The Outside Blog

Adventure : everest

Make Your Cabin Fantasies a Reality

Call it a cabin-porn addiction, but it seems like a lot of us have the same dream: a cabin of our own, deep in the woods that’s simple, off-the-grid, and far from anyone else. It probably has a porch and a view. Maybe even an outdoor shower.

Sounds pretty nice and, on the dream-scale, pretty attainable. So if you’re going to build a DIY cabin in a remote wilderness area, how do you make it happen?

Find a Site

First, you’re going to need to find a place to build your cabin. Off-the-grid sites tends to be significantly less expensive than land that's connected, which is good news for those who plan to make their own power—or go without. 

When he looks at sites, Northern California-based architect David Wright mainly considers solar access because it impacts the natural heating, cooling, ventilation, and day lighting of the building. Wright, who builds net-zero-energy-consuming cabins, also takes steepness and soil condition of the site into account. Both affect how hard construction and maintenance will be. Road access is also important for when you’re schlepping in building materials and preparing to settle in. 

Pick a Design

Architect Alex Scott Porter designed a 550-square-foot, off-the-grid cabin for her father on an island off the coast of Maine. The getaway takes advantage of the site and its ocean views, and it’s very simple due to its remote location. Porter decided to build the cabin on a grid, making everything square and easy-to-execute.

It’s tempting to get extra creative on the design side, especially if you’re starting from scratch, but simple usually works in your favor, especially if you’re a rookie. If you’re a first time builder, a prefab kit, or pre-designed plans, can make the whole process a lot less complicated. You can find plans and kits for everything from a 100-square-foot tiny house to a huge multi-story building, and prefabs are no longer limited to blocky boring cubes.

Buy Simple, Durable Materials

David Wright likes structural insulated panels (SIPs) for cabins—especially remote ones—because they’re simple, strong, and they provide included insulation. “This material costs a bit more, but the structural integrity, thermal performance, dry-rot resistance, fire proofing, and lack of ice damming are extremely important when building in the harsh winter climate in the mountains,” says Wright.

Remember: Don’t skimp on the windows—Wright likes metal-clad wooden ones—because you can lose a lot of heat and stability through them.

Make a (Really Thorough) Plan

Porter planned every detail of her dad’s cabin down to the last nail because all of the material had to be brought in by boat. If you’re building somewhere remote, advance planning is crucial. You’ll minimize time lost, frustration, and chances of screwing up.

Consider the Construction Process

Here’s where you’re going to have to evaluate your own construction skills—and those of your friends. If you decide to go the true DIY route, you’ll need the help of at least a few helpers to raise the walls and the roof.

It’s a nice (cheap) option, but if you’ve never done it before, you can get into trouble quickly. If you’re a novice builder, Wright recommends talking to a contractor beforehand. They’ll know about building codes, zoning policies, local materials and suppliers, and construction costs.

You also don’t want to harm the landscape you’re trying to cherish. A lot of cabins in sensitive ecological zones are built on piers attached to the bedrock, so the foundation isn’t as high-impact. Once the piers are installed, frame the floor and put up the walls. 

Then there’s the roof, which Wright says can be the most important part of the cabin—especially if you’re in a climate that gets a lot of snow. Think about where the snow will slide and collect, and where ice will form before raising the roof.

Power Up

There are plenty of options for non-grid power, such as generators and micro hydro. But both Wright and Porter champion solar power for its steady, reliable energy. In Porter’s cabin, four 100-watt panels power everything from the water pump to the outlets. “With today’s technology, there’s no need to be tied to conventional utility systems if one has solar access on the site,” Wright says.

Remember Water and Utilities

Water, for drinking and otherwise, is crucial, and depending on the surroundings, you might have to get creative. Porter’s site didn’t have access to water, so she built a rainwater collection system that includes a gravity-fed filter. Porter’s cabin also has a composting toilet, which is a good option for houses without a sewer. You can buy pre-built ones, or construct your own. Dreaming of an outdoor shower? Solar heaters, or a black rainwater collection barrel, can make that happen pretty easily.

Set Aside Some Dough

“So how much is this going to cost?” you ask. Frankly, it depends. It’s possible to spend anywhere from $2,000 to $200,000. Material, construction, and land costs differ dramatically. “Cost varies widely, from $275 in California and New York to $95 per square-foot in Oklahoma and Montana,” Wright says. “Double or triple that for high-altitude popular places like Tahoe or Aspen. Typically the cost is whatever the going rate is in your area. Ask realtors and contractors to get an idea.”

Read More

A Cookie Jar That Won't Let You Get Fat

Forget running 800-meter repeats. Since you baked those chocolate chip cookies, you’ve been perfecting the 30-meter repeat: couch, kitchen, couch, repeat.  

You shouldn’t feel bad about your lack of self-control. Willpower fatigue—or the inability to make a lot of good decisions in a row—is well documented by social scientists. But that still doesn’t make it a good excuse for sucking down cookie number 14 of the day.

Luckily, David Krippendorf understands your inner fat-kid desires. He’s the creator of the Kitchen Safe, a locking, time-release cookie jar that solves the perennial problem of too many cookies in the kitchen.

“For me it was always one of those things where if I had it around I’d eat it,” says Krippendorf. “Sometimes my wife would hide things in the house for me, but that would just cause me to search the house for it. Or I’d eat a few cookies and then throw the rest of the package away—I kept thinking, what’s a better way of going about this?”

At the time Krippendorf was an MBA student at MIT. He recruited engineering classmates (and brothers) Ryan and Nick Tseng to help him build a prototype. Then the trio turned to Kickstarter for funding and quickly raised $41,991. (Good on you, America, for realizing your collective self-restraint issues.)

The plastic container has a lid with a programmable timer. You tell it when to re-open and it goes to work keeping whatever you crave out of reach. Krippendorf says that there’s no way to circumvent the timer once it’s set—even taking out the batteries will only freeze it in place. If you really need to get into the bin, your best bet is channeling hangry Godzilla and stomping it to smithereens.

While most customers buy the container for its intended use, Krippendorf says there have been some surprising secondary markets. “Some people who smoke [pot], and during the week they need to work, but on weekends they want to smoke out, they’re buying it,” he says. “And we’re getting people from the bondage area. I guess people put their chastity key in there and lock it up. If you Google ‘Kitchen Safe bondage’ you’ll see it come up on forums.” (We know better than to do that from our work computers, but you’re free to.)

At present there are no plans to make one with an electro-shock lid, and Krippendorf says he doesn’t think there’s a need for it. No offense, Krippendorf, but you haven’t lived with my roommates. Cookie monsters, all of them. 

$49, kitchensafe.com

Read More

"Jaws" Tourism Waves over Cape Cod

For tourists seeking a thrill, Martha’s Vineyard probably isn’t the first destination that comes to mind. Until now (queue John Williams’s famous score). 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently released a study finding that after decades of decline, great white shark populations are surging along the eastern shores of Canada and the United States. According to reports from the AP, more than 40 shark sightings were reported in the past two years. Prior to 2004, sightings hovered around two per year. Increased conservation efforts and seal populations have been credited with the related influx of great white sharks in the Cape Cod area

The spike in shark sightings, along with the area’s connection to Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, has caused summer tourism to boom. The 1975 classic film, shot in Martha’s Vineyard, has been screened in local theaters all summer. Justin Labdon, owner of the Cape Cod Beach Chair Company, can’t keep enough shark paraphernalia on the shelves, according to the New York Post. “I mean, truthfully, we’ve probably grown about 500 percent in terms of the sale of our shark apparel.”

Visitors can sip on shark-themed beverages while taking boat trips with local outfitters to see the seals—and maybe even a dorsal fin sticking out of the water. Beats mini golf, right?

Read More

Do Laundry While You Run

We usually don't encourage multitasking while running, but a treadmill that lets you wash clothes while you work out might change that.

Si Hyeing Ryu, a student designer in South Korea, created the Wheel treadmill design concept for the Electrolux Design Lab 2014 design competition. The washing machine–treadmill hybrid would use human kinetic power to do your laundry while you run.

{%{"image":"http://media.outsideonline.com/images/electrolux-wheel-treadmill_fe.jpg","caption":" "}%}

"To clean, or not to clean, that is the question," said Hyeing Ryu in his design submission. "This is an eco-friendly and efficient experience. It saves time by doing the workout and washing clothes."

The machine is composed of a circular treadmill track that contains multiple compartments serving as washing machine tubs. Inside, "washing balls" help get clothes cleaner while reducing the amount of water used. A person's steps would spin the wash cycle, and miles logged would be stored as battery power for days when your legs need a rest.

That age-old excuse for having no time to work out because of all the chores on your to-do list? Go hang it on the clothesline.

Read More

Free Newsletters

Dispatch This week's featured articles, reviews, and videos. Sent twice weekly.
News From the Field The most important breaking news from around the Web. Sent daily.
Outside GOOur hottest adventure-travel tips and trips. Sent occasionally.
Outside Partners Outside-approved deals and special offers from select partners. Sent occasionally.

Subscribe
to Outside
Save Over
70%

Magazine Cover

iPad Outside+ App Access Now Included!

Categories

Authors

Advertisement

$ad.smallDesc

$ad.smallDesc

$ad.smallDesc

Previous Posts

2014

2013

2012

Blog Roll

Current Issue Outside Magazine

Subscribe and get a great deal! Two free Buyer's Guides plus a free GoLite Sport Bottle. Monthly delivery of Outside—your ultimate resource for today's active lifestyle. All that and big savings!

Free Newsletters

Dispatch This week's featured articles, reviews, and videos. Sent twice weekly.
News From the Field The most important breaking news from around the Web. Sent daily.
Gear of the Day The latest products, reviews, and editors' picks. Coming soon.
Outside Partners Outside-approved deals and special offers from select partners. Sent occasionally.

Ask a Question

Our gear experts await your outdoor-gear-related questions. Go ahead, ask them anything.

* We might edit your question for length or clarity. If it's not about gear, we'll just ignore it.