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The Hilleberg House Project
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Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

The Hilleberg House Project on 05/30/2014 21:36:44 MDT Print View

I've got a great idea. Read on:

I'm going to get a Master's degree in the fall. It's going to cost me very little, about $12,000 for a 1-year program.

Housing in this college town is incredibly expensive. It'll cost be $8,000-10,000 for living expenses for the year. No bueno.

Why don't I live in a tent?!


The concept is to live in a Hilleberg tent for something like 250 days straight. I'd travel back and forth from state parks and campgrounds by touring bicycle every night. There are enough camping spots within 5 miles of the school that I could rotate to keep the attention on myself to a minimum, so I don't get robbed. Everything I'd own would be in four waterproof bike bags, and I'd essentially live like I'm bike touring, something I've already done for three trips totaling about 6 months of tent living. In fact, I've lived in a tent every day this week.

Every day, I'd shower at the college gym, then go to class, with my bike pulled into the building I have class in. Every afternoon, I'd head to the local library or coffeeshop and do homework and write freelance (my job). Every couple of days, I'll swing by the laundromat and do my laundry.

My wardrobe is already minimalist and mostly merino wool, and I have almost no body odor thanks to genetics, so keeping clean will be easy. I eat mostly raw food like veggies, nuts, and granola, and I can also eat at restaurants. My laptop has a 9-hour battery life, so if I plug it in while I'm in libraries and coffeeshops, I'll never run out of juice.

A Hilleberg can handle a bit of snow load, so bad weather won't be a big deal. I already commute all winter by bike. On days when the entire town is snowed in (Northeast) I'll stay tent-bound and read, or work on my laptop. I have experience keeping batteries warm with my body heat. I could also get an external battery.

Anyone have any suggestions/ideas/anything I haven't thought of? It's a bit of a gauntlet for camping gear so having a warning from you thru-hikers on what to count on and what not to count on for durability/longevity would be great.

Also, fyi, I can probably stay with a friend or my girlfriend on weekends so I'm not trapped in the woods ALL the time. If I get badly ill or something, my family lives an hour away and my brother lives in town. If there's a serious, dangerous storm I can stay with someone.

I cannot think of a good reason not to do this. GO!

(KalebC) - F

Locale: South West
RE: Hilleberg homeless project on 05/30/2014 22:25:21 MDT Print View

If I were you I would use a big tent like a GL SL5. Do you get wifi or have 4G reception for research? Not a bad idea, sounds kinda fun.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: The Hilleberg House Project on 05/30/2014 22:37:21 MDT Print View

Can't you find a place at the school to keep your valuables? Locker or something? Some lab you're working at?

$12,000 for a year seems like a lot to me, not "very little", but education is probably the best investment you can make.

Very clever and industrious of you.

Steofan The Apostate
(simaulius) - F

Locale: Bohemian Alps
re:The Hilleberg House Project on 05/30/2014 22:37:54 MDT Print View

Your 1 year program reads as a well thought out adventure with back-ups in place, so to reuse your own words:
"I cannot think of a good reason not to do this. GO!"

Stuart .
(lotuseater) - F

Locale: Colorado
Choice of Hillie on 05/30/2014 23:18:17 MDT Print View

Hillies don't look inexpensive. Would you be leaving it pitched at the campsite during the day, or taking it with you? It would absolutely suck to come back one evening to find your home gone.

The dome models (eg Tarra, Staika, Saivo, Saitaris) are perhaps better for base camp, but take longer to pitch than the tunnel models. The latter don't have quite the same snowloading abilities and yet it's the Keron that you always see photographed on polar expeditions.

If you go down this route, I would suggest a tunnel with the GT extended vestibule, so you could keep you bike undercover. Consider the Black Series Nammatj 3GT or the Keron 3GT. The 2P models are decently sized, but if you're calling the tent home for so many months, you may appreciate the extra space. And the Black Series are intended for extended use with stronger zips, thicker poles, and higher denier fabrics.

The downside is, they are hardly unobtrusive shelters you can hide behind a bush. The bigger the tent, the more likely it's going to be noticed.

Three or four years ago I remember a thread by a student at a Montreal university who did just this, although if memory serves me correctly, he lived on campus and used a bivy for maximum stealth. Perhaps someone else can point you to that thread.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Questions Answered on 05/31/2014 07:56:13 MDT Print View

Knowing myself, I need an easy, quick setup or I'll end up loathing the nightly ritual of finding a campsite on days when I've worked especially hard. Also knowing myself, I know space doesn't really matter to me at all. I was actually going to bring my eVent bivy along as well for nights that I just want to lay down and sleep. I would keep a small tarp over the bike.

I was just going to get an Unna, unless someone thinks the Soulo is a better choice.

I would pack up and take the tent with me every day. Everything I own would stay on my person all the time.

I got into every grad school program I applied to. The other two were $36,000/yr for 2 years, and $64,000/yr for one year, and neither include housing. I got aid at the school I'm going to for 12k. It's VERY cheap. I don't want to list my major for fear of this thread being a target for people looking to go find me, but it's a nice, broad Science Master's degree that opens up a lot of doors.

I do have web access. I can tether my computer and my phone together. I did it to work from a tent during my tour last November, and just a few days ago near Boston. Works everywhere, including where I'm staying.

Edited by mdilthey on 05/31/2014 07:56:57 MDT.

Troy Childs
(tchilds) - F
bike bivy? hammock? on 05/31/2014 08:14:04 MDT Print View

DIY a simple bike frame shaped and hoop end tent tube. Stake the bike out and the tube end out then done.

You could also make or buy a hammock setup that deploys and packs in a few minutes and pitch your hammock in a way that protects the bike while you sleep.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Questions Answered on 05/31/2014 08:15:01 MDT Print View

Wow! $36K or $64K??? Amazing how expensive it is these days.

I got mine paid for by employer. I don't know how common that is these days.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

It Happens on 05/31/2014 08:24:11 MDT Print View

More common outside my field. My camping buddy Jim's employer is paying for his Master's right now. Computer science.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Questions Answered on 05/31/2014 08:28:45 MDT Print View

"I was just going to get an Unna, unless someone thinks the Soulo is a better choice."

If memory serves, I believe you've said that you're over 6' tall. After looking at a Soulo at the GGG this year, I think you'd be better off with the Unna which would be more accommodating for your tall frame.

To answer your basic question, yes of course you can do this. For me personally, I'd try to do this out of an old conversion or cargo van but to each their own. You can buy one for a couple thousand and then sell it off at the end of the year.

Good luck with grad school.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 05/31/2014 08:29:16 MDT.

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Re: The Hilleberg House Project on 05/31/2014 09:05:05 MDT Print View

Great idea!

When I was at the University of Washington one of the student leaders revealed that he had been living in a tent on campus in some woods for the past year. Worked for him.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Unna vs Soulo on 05/31/2014 09:12:04 MDT Print View

I am torn between the Unna and the Soulo.

Pros for Unna:

-Simpler to set up

Cons for Unna:

-No Vestibule

The Soulo has a vestibule, but is shorter and harder to set up.

With waterproof bags and all the extra room in the Unna, I am wondering if I'd miss the vestibule. Is there enough room for a pair of shoes outside the inner, but inside the fly?

Bruce Tolley

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
The Hillleberg House Project on 05/31/2014 09:26:45 MDT Print View

To Max, sounds like your mind is already made up. But to the implied question, are there any good reasons NOT to do this. I can think of some. Of course, this is free advice, so it is worth exactly what you are paying for it.

The conversation in this thread has turned to gear and how cheaply this can be accomplished which is natural given that this is BPL.

To the question whether there are any reasons not to do this. You are basically choosing to live literally as a homeless person to spend as little money as possible in order to get through grad school. While I can see the romantic John Muir-esgue appeal, it does have some down sides.

Often grad school is the time to work not just on studies but also on building your professional network through socialization with colleagues. if you are living in the woods in a tent you certainly will not be able to have folks over for dinner.

If the goal of grad school is to serve as bridge to the next job related to your field, I would ask whether this living in a tent for a year, supports that goal. For example, will you be able to get ready for job interviews from the tent, and will prospective employers and hiring managers think this Hilleberg Home experience it makes you stand out as a candidate. If your goal is journalism and you spend the year blogging about the rough life, maybe it makes perfect sense.

You talk about camping in state parks but do not say whether the parks are open or not. I know in my neck of the woods if you are caught camping illegally you get cited if not arrested. All employers do background checks before hiring and such a citation would show up.

Maybe there is a middle ground such as finding a friend or relative who would take 5$0 a month for you to pitch the tent in their backyard?


jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Unna vs Soulo on 05/31/2014 09:26:59 MDT Print View

If you do a trip of a week or two, your stuff gets damp but you can dry it out when back home

Long trip in summer is drier

Long "trip" in winter - things will be damp and start mildewing. Hard to keep things dry. I wonder how that will affect you.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Damp in Winter on 05/31/2014 09:33:36 MDT Print View

I should come up with a plan for it. I'm familiar with that dampness.

I can make a stop at the local laundromat for a spin in the dryer part of a routine. Once every 2-4 days?

I was going to get really comfortable with using rain gear daily, but I don't want to get soaked from the roads and have my rain gear freeze overnight. I can put it rolled in a microfiber towel into the base of my sleeping bag, which dries gear on multi-day overnights.

Where we are in the Northeast, it can get down in the negatives and single digits for weeks. Thankfully, when that happens, it usually stays dry.

I'll keep thinking about this.

Edited by mdilthey on 05/31/2014 09:36:43 MDT.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

What Do You Guys Think? on 05/31/2014 18:00:36 MDT Print View

Ok, question...

Unna or Soulo?

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: What Do You Guys Think? on 05/31/2014 18:29:33 MDT Print View

I used a Soulo on a few trips in Ireland last year and found it a bit short so changed it for an Unna. I have not had a chance to use the Unna yet as have been using a Golite Sl3 or Hillie Kaitum 3, from preliminary garden and basement testing its plenty big enough.

At the end of the day the Unna is still a 1person tent (but it is big) if I was going to live in a tent long term I would go with a big ass mid such as
a Golite Sl5 at a minimum, at least then you could store your bike in it overnight.

Stuart .
(lotuseater) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Unna or Soulo? on 05/31/2014 20:51:26 MDT Print View

Between the two, I'd have to say the Unna makes the most sense. It's faster to pitch with just two rqther than three poles, and it has more interior space albeit at the expense of a vestibule.

I rather enjoyed the Soulo for quick winter trips as it felt so rock solid, but to live in one? I'd feel very confined.

If you are dead set against a Black Series tent as I suggested earlier, I think you should give the Nallo 2 a look. It's exactly the same weight as the Soulo. Tunnels offer a lot more liveable space for the weight, and are quick to pitch. The vestibule will allow you to keep your essentials close but outside the inner, and you'll have space to hang items to dry on the line inside.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Unna Wins on 05/31/2014 22:01:44 MDT Print View

My worry about tunnel tents: I've read reports of the Akto collapsing slightly under snow load, though not fully failing. I'm sure the tunnel tents do even better, but the overhead poles of the Unna and Soulo look to me to be a lot better at redistributing weight.

My concern with big tents: I don't "need" space. I don't even want it. I lived 60 consecutive days in a Fly Creek UL1, and I'm 6'1". The 1P tents will suit me fine, and anything bigger than that would take too long to pitch.

Given the length considerations, I think it's an Unna for me. I'd be paying more for a tunnel tent for features I don't need in a package that looks less efficient and simple. The Unna is free-standing; that's a plus.

living in a tent on 05/31/2014 22:06:04 MDT Print View

"why dont I live in a tent?"

Id say just because I think it would suck, and be a big drain on the focus you could put on school.

Living out of an old camper-van would be emminently better IMO. Weather resistance, security, privacy, real bed, study space, and could park in student parking lot on campus.

When I was in Jr. High school (7-8th grades) , there was a kid at my school whose family lived in a tent. It was a big wall tent ( on private property). The kid had emotional problems and pulled his hair out.