How We Survived Our First Winter in a Rural Cabin
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How We Survived Our First Winter in a Rural Cabin

The Cabin Diary blogger Megan Schetzsle on how her crew combats cabin fever and keeps cozy in sub-zero temperatures.

Written by Megan Schetzsle
Photography by Megan Schetzsle
Nothing could have prepared us for the first winter in our cabin. “Get ready for the snow!” we heard around town as early as October. Sure enough, winter came early and stayed late. 
Our little log cabin is located outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It’s in the middle of a large valley with the Teton mountains running along one side. And we didn’t know it when we moved, but the valley makes for some interesting weather in winter...
The first winter in our cabin we had: record snowfall, countless days with sub-zero weather, and a few problems with our wood stove that left us very cold! Before moving to our cabin, my husband and I had only lived in big cities in Texas. The deep winter of Wyoming had a lot to teach us.
Whether you live in a cabin or are curious about cabin life in winter, here’s how we survived our first winter. This is what we learned along with tips to make the most of the cold months.

1. Expect The Unexpected 

Preparation for winter is key. Absolutely do everything that you possibly can to prepare your cabin for this season. But also expect the unexpected. Keep materials on hand in case of extreme circumstances that you can’t predict: extra firewood, food/water, flashlights, a generator, a first aid kit, etc. 
For us, we had an unexpected issue with our wood stove. It was a very windy and cold day, and as soon as we lit a fire, a strong downdraft pushed air through our wood stove and smoke came pouring out into our cabin!
I quickly scooped up our 10 month old and I took him to a neighbor’s house until the smoke was clear. There was so much smoke - my greatest fear was that something was on fire. 
But there was no fire. Apparently, this is a common phenomenon in certain areas - a downdraft can force air down your wood stove and into your cabin. This is a phenomenon that we are careful not to repeat! Now, we test the airflow before lighting a fire in a cold wood stove.

2. Watch Out for Cabin Fever

Cabin fever usually sets in mid-winter, when the days are coldest and darkest. In its mildest form, cabin fever is a feeling of going stir-crazy. The key to combating cabin fever is by staying busy with activities like: 
  • Going outside (even if only for a little while!)
  • Taking up new hobbies
  • Rearranging your space to make it feel new
  • Studying up on something you've always wanted to learn more about

During our first winter, we definitely had days when we felt cabin fever. We ended combatting it with lots of snowshoeing around our cabin as a way to get outside and stay active.

3. Make Sure Your Cabin is Well-Insulated 

This is a more technical tip, but making sure your cabin is well-insulated makes a huge difference in winter. You’ll end up saving money by buying less firewood or electricity to stay warm.  Make use of the warmer months to check your cabin for cracks and air leaks, mending them well before it’s cold outside. 
I remember several nights in our cabin during our first winter when the wind was howling outside, and we were sitting on our sofa with a big window at our backs. Every time the wind blew, we could feel a gust blow inside the cabin. There was a small gap in the sealing on one side of our window, and when the -10 degree wind howled by, we could feel it. We’d end up putting another log on the fire and constantly had to keep our fire going because of small cracks around our cabin like this. 

4. Enjoy The Little Things

So far, all we’ve talked about is surviving winter. But there’s a reason why we live in a cabin where the winter is so intense. And it’s because winter is also beautiful, peaceful, memorable, and so many other wonderful things…
The last tip for surviving winter is to enjoy the little things, like...
  • The still, fresh snow in the yard. 
  • The cozy feeling of curling up by the fire. 
  • The animals that wander by, leaving tracks in the snow. 
These moments can feel ordinary after a long winter; pausing to enjoy them reminds us what is so special about life at the cabin.

(A moose sitting in our yard during our first winter) 
Cabin life is strongly dictated by the seasons. And even in the most intense season of winter, there’s so much beauty to enjoy. And it’s a strange thing, but even with the harsh winters we get here there are always moments on the hottest summer days when we wish for them!

About Megan

Megan lives with her husband and son in an 800-square-foot log cabin in Jackson Hole, WY. In search of a simpler pace of life, Megan and her husband took a leap of faith to pursue their own cabin dreams: they quit their jobs, sold what they own, and moved across the country from downtown Austin, TX to their mountainside cabin in Jackson Hole, WY. 

Megan runs her blog The Cabin Diary (, and can be found sharing day-to-day cabin life through social media (@thecabindiary).

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