How to Build a Rustic Trellis Out of Branches

You can create a simple rustic trellis just by using everyday branches. You can use this structure for shelter, for supporting vine plants, or for cooking over a fire or smoking meat the old-fashioned way. It really helps to have some string or a vine plant that can be used like string, but the most important thing you will need are branches.


  1. 1
    Get three or four of the largest branches you want to use. These will be the "backbone" of your tripod (three legged) or tripod (four-legged) structure. Large boughs can create a structure suitable for sleeping in, while a few smaller branches stripped of leaves creates a simple cooking or smoking apparatus around a small fire.
  2. 2
    Get some twine or vines. It helps to have these materials so that you can just tie the branches together at the top and have a stable structure. If you don't have twine or vines, then you can fit the branches together as their natural nooks and hooks allow. If you have a knife, you can carve out little notches in the branches and take off a branch or twig here and there to make them fit together solidly. This is the structure, so be sure it's as sturdy as you need it to be.
    • If you want shelter from an anti-cyclone or a pack of wild dogs, then you better have some twine or vines and super heavy branches. You can also use rocks to reinforce the bottoms of the branches, or dig little holes to put them in, as the terrain allows. Consider your own survival needs but try not to make too much of a mess, especially if you are ninja camping or on pristine land.
  3. 3
    Outfit your rustic structure for its purpose. For a cooking, smoking, or just a warm place to dry yourself, you want some wind cover with rocks to focus the heat. Eliminate stray flammable branches and keep the fire contained in a pit. There's a saying that goes something like, "Young man makes a big fire and is cold, old man makes a small fire and is warm." The old man knows how to focus the heat.
  4. 4
    To create a support structure for plants, be sure to help guide the little tendrils to the structural parts of the trellis. It can help to bury human waste directly in the center of the structure; bury it about 2 feet (0.6 m) deep. By the time the plants' roots get down there, the humanure will be ready for the plant to make use of safely. Some of the best fruits come from plants grown on (properly composted) animal waste. All that gross stuff we hate, plants love!
  5. 5
    To make a shelter, you will need to pile on smaller and smaller branches, and then pile on leaves. It is possible to put enough leaves to have an almost waterproof structure that can absorb several inches of rain before the inside will get wet. There may be some bugs along with those leaves. In general, the fast bugs are your friends; they are fast to kill and eat the slow bugs, while the slow bugs will be eating your food, or you. This is just a rule of thumb.
    • The mosquito hawks and spiders with big long legs and small bodies, dragonflies, ladybugs, and fast centipedes may seem strange to have around, but they will be your friends (in general). The mosquitoes, flies, slow moving millipedes and centipedes, those you want to keep out.
    • You can use lemon oil, crushed pine leaves, coriander seed oil, or the industrial strength DEET of course, if the bugs get to be a bother.
  6. 6
    Leave a door in your shelter structure. You don't want to be ruining your carefully crafted leaf walls when you need to get in or out of the structure. Sing songs loudly if you expect a rescue, or just meditate if you're there for peace. Don't have a fire in a leaf house unless you are very experienced. Enjoy the wilderness!


  • Be careful of fire!
  • Don't expect to be able to start a fire with sticks your first time, it's really tough until you get the knack.
  • Build your structure near water if possible! Cooking, plants, and living all need water, and the closer the better.

Sources and Citations

  • Tom Brown books such as "The Tracker"and some VERY LIMITED personal experience

Article Info

Categories: Crafts | Woodworking