How to build a wickiup
Before I left on my bike from The Netherlands to Denmark, my sister gave me a survival book, which has inspired me to build a wickiup! I know how much a pleasure a shelter can be if you have nothing more then a tent to sleep in, so I asked my host if I could build a big wickiup on their land for kids, fellow travellers and trampers. One of my dreams is to learn how to design and construct a fully self-sustaining system for housing, and this was a great opportunity to start my learning curve with hands on experience.
Of course, this is maybe one of the most simplistic forms of building a shelter that last longer then a few days, but that fits the purpose of this website. In some ways, this shelter is more advanced then most ‘modern’ houses are. Let me give you some of its strong points;
- Local and natural resources are used to minimize the impact on the environment and, therefore, achieve harmony with nature
- The fresh air is better then any air conditioning can give you.
- You feel and smell like you are in a forest AND sea at the same time!
- Low maintenance and fireproof as long as the sea grass is doing its thing
- Great communal place for storytelling and kids entertainment
- The Christmas tree is always planted 😉
- Seeing stars before you go to sleep?
- It’s free to make!
- The list goes on and on…
Modernity isn’t perse more advanced in terms of environmental integration and harmony. I feel much more healthy sleeping in this shelter then in a normal house built by traditional building materials. I get a better sleep and the fresh air without the annoying artificial lightning pleases my nerves. Being healthy also means putting yourself in a healthy environment. Our biology is greatly influenced by how we interact with our direct environment and our house, the place where we spend most of our time, cannot be underestimated in that regard.
By studying the Viking culture so far, I can come to the following conclusions already. One big difference is that they weren’t alienated from the harsh elements of wild nature like we are now. They knew how to cultivate the challenging environment and managed to explore far stretched lands because of that. The must have had great physiques in order to overcome the harsh elements and go on their expansive raids of plunder and exploration throughout unknown worlds. They might have been a bit harsh, rudeness, greedy and destructive, but also great in stamina, creativity, mythology and culture. In huts like these they must have told vivid sagas to kill the time and inspire the upcoming during cold times. In many ways the Vikings can serve us an inspiration of individual and cultural regeneration. We have lost our inner warrior of assertiveness, discipline and courage and have become passive observers of watching the few achieving great things in life through movies and books.
We live in a cultureless society, where all mystery, magic and myth is ignored and reduced to boring and dusty science books. The only stories we tell around the dinner table is that of the daily gig at work or the breaking news of the day. No vivid words of mystery, poetry, mythology and adventure are shared, no sagas are spread from mouth to mouth, no unknown world is sought and felt. It’s a miserable gathering of spiritless beings, it’s the current human condition in most ‘modern’ societies.
It is, therefore, in my humble attempt to rewire myself through following evolutionary steps in my development. We never learned in school how to build shelter, make fire and be fit and strong to cope the cold. Instead we have learned how to follow the status quo and serve them the best by educating or training us in being of value. This project has nothing to do with this form of education. This project is all about self-reliance, drawing out from within and rebellion. The shelter is an act of all of these things and serves me with cathartic effects. It is a great psychological relief to know that the experiences I have gained throughout the duration of this project will help me in being more strong, healthy, self-reliant and resourceful. It is an affirmation that it is possible to live in accordance with nature, and to use your direct environment with great effect and harmony, despite the current challenges we have now in our capitalistic, alienated and polluted society.
So let me stop talking and show you how to make one 😉
Find yourself an area where there is little to no wind. I did not had much choice in that, but decided to put the entrance without facing the Siberian wind coming to Denmark in the winter. After choosing your location, make sure you dig a deep enough hole so that you have more natural covering from the ice cold wind, and get some heat from below the earth. I choose to put the fire pit in the middle, and cover the floor with stones that came here during the ice age. The idea is that the stones will hold some heat from the fire and keep you a little bit warmer during the night.
To make this shelter endure a long time, I wanted to have a strong frame. We cut some strong trees down and created a 6-pointed frame by digging holes in the corners of the pit. By using contradicting forces, the trees give support to each other, and the extra support bars around will add more to that and create a platform for the isolation phase. For the first layer, we had to overlap the pit with slight horizontal laying branches. This deepens a nice space in the wickiup to give yourself more cover if needed, or to store your gear. The first layer also gets a layer of dirt over it to stop the wind from coming in around head level.
After covering the second layer with more branches from pine trees and regular trees, we covered it with more sand to ensure a safe wind free head level. It is an upside down Christmas tree, so that any water will follow the leaves down into the ground. The sand around the wickiup will be used to soak any water in, and might even be used to gather water and create a channel if desired.
The isolation was definitely 70% of all the work we had to do, but it is definitely worth it, because it keeps most of the rain, snow and wind out (hopefully snow too) We went 7 times to the beach to gather sea grass, which is very well suited for isolation because it is fireproof and keeps the wind out and heat in. Hopefully it will also work for rain and snow, but this is yet to be tested.
After placing all the branches, we filled the holes with more sea grass and sand. Repeat this process until the sand cannot go any higher and you are satisfied with the amount of sea grass you have used!!
4. End result:
The end result may speak for itself. It might not be the most beautiful wickiup you have ever seen, but it sure is functional and nicely camouflaged with the environment. I think it is not bad at all for a first try at building one. Hopefully, this one will last for a good amount of time to give shelter for travellers and entertainment for kids!
Viking hut example;
Near to the farm, there is an area that covers the ancient roads of the Vikings. A lot of trade has been done here, and the ground is rich and filled with archaeological treasures. Currently, it is closed and cannot be used for farming to preserve this rich history of the place. In the pictures below you can see how it must have looked like when the Vikings build their huts. They have replicated one of the excavated findings in the area.
Here a video to give you a tour in my new crib 😉
My thanks goes to everyone who did their part in this project. One thing of hospitality is knowing what the needs are of your guest, and luckily I have stumbled upon people who give me the freedom and resources to explore my own creativity and evolution!
Stay strong and thriving,