The sub-$300 Hut Project


I’ve been hinting at how my Serenity Valley adventures may be coming to a close very soon, at least for this year. There are a couple of reasons. The first reason is financial: I’ve burned through most of my cash, and I’ll need to either start making more, or start liquidating non-cash financial assets1. The second reason is more complicated, but mostly comes down to the fact that, as the days become shorter and the nights colder, I’m spending more and more time crammed in a tiny backpacking tent. This is so detrimental to my quality of life, that at some point, it simply won’t be worth being out there (since I’m doing this for fun).

So, I have two options. I can either come down from the woods, or I can stay in the woods a little longer, but not in my tiny tent. I’ve thought about these two choices, and decided I want to try the latter, before I inevitably resort to the former.

I then thought about what exactly it was that I didn’t like about being in a tiny tent. First of all, of course, there’s the fact that the tent is tiny (about 3ft by 6ft). Specifically, there’s only enough space to sleep in, and I can’t even stand up. The other problem is that the tent doesn’t offer much insulation, so once I get into my sleeping bag for the night, I’m not coming out until late-morning; not even if I need to pee really badly.

To make life out there more comfortable, I need shelter that has enough room for a cot and additional living space, with ceilings high enough such that I could stand up straight. It needs to have good insulation, ventilation to allow the use of open flames inside, and also windows to let light in. It needs to be easy enough to build (say five Ryo-days), using materials that I can haul onto my property myself. It should be capable of withstanding the elements, and remain inhabitable for at least two years. And it has to cost less than $300.

I am currently considering competing designs: a Hexayurt, or a more traditional timber frame and plywood construction. I saw a lot of Hexayurts at Burning Man, and can see their draw for that specific event, but I’m not sure they’re suitable as longer-term permanent structures in colder climates. A timber frame structure, on the other hand, is a lot more complicated to build, and potentially more expensive as well as susceptible to termites. Right now, I’m leaning more towards timber frame, but stay tuned…

6 thoughts on “The sub-$300 Hut Project

  1. wow, $300 is hard. an 8x8x8 lumber-and-plywood cube alone will cost you about that much if you use at least 3/8″ plywood – anything less has no insulation at all. and 4×8 sheets of plywood are really hard for one person to carry. and then you’d need to weatherize it…

    you probably could buy one of those plastic sheds from costco or something and try to insulate it with fiberglass or cloth.

    • Yeah, it’ll be a challenge. But I spent a couple of hours at Lowes pricing things, and I think it’s doable. If I use OSB, it’s as cheap as $8 for a .451″ thick 4’x8′ sheet. For insulation, I’m thinking of making my own using mylar survival blankets ($15 for a pack of 12 on Amazon) and bubble wrap ($20 for a 1’x175′ roll), which’ll be equivalent to/better than Reflectix (except that costs $50 for a 4’x25′ roll). For windows, I’ll probably use plexiglas, which is stronger than glass anyway (about $13.50 for a 18″x24″ pane).

      I haven’t looked at Costco, but pre-made sheds are surprisingly expensive. The cheapest one at Lowes was $340, and the one pictured in this post was $600. Neither had windows or really any insulation to speak of.

      So, do you want to come help me build a hut?

      • heh i meant 8’x8’x8′ for the whole thing. I don’t know if dimensional lumber even comes in 8″x8″ – they build chicago-style porches with 6x6s.

        Oh god, OSB. You better hope it doesn’t rain sprinkle dew before you have a chance to pour 2 gallons of polyurethane all over it, else you’ll end up with a gooey puddle where your hut should be.

        • Um… I don’t know why I thought you were talking about 8’x8′. Yeah, I don’t think I’ve even seen anything bigger than 6’x6’…

          From what I understand, OSB (unlike particle board) is fairly water resistant, although the wikipedia article says it’s not recommended for exterior use. It might be ok for the floor and roof, which won’t be directly exposed to the elements. Pine plywood only costs a few more dollars, so I might use that for the walls…

  2. Pingback: Breakdown of Hut Costs « Laptop and a Rifle

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s