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paul wheaton
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A little over a year ago I gave a presentation in missoula about wofati.  A woman came up to me afterward and told me about how she lived for years in a debris hut.  I never thought of a debris hut being used for more than a couple of days.  She told me how it was quite big, and how she had added a lot of layers to it.  She had a little wood stove inside. 

We were rushing to get out of the library, so I couldn't talk more. I asked her if she could post pictures and the information here.  But a quick search showed no threads with "debris hut". 

For those that don't know, this is big bunch of forest debris piled in a tent or tipi shape so that you can get inside.  Stack your big sticks into the rough shape, add some smaller sticks, then leaves and twigs, then bigger sticks to hold down the small stuff, then ... lotsa layers.  You end up with an insulated tent without having to bring a tent. 

I have zero pictures of a debris hut.  I'm hoping that by starting this thread we will get lots of stories and pictures.



 
Burra Maluca
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Google Is Your Friend!



[url=http://www.rstonesifer.com/kris/html_pages/art_mom_reflections.htm]http://www.rstonesifer.com/kris/html_pages/art_mom_reflections.htm




http://www.rogueturtle.com/articles/nashelter.php




http://www.acwolf.com/photobooks/wilderness-survival/shelter/
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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I can see making a more-or-less permanent debris hut.  It would have to be bigger than the usual camping/survival one.  Put plastic over the outside of it and cover with earth; lime plaster on the inside.  You'd need a tiny stove or firepit inside, and a door.

Kathleen
 
Brice Moss
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I've made similar structures for winter camping, usually started with a fallen tree that was still well above ground and piled against it, snow is great for sticking things together and filling chinks so the wind stays out
 
            
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Here's a photo of me in a small debris hut while I was building it


 
Ken Peavey
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I would expect that if the debris were pile deep enough, the hut would generate its own heat as a result of composting.  There is a thread about using a compost heap to produce hot water, with several months of effective use.  I can see one of these being downright toasty, even without an internal fire. 

This is a fine method of offering shelter for livestock in the cold season.  Maybe not for cows and horses, but the poultry would flock to it. 

Found this on Youtube: Survival Shelter - Debris Hut Part One by Maine Primitive Skills School instructor Mike Douglas
.

 
paul wheaton
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I heard of a bunch of punks who were doing some advanced gardening and eco stuff. They were called rhizome .. collective? syndicate? I don't know if you ever heard of them or if I got the name right.

But they got evicted from their property for living in uninspected buildings! I have heard horror stories about social services taking away peoples kids because they didn't have conventional heat in their homes.

When do authorities say its not okay for you to live full time in a debris house? Besides downpresser man, I have no problem living in a shanty or tipi indefinitely.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Here's an article about Rhizome:  http://austinist.com/2009/03/18/rhizome_forced_to_close_non-profits.php

I think it's likely they got in trouble partly by being public in their activities, running a non-profit and trying to help homeless people.  This falls into the category of "flouncing" in my opinion  that is, doing something weird in a way which gets you noticed.  Some private rural landowner living in a debris hut is almost certainly never going to be apprehended, in my opinion, as long as he pays his property tax.

If you have kids that puts in you in a whole different category of flouncing - you're expected to raise them according to society's standards, for good or ill. 
 
Lee Morgan
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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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A debris shelter is an excellent survival shelter that requires no tools to build. You could make an advanced one, but the basic model fits one person (there are two man debris shelter designs) without a fire, and is heated by your own warmth, much like how a mouse makes a nest.

A debris is highly flammable because of the materials used so keep your fire away from it.

The actual design is pretty sophisticated. It relies on building a triangular ridge pole, the size of your body plus 2 feet (if I was 6' then it would be 8') on an angle with the top of the ridge pole at bellybutton height. The ridge pole is either anchored against a tree or better yet with two y-sticks to hold it up. you lay underneath the ridge pole and trace out a line around your body one hand width bigger all the way around.

Vertical struts (ribbing) are lain out along the ridge pole leaning against it following the line you traced out on the ground. The vertical struts cannot be that much taller than the ridge pole otherwise water will drip into the shelter along the struts. The spacing on the struts are either tighter (in colder weather) or more open (warmer weather).

On top of the struts is lain twigs and boughs, anything to hold the following debris layer from falling into the shelter when you are done.

On top of the lattice like branches is lain leaves, twigs, pine needles, anything off the ground is dumped onto the shelter (except soil). This creates the insulation. The insulation layer is packed on from 3-5 feet deep. That is a correct amount of debris. It has to be deep to work. At 5ft. deep, it will keep you alive at minus 50 degrees celsius. The debris is dumped from the bottom up and smoothed over to create a roundish shape.

What you are left with is a half cone shaped structure that you can slip into. Any dry debris that you can collect can be stuffed lightly into the shelter as you go along for bedding.

This is where other plans fall short. They don't show the following steps:


After build the triangle, you need to build an entrance. Think of an igloo. You need to build an entrance way, a smaller opening to keep the heat in. You put two more shorter y-sticks in the ground and place horizontal beams through them and into the debris. They just sit there from the volume of the debris alone. Then you make a horizontal beam across the front and check to make sure that you can SQUEEZE into that area. You build another section of ribbing that runs both horizontally (the roof) and vertically (the walls) of the doorway. Next you make another lattice of sticks and then pile debris on top of that. The debris should smooth out until you have an overall dome shape to the whole structure.

For the doorway, you can use anything but leaves is what was taught to me in a survival situation.

You can try out your shelter, but it is really only used when you are going to bed. You do not work in this shelter. It is designed to be like a cocoon. When you go in, you don't come out until morning.

When you are ready for bed, you climb into the shelter which should be full of leaves and dry debris. You wiggle in, and push some of the leaves into the doorway like a plug. You could also use a back pack or anything else at hand like a woven grass mat. Try to go to the washroom before you get into this structure. The leaf flooring will compact so you may want to add more than you expect. You could also use coniferous boughs for a matting. in the summer you may not want the "vestibule"

I have a pic of the entrance of a debris shelter on my website that I shot while at the Tracker School. Thanks.

Debris Shelter:
http://www.traditional-skills.com/Images/TrackerSchoolDebrisHut.jpg

My Website:
www.traditional-skills.com
 
Lee Morgan
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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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Actually, my pic shows a triangular vestibule. It is your call. Both would work.
 
paul wheaton
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paul wheaton
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About three years ago I gave my wofati presentation and a pretty gal came up to me afterward and said that she spent more than a year living in a debris hut. She said it was extra huge and she had mounted some windows in it. My first thought is disbelief. So she went into great detail about how she made the debris hut extra, extra huge.

It sounded a bit "My Side of the Mountain" -esque. So very cool. I asked her to post pics and info on permies, but I don't think she ever did.

I don't see myself doing it, but I wonder if there might be somebody else that might want to give it a try. I would think that a group of us could cobble together the beginnings of something pretty basic in a few hours. And then the person living in it could then add more debris to it as time passed.

It seems like the key would be to start off with some window frames - with glass - that would be about two feet thick. Maybe a door? This could be built in a thick patch of woods. And then some tall trees could help to shape the frame.

Just throwing the idea out there.
 
paul wheaton
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Jeffrey Hodgins
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I once built a debris hut with moss and log shells (as a log rots the inside rots first leaving a 3-4 inch thick curved board like thing). I used stones to construct the first 1 foot then I assembled 2 dome shaped ends and laid the long curved boards on top. then I covered it all with moss until the rain stopped dripping in (it was raining at the time). It was about 6 feet by 8 feet and 3 feet high it took about 2 or three hours and was a nice cozy bed-roomish-thingy. no tools no $ materials. If I had to do it again I would put the fire at my feet instead of at my head. I ended up burning my eye-lid while playing with a wet wood last match survival fire.
 
kadence blevins
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i've been thinking of similar ideas! ((cue me hopping around waving my hand in the air yelling "MEEE! ME ME ME!! PICK MEEEE!")) hahaha

my idea kind of combines things from many things. such as wofati, native american buildings, earthship,...

some really nice ones i liked:

pic from anasazi ruins http://earthbagbuilding.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/anasazi_ruins_mesa_verde_national_park_colorado.jpg


"pit house"
http://earthbagbuilding.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/pit-house.jpg


pit house diagram
http://www.drewkennickell.com/images/pithouse.jpg


shows how beds are along the outside in pit house
http://www.transitionsabroad.com/listings/travel/senior/articles/images/pithouse-interior-bedroll-british-columbia.jpg


diagram of a hogan
http://www.wholewoods.co.uk/objects/ww/hogan.gif

wigwam house "skeleton"
http://www.potawatomiheritage.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/311-attach-1.jpg

oh gosh i'm going to be up all night drawing "primitive" houses now! i'm sure these would be great if you mixed the ideas together and added in modern ideas like rocket mass heaters and things!
 
kadence blevins
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video of a pit house (the "door" on this one is crazy huge though)


video of a reconstructed anglo-saxon house. could be integrated with other ideas (and made bigger! lol) for a nice house


 
Tom OHern
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A wigwam or wickiup
is a slightly more sophisticated debris hut but built using the same ideas. Cody Lundin (of Dual Survivor fame) lived in a wickiup during his college days because he was broke. A sibngle person can build on in an day or a pair of people can do it in an afternoon.
 
Miles Flansburg
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I have been slowly clearing out a lot of standing dead aspen on my land. I would like to use most of it for fence post and building . So I have been "stacking" it in a tipi shape to keep it off of the ground until I use it. I tied the first three poles together just like raising a tipi. Then just started piling on logs all the way around. I would think that someone could make a pretty large dwelling with this technique?

lindas-july-pics-066.JPG
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lindas-july-pics-067.JPG
[Thumbnail for lindas-july-pics-067.JPG]
 
R Scott
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What would happen if you built it so the debris was composting? would it self-heat, get too hot, or stink a person out?
 
kadence blevins
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R Scott wrote:What would happen if you built it so the debris was composting? would it self-heat, get too hot, or stink a person out?


i'm not sure about that.... i dont think there would be a way to make it so that it heated/helped heat the home... i mean nothing that i am thinking up would work.
 
Joe Skeletor
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There was a project about 15 years ago in chicago with the Resource Center where a guy buried an old van or station wagon in a huge pile of compost over the winter to live in. There's an article (don't know if it ever made it on the internet) about it in a zine of the time. From what I remember, it actually got too hot to live comfortably in. I would imagine you would need some really good ventilation system in place. It would be interesting if somebody tried this kind of thing again!
 
kadence blevins
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Joe Skeletor wrote:There was a project about 15 years ago in chicago with the Resource Center where a guy buried an old van or station wagon in a huge pile of compost over the winter to live in. There's an article (don't know if it ever made it on the internet) about it in a zine of the time. From what I remember, it actually got too hot to live comfortably in. I would imagine you would need some really good ventilation system in place. It would be interesting if somebody tried this kind of thing again!


hm... thats quite interesting! i had not thought of a van. would definitely be a tiny house kind of living situation. but could be workable for some people if you figured out the ventilation.
 
kadence blevins
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i'm quite in love with this : http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/e6/Sod_House_at_Ukrainian_Cultural_Heritage_Village_Alberta.jpg

it looks a lot like the Anglo-Saxon house from the video I posted earlier on this thread except its like adobe on the front wall and the rest is sod/greenroof <3
 
kadence blevins
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pretty neat and simple house. tule house. I was thinkin cattail would probably be pretty good to use for this as well since we don't have tule here. not sure what other kind of materials would work like that other then cattail mats or grass mats.

http://www.primitiveways.com/Tule%20house7.html


plenty of pics. in several parts with links to next part at bottom of each page.
 
Jessica Gorton
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The way I learned about debris huts, you stuff them full of leaves and debris and crawl into the mess, like a giant sleeping bag made of debris. You heat it with your body heat, so you need the insulation right up against you. What you're describing sounds more like a wikiup or similar native dwelling of such tribes as the Abenaki and others that lived in the boreal latitudes. In such a dwelling you could have a fire pit, while in a debris hut, at least as I learned how to make it, there's no fire, just lots of stuffing.
 
kadence blevins
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Jessica Gorton wrote:The way I learned about debris huts, you stuff them full of leaves and debris and crawl into the mess, like a giant sleeping bag made of debris. You heat it with your body heat, so you need the insulation right up against you. What you're describing sounds more like a wikiup or similar native dwelling of such tribes as the Abenaki and others that lived in the boreal latitudes. In such a dwelling you could have a fire pit, while in a debris hut, at least as I learned how to make it, there's no fire, just lots of stuffing.


true. technical "debris shelters" are just one night or few night emergency shelters. and a far far cry from a house or a home. and as most people I know of classify the native/primitive/simple housing plus paul said about having someone living in one for a year and writing all about it that it would need to be a real building rather then a few night shelter. and as paul posted the picture of the house (first post after OP) which I am pretty sure is a picture of the same building I read an article on ages ago that a couple built and lived in with their young son and daughter for a year and was complete with wood floor, beds, and small woodstove. so I suppose I automatically widened the field of "debris hut" without thinkin about doing it.
 
Jessica Gorton
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Oh, and I was commenting on this discussion as a whole, which seems to have widened the definition of "debris hut" from the beginning, not your post in particular, kadence. Just wanting to make sure my own definition wasn't too limited, really. And also, to give due credit to the tribes who have built and lived in wikiup shelters, and made them quite cozy too! When I was learning wilderness skills, I lived in a similar style shelter, and was amazed at how lovely (and warm!) it was.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Just saw these Swedish cabins that reminded me of the debris hut idea:



photo credit: http://www.wildsweden.com/about/kolarbyn-photos/
article about it: http://www.wilderutopia.com/landscape/ecotourism/wild-eco-lodge-swedens-primitive-kolarbyn/
 
Ginger Keenan
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Does anyone have some good pictures of a debris hut? Especially huts that can shelter two grownups and their 3 young children. Image you had a car break down in a remote area and you did not have a tent. Let's pretend that staying in the car overnight was not an option. What would the debris hut look like? How you you go about setting it up?
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Ginger, et al,

First...here
...are some pictures (if you haven't done a search already.)

I have built countless numbers of these in many forms and traditions...as well as taught others how to do it, so I will share what I am able as this is a very "hands on" thing to teach and difficult as just an "instructable." First, they are meant (in most cases) just for one, and to trap body heat in. If you build for more than one...they still are just meant for sleeping and stay warm in a transient situation...as you described. You can build larger forms, yet these will often require more time/effort and a fire to heat to a comfortable level.

Hope that helps, and let me know if I can answer more.

Regards,

j
 
D. Logan
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I almost never build a debris hut bigger than a two person shelter. The reason of course is that most of the time if I am building them I am doing so to retain heat and having large open spaces allow for too much air flow. Several smaller shelters turned towards one another with a carefully worked and small fire in the center to get the most heat for the least amount of wood into all of the shelters. The only time I made a very large debris shelter was when I needed four people sheltered in a very short period of time. Even with all four gathering leaves and working on it, it took forever since the overall interior space was much more than if we had done several small shelters. Lesson learned there.

Anyway, I have some some pictures of a one to two man debris shelter I made while on a survival trip with my old scout troop. It was thrown together in an hour or two to get to this stage and later a bit more time to be filled with dry leaves. It took about twice as long as I would have liked to make it, but it was late in the season and the area had most of the debris in a state of decomposition. Much of the wood was dry-rotting and the leaves were damp and half-rotted in a lot of spots. Even so, this thing got really toasty at night. I will try to add the pictures in another comment since it is saying this is too long.

Remember, the point of a debris shelter is generally for speed and warmth (squirrel nesting style), where other forms of shelter are better suited for large groups or longer periods of time. Large amounts of debris, but a small internal space.
 
D. Logan
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Trying to add pictures.
DebrisHut.jpg
[Thumbnail for DebrisHut.jpg]
A rear view of the shelter. Don't ask about that other shelter in the background. Long story.
DebrisHut2.jpg
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The front of the shelter. It looks small, but fit me at 6'1".
DebrisHut4.jpg
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Inside before the addition of soft debris for insulation. Wide enough for two closely sleeping. 2.5 foot ceiling.
 
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