added some leaf litter recently, but it will need some more yet.  This was 2 hours work for 3 people, so another 6 hours of effort.

Wiki-up debris shelter

About Gary

Lead Instructor at Jack Raven Bushcraft, teaching bushcraft, wilderness and survival skills to groups and individuals.

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