L.L.Bean Essential Skills: How to Build a Bough Bed

Like most outdoor enthusiasts, we love venturing out for weekend excursions and always have a few camping essentials ready to go at a moment’s notice. Fortunately, long-lasting gear like sleeping bags and air mattresses have not only kept us comfortable, but also help minimize our impact on the environment. Back in Leon Leonwood Bean’s day, campers stayed dry and warm by building a bough bed from nearby materials. So with a little help from Hunting, Fishing and Camping, we’re taking a look back at one of L.L.’s essential outdoor skills.

Choose boughs with soft needles, such as white pine, balsam or spruce. Flickr: S.Rae, Kate Ter Haar, Luke Jones.

You will need:

2 logs, about 7 feet long and 6-8 inches in diameter
2 logs, about 5 feet long and 6-8 inches in diameter
3 heaping armfuls of boughs
nails, pegs or stakes
an axe or handsaw

Note: We recommend taking a look around for any fallen logs or boughs first, so as not to disturb the environment.

How to Build a Bough Bed, from Hunting, Fishing and Camping:

“Place the two seven-foot logs parallel to each other and nail the two shorter logs to their ends, making a rough pen to hold boughs. If you don’t have nails in your kit, cut some pegs or stakes about eight or ten inches long and drive a peg into the ground on each end of each log close to the outer edge, so that the log can’t roll outwards when pressure is exerted from within.

This bough bed was given extra elevation and padding by stacking logs and adding extra boughs. Credit: Buzzard Bushcraft.

“Cut some good-sized fir or spruce boughs with your axe. Load the bunk with them. Point all the butts downward into the earth. Then cut a bushel or more of very small fir balsam boughs. Your sheath knife will do the trick.

A finished bough bed will provide insulation and warmth from the ground. Credit: Buzzard Bushcraft.

“Lay the small boughs very carefully on the bunk, starting at the head of the bed. Lay them almost on end, with the under side up.

You will probably run out of boughs by the time you are two-thirds down the bunk, but if the bed is soft and springy under your shoulders and hips you will sleep okay. If you have plenty of time, cut enough small boughs to finish the bed.”


Want to learn more essential skills? Let us know in the comments below and check out our Outdoor Discovery Schools to learn more at a location near you!

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