How to Build a Roof for an Outdoor Shelter

Learn how to build a roof for an outdoor shelter from NYC Outward Bound instructor Marko Yurachek in this wilderness survival skills Howcast video.


Now that we've built a basic roof frame, what we're going to do is sort of add shingles and insulation. What I found was a dead oak, an oak tree that fell over. Perfect for what we need, in that we don't have to rake up everything to begin with because there's a lot of leaves already on the tree, and there's a lot of branches on the tree. Everything on it is dry. It's not only great for building our roof material, but the leftover sticks are going to be good for firewood.

So, I'm going to slowly start building the branches on top of the structure until we get them completely covering it and then I'm going to add leaves to the top. And when I'm putting these on, the way I'm putting them on is the broken end up and right now, we're putting on the last layers. I worked from the bottom up, sort of like shingles. So the first piece goes on here, the next piece goes on, the next piece goes one, and the next piece goes on. Just like you put shingles on a roof and we're all the way up to the top of the roof now. And it's covering our shelter, the part that we're going to sleep in. But it's not covering the part that's going to be home to the fire.

So we want to pull the leaves back away from where they might catch on fire. The fire won't be going that high, we'll keep a nice low fire. But we don't want to take any chances so, adjust the leaves away from the fire, have them covering every part that we'll be sleeping in. What I'm looking to see when I come underneath is that every space is covered, there's no gaps and no holes, whether you're building debris hut or a lean-to like this, once you have that structure in place then you're going to add the insulation on top of it. So the insulation's going to be the fluffy part. And this is pretty fluffy because we've got a lot of leaves. We're going to collect more leaves from the ground, put them on top, and then we're going to put a nice thick mattress of leaves and grass underneath that'll keep us warm.

We're going to be heating this shelter with a fire. So that being the case, I'm okay going with a thin layer of leaves and if you look at this it's about a foot and a half, maybe in some places, two feet thick. In my opinion that's thin, it's not a lot of insulation. I like to have probably about this much insulation if it's just leaves or more. So maybe about three feet plus, a meter of insulation. Because we are going to have a heat source, we're not going to put as much insulation on, we've got a pretty nice clear, it's probably going to be a cool night, maybe 40 degrees. So this is going to keep us dry from any dew that's falling, it'll keep the heat kind of balancing back towards us, and if it rains it'll keep us dry in the rain. And that's how you build the roof of your shelter.

Popular Categories