How to Make a Teepee With Sticks

Written by arlo munty
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The tepee (or tepee) is an easily transported and constructed shelter that was widely used by early Native Americans. While Native Americans used animal hides for the outer skins of their tepees, modern tepees are available in a wide variety of man-made fibres. But these materials can be costly, so some prefer to build their tepees out of materials found in nature. Tepees may be constructed in this fashion as a means of survival by hikers and hunters who become stranded in the wilderness. Building a tepee is also a low-cost project that adults can use to teach children outdoor skills.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Long, sturdy branches (or saplings)
  • Shorter, pliable branches
  • Pine branches (with needles)
  • Leafy branches
  • Rope or belt
  • Leaves and pine needles

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  1. 1

    Draw the outline of the base of your tepee on the ground with a stick. Keep in mind that you will need more room if you intend to sleep in the structure.

  2. 2

    Find one long, sturdy branch to estimate the frame size of the tepee. Stand in the centre of the circle you drew on the ground. Place one end of the branch on the circle, and hold the other end above your head. If the branch is not long enough for you to comfortably manoeuvre beneath it, find longer branches.

  3. 3

    Form a tripod with three branches, placing one end of each on the circle, and joining the other ends in the middle. Add more branches if desired, keeping in mind that more branches form a sturdier frame. Tie the joined ends together with rope. If you did not bring rope, you can lash the branches together with a belt.

  4. 4

    Lift the lower end of each branch, and dig a 2-inch deep hole to provide a secure footing for the branch. Securing the ends in holes keeps the branches from sliding either outward or to the side, which can cause the entire tepee to collapse.

  5. 5

    Lash shorter, pliable branches through the frame, beginning at the bottom and working to the top. If you have extra rope, lash some of these branches to the frame for lateral strength. Be sure to leave the area between two of the frame uprights open to use as a door.

  6. 6

    Weave both leafy branches and pine-needle-filled branches through the frame and shorter branches, again working bottom to top. Overlap layers as you work up in the same way you would overlap shingles on a house. Make sure you cover the entire structure.

  7. 7

    Use one or several pine branches standing on end to form a sturdy door. Lash the branches together at the top if necessary with either rope or a belt.

  8. 8

    Use leaves and pine needles to form a floor. Be sure to gather dry leaves and needles. Remove any sticks or pine cones.

Tips and warnings

  • Branches with large leaves provide better coverage.
  • Saplings are easier to find in longer, straighter lengths than branches.
  • Do not smoke or light fires in or around the tepee. The entire structure is flammable.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings. A tepee will not keep you safe from wild animals or extreme weather.

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