Simple Shelters that you can call 'Cabins'...

Discussion in 'General Homesteading & Building' started by JeepHammer, Oct 15, 2008.

  1. JeepHammer

    JeepHammer Well-Known Member

    What is the MINIMUM you can get away with for a 'Cabin'...
    You know, hunting 'Lodge', fishing 'Cabin', woods 'Shack', just someplace to camp and stay over a few nights mostly...

    I'm running into more and more of the 'Yard Barns' out in the woods in different places.
    These can run from basic sheet metal 'Squats' to the much nicer and larger 'Mini Barns' you find on lots for sale...

    What is the 'Minimum' you could get by with if you had to spend say, a month there!?

    Would you build a shower and how would you do it?

    Would you set up a 'Camp' around the 'Cabin', or would you start building onto it like a house?

    Would you prefer something portable on a 'Utility Trailer' or something more 'Permanent'?
  2. Jerseyzuks

    Jerseyzuks Well-Known Member

    I have stayed in a tent for a couple of weeks, even through some really bad weather.

    Assuming it was winter, I could easily get by for a month or 2 in a shed with a small pot bellied stove in one corner and a bed

  3. Smithy

    Smithy Outdoorsman, Bladesmith

    I live in suburbia, and have 2 sheds in my backyard... 1 for storage, and the other is my workshop. I've long considered how one of these could make for a good woods cabin, bug out home, etc. If space is not the prime issue (which it is for me today, what with wife and 3 kids, 2 cats, and the fish) I would think that a couple might fit nicely in one for an extended period.

    Consider the ways to improve one of these:

    Once settled, the use of expanding foam in between floor joists to insulate from the ground would help a lot... as would insulation and drywall on the framed interior. I would leave the roof space open, and perhaps build some shelving in the ceiling joists for storage. Bed for the wife and I in one half, bunk beds for kids in the far corner, and in the open corner, a wood stove/kitchen area. Everything else can go outside under tarps or 2x4/plywood roof extensions.

    Yes, it's very redneck, but to "get by" in a primitive environment, it's a lot better than many of our pioneer ancestors had, better built, and very portable. These go for $2500 for a 10x14 foot building at many suppliers. My workshop has a skylight on the ridgeline, and a stovepipe exhaust for the forge, double front doors, and front windows. My wife says I live out there half the time now, refitting the space for habitation really wouldn't be that hard, if we had to.
  4. guyfour

    guyfour Guest

    Is it 2500 shipped or how much would it be for shipping?
  5. TechAdmin

    TechAdmin Administrator Staff Member

    I know a local that is building these modules for bare essentials back to land living. So you can buy X amount of modules and piece them together. Buy more if you need more later. Real nice craftsmanship and clever idea.
  6. JeepHammer

    JeepHammer Well-Known Member

    SHELVING, free standing or along the walls.
    No such thing as too much storage space!

    Make it wide enough and strong enough to double as a 'Bunk' in the event you have to live there for an extended period.

    Some 'Economy' 2"x4" Studs and some metal joist hanger brackets make a simple, but strong frame for heavy duty shelving, and a 4'x8'x3/4" piece of plywood ripped down makes for 16' of 24" wide shelving that will hold more than a grown mans weight very economically.

    Some provision for water storage should be made in the even of blizzard, or illness to where you can't get out and bring in water.

    A lot can be done with plastic barrels and some PVC/Fittings/Glue!

    For me, that would probably be in a barrel(s) in the attic/rafter space since stored there empty it would out of the way, and if full, gravity would feed my water needs.
    Being in the rafters should also keep it from freezing.

    Small scale storage can be done with nothing more than 5 gallon buckets on the sheves or stacked on the floor, but that takes up some of your floor space that is already in short supply.

    I would suggest a sink with drain that goes out to a 'Sump' filled with rocks...
    Just a 'Gray Water' sump, hole filled with rocks with your drain leading into it.

    Sink can be nothing more than a larger stainless steel mixing bowl with a common bathroom sink drain installed in the bottom of it.
    We are talking a 'Bowl' with a 'Stopper On A Chain' here, not fulling working lavatory...

    This is not a 'Solid Waste' removal system, it's for washing dishes, shaving, maybe emptying bladders in the middle of the night...
    It's not a 'Slop Bucket'...
    (and if you don't know what a 'Slop Bucket' is, We can go into that later)


    This one is easy for me since I like sail boats...
    HAMMOCK! Really wide hammock if it's two people.
    Folds up in a flash to store and takes up virtually no space!
    Can be made from ropes, '550 Para-Cord', wire or about anything else you can call 'Cordage'.

    I got hooked on Hammocks in the Marine Corps when I spent several months 'Operational' and didn't often have a bed to sleep in, but a 'Fish Net' hammock took up very little room, weighed very little, went up about anywhere from between two armored vehicles in the desert to 100 Feet up in tress in the rain forests!

    Jungle Hammocks were my favorite, they had bug netting!
    It was very nice having an 'Apartment' I could put up and take down in less than 5 minutes no matter where I was!

    Fish nets or heavy material (Canvas/Sheeting) make good hammocks.

    I spent one summer camping in a hammock made from 2" saplings on the ends, and that bright 'Safety Orange' plastic fencing! Made a GREAT hammock...

    Now, don't hang a hammock like you see the movies or on those stupid things you see in peoples' yards...
    SPLAY the two 'Head' ropes out, like they are both going to different trees so the hammock spreader bar doesn't rotate on a center axis!
    That will make them as rock steady as you can possibly imagine!
    (even my girlfriend can't flip us over, and she can fall down on flat sidewalks!)
    You can lay in the hammock 'cross-ways' to what you see on TV...
    Lay Parallel with the spreader bars across the hammock...
    This is more for one person than for two people, since if there are two, you will have a tendency to 'Run Together' in the middle...

    Cowboy Hammock,
    Take a 4x4 frame, drill 3/4" holes about 6 or 8" apart all the way around, and stretch rope back and forth through all the holes, cross ways and long ways, weaving the rope as you cross other ropes.

    The 'Criss Cross' weaving makes for a suspension bed that is surprisingly comfortable.

    When you are not going to use it for some time, you can cut a piece of plywood to put over it and use it for a bench or shelf, and if the need arises, you are ready to go!

    You want to stay away from conventional 'Mattresses' for this purpose...
    Mattresses don't store very well in non temprature and humidity controlled environments.
    They have a tendency to collect moisture, mold, mildew, rot, collect bugs, parasites, and just generally get filthy.

    They are very hard to store in 'Moisture Proof' containers because of their size, even if you seal them up in plastic & tape, that isn't going to keep the bugs and rodents out!...

    You are better off with CLOSED CELL foam pads
    (not the 'Sponge Foam' that is used in couch cushions and pillows)
    Blankets, rugs or anything that is easy to store and you can take out and wash, beat the crap out of and generally boil if they get dirty or parasite infested.

    Shelving isn't the same as a 'Table' you can get your legs under, entertain guests, work on some larger project you need to be about to get around and over,
    Or put an injured person on to render first aid.

    Again, this can be as easy as a double thick slab of 3/4" plywood on barn hinges screwed to the wall,
    (so it will fold up and out of the way when not in use)
    And a couple of barn door hinges on legs so the fold down when you let the table down...

    Or as complicated as one of the folding tables with plastic tops from Wally-World or somewhere else.

    Does anyone know what a 'Rocket Mass Heater' looks like or how it works?
    [ame=""]rocket mass heaters-super efficient wood stoves - Google Search[/ame]

    In the case of outdoor cooking, a rocket STOVE...

    Anyway, rocket mass stoves and heaters are SUPER EFFICIENT at burning wood in particular, but they like rolled up phone books, catalogs, newspapers and about anything else you have laying around that will burn!

    Three good selling points for me are...
    Most of the time they are made from scrap materials and they are VERY EASY to build!

    2. SUPER EFFICIENT means a hand full of twigs will keep you warm for hours!

    3. Virtually no SMOKE to give your position away or get in your eyes/shelter when they are in operation!
    The super efficiency makes them virtually smoke free if you get the air intake proportions correct!
  7. Smithy

    Smithy Outdoorsman, Bladesmith

    nine, I got mine from a somewhat local place. They ship up to 40 miles free, or did a few years ago. Look around, google up some local suppliers and ask what their deals are. If you have the means and the space, now is probably a good buyers market with the decline of retail and economic contraction. In other words, don't be afraid to negotiate shipping if you're paying the asking price for the shed, assuming they ship at all.

    I've seen some people mount these things on a flatbed trailer, and use them as mini-mobile homes. Not a bad idea, really, to keep on on the side of the house like that, stocked with a few months supplies, and just hitch up and go if you need to leave your current environment. I have a well-stocked camper van that serves the same purpose, with a bed for the wife and I, and tents for the kids, and a couple weeks of food and water on board. Terrible milage, but I only drive it a couple thousand miles a year, mostly for scouting and in the winter (I usually motorcycle, but won't on ice).
  8. gds

    gds Well-Known Member

    Ah-ha, keeping up with the jones's. And exactly why does it have to be visually apealing?

    Around here you can buy 53' box trailers for $500--$1200, 200-$300 to move it where you want it, instant shelter. Container boxes are going for 200-$800.
  9. Smithy

    Smithy Outdoorsman, Bladesmith


    I dunno if the "jones" comment was for me or the jeep, but I know I'd rather dump a couple grand into a properly framed wood building, than a container or trailer. The containers are rugged and cheap, but the effort you spend making them livable is just too much, if you value your time at all. Metal boxes also suck at insulation, and I would think that a 53 foot trailer would be very difficult to heat or cool efficiently, with all that interior space.

    I guess to me, a cabin is a minimalist shelter that provides the basics... I can sleep, cook, and enjoy my wife's company in relative privacy and comfort, and everything else can be done "outside" in an expanded camp around the cabin itself. Many original homesteaders did just this. Just watch an episode of "Little House on the Prairie", and pay attention to the architecture of that home... little more than one of these prefab sheds we're talking about. Add a stone fireplace and maybe 8 feet on either side, and a little more attic, and that's it folks. When you're busy doing agriculture, hunting, etc, you don't need a palatial home if you're practicing minimalism.

    Frankly, I long for the day I have a place like that to go disappear to when I'm done working the office life.
  10. JeepHammer

    JeepHammer Well-Known Member

    I have two ShipCons, one here and one at the river house.
    Good, cheap secure storage.

    I've considered burying the 20' one when we are done for a 'Root Cellar'.
    I'm told they will do very well underground if you install a drain and coat the outside with Urethane or Tar or Basement Sealer...
    I just don't want it rusting out in a few years.

    I CERTAINLY wouldn't want to live in one!

    Don't pay any attention to it, gds has a burr under his saddle.
    I don't know why, and to be quite frank, I don't care to spend the time to find out..

    I just ignore the comments like that, try and glean any information I can from his posts, and move on...
    I know a good idea when I steal it!

    Insulation will be the deciding factor if you 'Survive' or 'Live' in your shelter...
    I prefer windows, insulation, ventlation, and I value QUIET, you will be able to hear a mouse fart in a metal box! (Smell it too since there won't be any ventlation!)

    I'm not talking about the end of the world in a mushroom cloud or race riot the extremest seem to be scared of...

    I'm talking about a Hunting, Fishing, Camping, General Outdoors place you can go to relax, get away from cell phones, noisy neighbors, bosses and crazes and just calm down again!

    If there were a natural disaster, it would be someplace I could go until my home was livable again...

    You said a mouth full there!
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2008
  11. JeepHammer

    JeepHammer Well-Known Member

    I don't want to loose focus on the 'Shelter' part,
    Large tents, small 'Cabins', about anything that keeps the rain and snow off your head I'd like to hear about...

    I just read an article about a guy that built a 'Root Cellar' out of old tires.
    I guess that could be a 'Cabin' in an emergency!

    Anyone seen the plywood 'Diamond Shaped' cabins they are building in Fla.?
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2008
  12. netandtim

    netandtim Well-Known Member

    We've been looking at building such a structure out at the farm to use as a guest house, for lack of a better term. Found some great floor plans at

    Can be built as plain or as fancy as skills, budget, and imagination allows.
  13. JeepHammer

    JeepHammer Well-Known Member

    Great Links Net!
    And that's EXACTLY what I'm talking about!

    It's really good to see in those older designs, the passive solar built in and still being used!

    It isn't obvious to us now, but those upstairs windows above the roof line, the extended porches, ect. are all what we call 'Passive Solar' now, (the old timers that used them called them 'Common Sense'!)
  14. Whatever happened to the TeePee.... You could make one with a tarp. Are your average tarps large enough to make one with though, is what I am unsure of.
  15. Washkeeton

    Washkeeton Well-Known Member

    Short term Im looking at either a small cabin to live in. Something like say a 12x16 or so with a small loft and a small wood stove for heat or a small travel trailer with an add on. The only reason that I like the travel trailer with the add on is cause I dont have to set up a kitchen. Planing for an out house or a composting toilet anyway.

    Lots of the remote bush cabins for even the large families up here are small. No bigger than either 10 x 10 or maybe 15 x15 with a sleeping loft. Beds are made out of spruce polls and attached to the walls making storage underneath them as well as bunks for the kids, if there is any and the other kids go up into the sleeping loft. The extras also go up there as far as out of season clothing. There is no room for junk collecting in these cabins.

    I spent quite a bit of time with a friend that was in a small say oh 12 x 12 cabin with a loft. When I came in it there was nothing... there were shelves in the corner to the left for you to put a plastic dish pan on, and a small shelf above that for spices and the like. There was a wood stove by the door with a flat top on it so when we got the fire hot we cooked on it. There was a loft with a small ladder and that was the whole cabin... nothing else in it. There was an outhouse. These cabins now rent for over 400 per month up in the fairbanks area now. They are very primative cabins..

    In the winter, food storage is in a cashe or just hung out and frozen outside. In the summers the food is kept cool by digging in permafrost and lining it with both a plywood lining and native grasses. The food is left in there for refrigeration covered with a ply wood top and then with native moss. Some of the holes are dug into the permafrost, lined with native grasses and then a hide, like moose is placed in there fur side down and the food is placed on top of this. The hole is again covered with a piece of ply wood and then native moss.

    For my main home I am going underground. I want to follow the ideas in the $50 and up underground house book. I do plan to run a better plastic/rubber over the top and walls to prevent water leaking in.
  16. Biscuit

    Biscuit Member

    *Excellent* ideas, thanks! Except for the hammocks, that is. lol I'd never heard of or seen a rocket stove. Amazingly simple and yet looks very efficient. Much more so than my little firepit, I'm sure.
  17. JeepHammer

    JeepHammer Well-Known Member

    We lived in a 'TeePee' for one summer at the river!
    Made it with a liner on the floor, drape for the walls, smoke hole, everything like the Native Americans used to do!

    They REALLY had it figured out, right down to drafting between outer shell and liner for keeping the smoke going the correct direction and adding layers for insulation!

    We used the canvas out of an old military garage tent, so ours was somewhat water repellant, but not real well insulated like a properly prepared hides would have been, but it worked right up until the snow flew when we took it down for the winter (and never put it back up the next spring...).

    That was 30+ year ago, and when I was down that way again this spring, the 'Lodge Stones' are still there for the 'TeePee' we had as kids!

    That's what Dean wanted this forum to be, an exchange of ideas,
    Exposing people to new ideas,
    Having people show improvements, no matter how small, on existing things that make us more comfortable as we try to become more sustainable/self reliant in our living!


    What's wrong with Hammocks? ;)

    The rocket mass heaters are real popular in cold areas where fuel can be expensive...
    They move the tubing all around the room, and cover it with concrete or masonry before the tubing exits the house in the chimney...
    Virtually all the heat is absorbed by the masonry in the home and radiated into the room.
    Plus you get a 'Wrap Around' couch, bench, bed or whatever that stays warm for HOURS after you burn a hand full of wood...

    Nothing more than a stove pipe that has been surrounded with cement, and once in, it's virtually leak proof, so no CO issues in the dwelling...
    This would be GREAT for an earth sheltered home with poured concrete or concrete block walls!
    The 'Bench' or 'Couch' would be a real reinforcing feature for the base of the wall!

    Rocket 'Stoves' have been around for a few hundred years...
    Not a big deal in a country with lots of forests, but in high country or mountains where there isn't a lot of timber,
    Or where the land has been deforested, these are a big deal!

    I'm just lazy, so I latched onto the idea so I didn't have to 'Lump' in as much fuel for the fire to cook and heat with!

    It's a good idea, easy to make with nothing more than some tin and an old paint can, and they work GREAT!
    Breakfast in minutes with nothing more than a hand full of small sticks, and virtually no smoke in my face!
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2008
  18. flatwater

    flatwater Well-Known Member

    When we bought our property it had a 12x16 cabin on it. I put a 12x4 tool shed on one side then an additional 14x20 addition on the other side. I'm now puting in an indoor out house. With the additions it comes to about 500 square feet. That's the minimum that my wife and I wanted.[​IMG]
  19. flatwater

    flatwater Well-Known Member

    oops It didn't work on the first one. sorry.
  20. Magus

    Magus Scavenger deluxe

    Home depot sells "sheds" that would make teriffic over nighters,up to a 7000$ two story mini house!just insulate it and put in panneling and its ready for the winter!