Living in Idaho is often synonymous with building cabins and being a hunter. When people think about Idaho, they think about roughing it in the woods, eating freshly caught fish, and whistling along with the trains. Cabins are really the only reason we can do things like this so often. And if you want to do something more than just a retreat in the mountains, you’re going to need a different sort of cabin than you’re probably thinking of. A hunting cabin is your number one item on your list to becoming a bona fide mountain man.
What is a hunting cabin? In a nutshell, a hunting cabin is just a bare-bones cabin that you can use as a step up from sleeping in a tent on a hunting trip in the mountains. It has everything you need for hunting, cooking, sleeping, bathing, and staying warm. Though not big or grand, it does have all the necessities.
Now I’m going to go into the details of what features hunting cabins have, building tips, what is necessary to include, common problems, and why you would want to have one as opposed to just staying in a tent.
What’s Inside…. and Outside
A hunting cabin, in one word, is spartan. Bare floors, bare walls, bare cupboards. The whole allure of a hunting cabin is getting away from all the noise, the lights, and the concrete jungle gym. No service, no fluffy mattresses, and no indoor plumbing. A hunting cabin should have a small kitchen, an area for sleeping, and storage for hunting gear and equipment. That’s almost everything you need.
The kitchen will probably look akin to an RV kitchen. Small stove top, small oven, small sink. If you’re bringing a large hunting party or your family up to your cabin, you’re going to need a bigger cooktop and more counter space.
Your sink will need to be hooked up to a water tank that you can switch out or refill when empty. You can do this simply by just installing the tank above the sink, connecting a hose to it, and letting gravity do the work.
Your stove and/or oven will need to run on gas. You can completely avoid this if you wish, and just use good old fashioned fire to cook your meals. However, speaking from experience, by the time you get back to your cabin, it’s probably already dark, and you’re exhausted and cold. I’ve never had the patience to wait for a fire to get hot enough for me to start cooking dinner. Plus the kids are experts at that puppy-dog look.
Just connect your cooking surfaces to some propane tanks. I store these underneath my cabin, sitting above the ground on some rocks. I invested in a double regulator, and that way I get more wiggle room when it comes to replacing or refilling my tanks.
For the kitchen, cleaning, and hunting storage, which are really the only types of storage you’re going to need, rubber maid bins are really the smartest choice. Store paperware and spices underneath your kitchen counter and camping supplies up against a wall. Folding chair and tables don’t take up much room when they’re against a wall either. You’re not staying in the cabin for a prolonged period of time, so you don’t need much. Pack light (just never forget toilet paper, that was the worst weekend of my life).
You’re going to need a way to keep warm. You can use a generator and a heater, but even an efficient heater uses a full tank of gas in just around ten hours. That will barely get you through the night, and if you’re there in the winter, you’re going to need more heat for longer. That just means more gas and more money. Didn’t you go to that cabin specifically to get away from all of that extra stress, responsibility, and worry?
A wood stove is really your best option for staying warm. Hunting cabins are small, and they heat up fast. Wood stoves put out a lot of heat. When I was younger, my job was always to monitor the thermometer that sat on top of the wood stove so I could make sure it never got about 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Those stoves get pretty toasty, and if you use them right and keep them stocked with wood, you’re going to stay plenty warm.
Hunting cabins usually consist of just one big room with everything in it. People sleep on the floor in sleeping bags, or on cots pushed up against the walls. There are usually no built-in beds, or any permanent furniture, as you want flexibility and a lot of usable space. If you want to curtain off a section or build an additional room for the kids to stay in, you certainly can, it just adds more complication, and we’ve already established that the point of going up to the woods is the experience rare simplicity.
You can run propane or water through your cabin with pipes and hoses. I did it underneath my cabin. Make sure to insulate the pipes because you certainly do not want to have frozen or burst pipes when you are miles away from anybody else. Build your cabin above ground. They won’t have a good foundation, because they’re not meant to be fully functioning houses. You don’t want flooding or burrowing animals to ruin your hard work, so just build the whole shebang on sets of cinderblocks. Aim for the structure to be about a foot of the ground.
Lighting can be produced in the form of fire, kerosene lamps, or flashlights. Unless you have a generator, you’re not going to have electricity to rely on. Bring lots of batters, lots of matches, and at least four back up plans. Nobody wants to suddenly be left in the dark at 10 pm when it really matters. And always have a basic first aid kit on hand. Replace things constantly, that way you’ll never be found wanting the next time somebody get burned at the fire or stung by a bee.
When it Comes to Hygiene
You’re not going to have indoor plumbing in a hunting cabin. There might be an outhouse near the cabin, or you might just have to pick a favorite tree. It’s simpler if you don’t have to worry about waste as well as gray water. You can set up a five-gallon water drum up above the ground outside with a hose for outdoor showers if you are going to be staying for a while.
Gray water is going to run off of your sink. Make sure you have a reliable pipe funneling used water from your sink to the outside. Run the pipe a couple feet from the cabin before ending it. You don’t want the water runoff to be close to your cabin as it might cause water damage or pooling that could damage the structural integrity of the cabin. You shouldn’t have to worry about the grey water damaging the environment, especially if you’re using a safe soap.
Make sure to clean regularly. Food can get stuck in the grey water pipe and children can leave half eaten pizza crusts lying around. Smelly things like deodorant get left out and somebody doesn’t zip up their sleeping bag all the way. Little things can compile one on top of the other, and before you know it, you have flies and mice and skunks hanging around. Pack it in, pack it out, and keep it packed up while you’re staying.
Problems You Might Run in To
Mice are a big problem in the woods, so you’re going to need to take some precautions. I would suggest keeping the oven door open whenever you’re not using it. If it’s open all the time, mice won’t build any nests in it. It’s too open for their liking, and they need something small and hidden because even though know they’re not safe where we can see them.
I would also suggest not drywalling or insulating your cabin. That gives too much hidden space for mice to start building little familial units in. You’re not going to really need insulation or drywall anyway, especially if you are bent on having the “roughn’ it” camping and hunting experience.
There are of course other animals and predators that can become big problems. Kids like to pick up poisonous things, and for the life of me, I can never figure out why. I have lots of windows in my cabin, especially in the kitchen, so I can keep an eye on my kids. Kids are like dogs, they don’t like to be kept in one place for long, so we let them run around outside. After all, what would be the point of escaping everyday life if we just sit as captives inside our cabin all day?
If you have pest problems, you’re going to have predator problems too, because animals always go to where the food is. Keep your cabin and area surrounding it clean to discourage animals from feeding on crumbs, and predators from feeding on the crumb-eaters.
To prevent wood rot in your cabin, build it from treated wood. You can use reclaimed wood or wood left behind from other building projects. This wood is meant to survive the elements and last a long time. The wood used to build decks and house are especially good.
Bugs are inevitable in the wild. You can hang bug traps, just make sure they are well above head level because I’ve had to unstick some of those from my hair quite a few times. You can burn those nifty tiki torches you find at Walmart too. Bring bug spray, bug replant, inching cream, the works. Just be prepared.
How much does a hunting cabin cost? Hunting cabins are part of the smaller variety of cabins, so they are going to cost a lot less. On average, you can expect a hunting cabin to cost you just over $20,000. This is excluding the cost of the land to build the cabin on and the accessories to fill the cabin with. But it’s all worth it, trust me.
Are log homes cheaper than regular homes? Log homes, despite being smaller, actually cost 20% to 30% more than regular homes. They are harder to build and maintain. However, log homes are worth about 30% to 40% more than a conventional home of the same size, and they sell much quicker. Something to do with the rustic look, I think.