Ryo’s Hut in the Mountains

Ryo contacted me about his project in Northern California. Ryo has put together a shelter for a very small amount of cash and I think we can all learn from his experience.

Ryo has a very interesting blog and you will enjoy reading it. It is a journal of his experiences in building his hut, so make sure you go and visit it here. I’m going to let Ryo tell his story now.


This past summer, I bought 60 acres of vacant land in northern California, and have been living there part time since August. Sleeping in a tent was fine while it was warm, but as the weather turned colder and wetter, I decided I needed something bigger, warmer, and dryer. I knew I didn’t need or want much; just something big enough for me to relax, cook, and sleep in comfortably.

In keeping with my theme of “minimalist comfort,” I decided to go for something small, just 6 feet by 8 feet, though with some insulation for warmth, and windows for light. Of course, it also had to be sturdy enough to not collapse under the weight of snow. I looked at pre-fab sheds at hardware stores, but even the tiniest, most shoddily made ones cost $500-600, with no windows or insulation. Naively, I figured that I could build a nicer hut for under $300.

With only a rudimentary (and incomplete) design I put together using Google SketchUp, I began construction in late October when a couple of friends came out for a weekend to help with the raising, and then worked on it alone for another 7 or 8 days before it was ready to be moved into. I built a loft for my sleeping pad, which left all the floor open for use, and left enough space for me to put in a small counter table for my propane stove.

The actual cost has since ballooned past $500, but it’s mostly done, and has been more or less comfortable enough to live in through rain, snow, and 20 degree (f) nights. It’s not the prettiest thing, but I’m proud of the fact that I designed and built a nice, cozy and sturdy hut for relatively cheap, despite not having any formal training in carpentry or architecture.

Ryo’s hut is not quite finished as he still needs to finish off the roof, be sure and follow his blog to keep up with his progress. Thanks Ryo for sharing your story.





21 thoughts on “Ryo’s Hut in the Mountains”

  1. I love this post!

    Peter King claims he could build a Tiny Home for $1,500.

    Lamar of Solar Homes claim he could build a Tiny Home for $2,000.

    Ryo has built a bare-bones Tiny Home for $500!

    Of course, Michael has everyone beat. He’s building one using free materials.

  2. A nice story, and a good start on the hut. It will be nice to see it finished.

    It sounds like Ryo could use some tips on improving his hut, insulation, heating, etc. There are lots of things here and other online sites to help. I would say get some of the foam insulation sheets from the store, and put those in the walls. You can cut them to the size you need for a nice tight fit. It will give you more insulation, and cut down on drafts.

    I am looking forward to hearing more about this building project.

    • I agree with the foam insulation sheet approach since Ryo is operating on a very tight budget. Although spray foam is highly effective, I don’t believe its necessary in Tiny Homes since it would give it very tight envelope in a small space. This may have negative effects without the aid of an air circulation system. Installing one would just add to the expenses.

    • Thanks Bill! And yes, I’ve learned that while mylar reflects radiant heat, I’m actually losing most of my heat through conduction, which mylar isn’t great for. Foam would definitely work better, though I’m also looking for more environmentally friendly (yet still cheap) alternatives too.

  3. What a great first effort – my guess is that this will prove to be the first of several progressively more refined builds – Ryo appears to have the energy and drive to tackle challenging projects! KUDOS!

  4. Ryo Rocks! I am impressed with the Mylar blankets! where did those come from? The roof is bound to be innovative as well, I look forward to seeing the “awesome outpost” evolve, and Im sure theres gonna be a little front porch making an appearance too, that gonna cut way down on tracking stuff into the house. Good job Ryo!

  5. Oil lamps give off toxic fumes, so does parifin, switch to bee’s wax candles in one of those flower pot heaters! Perferated mylar would help the hut breath.Real goods sells it. Get your self a CO2 detectore, it might save you life!If you want to see the wood inside put up foam insulation on the out side, some has mylar attatched. Quilted curtains would be good at night. As for ” going” out in the cold, that’s what chamber pots are for! A warm rock or brick from the fire wrapped in a cloth and put in the bottom of your sleeping bag will help the cold toes.

  6. I was just up at our place…7,300ft…6″ of new snow. Our pad is 12’x10′ and built very well. But oh my gosh!!!it is freezing at night! Ryo NEEDS some insulation or we will see a Sean Penn movie about him in 10 years. We ran a Blackcat heater and you could still see your breath frosting in the air by 10 pm inside the cabin. Best of luck!

  7. cool

    Two possible cheep insulation ideas. I have read that some old houses used straw in the wall cavities for insulation, I don’t know how well it works. My other idea is to use those packing peanuts, you can often find huge bags of them for free on craigslist.

    One concern I have is the seams of the plywood, this could be a very easy way for water to get in and ruin that plywood very quickly.

    looking forward to seeing the progress.

  8. My husband built a beautiful little house for me in my backyard. It’s about 12×12 and there are pics of it on my fb page. I love it sooo much! I read out there everyday for an hour or more.


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