Insta-Hut Porta-Hut Tiny-House Backcountry Installation

Post by blogger | June 27, 2017      

In case you didn’t notice, tiny houses are cool. They make terrific starter homes, or an instant backcountry cabin “camping shelter.” Case in point: the tiny we helped with last week, bought in western Colorado and installed high in the mountains as a backcountry basecamp. The day was epic. I got to use every heavy rigging item in my arsenal. The Warn 12,000 lb winch completed the install by dragging the house sideways into perfect position. Silverado HD Duramax towed it on the highway and up 8 miles of rough backcountry dirt. The story in photos.

The thing isn't light, I estimate at around 8,000 pounds with excessive tongue weight. Luckily the highway drive was only about 80 miles.

The thing isn’t light, I estimate at around 8,000 pounds with excessive tongue weight. Luckily the highway drive was only about 80 miles. We began the journey at dawn, lots of 2-lane and several steep grades. The trailer has electric brakes, not sure hauling would have been safe without.

We shacked up in Montrose, Colorado the night before the drive. Fascinating to find the best Nepalise restaurant we'd ever been to.

We shacked up in Montrose, Colorado the night before the drive. Fascinating to find the best Nepalese restaurant we’d ever been to.

Due to the weight of the house and anticipated rough roads, we upgraded the draw bar to class 5.

Due to the weight of the house and anticipated rough roads, we upgraded the draw bar (aka ball mount) to class 5.

Once past the pavement, we found the access road  had hundreds of low hanging branches to deal with.

Once past the pavement, we found the access road had hundreds of low hanging branches to deal with.

This house design has a small rear deck.

This house design has a small rear deck.

Shoehorning is the only word.

Shoehorning is the only word. Truck has a front bumper trailer hitch, we used that for the tight maneuvering, then spun and slid the house using our winch and a come-along.

Rigging. Safety belay lines were attached as soon as the trailer came off the truck hitch.

Rigging. Safety belay lines were attached as soon as the trailer came off the truck hitch.

Pulling house a few feet using comealong.

Pulling house a few feet using come-along. That’s me in the hat trying to act like I knew what I was doing.

Just about there.

Just about there.

Views were opened up with some chainsaw recreation before the house was installed.

Views were opened up with some chainsaw recreation before the house was installed.

Twelve hours of driving, winching, wrenching and jacking got it done. Fun day for WildSnow and friends. Congratulations to them for their new camping shelter.


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17 Responses to “Insta-Hut Porta-Hut Tiny-House Backcountry Installation”

  1. Jack June 27th, 2017 2:20 pm

    wow. what is the access like in winter season? long approach? water storage? too many questions? Very cool.

  2. Lou Dawson 2 June 27th, 2017 2:55 pm

    Hi Jack, for privacy reasons I don’t want to get into details, but the approach is fairly easy by snowmobile, fairly long for skiing if you have a load. They aren’t doing anything fancy at this time re water. At WildSnow Field HQ we put in a freeze free 450 gallon water tank high enough above camping shelter to provide residential pressure. We hook it up for running water in summer, get water out of a tap in winter. Our place is still what you’d call “dry,” we drain sink into bucket. Can’t do a dry well without a permit so we’ve avoided that, but we do have an excellent plan for a full permitted waste disposal system, just waiting till we can afford it. We’d hook that up to our water source and perhaps an insulated outhouse with a flush toilet. Or just build a house and be done with it (smile). Lou

  3. Lou Dawson 2 June 27th, 2017 2:56 pm

    Someone a while ago here asked why the heck we have that big truck. Hopefully this helps answer the question. Lou

  4. Tom Gos June 27th, 2017 6:34 pm

    Is “camping shelter” a term that helps navigate some code issues? Cabin seems to be as appropriate a name for these things as any, but I wonder if calling it that creates some code difficulties.

  5. Larry June 27th, 2017 7:40 pm

    So, I have to ask the question with the proliferation of “tiny houses”. What’s the difference between a tiny house and a camper?

  6. JCoates June 27th, 2017 8:42 pm

    North of the Mason-Dixon=”Tiny house”

    South of the Mason-Dixon=”Double-wide”

  7. Lou Dawson 2 June 28th, 2017 6:28 am

    Larry, they’re both terms of art, add “mobile home” into the mix as well.

    To me, a “tiny house” is exactly that. It’s tiny, usually smaller than most mobile homes, and built much more like a conventional house, generally a one off with design features that make it obviously different than most mobile homes or modulars.

    Insofar as it being a “camper,” indeed this sort of tiny house is not used as a residence but rather as a “camping shelter” which is the term they use in the applicable Land Use Code. So calling it a “camper” might actually be more accurate than “house.”

    To me, a camper would be something perhaps similar size, only much more portable and designed for many miles of towing or other forms of transport. Tiny houses are designed to move around, but most are not built to take hundreds of hours of road vibration, and they can be rather heavy.

    In the end, a big part of the tiny house movement is psychological. Much of it is a way to get past the stigma of mobile homes by using something that’s essentially the same, only different.

    JCoats, that’s pretty much it, only the usual tiny house is always a single wide, usually 8 feet so it’s a legal tow without wide load permits.


  8. Kevin S June 28th, 2017 7:41 am

    Interesting article and I see a “cottage industry” that with a few mining claims and road access could sprout a private network of new huts in our Rockies.

  9. Lou Dawson 2 June 28th, 2017 8:15 am

    Way better than yurts, so easy to place and move, rodent proof, very warm, easily engineered for massive snow loads… but building a decent tiny house to code is not cheap.

    For some projects we’re working on I just did an estimate, materials only (no labor) to build a 20×8 foot shell with door and windows, unfinished interior, no furnishings, no kitchen, raw shell, $25 a square foot, bump that up to $125 a square foot or more for labor, insulation, interior finish, built-ins, wood stove system, etc. Building decent quality residential construction isn’t cheap.

    Then you’ve got your solar, propane cooking system, some sort of temporary deck, wood supply shed, and so on.

    Someone told me a while back they’d seen at least one backcountry lodging business that used several tiny houses on private land, that were moved occasionally a few feet one direction or the other so they came under “temporary” category in land use code.


  10. pockets June 28th, 2017 9:12 pm

    Wow, nice “camping shelter” and nice photos! What did you have to do to prep the site? And where did you buy the tiny house?

  11. Lou Dawson 2 June 29th, 2017 7:24 am

    Owner did the usual site prep for this sort of thing, logging a few trees and a small patch of dirt work to level a spot so it was easier to work. They bought the unit in Colorado not to far from where it was installed.

  12. Crazy Horse June 29th, 2017 1:55 pm

    I kind of get the tiny house fad. They are cute– even beautiful and somewhat mobile. Whereas the giant 5th wheelers that venture out to the “wilderness” of Wyoming every weekend are much more mobile and butt ugly.

    But from a standpoint of dollars and sense why would anybody buy a tiny house? On craigslist right now there is a 1990 40′ motor home powered by a 400hp Cummins, diesel generator, solar panels, large water tanks, flat screen TV— all the usual. A lot more room and storage than most tiny houses. Sold new for 200k+. only 100k on the engine,, You can buy it for 16k and drive it to your mountain lot tomorrow. Don’t like the murals on the side? Hire a faux painter to cover it with aspen leaves.

    And you can drive it to Denali or Mexico any time.

  13. Lou Dawson 2 June 29th, 2017 4:21 pm

    Crazy I agree with much of that. Where the motor homes fail is in a few areas. Worst is they often have very weak and eventually leaky roofs. That’s why you see so many parked under shelters. They’re also often a bit cramped inside due to a preponderance of partitions and built-in stuff. Tiny house can be designed roomy, and if you’re willing to deal with wide load permitting can be made 10 feet wide instead of 8. Insulation isn’t a big deal with these small spaces, but still, tiny house can be as insulated as you want while the motor homes tend to have thin walls.

    But yeah, if the motor home was completely wired, had the PV panels ready to go, kitchen ready, propane system, and could be driven, pretty nice indeed.

    There is a cultural issue as well. Some potential nimbys intensely dislike the look of mobile homes and RVs, but seem to have less problem with a nicely designed and finished tiny house.

  14. Crazy Horse June 30th, 2017 8:09 am

    Yea, I don’t like the look of motor homes either. That’s why i suggested painting the entire outside with a camouflage of faux aspen leaves!

  15. Andrew July 1st, 2017 7:11 pm

    This proves my theory – it is great to have a big truck, but even better to have a friend with a big truck.

    I built a 10′ x 12′ tiny house for $5,000 all told (stoves, solar system, etc.) and have been very happy with it. I made mine so it could be scraped off of it’s elevated platform onto a flatbed truck or trailer if I ever needed to move it. I think a lot of the expense of many tiny homes comes from incorporating a trailer into the design, which is used once or twice, but otherwise never needed.

    Tiny houses are way warmer than yurts, have nice windows and are more secure. A mobile home/trailer is nice, but most of them aren’t set up for the winter and tend to be cold and clammy.

  16. Charlynn Porter July 9th, 2017 4:45 pm

    Great article

  17. Thom Mackris July 25th, 2017 1:19 pm

    In case any Coloradans are interested, I just learned that the 1st Annual Colorado Tiny House Festival is going on this Fri-Sun, in Keensburg, CO.

    Quite a few manufacturers as well as workshops.

    Here’s the website:

    … Thom

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