Squeeze a House into a Tent

Most of us live in some form of traditional home complete with the typical layout. We probably have a living room, dining room, bathroom, kitchen and utility area. Unless a person is a tiny home enthusiast, most homes are of modest size and comfy. Because we are living in an expedition wall tent while we build our home, we were faced with a bit of interior design when it came time to make our living space as efficient as possible. This would be home for the foreseeable future and it needed to be thoughtfully laid out. In my last post, I explained how we built a tent platform and frame, then erected our temporary home. Come on in, make yourself at home and we’ll talk about how we squeeze a house into a tent.

We were fully aware of potentially having to use a tent for a year while we built our new home. The tent would serve as our shelter for many months and would need to protect us through summer heat and winter cold. Throw in gale force winds at a minimum on occasion and we were asking our tent to do a lot. With this tent we have a roof over our heads and with the added rain fly, we have zero concern about rain and snow.

Easy Tent Access

Wood Front Door

Wood Front Door

On one end of the tent there is a rectangular canvas door with 2 heavy duty parallel zippers. The door is 36 inches wide. A screen door is also provided with the same arrangement of heavy duty zippers. Most days, we leave the canvas door rolled up and use the screen door. However, having to work the zippers countless times a days becomes a real hassle. It’s more convenient to have a wooden door. Hence the need to order the tent with the entrance as a rectangular opening for the sole purpose of eventually retrofitting a wooden door in place. It’s simple to make. A couple of 2X4’s for the frame tacked down to the floor and a single horizontal member over the door makes the wooden door frame. I extended the upright pieces up to the metal roof joists. Since we can’t tack or nail to the metal or canvas, I drilled a few holes in the 2 X 4’s at the top and then used shipping strapping to tie the 2 X 4 tops to the tent frame. I could have used some wire to do the chore but I didn’t want to take a chance on puncturing the canvas. That would have spoiled my day.

Bedroom and Bathroom

In the corner of the east wall we set up our bed with an inflatable mattress which gets us off the floor and gives us a good night’s sleep. Currently we are using our summer down filled sleeping bags but when the colder temperatures arrive, we’ll break out the good winter down filled bags. We’ve slept outdoors in them down to -20F and although we survived, I don’t care to try that one again. Even though the bags are rated for that temperature, let’s just say it was a tad brisk.

Our bedroom

Our bedroom

We have a chest of drawers at the foot of the bed in the “bedroom” so that Johanna can keep our clothes reasonably organized. No more living out of suitcases. If we continue on along that wall of the tent, we get to the bathroom complete with a utility sink and toilet. I mentioned our toilet in a previous post but it is a urine diverting composting type of toilet. The sink is plumbed so waste water flows out to a leach field trench that I had the excavator dig when the machine was here. Urine from the toilet also flows out to the same area. The leach field has a couple of 10 foot sections of 4 inch perforated pipe that I set on coarse rock. Eventually I will put a piece of plastic over it to keep out the soil and then back fill to keep smells to a minimum. This will also help keep the bed from freezing in the winter.

Bathroom and Utility Sink

Bathroom and Utility Sink

While I’m in this area of the tent, I might as well describe our shower. This is a Ron original, patent pending contraption that will get us fresh as a daisy after a hard days work. This is more of a cold weather set up since in warm weather we use a camp shower bag or sit in a large animal water basin for a bath outside. That same flexible animal water bucket will be used to collect the shower water inside the tent when it gets too chilly to bathe outside. I used a piece of 1” plastic tubing with a union to form a round shower curtain rod. We bought a couple of shower curtains to ride on this tubing ring. The whole set up is near the wood stove for added comfort. I mounted a pulley on the top roof member and attached the shower bag to the pulley. This gets the bag as high as possible. To take a shower, we fill the bag with hot water, pull the pulley rope, tie it off to a wall stud, step into the bucket which is sitting in the enclosed curtain, open the shower clamp and let er rip. Ahhh! Nice and clean.

The Shower

The Shower

The last area along the east wall contains a small desk so we refer to this areas as the “office.” Ideally the desk should help keep us organized but in reality, it’s become a place to throw stuff when we don’t know what else to do with it. The satellite modem is located on the desk as is, wait for it… our phone! We have a real phone that works off VOIP (voice over internet) We had a VOIP phone out in the bush with us too and it worked well for us.

Staying Warm with a Wood Stove

Continuing with our tour, the back wall of the tent has a stove jack and our wood stove. The stove jack is a piece of heat resistant material sewn into the canvas so that a stove pipe can be inserted through. The chimney goes out the stove jack and the vertical outdoor pieces are several feet above the peak of the tent for good draw. All stove pipe is screwed together with sheet metal screws. Two to a joint. We hold up the chimney pipe with a long fir pole I cut from the woods. The vertical pole is attached to the chimney pipe with wire in several places so the pole supports the stove pipe well.

Chimney Set Up

Chimney Set Up

However, hurricane season and winter are approaching so I will turn that lone upright into a tripod by wiring on a couple more fir poles I will cut from the woods. A coil of wire, the type used for tying rebar, is sure handy around the homestead.

The chimney top is capped with a spark arresting rain cap. The last thing we want to be doing is sitting cozy by the stove while sparks from the fire are pock marking our rain fly with burn holes. Of course, it never hurts to keep the embers from starting a nearby fire in the forest either.

Just like in a real house, we have a chimney thermometer to monitor the stove temperature, a damper in the pipe and metal behind the stove to reflect heat back into the tent as well as protect the canvas from high heat. Underneath the stove I put a large piece of lightweight metal. This can be purchased at the local building supply store. The metal protects the floor from sparks or embers that might come out when the stove door is opened.

Kitchen Area (Delicacy Factory)

On the west all of the tent, in the corner adjacent to the wood stove is Johanna’s kitchen. She set up some of her maple kitchen cabinets that we lugged across the country from Saskatchewan. Two upper cabinets sitting on top of 2 base cabinets give her the space to organize her things and create a small counter work space so she can bake us power nuggets of some kind. For summer use, a Coleman stove is in her kitchen but come winter she can use the nearby wood stove for cooking and heating water.

Wood Stove and Kitchen Area

Wood Stove and Kitchen Area

For dish washing, Johanna uses 2 basins, one for wash water and one for rinse. The water from these basins is easily emptied into the utility sink where it drains out to the leach field. A 24 volt DC refrigerator/freezer is located in the middle of the tent.

I should point out that we still live in bear country. Although there are less of them in this area than in northern Saskatchewan they still need to be reckoned with. The safest thing would be to have a kitchen area a safe distance from the tent. We are taking a calculated chance having our kitchen and eating area in the tent with us. I would say half of our meals are cooked on an old Coleman stove inside the tent and half the meals are cooked outside over the campfire. Anything greasy or strong smelling is always cooked outdoors because we want very little residual smell in the tent.

As well, we are fastidious in making sure we keep the area clean: dirty dishes are washed every day and all kitchen surfaces in contact with food are wiped down. All food wastes are burned daily and no food is left out. We are careful when we eat that we aren’t slobs dribbling and drooling all over the floor. But when all else fails, I am confident Johanna will protect me if a bear wanders into camp! But in all seriousness, I keep 3 things by my bed within grasp. A can of bear spray, a flashlight and a serious solid blade knife probably 8 inches in length.

That knife does double duty and is extremely important. It is obvious protection. But equally important, because we have all kinds of electrical equipment and a wood stove in the tent, if the worst case scenario happened and we had a tent fire, the last thing we want to be doing is fumbling for a door zipper. Grab the knife and cut a hole in the tent as an escape. We always think through the what ifs and try to be prepared. I should also stress that part of being prepared is having several fire extinguishers at the ready. We have one by the electrical control center, which I’ll get to in a minute, and one handy to the wood stove/kitchen.

Relaxing in the Living Room

Living Room and Dining Area

Living Room and Dining Area

And lastly, just past the kitchen on the west wall, we come to the living room with our sofa and table. This area doubles as the dining room as well. We have a light set up so that I can sit here and peck out a post while Johanna does some reading. It’s really a comfortable arrangement. The electrical center is set up next to the sofa in the corner. I built a plywood stand to create a solid “wall” so I could temporarily mount the charge controller, power center and inverter.

Our Power Center

Our Power Center

From my previous post you may remember I ordered the rainfly so it would be long enough to extend over the porch. This protected porch is where Johanna has her wringer washer set up. Once again PVC pipe channels dirty water into the leach field. We plan to put the chest freezer on the porch and will also use it to store firewood once cold weather arrives.

So now you have an idea of how we set up and organized the interior of our wall tent to be as efficient and cozy as a real home. Isn’t it amazing what can be squeezed into a tent? Thanks for stopping in for a visit.

Until next time, keep the dream alive! We wish you a great day!

Ron and Johanna

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6 Responses to Squeeze a House into a Tent

  1. mallardhen says:

    Can I move in when your finished with using it??? Getting a break for August it is staying in the mid 80’s and is suppose to be 57 come Friday morning, I just know we are going to pay for all this cool weather come September.

    Seriously I think you have a great set-up until you get your house built. We put a 5 bedroom, 3 story house in a 1 bedroom cabin when we moved from upstate NY on the St. Lawrence River; it was a lot of getting rid of and just plain throwing out that did the trick.

    Glad to hear you are doing well and have a very solid roof over your heads. My tomatoes are coming on and my canning season has started in earnest, I see relish, pickles, and jelly along with the peppers and tomatoes all sitting on my shelves in a colorful row.

    Have a happy and take time to be good to yourselves, you deserve it.

    • Ron Melchiore says:

      Hello Sally. Gee, now you have us thinking. Maybe a tent bed and breakfast. We could charge exorbitant prices and have breakfast cooked for us by our guests. Isn’t that the way these bed and breakfast things work? 🙂

      It’s been quite warm here finally. And very dry. We really need some rain. I hope we don’t have too wet a fall since we still need to accomplish a lot of stuff. We’ll manage either way.

      That’s some serious downsizing when you made the move to a smaller cabin. Good job weeding through all the possessions to take the most important stuff. That’s a hard job. Impossible for some people.

      Now I’m really jealous of that garden of yours. This would be the normal time we would have tomatoes coming ourselves for one of my all time favorites. BLT’s Our garden is pathetic. It needs some real work. There are a number of deficiencies that need to be addressed. But first things first. We need a real house. And a major pile of firewood. Those are the priorities. We weren’t expecting to get a garden in so this is really a bonus to get anything. Some tomatoes and peppers have flowers so we should get something yet. Johanna has lots of stuff planted for the fall like spinach and lettuce. The late start hurt as well. Next year will definitely be a lot better.

      Thank you Sally for the visit and comments! I wish you the best. Ron

  2. Cndnate says:

    Very impressive Ron

    • Ron Melchiore says:

      Thank you Cndnate! I appreciate the comment and your visit to our site. Things are really dry over here. Looks like showers this weekend. I hope all is well with you. Ron

  3. KC says:

    I’m sure it’s just semantics but seems like Johanna is doing all the “housework”

    • Ron Melchiore says:

      Gosh KC, I don’t know about that. Johanna just finished sweeping the floor and is in the kitchen now making dinner so I don’t want to bother her. But when she’s finished cooking, I’ll have to ask her if she agrees. 🙂

      But seriously, part of the teamwork is she does what she is comfortable with and I do the rest. We each have our areas of expertise. No way is she going out with a chainsaw for example to cut firewood. But she enjoys stacking it.

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