Ah, cabin life…Instagram makes #CabinLife look like utter bliss.
Wrapped in a sherpa blanket and sipping a cup of tea, beautiful blonde girls sit in their perfectly-appointed, wood-paneled living rooms and gaze out their picture windows as snow swirls around the wraparound deck. A blazing fire hums away on an outdoor, rain-glossed patio as a gaggle of man bun-wearing, plaid shirt-sporting fellows sling their arms around equally attractive, long-haired, effortlessly perfect mountain babes.
Cabin life looks completely perfect on Instagram. As someone who has been living full-time in a cabin for nearly half a year now (yes, I have survived the winter!), I prefer it 100 percent to city life, but there are a few things you should be aware of if you’re thinking about moving to the mountains…
1. Winters are COLD!
You’re probably thinking “well duh, OF COURSE winters are cold at 7500 feet!” But the cold can be absolutely bone-chilling and biting; not like the “ooh, it’s a little brisk” type of cold that I experienced while living in the city. You have to be prepared with lots of layers and plenty of blankets. If you only have a wood-burning stove to heat your home (like we do), it’s important to have multiple space heaters for back up. Patton utility space heaters and the Presto Heat Dish have been lifesavers for wintertime up here.
2. Cold Winters = Frozen Pipes
Water issues have been the bane of our existence this winter. First we inadvertently built an ice castle in our bathroom while away on New Year’s weekend. A small pipe burst and had to be repaired around the same time. Following that, we escaped the cold for a month in Europe, but came home to a ruined water pressure regulator and we had to say RIP to our tankless water heater. ~$2500 in unexpected expenses is no fun, and the sad part is that it all could have been avoided if we’d known what we were doing.
I’m still learning all the ins and outs of cabin winterization, but there are some pretty awesome resources online like this winterization checklist and this complete cabin winterization guide. My biggest concerns as a cabin owner are water and fire damage, and water can be particularly pernicious in the winter when freezing is common. Even if you’re leaving for a short period of time in the winter, take precautions to keep your cabin safe.
4. Insulation is Important
Sticking to our winter theme, initially I was surprised by the lack of insulation in our cabin. The walls and floors are so thin that you can hear people conversing inside of the cabin from our driveway. We’ve insulated the underside of the cabin, which has made a big difference. You can also use spray foam to add some thickness to the walls. Insulation helps your cabin maintain its temperature, saves you some money on heating and cooling and keeps people from hearing your conversations through paper-thin walls. 😂 10/10 would recommend!
5. Four Wheel Drive is a Must
Of course the conditions will vary depending on where your cabin is located. But if you live in the mountains, four-wheel drive is crucial. In the winter, snow tires (or studded tires) are a must in some spots as well. The roads in our community are maintained but I’ve made the mistake several times now of telling people they’d be “just fine” coming up to our cabin in vehicles that weren’t equipped for snow. I felt pretty bad when all of said people got stuck in our driveway 😅 Even a few inches of snow can pose a monumental challenge to small, lightweight or non-4WD cars. Now I understand why almost everyone in our neighborhood has trucks and SUVs!
6. Fires Happen
Living in a wooden structure, being surrounded by trees and having super dry summers can spell disaster. In the six or so months that we’ve lived in our cabin, two of our neighbors have experienced the devastation of fire–and that’s in the dead of winter. There is no way to protect yourself 100 percent from house fires and wildfires, but the basics are a good place to start:
- Never leave heat sources unattended in your cabin
- Make sure your wiring and electrical systems are working properly. If you have work done on your electrical system, get help from a professional
- If you have propane, like we do, be diligent about watching for leaks
- Clear debris, branches and leaves from your property
- Consider investing in an exterior fire suppression system (I just learned about this, but it sounds pretty interesting!)
- Use your wood-burning stove properly. Don’t leave paper, cardboard or other flammable items close to your stove
- Be careful with candles, grills, stoves and other heat appliances
- Create and regularly review a fire evacuation plan for your home
Fires can happen anywhere, but cabins seem especially susceptible to this risk.
Now for the good stuff…
7. The Solitude is Incredible
This post isn’t meant to be all doom and gloom–living in the mountains is a privilege that I wouldn’t trade for city life, even on the coldest and snowiest day. It’s no surprise that great thinkers and creators have often sought refuge in the mountains. Even in our community, where we have neighbors, we feel a special kind of serenity and quiet that you can’t replicate in the suburbs.
The solitude has other perks too, like less noise and light pollution, less air pollution and less traffic. The pace of life is slower and there isn’t as much of a social scene when you’re far away from the city, but I have no complaints!
8. Every Day Feels Like a Getaway
There are A LOT of fun things to do in the mountains. I’ve been slacking on my outdoorsy activities this winter, but I regularly see people snowmobiling, cross country skiing and snowshoeing–right at home! When you’re enveloped by beautiful scenery, everyday feels like a mini vacation, even if you have other responsibilities. The surroundings have been a salve to our wounded egos after being knocked on our feet several times by the reality of mountain living.
Another benefit of living in a cabin is that your friends & family will be more inclined stay for awhile when they visit since it’s such an ordeal to get to you in the first place! 😂
9. Cabin Life Can Be Affordable
Affordability varies a ton depending on where you live, how rural your area is, your amenities, etc. There’s no easy way to quantify how much it costs to live in a cabin since there are so many factors (but this post is pretty useful if you’re fantasizing about building a cabin and living off-the-grid).
In our case, if we’d put the same amount of money toward buying a house in the city, we could have purchased a newer and larger home. But our cabin came with land, which is in short supply in urban areas!
Although cabin living costs vary, I’ve noticed that we’ve saved money by:
- Eating out less. I don’t want to drive 30+ minutes round-trip just to avoid cooking!
- Using our wood-burning stove. Our wood-burning stove is our sole source of heat, and we get wood for free. Score!
- Having one car and consolidating trips. Although we have to drive longer distances since moving to a rural area, we often take our trips together and knock out multiple errands at once instead of scattering errands throughout the week.
The only “negative” impact that cabin life might have on your budget is the desire you’ll have to acquire mountain toys–many of our neighbors have snowmobiles, four-wheelers and the like, and it’s no surprise why!
10. Cabin Dwellers Come in all Shapes and Sizes
I’ll admit it: before moving to the mountains I wondered if our neighbors would be keep-to-themselves types who wouldn’t want to see newcomers. But the truth has been the exact opposite! The mountain population is incredibly diverse–we have families, single people, young people, old people, working people, retirees and many others. There are people who commute to nearby cities for work as well as others who work from home. It’s inspiring and exciting to meet so many different people who have embraced this unique lifestyle.
Life in the mountains is an adventure every single day! Have you thought about moving to the mountains? What do you think about #CabinLife?
Photos from Pixabay