Kory, aka Aspiring Caveman, quit his job last year. He built this hogan (inspired by the Navajo dwellings) in the Pine Barrens of south New Jersey and lived in it for a year.  This impressive survival cabin is part of his four-year quest to learn to live off of the land.

Survival Cabin

Kory built this survival cabin as a “caretaker” at the Tom Brown Jr.’s Tracker School. Normally, the school requires that you dismantle your hut after completion, but they were so impressed by Kory’s skills they asked for it to remain. The total build took him nearly 26 days. His objective was to prove that each component could be sourced and built using a combination of primitive methods and my Tracker T1 knife.

Personal Redemption

Sometimes, building such a thing as this can provide a mental reset from a difficult experience. “I only had the upright pieces in and a single layer of bark over my head,” Kory says, “when I spent my first night in it. It had been a difficult day due to some personal issues. It didn’t even occur to me to savor the moment. And yet, as I laid down, I felt soothed. It took me the better part of the week to put it into words what was going on. My shelter felt like “medicine.”

Changes to the Hogan

Kory explains: “There are so many things I could have still done to it if I had more time. For instance, the Dakota fire pit is great, but once colder weather moved in it was clear that it could use a better heat source. I believe a simple fireplace made out of same material as the lining for the fire pit would do the job. The smoke could be channeled through side vent as opposed to a conventional chimney. I thought about building it before it got really cold, but even in milder weather you are still working with wet clay and that can be quite painful on your hands. This kind of work is definitely best to leave for the warmer months.

“The other addition I wanted to do was installing a window (of sorts). Instead of using glass which is, of course, not easy to come by in a survival situation, I would have gone with a layer of oiled rawhide stretched over a wooden frame. It wouldn’t be sea-through, but it would definitely let some light in which would have been a great improvement.”

Interesting Facts

  • 40 buckets of muck (55 pounds each totaling 2,200 lbs)
  • 20 buckets of sand
  • About 30 buckets of pine needles
  • Between 100 and 150 trees were cut down for this little hut
  • It took 22 days to complete the main shelter and the frame for the work area
  • 30 to 45 minutes to strip a 12-foot long bark from a tree.
  • 2.5 days to get enough bark for one layer
  • 2 shingled layers of bark stripped from harvested trees (in a caretaking manner)
  • 20 trees per layer
  • 1.5 hours to split a tree into two halves
  • 2 and a half to 3 hours to drill a hole into a beam
  • 2.5 days to cut enough reeds and posts for the heat reflector for work area and install it all

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