How to build a Fort In The Woods
Updated: Sep 17
Having a fort for you and your comrades’ use is one of the cornerstones of many adventures. It will be the staging ground for many battles and stories that will be told for years to come. It will be a place to gather and hang out around a bon fire on late summer nights. And it will serve as a neighborhood project for your comrades to come together and build something greater than you could have built yourself.
This article is not meant to serve as a step by step guide to build a fort that looks just like ours, but rather to give you some ideas to get you started. Remember, be creative, use your imagination, and think outside the box and make it your own.
Picking a site
The first thing you will need to think about is a place to build your fort. This is a very important step and there is a lot to consider.
First, what is the ground like? Is it on a steep hill? Or is it on more flat, level ground? We suggest going more for the second option. Flat ground will be easier to build on and move materials around on, as well as being more comfortable to use once the fort is complete.
Second, you need to decide if your fort will be in the woods or in a more open area. We always built our forts in the woods due to the fact that if you do so you can use the larger trees as a base to mount your walls on. If you do not have any trees in the area where you will be building, then you will have to take the extra step of putting up your own posts to use for the walls.
Materials to use
Sometimes the best materials to use are what you have available. Be creative when looking for things to build your walls with and you’ll more than likely come up with something. We have used construction pallets to make our walls before. However our favorite things to use would be long thin log that can either be found on the forest floor or cut down (if you have permission to do this). If you choose to use logs if will take a little longer to finish the walls but the end result will be much more secure and a lot better looking than other options.
The cross piece is what your logs, or whatever you use for your walls, will be attached to. You can either use another thin, long log, or a board such as a 2×4.
You will also need some sort of rope to try down the logs to the cross piece. Pick something that will last a long time and not rot after being exposed to the elements. Synthetic rope, or para-cord are both good choices.
Setting up the walls
I will explain this portion assuming that you will be building your fort in the woods using trees as your supports for the walls. If this is not the case, simply use your posts for when I say tree.
To begin, pick two trees at least 10 feet apart (could be more if you have a long enough board or log to use) and attach a cross piece to both of them, with one tree at each end of the cross piece. Attach the cross piece to the trees either with nails or by tying them to the tree with rope or twine.
Next, take the logs you have collected for your wall and lean them vertically against you cross piece. As you do this you will use your rope to tie down the logs with a method called lashing.
If you want to add an extra level of sturdiness to your wall you can use a hatchet or machete to point the bottoms of your poles and drive them into the ground before lashing them to the cross piece.
Making a gate
There are many ways that a gate can be built, but for this article we will stick to one general idea.
The first step of a gate is planning where you want it in your fort and how wide you want it to be. Once you have that decided, leave the right amount of space clear when you are setting up your walls. It’s a good idea to put your gate in between two trees so you have something to attach your gate to.
The gate that I will be describing here will be like two doors next to each other with a bar to lock it shut, kind of like a door on a barn.
For the actual construction of this gate: Measure the hole in your wall that you left for your gate and cut 4 pieces of 2×4 at half as wide as the gate. Lay those 2×4’s to the side for now, we will use them later. Next take a few 2×6 boards and lay them side by side, the exact number of boards will differ depending on how wide your gate will be. Now that they are side by side, take your 2×4’s and lay 2 of them across the top and bottom of each half of the gate. With the 2×4’s in place run wood screws or bolts through the board, making sure that you are getting at least one screw or bolt in each of the 2×6 planks.
You should now have two separate doors to make your gate with. Attach heavy duty hinges about 6 inches from the top and bottom on the outside edges of both doors. Screw the other end of the hinges to the trees or posts that you will be using to support your gate.
If you are wanting to use a drop bar for a lock, you will need to attach something to your gate to set the bar in. It might look something like this:
At this point you should have a ready to use, standing fort. What you do with and in it is now completely up to you. You may wish to build some towers within the walls, or set up an area for a fire or a campsite. Whatever you choose to do in your fort, be creative and make stories worth telling.