The Porta-Hut Tiny House Project Begins

Post by blogger | August 20, 2011      

Every fall, during hunting seasons, they come rolling through town here in western Colorado. Joe redneck can’t afford a motor home, but he’s got a flatbed trailer he uses for gathering firewood or hauling his bomber to the dirt track. Add a few 2x4s, nail up some plywood, staple a poly tarp on top. Result: Instant RV for hunting camp with the boys. Yeah, redneck intelligence (no, not always an oxymoron) results in the “porta-hut” tiny house.

Portable hut for backcountry skiing.

It doesn't look like much now, but this funky used 16 foot car hauler will hopefully become WildSnow Field HQ, an off-the-grid wheeled hut parked near some of Colorado's best backcountry skiing.

Here at we like a bit more luxury than a plywood box. We’ve been enjoying our slide-in pickup truck camper for road trips. Beyond that, we’ve also gained access to a few parcels of backcountry land where we’re either borrowing the location from the owner, or in our case, planning on eventually building a permanent structure but need something temporary that we mostly use as a day lodge, with occasional camp nights. Basically, we want to park a wheeled RV tiny house for the winter. and we don’t want to use our camper for that (it’s small, can’t take a high altitude snow load, and we like it on the truck). We could buy and park a used travel-trailer but those are ugly and the roof won’t hold the snow either.

Solution, do like those redneck hunters only with some pizazz — build a porta-hut RV camp trailer!

So yesterday I raged all over Western Slope Colorado looking for a trailer chassis to modify as the “rolling foundation” for a portahut tiny house. I ended up with a 16 foot car hauler. We’ll mod this to be about 9 x 16 foot (give or take) base for a rolling portable structure. Presently, we’re planning on a one-story rectangle with a gable roof and sleeping loft. Enough room to be luxurious for 4 people, comfortable for 6, or squeeze in 8 in a pinch. It won’t be the type of RV you’re going to tour North America with. More something you’d move periodically from one parcel of land to another, within, say, 50 miles.

So, this is the first of what we hope will be a fun series of posts about the do-it-yourself building process.

All the portahut RV posts are available via this link.

Amazing Small House Plans. 65-874 square feet – Visit Tumbleweed Tiny House to find out more.


33 Responses to “The Porta-Hut Tiny House Project Begins”

  1. ScottN August 20th, 2010 9:32 am

    Nice find ! Have hut, will travel.

  2. El Jefe August 20th, 2010 9:35 am

    Lawd, I can’t wait to see this come together. Lou, your neck is red, but so is mine. Love it.

  3. Halsted August 20th, 2010 10:11 am

    Looks like that trailer has enough room for a hut and an snowmachine garage :silly:

  4. Chuck August 20th, 2010 10:26 am

    Will the Porta-Hut be rentable like a “Bed and SKI”?

  5. Lou August 20th, 2010 10:26 am

    If we were true to the faith, we’d park the snowmachine in there and use it for a couch. But Lisa probably has other ideas :angel:

  6. Lou August 20th, 2010 10:29 am

    Chuck, interesting you should ask. I guess great minds think alike, eh? If the location doesn’t create issues, we are planning on several contests with the prize being hut nights and me to show you around. Stay tuned for that, it’ll have to be carefully orchestrated. The locations we have in mind probably won’t lend themselves to rentals, though we might be able to figure somthing out.

  7. Mark August 20th, 2010 10:34 am

    Somewhat related is this short series on setting up a mobile workshop:


  8. Jonathan Burhop August 20th, 2010 11:16 am

    I’m with El Jefe. This is going to be fun to watch. Don’t forget the mini-bar!

  9. Lou August 20th, 2010 12:16 pm

    Probably have some sort of propane fridge in there, but main focus this fall will be to get the heating and lighting working right. Timing is tight, as we have to get this in place before the roads get slick with the fall mud and snow layers.

  10. Dmitriy August 20th, 2010 12:18 pm

    Lou for your communications (if you have 3G coverage up there) I would recommend a CradlePoint router which can interface with a long list of phones and USB modems. External antenna adapter on a USB 3G modem can be connected to an amp from Wilson Electronics + Directional Ant.

    This setup worked really well for me in Canada. This was you can have multiple people/devices online at the same time :biggrin:

  11. El Jefe August 20th, 2010 12:31 pm

    just re-watch “Grumpy Old Men” and model it after one of their fishin shacks. gotta have some wiskey or beer thrown in there somewhere.

  12. Colin in CA August 20th, 2010 12:49 pm

    Lou, this is an exceedingly cool idea. Looking forward to watching it develop.

  13. Ryan August 20th, 2010 1:10 pm

    This is beyond cool….what an idea!

  14. Michael August 20th, 2010 1:20 pm

    Three Sisters Backcountry did a similar thing with 2 yurts and a sauna on a flatbed. Set it up in the winter at a camping site with an outhouse. They break down the yurts and store them in the sauna, truck it out in the spring and the area is ready for summer camping.

  15. Kyle August 20th, 2010 1:25 pm

    Too funny I was just surfing the web and came across this site the other day, the winter ideas started flowing.

  16. Marcus August 20th, 2010 1:53 pm

    Very cool — can’t wait to see the development.

    Anything else coming from OR?

  17. Tom Gos August 20th, 2010 2:20 pm

    Lou, be sure to keep the video camera rolling while you are hauling it up into the hills – just in case the whole thing collapses when you hit some water bar a little too fast. Hopefully that dosen’t happen, but this will be interesting to watch. I’ve often thought it would be cool to establish some well constructed igloos to use for BC skiing over the course of a winter, but your project is a whole other level.

  18. Lou August 20th, 2010 2:34 pm

    Marcus, speaking of OR, among other things still comingI got set up with Wilson Electronics and will be doing hands-on install reviews of their cell phone booster products. Really useful stuff for those of us who drive to remote trailheads and that sort of thing.

  19. Dave B. August 20th, 2010 7:59 pm

    Way, way cool.

  20. Marti August 20th, 2010 11:39 pm

    Solar eh? What next – a vegan diet?

    I just saw a nice looking 60w solar system in Costco for about $250. A few years ago I bought a 45w version from Harbor Freight for $200 and it is still going strong.

  21. gtrantow August 21st, 2010 7:37 am

    These two websites show huts on wheels.

    I concur that adding a simple solar panel (60w), controller and battery with 12v LEDs can take care of your lighting and fans. You can apply the information from to your project for solar, winterizing, etc. A small vented propane heater is probably your best option. RV appliances will make your hut comfy.

  22. Njord August 21st, 2010 7:54 am

    Consider a Yurt yet? It’s “free-standing” and temp and does a great job with snow…


  23. Jeremy Morgan August 21st, 2010 11:26 am

    Sounds like an awesome project. Don’t know what you have in mind for the walls, but you may want to look into making/using some sort of stress-skin panels based around several inches of insulation board. Doing that allows you to use thinner wood on each side of the foam and you end up with a very strong, light panel which will insulate quite well. After you frame in the structure you just install pre-cut panels (you can even build all your windows into them) and then seal it all up with expando foam. The trick is to use a glue that doesn’t dissolve the foam-board :pinch: . Wood glue actually works very well for that.
    Can’t wait to see this come together.

  24. Jonathan L August 21st, 2010 5:57 pm

    Kept flashing on Kem Nunn’s Pomona Queen. I believe this trailer falls into the serial killer school of architecture. Remote, primitive, good strong locks. No one will be back till Spring…..

    And how come the anti-spam quiz kicked back on p-tex?

  25. Lou August 22nd, 2010 8:40 am

    Jonathan, I’m feeling like Road Warrior as I hack this thing apart with a cutting torch… fun!

    I added some words to the quiz per your suggestion, try it.

    Thanks, Lou

  26. Simon August 22nd, 2010 7:49 pm


    Check it out:

    Built by a great friend of mine and she would be a wealth of info for you.

    have fun,

  27. Lou August 23rd, 2010 6:17 am

    Simon, thanks, that looks fantastic! I’ll add to the contact for info list.

  28. jay beaudin August 28th, 2010 7:26 am

    I’ve been very happy with the Utility Trailer I modified for winter use, my Toad Hall
    1. Purchase tight, dry, light trailer.
    2. Insulate, wire, panel. Windows are optional(RV).
    3. Install Dickenson propane(non-condensing) or diesel marine heater, stove/oven,
    4. Rugs, cots, shelves built for the road.

    Could even be used at the Shows you do. Parks descretely and is great for summer storage of stufff too.

  29. Mark Fishbein August 28th, 2010 10:23 am

    way cool……..this is the finest “afterlife” we can imagine for the old dear!!!! 🙂

  30. Lou August 28th, 2010 2:15 pm

    Mark, more coming, stay tuned!

  31. brad bruette September 1st, 2010 4:23 pm

    Sounds like you folks need a “MN ICE FISHING SHACK ” they make them pretty comfortable, fairly light so they can be towed onto a lake and moved around…I’d say a 6-hole’r ? ….let me know if i should bring one down!!! Brad

  32. Ed November 21st, 2016 5:20 pm

    Lou/ All,
    Folks seem to have run into a brick wall with regards to staying with a roof over their heads in Calgary by building a Tiny House. Here is an example of the hassles the City of Calgary is giving one guy trying to make a go on the edge of town:
    Is there ANYONE out there who knows of a way to help this guy? It seems in Calgary even if you “own” the house and lot, secondary laneway homes for example (a la the Fonze) (am I dating myself?) are a no-go and now this. Good thing Outdoor Research Tiny House ski hut didn’t make it into Alberta but stayed on the Powder Highway in British Columbia! All this during a massive recession in Calgary with 10%+ unemployment (a faux number as the actual rate is probably much much higher). Help!

  33. Lou Dawson 2 November 21st, 2016 5:37 pm

    Ed, the problems arise when you want to live in a tinyhouse as a permanent residence. Used like we do on our backcountry land, as a “camping shelter,” it’s not a problem around here. Essentially the same thing as parking an RV on your own land. But would be illegal to live in due to minimum house size requirements, not to mention zoning re mobile homes, which is all a tiny house on wheels or parked RV is, just a mobile home in the eyes of the law.

    I have sympathy for the guy in Calgary. But for starters one has to wonder how he deals with sanitation, etc., and if they way he’s doing that stuff is legal. Laws governing sewage are strict, and often rightfully so, especially in populous areas. Too bad the journalist reporting couldn’t have given us a bit more detail.

    In reality, the OR tiny house is just a pull-behind RV.


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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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