Tents as Tiny Houses

There are still a few weeks of summer left and now’s the time to dig out another type of tiny house—the tent. While most people would never think of a tent as a tiny house, many people who spend months hiking over 2,000 miles on trails like the Pacific Crest and the Appalachian look at that bundle of nylon, cordage and plastic as their shelter, safety, warmth and haven.


Like the turtle with its shell, there’s something to be said for being able to strap everything you need for the next few days, weeks, months or even years of your life onto your back. The sense of self-sufficiency and freedom is empowering.


Caro Ryan, of the blog Lotsafreshair, posted a creative, little video of how her tent has become her tiny house. Caro is an Aussie gal who films some beautiful hiking and backpacking videos in the Australian bush and shares tips on how to get the most out of your fresh air trips. She covers how to cook and eat well, how to pack a backpack, hiking health and fitness and how to be as light on the land as possible. You also have to watch her videos just to hear her say “billy” in her Aussie accent.


With the new movie, Wild (based on Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling book) coming out soon, folks may get even more inspired to chuck their material possessions and hit the trail. The idea of the tent as a temporary or long-term home may become even more acceptable—even in the tiny house realm.

Photos and video by Lotsafreshair/Caro Ryan

By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

Portable Solar Camping

We spent most of last week camping at Big Bear Lake in Southern California. We were celebrating my mother’s 80th birthday and also my folks 60th wedding anniversary that actually happened back in June. Also it was the first time in a couple of years that all of us were able to get together. My two brothers and my sister and all our kids and their spouses. It was lots of fun. My uncle and his wife live down the road from where we camped so we did go to their home as well.

My wife and I also celebrated our 32nd anniversary on this trip so that was fun also.

80 watt solar panel

This was my first chance to use the Zamp Solar 80 Watt panel that I featured back a few months ago in a post in a test based at our home. I am happy to tell you that it kept up with our usage of electricity. Though we really just used the power for the water pump for the kitchen and toilet and lights at night I was happy to find out that the 80 watt solar panel could easily keep up with that type of use. Each day I would connect the panel and within two or three hours it would top off my battery. It is exciting to use the sun in this way. I did not have to turn the generator on once during our four day camping trip.

To learn more about this panel visit my previous post called the 80 Watt Zamp Solar Portable Charging System.

The Family

The Family

Janelle and I

Janelle and I


A Life Lived Under The Earth


Nearly five years ago (in 2009) a reader named Dave sent Tiny House Blog information regarding the Shorpy Historic Archive. One of those images is shown above and is a dugout house built by homesteaders Faro and Doris Caudill with Mount Allegro in the background in Pie Town, New Mexico. (titled: The Caudills at dinner. 35mm Kodachrome transparency by Russell Lee.)

At the time it was classified as a Tiny House In A Landscape. But as the history of tiny houses continues to be written it seems that these underground homes share a number of qualities with modern tiny houses.

Pithouse illustration

Imagine this. You have moved out to a destination unchartered. There are no cities or roads in your view. The closest Wal-Mart is anyone’s guess. You subsequently have no bricks for foundation, no lumber for framing, and no vinyl for siding. What do you do? Without being able to take refuge in a cave you may turn to the very ground you are standing on. And why not? People have been doing it for centuries. And while many in the tiny house community may not be using the earth for their homes they are using the materials most readily available to them; pallet wood, reclaimed lumber, reglazed windows, and the like. 

The dugout or pit house, with sod roof, log walls and earthen floor, is among the most ancient of human dwellings dating back at least 5,000 years. 

The process is rather simple (if by definition and not actual labor). Dig a square hole in the ground between four and five feet deep. Construct a slanted roof above it using poles, brush, and even dirt. This collection of materials would not only keep you cool and out of direct sun in the summer but also relatively warm in the winter.  The secret was that our ancestors took advantage of the earths temperature which we now call earth sheltering. It is a practice of building walls for external thermal mass; to reduce heat loss, and to easily maintain a steady indoor air temperature.

A cut-in of an early pithouse courtesy of ilovehistory.utah.gov.

A cut-in of an early pithouse courtesy of ilovehistory.utah.gov.

As time progressed dugouts or pit houses looked less like ground burrows and more like shelter entrances to unimaginable, earthen comfort.

James Barton came to Republic County, Kansas, in 1871, from Marshall County, Iowa, as a young child. His parents homesteaded near modern-day Cuba, Kansas. Looking back on the family’s trip by covered wagon, Mr. Barton remembered that it “was a mighty long and hard walk from Iowa to Kansas for a seven year old, barefoot boy!”

The following paragraphs are excerpted from an account of homestead days that Mr. Barton wrote in 1936.

In the spring [of 1872] father built our dug-out. Now you young folks, who think your pretty homes are not comfortable enough, you should have seen our first Kansas home — one underground room, dirt floor, dirt roof, and fleas and snakes for company. You never saw so many fleas– we always blamed the buffalo and buffalo grass for these fleas, for all sod-house and dug-out families had them.

Our first crop was cut by father and a Mr. Zavodsky with a “cradle” scythe, — a hard beginning for our parents, but how we children enjoyed the pretty country– miles and miles of “Blue-Stem” in places three and four feet high, and just a lot of fun to play and hide in! There were no roads — no towns — no churches — no schools — no doctors — and no railroads… When father went for provisions, it took him about a week to drive it with oxen, where you young folks now could motor it in an hour and a half…1

Or perhaps not so comfortable!

An Oklahoma dugout photographed c. 1909. The family is probably sitting in the only available shade.  Source:http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004665280/ From a picture postcard series by J. V. Dedrick

An Oklahoma dugout photographed c. 1909.
The family is probably sitting in the only available shade.
From a picture postcard series by J. V. Dedrick


To continue down yet another tiny house history rabbit trail consider starting here!

To view a video tour of the dugout home made famous by Laura Ingalls Wilder in Little House on the Prairie click here.

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]