Shelter Craft Methodology comparing the Northern and Southern Hemisphere techniques. Many techniques of Shelter Craft used in the Northern Hemisphere are quite different to those that can be used in Australia based around the materials available. This revolves around plant morphology and transpiration. The leaves in Australia have developed differently to the leaves in cooler climates due to the amount of rainfall and light.

Id previously done some workshops with Alan Ainsworth who discussed this in depth. Al’s horticultural training goes into the morphology of plants. How they evolved differently in the Australian landscape. “The shape and size and volume of leaf litter in Australia is just different”.

This was also a conversation I had with Al Ainsworth several months ago that stuck in my head that I really wanted to post about. Building a debris hut in the Northern Hemisphere is much different to here. It would take little time at all to fill large garbage bags full of leaves in Europe and the US where the tree have adapted to try and absorb as much light as possible and have therefore become large palmated shaped. Where as in Australia the leaves are lanceolated in shape to conserve water. Meaning the leaves are larger in the Northern Hemisphere;

“Why do the leaves of eucalyptus typically have a grey-green colour? The reason is not driven by the plants themselves, but rather the environment they live in. The primary role of a leaf is to capture enough sunlight to allow the plant to photosynthesis. Here in Australia, our bright, sunny skies provide ample sunlight that is higher in ultraviolet radiation than in most parts of the world. This means that most trees are easily able to meet their requirements for intercepting enough energy from the sun, and in fact, they are in danger of being damaged by too much heat and solar radiation. Under these conditions, it becomes advantageous to deflect some of the sunlight that hits the leaf surface. The grey colour of the leaves, formed by a waxy layer called the cuticle, does just that. By preventing the leaf from overheating, the cuticle reduces the amount of water that the leaf loses to the environment.”

Many bushcraft techniques just don’t work the same in Australia like they do for our US and UK bushcraft brethren. The leaves here are combustible from the oils, there are less of them on the trees, smaller shape and shed at a slower rate. The smaller leaves don’t repel water as well and require 20 times more effort to collect enough. There is not the same amount of leaf litter as say there is on a beech Forrest floor.

The methodology for each country or more precisely geographical region must change according to the landscape by looking at what indigenous communities did to make shelters. In Australia the Gunyah Hut was a more common shelter than a lean-to for example.

The Methodology therefore changes according to the landscape! The hardest part of building a shelter is the gathering of materials. Many local indigenous therefore always returned to the same shelter site where even if a structure had fallen down the materials were still available to rebuild the original structure. Expenditure of energy!

“Learning from the traditional custodians, they don’t really use leaves for sheltercraft. One of the most common things used was the bark from a paperbark tree. Probably the single most useful tree in Australia from a bushcraft point of view. The idea of using leaves for shelter is a real northern bushcraft idea just doesn’t translate well down here”. AA