#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

10 Points

Build a survival shelter in your backyard! Can you build the biggest, the baddest, the safest or the most swag shelter?

Read the instructions


See also

Mountain Safety Council love bivvies too!



What to do

Your mission is:

Compete with your mates to see who has the biggest, the baddest, the safest or the most swag survival shelter. Whaddaya waiting for?


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If you were living in a real-life Hunger Games or facing up to a snowstorm (and your Mum was out of mobile range), you’d need to build a shelter from scratch.

What would you use?



Have a look around and see what you’ve got nearby. How tall will your bivvy be? (bigger isn’t always better for warmth and stability.)

Do you need a tent pole or is there a natural one in your environment: a washing line, a low tree branch or trunk, or a long stick that’ll do the trick as a frame to build your walls on?

Does the dining room table NEED to be inside when it makes such an awesome ceiling? What will you use for walls?

Make some design decisions and gather your building materials!



If you haven't got a backyard go to your local park or reserve and get bivvy in the bush: fern fronds are great (and as a bonus they come with their own ferny wallpaper pattern).



Time to tie some things together and see if your bivvy stays up. Think about which way the wind is blowing and where the water will run if it rains.

What do you need to keep yourself comfortable, warm and protected from the weather? Make a call based on the conditions (check the forecast!) and then respond!

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Have you considered your bottom … not your bottom but the bottom of the bivvy: a groundsheet can protect you from cold and damp from below-or you can use dry leaves to form a warm layer underneath you. Is there room for a Playstation and where would you plug it in? (OK- ignore that question; remember we’re talking staying alive rather than highest score).

And don't forget to look up to check there aren’t potential hazards in the trees above, such as dead tree branches which could fall in the wind!




Is your bivvy ready to be challenged?

Maybe you could test if it’s waterproof or not by getting a sibling or an adult to sit in the shelter and then throw a bucket a water over it. (Then put a roof on the shelter and repeat the experiment – ha ha, sorry Dad!)



Are you sure your bivvy is up for a visit from the building inspectors? 

Then UPLOAD your best photos to Wild Eyes, open your bivvy's door to the judges and level up!

*Does a bivvy need a door? You're the architect: you decide!

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See if your bivvy holds up by sleeping in it for the night under the stars.

Or, if you don’t have a garden - grab a bunch of animal sounds from the DoC website and pretend you’re in a national park! Make up a creatures of the night quiz and see if you can guess what creature that made that weird sound (“no that wasn’t my stomach …”)


If you can't get outside to do this one: do it inside instead with cushions, sheets and pillows!

What's happening?


A bivvy (short for bivouac) is a survival shelter which can help you survive if you get lost in the wild. You can live for days without water, weeks without food, but just hours in bad weather without shelter is very bad news.

People without the right gear can get HYPOTHERMIA: they get too cold to function properly, and can die. A bivvy shelter is one of the best ways to stop heat loss that might be caused by stink weather, poor clothing, exhaustion – or a horrible super-combo of the three. Check out this crazy clip from NZ TV where Lachlan decides to get hypothermia. DO NOT try Lachlan's experiment at home – that would be very bad.


Stay strong: a bivvy is designed to shelter you from the elements and insulate you (that means keep you warm). To stay up it has to be well put together. Is your central support pole sturdy? You don’t want it to collapse on top of you: you’re trying to build a shelter, not a house for one of the three little pigs!

Also: if it’s windy you don’t want to be blown away, so a bivvy built low to the ground can be better than bivvy with walls the size of a yacht’s sail!

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Toasty tree crib image from: Wildman NZ


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– "Winter's a good time to stay in and cuddle ... But put me in a bivvy and I'll be a..."

There’s a saying in Finland that goes: “There is no bad weather. Only inadequate clothing.” And we’ve got a saying in Aotearoa: “there’s no bad weather in the bush. Only a badly built bivvy”

OK, we made that one up, but the point remains: a well-planned and constructed bivvy can be the difference between an enjoyable night outdoors and being Olaf in Frozen.


I'm the world's only mountain parrot so I know a bit about keeping warm: my feathers trap warm air in the spaces between them, (just like the space between the inside and outside walls traps warm air). Did you know eiderdown in your duvet comes from the feathers (down) of a duck called an eider? No, Ei did not know that! Ha! 

- Kev the kea


It’s pretty tough to insulate a bivvy’s walls but you can trap warm air below you: that’s what a ground sheet or a layer of leaves does on the ground … 


– Getting grounded can make you crazy


Get the low down on the Outdoor Safety Code from the good folks at the Mountain Safety Council. Check out more Mountain Safety videos about keeping cool in the wild.



Outdoor survival expert Bear Grylls gives advice on building shelters in the outdoors: "the key ingredient is using your imagination and commonsense." Get inspired by Bear and then build your own! 


Intrepid Kiwi reporter Lachlan Forsyth shows how easy it is to get lost in the bush (and how handy knowing how to build a bivvy would be if that happened to you!).


Over 500 search and rescue missions are launched in NZ each year to find people lost in the bush. Do you know how much money would be saved if people just got better at not getting lost? Enough to make a back-yard bivvy out of diamonds and pearls, that’s how much!

Hopefully you won’t get lost in your backyard, but remember that a bivvy is also a great way to get comfortable in the elements and get to know the sights and sounds of the night under whetu (the stars)! 


Fern fronds aren’t just ferntastic for building your bivvy walls. Back in the day Māori hunters used fronds of mamakau (silver fern) to show directions.

Laid out on the ground with the shiny silvery underside facing up, they make great reflectors (even at nighttime in a decent moon). Unlike a smartphone torch the battery doesn’t run out!

Another way of showing a pathway or route is a pile of rocks called a ‘cairn’ (that’s a Scottish word lads and lassies!); they’re the road-signs of the mountains in NZ.

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– Homegrown Hansel and Gretel?


A bivvy can be super simple: your main goal is shelter from the elements (wind, rain, snow), but it can also be super bling by simply dangling necklaces from the ceiling or by spray-painting the walls gold. That won’t be smart in a survival situation (and you’ll look silly on the news) but if you wanna win The Bivvy Block competition and you’re not under pressure from gale force winds, go grand on your design.

This luxury tree house below (aka a bivvy built with too much time on its hands) has a bike-powered rope ladder!

What other members have done:

#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

Cardboard castle

BirdPrincess 230
By BirdPrincess

Cardboard castle

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I have had my castle in the house and in the garden. I even had dinner in there with a torch on. I took the photo with my toe!
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

Best climbing tree ever.

Best climbing tree ever.

I had lots of blankets at home so I got a few of them and went out side and hung them up in the tree
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

I can use a bush right???

I can use a bush right???

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2 towels and a bush thats all you need. One on top and one underneath.
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy


th 1.3
masseyfurguson18 10
By masseyfurguson18


th 1.3
I made a bivvy because i was bored
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

Backyard Shelter

20180701 30.8
Naughty Ninja 110
By Naughty Ninja

Backyard Shelter

20180701 30.8
Naughty Ninja
I borrowed dad's old tent and put it over the little slide in our backyard. Then I got some pillows and blankets to make it cosy inside. I used a piece of cardboard for a mattress.
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

backyard bivvy

backyard bivvy

just some string a tarp some pegs and 1 stick
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

Backyard Bivvy

Backyard Bivvy

IMG 4675.17
More pics of the backyard spot
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

Indoor Bivvy

Indoor Bivvy

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My indoor bivvy uses a ground sheet as a roof! Its a bit topsy turvey!! I’m having my breakfast in it ????????
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

Backyard bivvy

Backyard bivvy

Photo on 4 04 20 at 4.05 PM 2.4
Down in the bush behind my house, I put a flax stick between two trees and then I hung a tarpaulin over them. Done!
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

My bivvy

My bivvy

Bivvy 2
My bivvy is made from a rope tied to two trees, with a tarp draped over it. The tarp is pegged into the ground with tent pegs. It is windproof and rainproof.
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

Tent bivy

Tent bivy

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King Duck
First we tied our canvas to the trampoline, then we nailed it to the ground. We tied a tarp into it to keep us warm. And we brought a sleeping bag out.
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

Backyard Bivvy

Backyard Bivvy

IMG 7810.2
Big Skinny
Bivvy made from a tarp and branches from our garden