#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?


16550171251 3199721a96 z


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!

Screen Shot 2016 07 26 at 3.29.15 pm


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!

bivvy night .001


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!

resizedimage600448 WM bivvy

Toasty tree crib image from: Wildman NZ


Screen Shot 2016 12 02 at 11.38.28 AM

– "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.

IMG 5060

– 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

My Punga Bivvy

My Punga Bivvy

I found a old Ute cover under some wood in the back yard. It had some holes in it! i thought cool I can use it.I used mums old washing line. All the pungas and stuff I put on it will keep me dry.!!!!!
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

Ukuleleguy's #gowildwhatnow backyard bivvy

Ukuleleguy's #gowildwhatnow backyard bivvy

Our neighbour kindly let us use his wood from trees he recently chopped down.
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

#gowildwhatnow - Bivvy!

#gowildwhatnow - Bivvy!

Spider Boy GoWildWhatNow
I had fun building a bivvy in one of my favourite local parks!
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

#GoWildWhatNow - Bush Bivvy

#GoWildWhatNow - Bush Bivvy

Dab Boy GoWildWhatNow
Building a bivvy in our favourite local bush!
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy



IMG 1538.2
Our WhatNOW challenge to build a backyard bivvy!
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

The Boars head bivvy

The Boars head bivvy

I called my bivvy boars head because I made it close to boars head mine,In the Kaitake rangers it took me 3 hours to make I had lots of fun cheers,Oli Winstanley
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

Wellington Zoo Shelter #gowildwhatnow

Wellington Zoo Shelter #gowildwhatnow

DSCF7512 001
20160702 172456.7
On our Wellington holiday they had a neat area where we could build a nest or shelter.
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

Hunters lodge

Hunters lodge

20170423 160414
Made a frame with sticks, put on a tarp, put on more sticks then put the leaves on top. I put dry grass under a mat on the bottom to help keep me warm. It was warm and dry.
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

bottom garden bivvy

bottom garden bivvy

pokemon png 22.11
we built this in our backyard and covered it in wandering dew and leaves. the wandering dew keeps the bivvy warm.
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

Bush Bivvy #gowildwhatnow

IMG 2259.5
thebuglover 70
By thebuglover

Bush Bivvy #gowildwhatnow

IMG 2259.5
I built my Bivvy in the bush by a river at home. I used rope to hold up sticks, then put leaves ontop to keep rain out. I slept in it with Dad last night, this morning we woke to birds chirping!
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy

The Wild Hut

IMG 20170328 082738 1.1
Dragon Tamer 10
By Dragon Tamer

The Wild Hut

IMG 20170423 111525
IMG 20170328 082738 1.1
Dragon Tamer
I strung rope from the trampoline to the fence in a zig zag pattern. It has a tarpaulin on the grass for water proofing. The roof has a blanket lined with towels for insulation. My toys are in it, too
#15 Build a Backyard Bivvy


received 1288108687894279.2
pineappleopolis 10
By pineappleopolis


Screenshot 2017 04 22 18 46 03 1
received 1288108687894279.2
This is a bivvy made at the beach We used sticks and seaweed. we used the sticks as the structure and seaweed to water proof. We love it so much and enjoyed making it.