Ryo's Hut in the Mountains - Tiny House Blog

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.





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Epperson - November 18, 2009 Reply

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.

Bill - November 18, 2009 Reply

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.

    Epperson - November 18, 2009 Reply

    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.

    Ryo - November 18, 2009 Reply

    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.

Michael O'Leary - November 18, 2009 Reply

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!

Dan - November 18, 2009 Reply

Duct Tape and Mylar Blankets??? I think it might be warmer in his tent

Ryo - November 18, 2009 Reply

Thanks for the post Kent! I just wanted to add for anyone who’s interested that I have more pictures up on Flickr:


Paula - November 18, 2009 Reply

Living the dream!

Bill at 18,263 Days Later - November 18, 2009 Reply

Thanks for a great post, and thanks for letting us know about Ryo’s blog. I’ve added his feed to my site and look forward to hearing more about his adventures in voluntary simplicity.

Jon - November 19, 2009 Reply

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!

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell - November 19, 2009 Reply

Congrats, Ryo!

liz goertz - November 19, 2009 Reply

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.

Susan McReynolds - November 19, 2009 Reply

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!

Joseph Sandy - November 19, 2009 Reply


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.

Tiny House Living , Archive » Ryo’s $600 Hut - November 20, 2009 Reply

[…] Here’s a modern day homesteading story of a man buying 60-acres in northern California and building himself a simple $600 tiny house. He’s just getting started and recording his adventure and life on his blog, Laptop and a Rifle. I first spotted this story on Tiny House Blog. […]

Simple Living News Update: Week of November 23rd - November 30, 2009 Reply

[…] Ryos Hut in the Mountains […]

Tiny House Design , Archive » Earthbag Daydream - December 2, 2009 Reply

[…] I first read about Ryo Chijiiwa’s tiny cabin on Tiny House Blog I was fascinated by the adventure this fellow was on. He quit his job at Google, […]

Tiny House Design , Archive » We’re stronger together – Happy Earth Day! - April 22, 2010 Reply

[…] might remember reading about Ryo’s hut in the mountains on Tiny House Blog last November. Let me recap that story… Ryo Chijiiwa bought 60 acres of […]

Jan Lipford - September 17, 2010 Reply

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.

Laptop and a Rifle Update hatnohat - January 23, 2011 Reply

[…] broke. Again. I was in a similar place when you last heard from me on the Tiny House Blog. When I last wrote here a year ago, I had just finished my 48 square foot hut, which cost me the last of my savings. Without enough […]

[Tiny House Blog] Laptop and a Rifle Update hatnohat - April 9, 2011 Reply

[…] broke. Again. I was in a similar place when you last heard from me on the Tiny House Blog. When I last wrote here a year ago, I had just finished my 48 square foot hut, which cost me the last of my savings. Without enough […]

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