Building a den with your family can be such a rewarding experience… gathering logs, designing the structure, assigning roles and most of all, having fun. But before it possibly descends into a pile of branches on the floor and frustrated family members, our friends at the Wild Kids Company have some tips you’ll need to make your adventure a breeze.
Location is key
The first building block of an enjoyable camping experience is finding the right spot. Make sure that your site is fairly sheltered from the wind and rain, so check the wind direction by throwing some leaves in the air and seeing where they fall. Avoiding the high ground is a good way to ensure that the wind won’t put a dampener on your plans and you'll be much warmer in your den.
It’s worth sparing a thought for what’s directly next to your site; it might be tempting to set up beside a pond or lake, however still water attracts a lot of biting insects and nobody wants to invite them into your den!
Check the ground
Another good reason to avoid setting up too close to water is that the surrounding ground can be damp (and therefore cold!). Damp ground can be a warning sign that the area is prone to flooding, and you don't want soggy feet while playing in your den! You should look for somewhere slightly raised but still flat enough to walk /sit on.
It sound obvious, but check for on the ground is whether there are any nests or burrows nearby… It goes without saying that you and your family should be the only ones inside your den.
Next you should check overhead to make sure there is nothing else has made it’s home directly above you, be it a bird, bees or worse; wasps! A set on binoculars can be handy for this. The most important thing however is to look out for overhanging deadwood - dead branches that could easily fall and hurt someone, especially if it is windy. Be sure that any branches nearby are alive and sturdy.
Check the surrounding area
Lastly you’ll want to check what resources are available near your den, especially if you'll be spending lots of the day there. Having trees nearby is great for if you’re planning to build a campfire as walking back and forth to fetch fuel can be hard work!
Building your den
Once you've decided on your safe location for your den, you can start to build it! The easiest way is to find a tree with a fork in it's lower branches and start adding long straight logs/branches from the tree fork to the floor, fanning them out to create the main structure of your den. Next, use smaller branches to fill in gaps and criss-cross bendy sticks horizontally to make your walls. Remember to leave a doorway and a window space if you want to see out!
For the ultimate camouflaged den, cover it with grass, ferns and other natural materials (it will also make it warmer!) and scatter dried leaves on the floor for your carpet!
If you want more of a challenge, or something to build on each day of your farm stay, you could upgrade your original den!
Level up your shelter game by adding a second wall. This will give you better protection from the elements and make it more snug. Make sure it’s secure and sturdy and remember to leave a door!
It’s not very comfortable sitting on the ground and you’ll lose a lot of heat. Consider making yourself a comfortable floor by layering soft branches, bracken and then top with dry grass.
Keep yourself warm by combining a lean-to shelter with a heat source. Lay a long-log fire next to the open side of the shelter, build a simple heat reflector out of stacked logs and carefully enjoy the glow. Make sure you do this with the supervision of an adult who knows the risks and controls needed when building campfires.
Building a den is a fun activity for the whole family, from toddlers building mini dens for their teddies to teenagers creating a hideout for their own adventures. And if the weather isn't great, you can shelter inside the den or re-create a den at home with chairs and blankets - bringing your farm stay home with you too!
Most of all, enjoy your outdoor adventure in the woods and spending quality time together as a family!
Wild Kids Company create adventure kits that are an ideal gift to inspire and equip budding nature explorers of all ages to embrace the great outdoors. Discover more here: https://wildkidscompany.com/