Design In Architecture: The Back Country Hut

Tiny houses come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, but they enable simpler living in a smaller, more efficient space. See why people are embracing this movement.

By Judith Stapleton

In the First World, the Tiny House Movement is a social transition—a change of expectations about the amount of space you will occupy. It is not for everyone. It takes a bit of a rebel and a change-maker because, in fact, it is a subtle act of civil disobedience. Most tiny housers are not afraid to buck the trend and take tangible steps to live in a manner that is more affordable and sustainable in the face of a massive culture of consumerism.

“The typical North American home is around 2,600 square feet, whereas the typical small or tiny house is between 100 and 400 square feet. “

Tiny houses come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, but they enable simpler living in a smaller, more efficient space. People are joining this movement for many reasons, but the most popular reasons include environmental concerns, financial concerns, and the desire for more time and freedom.

An offshoot of the Leckie Architecture Studio in Vancouver, The Backcountry Hut Company follows in the footsteps inspired by IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad, to make affordable, well-designed products “for the many people.” Backcountry Hut has designed a turnkey option to small footprint housing with its prefabricated, flat-packed delivered system that is easy to assemble, scalable if your needs expand, and requires minimal site preparation.

The hut system comes as a kit of parts with an engineered wood post and beam skeleton that is then infilled with prefabricated panels with simple nail-on window system. The whole assembly can be erected by volunteers in the tradition of a community barn-raising. The prefabricated wall and roof panels are appropriately sized to be lifted by hand and hoisted into place using a simple pulley and winch system. With a basic structural module of 10 feet, further additions in 10 foot increments can be easily combined, for increased floor area, additional sleeping quarters, and living space that would accommodate an expanding family.


This hut system is designed to be deployed on any site that is accessible by truck or helicopter. There are a range of possibilities for interior fit-out options and exterior finishes. You can go rustic or you can go chic. The possibilities for location are limitless, and the size can evolve with your needs. These optional inserts make the building completely autonomous for real backcountry hideaways or a perch on the edge-of-the-cliff. The building can be virtually off-the-grid. Let us say something here about value.

The basic hut is rustic and simple in nature, designed for durability and security against weather with a metal-clad shell engineered to last 50+ years. The simple form affords simple construction. You don’t need to hire a crew if you have able and willing friends to volunteer as your construction team. There is a Lego-like (or IKEA-like) assembly. There is passive cooling through ventilation in the roof. At low and high altitudes, the solar photovoltaic panels are oriented vertically on the facade, and at mid-latitudes the panels are oriented to 45 degrees on the roof.

In the case of the Backcountry Hut, economy and conservation of both material and energy in the production and in the assembly of the building components is achieved through the prefabrication process. You get the complete package delivered to you.

Site preparation is minimal and requires neither heavy machinery nor major disruption of the site. Muscle-power is required to dig the piling post holes, and then concrete is poured into sonotubes to form the pillars of the foundation.

Environmentally sensitive products are used for all materials: engineered wood products, FSC certified lumber, 100% recyclable components, and the Backcountry Hut Company is underpinned by a zero-waste philosophy in the design and implementation of all its products.

So, if you plan to get way outdoors but leave a small footprint, this could be your Cinderella moment.

Publisher’s Note: Judith Stapleton is a writer in the fields of science and medicine.