The College Student Who Lives In His Incredible Bushcraft Shelter

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
— Henry David Thoreau

Many people dream of living a simple life in the woods, but very few ever act on that dream. There's a college student in Pennsylvania who has decided to do just that, and his name is Dylan Miller. Having seen articles about him and his home on and other news websites I decided to take a closer look at his adventurous lifestyle. How did he come up with this idea, and more perplexing still, how did he get the permission? 

He'll answer those questions and more in this Woodsong exclusive interview!

 Photo Courtesy of Dylan Miller

Photo Courtesy of Dylan Miller

Lets start with the basics. Tell us a bit about yourself!

I am a 22 years old, senior at Juniata College with a POE of Literary and Philosophical Studies. After school I will work on a portfolio and apply for my MFA in Documentary Photography

Why did you decide to live in a shelter instead of a conventional dorm?

I decided to live outside before Junior year. I got sick of living in a dorm and moving all this stuff in and out. I simplified to the point of keeping essentials in the trunk of my car and I got "off campus housing" and slept in a hammock every night that I kept hidden in the woods. 

 Photo Courtesy of Dylan Miller

Photo Courtesy of Dylan Miller

How did you get access to a place to build your little home?

I wrote a 21 page proposal to try to get permission from Juniata College and the HUntingdon Borough to live on the land. It wasn't difficult to find, it was next to some trails I went running on, and the spot always stuck me as particularly peaceful. It's on a hill with grasses and trees,and it gets the first and last of the sun every day

How did you get the skills to build such a structure? Is it based off of any specific design?

I got the skills early in college when I joined the Wild Hunters of the Juniata, which is a survival club. I learned basic survival and primitive camping skills. I began working on my own, especially on shelter building until I was confident that I could build a semi-permanent shelter with logs and leaves of my own design

 Photo Courtesy of Dylan Miller

Photo Courtesy of Dylan Miller

What materials did you use to build your home? How much did it cost?

I used all natural materials, except for the roof (which is a tarp), and the floor (oak boards). Insulation was done with leaves. In all, the total rope was $200, and the tarp was $200. It was relatively inexpensive.

What are your utilities? Do you have a way to cook? Poop?

I haul water and propane for heat. I am supposed to have a portable toilet (that I don't use as much as I probably should). I cook on an open fire, but have a propane pocket stove inside for particularly nasty days. 

Do you ever wish that you could live inside a regular house?

I've realized how much we depend on modern convenient appliances, and that societal institutions and norms are built off of the expectations that you have these things. When you give them up, things can be difficult when you are a full time student and working a part time job. This is the only reason I sometimes wish I could be in my house for some time; to focus on school. 

 Photo courtesy of Dylan Miller

Photo courtesy of Dylan Miller

How rewarding is it to live in a home that you built for yourself?

It's great, especially one that I can take down and make it look like I was never there! It's kind of like having a turtle shell that you can crawl out of. It's just part of you. The shelter is even shaped like a turtle shell!

What's next? How long do you see yourself living this lifestyle?

Part of what I realized with this project, and having one foot in each world in regards to the natural and 'civilized' world; they are not different. We often forget that all things come from/are nature and comform to the same laws. I am going to rent an apartment to focus on my next steps in life, but I will keep doing primitive camping trips to experience life in its most 'naked' form, and I won't forget the importance of simplicity. 

Question Of The Day:

Would you ever want to live long term in a shelter like this?

Let us know in the comments below!

About The Author

Sam is a writer, adventurer, and founder of Woodsong. In 2011 his practical experiences over many nights in remote wilderness areas inspired him to start this blog! Sam’s adventures have lead him throughout North America where he has had the opportunity to learn from world-class outdoorsmen, and perhaps the greatest teacher of all, the natural world.

Did you enjoy this article? Just enter your email to subscribe to the Woodsong WIlderness Blog!

Join the adventure! Subscribe!

* indicates required

Follow us elsewhere...