Posted on Leave a comment

How to build an elevated, raised Bog Ken shelter in the wilderness

Overview of a elevated wilderness shelter

For many reasons it is sometimes necessary or advisable to build one’s survival shelter raised off the ground. Especially is this true in the more tropical countries where noxious snakes and insects abound. A simple form of raised shelter is shown above. To build this shelter we must first erect an elevated platform. This is made by setting four forked sticks of equal height in the ground and any height from the ground to suit the ideas of the camp builder. If, for some reason, the uprights are “wobbly” the frame may be stiffened by lashing diagonal cross sticks to the frame. After you have erected the four uprights, lay two poles through the crotches, and make a platform by placing other poles across these, after which a covering roof may be made. The image below shows the framework for a roof covering with the uprights for the roof lashed to the side bars that support the raised platform.

The Bog Ken raised/elevated wilderness shelter

The bog ken raised survival shelter is a type of shelter built on stilts where the ground is marshy, damp, and unfit to sleep upon. As you will see by the diagram, the house is built upon a platform similar to the one pictured above except that the shelter itself is formed by a series of arches.  The uprights on the two sides have their ends bent over and lashed together, forming arches for the roof. Over the arches are lashed horizontal poles.

The picture below shows one way to prevent “varmints” of any kind from scaling the supporting poles and creeping into your survival shelter.  The protection consists of a tin pan with a hole in the bottom slid over the supporting poles.

Fig. 66 shows how to lash the thatching on to the poles and Fig. 68 shows how to spring the sticks in place for a railing around your front porch or balcony.

The floor to this raised shelter is a little more elaborate than that of the last described camp because the poles have all been halved before laying them for the floor. These are supposed to be afterwards covered with browse, hay, or rushes and the roof shingled with bark or thatched.


To prepare thatching for the roof and/or walls, first soak your straw or hay well in water and smooth it out flat and regular. The steeper the roofs the longer the thatch will last. In this bog ken our roof happens to be a rounded one, an arched roof; but it is sheltering a temporary house and the thatch will last as long as the shelter itself.  If possible, use only straw which is fully ripe and has been thrashed clean.  The straw must be clear of all seed or grain and kept straight, not mussed up, crumpled, and broken.  If any grain is left in the straw it will attract field-mice, birds, domestic mice and rats, domestic turkeys and chickens, and these creatures in burrowing and scratching for food will play havoc with the roof of your shelter.

A "Bog Ken" elevated wilderness shelter

It is not necessary to have straight and even rafters, because the humps, bumps, and hollows caused by crooked sticks are concealed by the mattress of straw. Take a bundle of thatch in your hands, squeeze it together, and place it so that the butt ends project about three inches beyond the floor (Fig. 66); tie the thatch closely to the lower rafter and the one next above it, using for the purpose twine, marlin, raffia, or well-twisted white hickory bark. This first row should be thus tied near both ends to prevent the wind from getting under it and lifting it up. Next put on another row of wisps of thatch over the first so that the butt ends come even with the first layer of thatching material, but tie this one to the third row of rafters not shown in diagram. The butts of the third row of thatch (Fig. 66) should be about nine inches up on the front rows; put this on as before, until the roof is completed. The thatch should be ten or twelve inches thick for a permanent hut but need not be so for a temporary shed.

As there is no comb to this roof the top must be protected where the thatches from each side join, and to do this fasten a thatch over the top and bind it on both sides but not in the middle, so that it covers the meeting of the thatches on both sides of the shack; this top piece should be stitched or bound on with wire if you have it, or fastened with willow withe or even wisps of straw. A well-built, more permanent structure, twenty by thirty feet, may require up to four days’ work for two persons. A well-thatched roof will last as long as a modern shingle roof – up to fifteen or twenty years.

Snow-shoe foundation for bog ken

Alternative foundation

A real bog ken is one that is built over boggy or marshy places too soft to support an ordinary structure. To overcome this difficulty, you may build a bog ken by first making a thick mattress of twigs and sticks as shown by Fig. 70. This mattress acts on the principle of a snow-shoe and prevents your house from sinking by distributing the weight equally over a wide surface. The mattress should be carefully made of sticks having their branches trimmed off sufficiently to allow them to lie in regular courses as in the diagram. The first course should be laid one way and the next course at right angles to the first, and so on, until the mattress is sufficiently thick for the purpose.

Standing on the mattress, it will be an easy matter with your hands to force the sharpened ends of your upright posts A, B, C, and D down into the yielding mud, but be careful not to push them too far because in some of these marshes the mud is practically bottomless. It is only necessary for the supports to sink in the mud far enough to make them stand upright.

The next step is to lay, at right angles to the top layer of brush, a series of rods or poles between your uprights as shown in Fig. 70 (see above); then take two more poles, place them at right angles to the last ones, and press them down until they fit snugly on top of the other poles, and there lash them fast to the uprights as shown in Fig. 70, after which to further bind them you may nail a diagonal from A to D and B to C, but this may not be necessary.

Framework of simple bog ken

When you have proceeded thus far you may erect a framework like that shown in Fig. 71, and build a platform by flooring the crosspieces or horizontal bars with halves of small logs, Fig. 71.

It is now a simple matter to erect an elevated survival shelter which may be roofed with bark as in Fig. 72 or thatched as in Fig. 74. Fig. 72 shows the unfinished shack in order that its construction may be easily seen; this one is being roofed with birch bark. A fireplace may be made by enclosing a bed of mud (Fig. 73) between or inside of the square formed by four logs. On this clay or mud you can build your camp-fire or cooking fire or mosquito smudge with little or no danger of setting fire to your shelter.

A completed "Bog Ken" elevated wilderness shelter

The mosquito smudge will not be found necessary if there is any breeze blowing at all, because these insects cling to the salt hay or bog-grass and do not rise above it except in close, muggy weather where no breeze disturbs them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *