Extreme Vandwelling! Winter in the Yukon in a Straw-Bale Covered Van
Recently I was surfing the net and came across a website I was extremely impressed with. I was so amazed by it I just had to write the author and ask permission to repost it here. He graciously agreed so here it is in his own words. He has a lot more on his blog but I’ve condensed it down to this post and another one after this.
Many, many times online I’ve seen vandwellers talk about getting a piece of land to spend a part of the year on. Cud Eastbound isn’t a man who just talks, he does! This is his story of living in the extreme far north: Dawson City, Yukon Territories. Be sure to check out his blog here: http://nightdanger.lostwarren.com/
Hello, my name is Cud Eastbound & on June 6th 2014, I set off on an adventure to move to the Yukon. I packed/gave away everything I owned, released a new album, left Halifax and went westward on a 2 month cross Canada tour, leading me all the way up to Dawson City, Yukon Territories, Canada. I toured with my 77 Dodge Camper van, who’s name is “Night Danger” (like those moose signs through northern Ontario).
Night Danger has been around the continent a few times and I found it was time to find a place for it to rest for good. I’ve made a few modifications, and love living out of the van, so I figured I would try and see if I could survive a Yukon winter by living in my van.
The first challenge was to find a way to efficiently heat my little abode, so before I left Halifax I constructed a wood stove that would fit nice and safely in the back of the van. Second Challenge was to find a way to hold in the heat I would produce to stay warm all winter. I was not keen on using traditional insulation, because at that point I might as well just build a little shack, so I came to the conclusion that straw bales would be my best bet. Once I was finished with the first winter, I could donate the bales to folks who have live stock, or dog sled teams or something.
I was lucky enough to have a friend lend me some land in Bear Creek to try out my project on. The adventure continues as I try and seal up leaky doors and windows, its a constant learning process. There are many folks helping me out with ideas, labour, time and most important of all support. Thanks to all of you!
I have to go stoke my wood stove now, its starting to get cold, the ferry is getting pulled out of the water tomorrow, and I am so very excited for my first winter up here in the Northern Yukon.
Woodstove and Safety
My first time welding, I decided to make a woodstove, and I hauled it in my van on tour from Halifax to Dawson. I am Pleased to say that it works amazing! I have not tested it at -50 yet… but I have high hopes!
The design is pretty simple, I created a woodstove that was small enough to fit in my van, but with a twist! Inside the stove, I created another stove… and within the empty spaces I poured in crushed fire brick… the stove is only about 18 inches long by 12X12… but… it packs a mean punch, and so far testing it in my van on frosty nights is proving that it stays warm from 8-10 hours… I am stoked!!! More about the woodstove to come…
I made a platform for the stove to stand on, that is off of the wood floors. I also put metal against the walls, then using aluminum spacers I laid down some more metal about an inch away from the metal on the walls. This way, as the metal heats up the cold air rushing past it and cools it.
The chimney is also tripled walled now, there is the insulated stove pipe, then I put corrugated tin, then a metal casing to hold it all in place as it exits the van window. For added safety, I started putting down my collection of sings and license plates, this is just in case an ember or spark flies out of the wood stove, instead of landing on my “hard wood” floors, it will burn out harmlessly on the metal!
Also, I’ve noticed a lot of people concerned about my well-being… I’ve been burning wood in my fireplace nonstop for 2 months now, and I clean my chimney pipe (in case of creosote buildup), I check everything every day. I DO NOT leave my dog in the van, the only time he is there is when I am there with him. I do have a Carbon Monoxide detector (Thanks Diana!)
Last week has been around -25 or colder, I’ve noticed the van is very nice and warm, holds the heat well, except for the floor… as the fire place sucks air, cold air from the outside creeps in along the floor… I fixed that by drilling a 2 inch hole in the side of the van right next to the woodstove, put in a PVC pipe & on/off Valve I was given by Martin (Thanks Martin!).
So, I am still alive and well, I appreciate everyone’s concerns, comments, outrage and love.
It’s -30C (-22F) and I’ve slowly been sealing up little gaps here and there.
I had to wake up at 4 in the morning to put more wood on, that’s only a 6 hour burn… But! It’s the challenge!
I have about 6 big rocks I keep on top of my stove, thinking that they might create more surface for transferring heat into the air. They also stay warm a while after the fire has gone out. The best use I have found for them is warming up my feet, or throwing into my bed in the morning, they warm me up!
That’s all for this post. In my next one we’ll look at the details of how Cud…
- Cleared the land.
- Dug an outhouse.
- Built a wood base for the van.
- Put up a woodshed.
- Built the hay walls and covered it with plastic.
See you then!