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How to Build a Lookout Tower

Edwin Thomas

A lookout tower is a useful structure for campers and naturalists in the field, since the tower provides an observation point for watching wildlife.

Lashings are at the core of building a lookout tower in the field.

The erection of a lookout tower is a classic application of scout-style construction skills, such as lashing, and a lookout tower made from lashed-together poles can be erected using nothing but wood and rope. In theory, all of the wood could come from collected tree branches.

  1. Lay three 15-foot poles on the ground side by side. Cut a section of rope 3 feet long. Lash the poles together by wrapping the rope five to eight times around all three poles, then frap the poles, which means wrapping the rope perpendicularly around the rope coils in the spaces between the poles. Tie off the rope with a square knot. Tie the poles together at a point 3 feet from the top of the poles.

  2. Set up the poles as a tripod by placing two poles across each other and setting the third pole in the resulting X. Gravity and the lashings will hold the poles in place. The result looks like a small tripod placed on top of a large tripod.

  3. Lay the 9-foot poles along the sides of the triangle formed by the legs of the tripod. Lash each pole onto two legs of the tripod in a position about at least 6 inches above the ground to strengthen the tripod.

  4. Lower the tripod to the ground, and tie together a set of three 6-foot-long poles to the top of the tripod about 1 foot from the point where the tripod poles cross. This is now the frame for the tower's platform.

  5. Build the platform by either lashing or nailing several 9-foot poles to the platform frame. These poles won't provide a floor for the entire frame, but they will cover the area inside the main poles of the tripod.

  6. Set up railing struts by tying 5-foot poles to the ends of both the platform frame and the main poles of the tripod, then tie railing poles to the tops of the railing struts, using the same procedure described in step one.

  7. Tie a rope ladder to the tower platform. Stand the tower back up.

  8. Tip

    For extra stability, dig small holes in the ground and set the tripod legs in them. One way to extend this project even further is to lash the rope ladder together from sticks and rope.