Poncho Lean-To

It takes only a short time and minimal equipment to build this lean-to shelter. You will need a poncho or tarp, 2 to 3 meters (7 to 10 feet) of rope or parachute suspension line, three stakes about 30 centimeters (1 foot) long, and two trees or two poles 2 to 3 meters (7 to 10 feet) apart. Before selecting the trees you will use or the location of your poles, check the wind direction. Ensure that the back of your lean-to will be into the wind to provide a wind block for the occupant(s).

Poncho Lean-To Shelter tied between two trees

To make the lean-to, you should:

  1. If you are using a poncho for the covering, tie off the hood of the poncho. Pull the drawstring tight, roll the hood longways, fold it into thirds, and tie it off with the drawstring.
  2. Cut the rope in half. On one long side of the poncho, tie half of the rope to the corner grommet. Tie the other half to the other corner grommet.
  3. Tie a “drip stick” (about a 10-centimeter [4-inch] stick) to each rope about 2.5 centimeters (about 1 inch) away from the grommet. The drip sticks will keep rainwater from running down the ropes into the lean-to. Tying strings (about 10 centimeters [4 inches] long) to each grommet along the poncho’s top edge will also help control dripping by allowing the water to run to and down the line without dripping into the shelter.
  4. Tie the ropes about waist high on the trees. Use a round turn and two half hitches with a quick-release knot.
  5. Spread the poncho and anchor it to the ground, putting sharpened sticks through the grommets and into the ground.

If you plan to use the lean-to for more than one night, or you expect rain, make a center support for the lean-to. Make this support with a line. Attach one end of the line to the poncho hood and the other end to an overhanging branch. Make sure there is no slack in the line.

Another method is to place a stick upright under the center of the lean-to. However, this method will restrict your space and movements in the shelter. For additional protection from wind and rain, place some brush, your rucksack, or other equipment at the sides of the lean-to.

To reduce heat loss to the ground, place some type of insulating material, such as leaves or pine needles, inside your lean-to.

NOTE: When at rest, you lose as much as 80 percent of your body heat to the ground.

To increase your security from observation, lower the lean-to’s silhouette by making two changes. First, secure the support lines to the trees at knee height (not at waist height) using two knee-high sticks in the two center grommets (sides of lean-to). Second, angle the poncho to the ground, securing it with sharpened sticks, as above.

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