Kirsten Dirksen Visits Inventor Paul Elkins

Paul Elkins invents things like micro houses that can be towed behind a bicycle, micro boats, and pedal-powered vehicles… among many other things. Paul used to work at Boeing, but now has fun building fun stuff.

His work is inspiring because he pushes minimalism to an extreme. While his tiny structures are lightweight, weatherproof, and portable they are also functional and include all the essentials. From a tiny house design perspective, his work serves an extreme example that sets the standard for small and outside-the-box thinking.

In the video below filmmaker Kirsten Dirksen visits Paul at his home in Washington and gets all the details. Follow Paul Elkins on YouTube and check out the plans he sells for his shelters, vehicles, and boats. For more fantastic videos like this subscribe to Fair Compnies, Kirsten Dirksen’s YouTube Channel.


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Would You Build or Buy a Tiny House in 2019?

Ten years ago, when the Tiny House Movement was new, it was most common for people to build their own tiny homes simply because there were so few other options.

Today there are many professional builders creating custom tiny homes and many used tiny homes on the secondary market, so the ‘buy’ option is gaining attractiveness each day as the availability of complete tiny homes grows.

The other challenge in the early days was that there were few to no options for financing. Today financing a professionally built tiny home can be as easy as getting an RV loan. While a debt free life is still a major draw to this lifestyle, taking on a small mortgage makes it easier for more people to get into a tiny home of their own and on their way to debt freedom.

But building one’s own tiny house is something many people want to experience and accomplish, so while building a tiny home is still a big project, it’s much more doable than building a normal house built on a foundation.

So today there are three options. You can built it yourself, buy a used tiny house, or work with a professionally builder and have one built for you.

Top 4 Benefits of Building it Yourself

  • Sense of accomplishment
  • Get exactly the tiny house you want
  • Save money on labor buy doing it yourself
  • Learn new skills

Top 4 Benefits of Buying Used

  • Move in as soon as you take possession
  • Lower cost than buying new
  • Fixed cost compared to building
  • Few unknowns about the quality since you can inspect the house carefully

Top 4 Benefits of Buying New

  • Move in as soon as it’s built
  • Get exactly the tiny house you want
  • Financing may be available depending on the builder
  • Possibly the highest quality

What Would You Choose?

So for you, which is it? Would you buy or build? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo of Michael Janzen by Julia Janzen.

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The Ultimate Tiny House Hauler

Tiny Houses are heavy and most are not built to be moved often. Even those built with lightweight steel framing, and ultralight materials still tend to be bulkier and less aerodynamic than similarly sized travel trailers – so a stout truck is essential for the mobile tiny home owner.

Bryce and Rasa, the folks behind Living Big In A Tiny House, travel full time and produce videos focused on tiny houses, so they needed a stout truck for work and life.

On their last U.S. tour they bought an ex-ambulance for just $15,000 that they’ve nicknamed it the Campulance. It’s a 2008 Chevy Kodiak C4500, with a Duramax 6.6-liter V-8 turbodiesel with an Allison transmission, 2 wheel drive, and duel rear wheels. The towing capacity for a Kodiak C4500 is between 12,000 and 15,000 pounds depending on the specific configuration… so plenty of power and towing capacity for most tiny houses.

So far they’ve not added any permanent comforts to the interior configuration, but plan to add a kitchenette, some natural materials like wood, and a larger bed next year. They’ve waited to do interior customizations partly due to the stock ambulance setup which provides ample seating, storage and function.

That’s a twin air mattress on the floor that they put away when not in use.  Below is Rasa editing one of their films.

The main benefit of the Campulance is that they can leave the tiny house behind when they need to travel fast while still having a place to live.

The main disadvantage of a truck this size is low fuel economy. I’m not sure what Bryce and Rasa are experiencing, but I bet on a good day the miles per gallon are in the teens, and around 10 mpg while towing. But when your business is traveling to film tiny houses, I bet all that fuel cost could be written-off as a business expense.

Another minor issue is the headroom – which would be sufficient for many folks – just not Bryce, who is 6′ 3″.

Read more about their Campulance at Living Big In A Tiny House. Be sure to subscribe to the Living Big In A Tiny House YouTube Channel for more great videos like this. Photo credit to Bryce Langston & Rasa Pescud. Be sure to watch his tour video below.

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Jay Shafer Builds a $5,000 Tiny House

Bryce Langston visits Jay Shafer in Sebastopol, California and tours Jay’s newest tiny house design. Jay is considered by many – including myself – to be the godfather of the modern tiny house movement.

His latest design weighs less than 2,000 pounds, cost less than $5,000 in materials, and measures just 80 inches by 100 inches on the exterior. It’s diminutive size allows it to be towable by almost any car.

Jay started with a trailer that cost only $800 and had a maximum capacity of 2,000 pounds. This small foundation helped shape and inspire the final form of the home, because nothing larger would have fit.

Jay’s designs stand apart from most. He focuses on simplicity, authenticity of materials, beauty & aesthetics, and the balance of the overall composition. But I think it’s his ability to restrain adding too much to the design that makes them look so pure and perfect.

Foam board and thin pieces wood were used to create the ultralight shell. On the interior Jay carefully placed built-in storage which meets all his storage needs while keeping a sense of volume and function. The bed doubles as a sofa. The desk doubles as a bench. There’s even a loft which can be used for sleeping or storage. The house is heated by a tiny fireplace powered by candle – or propane for convenience.

The home doesn’t have a kitchen or bathroom. Jay is able to share a kitchen and bathroom on property where he lives… and like he says… he’s not always in the bathroom, so why not share it?

I also want to congratulate Bryce for surpassing 1 million subscribers to his YouTube channel, Living Big in a Tiny House! Photos & video credit to Living Big in a Tiny House.

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The Future of Van Life

The following is a guest post from Austin from Outbound Living.

Van life has become an internet sensation over the past few years. You’ve likely seen that there’s been an explosion of van dwelling influencers on social media promoting it. 

So what’s up with this sudden boom and will it last? 

My company, Outbound Living surveyed over 700 van dwellers to help everyone better understand the van life community. From personal experience along with the findings from our survey, we can make some future predictions about van life.

Why van life is becoming more popular

Ease of building your own home

Converting a van into a home is only going to get easier. There are tons of resources on the internet explaining how to convert a van by yourself for as low as a few hundred dollars. From our survey, we found that nearly a third of van dwellers converted their vans for under $5,000. 


The ease of communication through technology is allowing people to not only live but work remotely. It can get lonely if you’re a solo van dweller, so having the internet allows you to not only connect with friends and family back home but connect with other van dwellers through social media groups and apps. 

Many workplaces are allowing more employees to work remotely. There are more online freelancing jobs and other work opportunities available through the internet as well. To access the internet remotely, you can get an unlimited data plan for your cell phone, then turn on your phone’s hotspot to use your laptop. There are also quite a few off-grid WiFi routers that can get a signal even when you’re way out in the boonies. If neither of those seems like an option for you, luckily there are so many more places that offer free public WIFI than in the past.

The internet and social media have allowed van dwellers to share their lives. Van dwellers show how they converted their van, how they make money, how they shower, where they sleep, along with numerous other burning questions that people have before living in a van. Knowing where to sleep is one of the biggest questions people have. Technology has saved the day with this as well. I’ve used apps like iOverlander which displays a map of places that are safe to sleep at night. The places are crowdsourced, so anyone can add to the app. 

Cost of Living

The cost of owning or renting a home continues to increase in places like California where the weather is nice year-round making it perfect for van life. We found that nearly 15% of van lifers that live in the U.S., live in California. Not to mention if you work in a bigger city in California where the cost of rent or a mortgage is greater, you may not have much of an option. There is an engineer living in the San Francisco area making $122,000 per year but lives in a van to avoid the high home costs.

What could lead to the demise of Van Life?

City and government ordinances

As van life is becoming more popular, people are taking notice. Authorities are cracking down on vans and other vehicles parked in the street that look like homes, forcing those people to move their vehicle in the middle of the night.

The government doesn’t like van life because you’re not paying property taxes and you’re not spending as much money. If you build your own off-grid tiny home, you’re not spending money on a home builder and you’re not spending nearly as much on possessions to fill your home. 

Many city residents don’t like van life because you’re parking in front of their house. Unfortunately, many people assume that anyone living in a van is poor, and an outcast who may be a danger to their family. This may be the case for some previously homeless who gathered up enough money to buy a cheap van, but there are also many van dwellers that are quite wealthy and chose van life just to travel and live a minimalistic lifestyle. Regardless, as this becomes a bigger problem, people will complain to the cities even more than they already do, leading to greater enforcement.   

Just FYI, U.S. citizens are not required to have a physical address. Without having your own physical address, you can still vote, get government benefits, and get a license, it’s just not as easy. You can use the address of a private mailbox service, or a friend or relative. 

Other travel options becoming more affordable 

Some people only live in a van so they can travel for cheap. As plane tickets become even more affordable, this will make van life less desirable for some. 

Additionally, because of websites like Airbnb and, people are opening up to the previously obscure thought of strangers living in their home. If people can travel somewhere and stay for free or incredibly cheap, it will make van life less desirable for some. However, on the other hand, there are websites like Boondockers Welcome that connect RV and van dwellers to people willing to allow these RV/van dwellers to stay in their driveway for free. 


In the short term, I certainly think van life will continue to grow in popularity. In the long term, it’s too hard to tell. There are a lot of uncertainties, primarily with city and government laws that could either help or hurt the popularity of van life. 

Overall, many people have realized that owning a big home isn’t going to make them happy. I think more and more people will gravitate towards living in smaller homes, it’s just whether or not that home will be on wheels or not. 

Feel free to check out our Van Life Statistics Report to learn a bit more about the lifestyle of van dwellers. 

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Swagman’s Rest

The following is a guest post from Felice, Tim and Carol.

Swagman’s Rest is about family and keeping each other close.  Our son-in-law, Luke Crawford, recently moved from his home in Australia to California with his wife, our daughter.  Designing and building this tiny house was his first major project in the US.

Swagman’s Rest will have many uses.  Throughout the years, it will be a home for one of our aging mothers, a play area for our grandchildren, and a place of rest for visiting family from Australia and America (including Luke, our daughter, and their newborn son).  We love having our family near us, and Swagman’s Rest will let us do that with comfort and style.

The modern design of Swagman’s Rest, with its feeling of space, light and openness, co-exists naturally with the unspoiled beauty of its surroundings.  The artistic decking around the home invites you in, and the warm, cozy rooms make you want to stay.  There is a seamless integration from the natural landscape to the graceful interiors.

The tiny house sits on a tri-axel trailer that is 10’8″ wide and 28′ long. The house is 13’4″ tall.

“Swagman”: an Australian term for a traveler who sleeps under the stars and carries his home – a tiny tent called a swag – on his back.


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