Living off the Grid: Building an off the Grid Cabin for Winter for $300

Categories: Building Methods


Just three months ago we purchased 5 acres of land in the Pacific Northwest where we will be working to develop our off grid homestead 100% from scratch. While we will be working to build our timber frame barn and eventually timber frame house, winter has arrived and we have neither! We are boondocking in our RV and needed a way to winterize + stay warm.

We decided to build this little cabin as an add-on to our RV. Right now, our RV is under a ShelterLogic Garage-in-a-Box which has no insulation whatsoever. We thought that if we could build a small 10x12 cabin onto the end of the carport that we could heat the entire enclosure with a wood stove. We've been working to insulation the carport fully, so between all of our efforts we have managed to heat the inside to 68 degrees!

The best part of all is that we built this off grid cabin ourselves with reclaimed materials. Instead of spending $3,000+ to build this cabin, we did it for about $300. Most of these materials came from a demolition we were able to help out with which you can see in our other videos. We also were able to salvage many second-hand building materials with a barter flyer we put up around town.

We are loving our little cabin! Have we ever built a cabin before? NOPE! Do we feel more confident about our building skills? Yes! Did we learn a lot that we can implement when building our barn and house? YES!

We moved to our 5 acre property in September of 2015 and while we have grand plans of building a timber frame barn + a timber frame house, we will not have them done before winter which leaves us to continued living in a travel trailer! As we will be getting low temperatures in the Pacific Northwest, it is critical that we take the proper precautions and “winterize” our RV. As we don’t have electricity, it seemed that the only solution was building an off the grid cabin that would attach to our portable RV garage, giving us a fully enclosed, heated space.

In a way, we started this project with low spirits because as always, we aim high with our goals and we were hoping to have had our barn built by now. The original plan with the barn was to have it framed and enclosed by winter so that we could put our RV in it and heat the area with a wood stove. This would have been the most-ideal solution when living off the gridto keeping our pipes, tanks and pumps from freezing while keeping the inside of the trailer warm as well.

However, because we were so incredibly busy during month one and month two of our homesteading journey, we didn’t have time to build the barn. Well, I suppose we could have gotten it done if we would have put our minds to it, but we decided that other things were more important, that we needed to slow down a bit, that we needed to practice our skills before tackling a large project, and that we could survive the winter in our RV.

So just days before our first snow, we were still living in a travel trailer that was protected only by a garage-in-a-box, mounted on a frame + deck, with no insulation or protection from the cold whatsoever!

Even though we know how to dress for winter and we knew we needed to be able to heat an enclosed structure for our RV and just enclosing our garage-in-a-box wasn’t going to cut it; we needed to be able to heat the enclosure as well, and we didn’t want to stick a wood stove directory in the garage-in-a-box. The only solution seemed to be to get to work building a cabin add-on to put the wood stove in (plus it would give us other benefits as well), and it would be built using reclaimed building materials that we gathered just days prior!

In More Detail: How This Helps to Winterize Our RV

Winterizing an RV is much more difficult when living off grid because we don’t have electricity! While we do have a portable generator, we don’t wish to run it 24/7 to take advantage of electricity, and even if we were able to use electric heaters, we would still need an enclosed place to capture the heat.

As stated prior, this cabin helps to winterize our RV because it gives us a place for the wood stove. It wouldn’t be very safe to simply put the wood stove in the garage-in-a-box. The entire cabin is insulated (floor, walls and roof) which helps for heat retention. We’ve been working on fully insulating our carport as well with full skirting and insulation from the floor to the peak of the roof. It’s not sexy but it does the trick and allows us to focus on other things.

We then use a couple of these air movers to blow the hot air from the wood stove to the back of the carport where our water tank and water pump reside.

So far, we’ve managed to get the inside of the cabin to 68 degrees Fahrenheit and the back of the carport 55 degrees – both are well above freezing in freezing temperatures which is exactly what we wanted!

Oh yea… just days after building this cabin, we had a giant windstorm carnage that mangled our carport completely but our cabin stood tall and didn’t budge an inch to our surprise… not bad, not bad at all!

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