How to Make a Travois in the Wild

Survival is about making do with what you’ve got, and that’s just as true for the wilderness. Here are some tips on how to make a travois from natural materials in order to haul supplies across rough terrain or carry heavy cargo long distances

In the wild, humans can build a travois to carry heavy loads. The construction of a human travois is simple: two trees are tied together with ropes or vines, and then people tie themselves to the rope harnesses.


Travois, or two-pole-frame-pulled sleds, have been used since before the wheel was invented. Its lengthy history is expected, given the vehicle’s relatively basic construction, which lets a single person to transport significantly greater goods over long distances. Travois were often employed by American Indians, who depended on them to transport goods between sites. They’d sometimes haul a travois by hand or over their shoulder. Alternatively, they may design customized travois to attach to working dogs and horses. 

Understanding how to create a travois is a potentially life-saving ability for people traveling into the wilderness nowadays. In a survival emergency, it may mean dragging additional firewood or transporting an injured buddy and their belongings to safety. A travois is a useful and practical tool in less desperate conditions, such as when hunters need to move a kill from a far location back to their vehicle.

A travois is built by tying together poles to form an isosceles triangle, which is then supported by additional poles or nets. All you need is some cordage and an axe or hatchet to make one on your own. Here’s everything you need to know to get started. 

What Is a Travois and How Do I Make One?

Gathering Poles is the first step.


Gather two large poles measuring 12 to 15 feet in length and four shorter poles measuring 3 to 4 feet in length each. In general, seek for poles with a diameter of 3 to 5 inches at their thickest point.

The diameter of an ideal pole is mostly determined by the quality of the wood. Cutting live branches from a hardwood tree, for example, produces a much more durable pole than harvesting a dead pine branch or other softwood. Your travois must be durable, but using too large poles will make it unduly heavy and ineffective.

Trim the Poles in Step 2


Trim your big poles to the same length as your smaller poles and remove any tiny branches, then repeat with your smaller poles.

Step 3: Set up the Long Poles 


Arrange your long poles in an X form to do a dry fit of your poles. At around two-thirds of their length, the poles should intersect. You may check the shape by standing in the X’s smaller slot to see whether you can fit in the travois and pull it comfortably.

Add Short Poles in Step 4

1636366662_109_How-to-Make-a-Travois-in-the-Wild Make sure your short poles are long enough to cover the distance between your travois legs and are appropriately spaced on the travois mock up.

Step 5: Glue Long Poles to the Floor


Use whatever cordage you have on hand to join the long poles where they intersect. Do you want to brush up on your diagonal lashing skills? Here’s a link to our guide.

Step 6: Glue Short Poles in Place


Attach the travois legs with the short poles. Use a square lashing technique for these connections.

Step 7: Cut the Toes


Turn the travois over and slant the feet with a hatchet or knife so that they glide over the ground.

Step 8: Get Loaded and Go!


Return the travois to its upright position, double-check your lashings, pick up your gear or wounded companion, and start moving!




A travois is a primitive sled that has two long poles with a crossbar and rope between them. It is used by hunters in the wilderness to carry heavy loads such as carcasses or game back to camp. Reference: travois sled.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you build travois?

A: To build a travois you need to first find two straight poles and make sure they are long enough. Next, lash them together with strong cordage using deer sinew or other similar material. The rounded part of the pole should be at the ground while the flat end is in front of your body somewhere near your thigh level. Then use smaller sticks lashed to this one as handles on either side so that when you pull on it you can move without dragging along the ground.

How much weight can a travois carry?

A: A travois is a device used to carry things, usually heavy or bulky items. It has two long poles and the load is carried by these. The weight of your load will depend on what you are carrying with it as well as its shape and size.

How does a travois work?

A: A travois is a vehicle with two long poles and an axle carried by two people, one in front of the other. It is used to transport items or wounded people over difficult terrain such as snow, ice, marshland etc.

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