What does off-grid living mean?

Off grid living is a characteristic of housing and lifestyle.

The term “off the grid” is usually associated with people that choose not to be connected to the local electrical grid.

It doesn’t have to be all that “serious” though, “off grid living” can also mean people create and utilize their own individual utilities like gas, water, and sewer systems.

Off the grid living tends to be popular in isolated locations where normal governmental utilities are far and few in-between.

Besides the isolated folk, the practise also attracts environmentally conscious individuals who want to reduce their ecological footprint while saving on housing costs, think general utilies like electricity consumption.

I suppose the ultimate definition of an off grid house is one that’s able to supply/create energy and drinkable water for itself. Besides that. it should be able to grow food and manage waste/wastewater.

Environmental Impact and Sustainability

Most off grid homes and communities rely on renewable energies, this generally means most off grid living is seen as rather good for the environment. As you probably already know, fossil fuel still supplies about 84% of the worlds energy. Any means that can reduce that dependance, may be seen as more ecological.

Hybrid energy systems, such as solar and wind energy, provide people with a self-sustainable way to live without the dependence and immense overall costs of being connected to the public electrical grid.

There are some general environmental concerns with off the grid living.

Some communities rely largely on machines that produce greenhouse gases, such as diesel generators.

While these concerns should not be overlooked and hold a valid point, off the grid living as a whole is a viable way to reduce your overall ecological footprint.

What Do You Need For Off Grid Living?

  • Shelter. It is important to have a living quarters that provides you with security and protection from the elements. Depending on the location, off grid shelters range from reinforced yurts, wood cabins to discarded containers, vans, and trailers.
  • Potable Water. Without drinkable water, living off the grid will be impossible. The Mayo Clinic recommends that each of us drink between 2.2 to 3 liters a day. Make sure that the site you chose to live and build on has a viable source of water. Most people living off grid rely on hand dug wells. Remember that even clear water can have dangerous bacteria floating around microscopically. Always boil or treat water before using it for drinking water.
  • Power. The bare necessities of a power source should allow for cooking food and providing heat in harsh climates. Extreme off the gridders rely solely upon natural resources such as animal manure and wood. However, technology advancements have allowed for solar, wind turbines and biodiesel generators to be used. We recommend checking out the AC300 and B300 battery modules as a potential power source. 
  • Food Sources. Living off natural game, nuts, berries, and plants alone is highly unlikely to be honest, especially in incredibly remote areas. Besides this, relying only on natural resources can be difficult to maintain and even dangerous. Take the story of Christopher McCandless for example. He lived in the wilds of Alaska and subsisted for three months on squirrels, porcupines, small birds, mushrooms, roots, and berries. On the third month he fell ill and eventually died due to mistakenly consuming poisonous wild-potato seeds. Most off the grid experts know that living off the natural land alone is a difficult task. Therefore, they recommend growing a vegetable garden, fruit trees and plants, as well as learning to preserve and can food so that it lasts longer.
  • Waste Disposal. If waste disposal is overlooked diseases such as cholera, intestinal worms, blood flukes and typhoid fever may occur. It’s because of these reasons that numerous regulations controlling waste disposal in remote areas exist. Most toilets or latrines are located far away from living areas. Rivers or streams are the most common methods of disposal, including composting, where legal of course. One other option can include a buried leach field. Any plant and vegetable waste can be composted and used once again in your garden as nutrients.
  • Security. Living in remote areas away from civilization is of course much safer in terms of human related threats. However, there are dangers. Wildlife such as bears, cougars and wolves should be taken seriously. Smart ethical ways to deter these animals should be integrated into your off the grid security plan.

Benefits of Living Off The Grid

  • Smaller Environmental Footprint. Most off the grid communities typically live in smaller houses, this means they generally consume less power (even when using renewable energy) produce less waste and recycle on a regular basis.
  • Greater Personal Satisfaction. Enabling yourself to problem solve and integrate your game plans is psychologically empowering. Learning how to grow your own herbs, or how to can and cure meat is satisfying and intellectually rewarding. Many people around the world report a new level of focus and creativity that comes with off the grid living.
  • Lower Stress and Anxiety. According to the American Psychological Association, worries about money and work are the two tops sources of stress. Living off the grid allows financial freedom and the ability to establish one’s own personal schedule.
  • Better Health. Most people who switch from conventional living to wilderness living usually trade hours of sitting at a desk and watching television for a more active lifestyle. Destinations are usually walked to instead of driven to and fast food is nonexistent. For this reason, diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis and some types of cancer are less likely to develop.

Is it possible to live off the land with no money?


But first, you need to establish why you want to live off the land with no money in the first place.

If you seriously plan to abandon all your comforts such as food and security, I must remind you of Chris Mccandless' story.

In April 1992, Chris hitchhiked over 3000 miles from California to Alaska hoping to live simply off the land.

off grid living

A mere 5 months later, his decomposing body was found by a hunter. The official cause of death: starvation brought on by poisoning.

I'm not telling you this story to scare you, but simply to remind you, living off the land with no money is possible, but by no means is it easy.

This reality is worthwhile to ponder upon before setting out on this brave mission.

What do you need to go off the grid?

  • Shelter
  • Food
  • Utilities – (water, gas, solar power, internet)
  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Emergency plan

Above are the basic necessities required to live a somewhat sustainable/long term off the grid lifestyle.

However, if you plan to live off the land with no money, your list will look like this:

  • Shelter
  • Food
  • U̶t̶i̶l̶i̶t̶i̶e̶s̶ ̶–̶ ̶(̶w̶a̶t̶e̶r̶,̶ ̶g̶a̶s̶,̶ ̶s̶o̶l̶a̶r̶ ̶p̶o̶w̶e̶r̶,̶ ̶i̶n̶t̶e̶r̶n̶e̶t̶)̶
  • H̶e̶a̶l̶t̶h̶c̶a̶r̶e̶
  • Education
  • Emergency plan

Right off the bat you better be prepared for some rough living!

Choosing The Right Off Grid Location

Before we go through each of the above mentioned points. You need to find the best land to live off of.

That means you need to think of the following:

  • Setting up shelter close to a water source - You are not going to last long without a water source, set up your shelter close to a lake, river or dam of sorts.

  • Surrounding land needs to be fertile - If you want to live off the land for free, you are going to have to plant vegetables and herbs. This garden of yours is going to be your main food supply.

  • Avoid cold locations - This is a personal preference, while I love cold conditions under normal circumstances, when you live in DIY yurt shelter, cold conditions suck!

  • Is it legal in your area - In general off grid living is legal, at the end of this article I'll list some of the best places to live off the land. With that being said, there are still some places where living off the land for free is not possible.

  • Sufficient game in the area - While most of the food will be sourced from your garden, it's still somewhat important to set up your off grid lifestyle in an area with sufficient game.

Off Grid Shelter

There is one video I'll recommend time and time again: A-Frame Hut by Primitive Technology.

If you plan on living off the land for an extended period of time, then you'll want to build a more robust long term shelter.

This 1 hour long video by Primitive Skills outlines just how to do that!

Off Grid Food

In order to sustain yourself long term, you absolutely must invest a good amount of time building a vegetable garden.

I recommend buying seeds at your local nursery and yes that'll cost you money off hand, (albeit not much) but it's a one time investment.

A vegetable garden will ensure you get the right nutrients into your body. If you have a healthy body, your mind will follow.

A basic vegetable garden setup looks like the following:

how to live off the land with no money

Read this guide for a detailed description how to build a veggie garden for the first time.

Living Off The Land Emergency Plan

If worst comes to worst, you need to have a well thought out emergency plan.

It goes without saying, ALWAYS familiarize yourself with your location and ALWAYS BRING A MAP!

Let friends and family know the location of your base. If you don't want the whole world to know where you will be living that's ok, but at least tell one member of your family.

You should have a system in place where if they do not hear from you for a consecutive period of days, they should initiate the emergency plan you agreed upon in the planning phase.

Do not count on your own body to get you out of a bad situation. As with Chris, on his last week he was too weak to even walk, he literally wrote: "too weak to walk out, have literally become trapped in the wild".

This is why a well thought out evacuation plan should be set out from the beginning.

Best Places to Live Off The Grid

These are the 10 best places to live off grid, however will likely require some intial capital to make it happen.

Nevertheless, perhaps worth the mention.

  1. Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, Missouri
  2. Lord Howe Island, Australia
  3. Vieques, Puerto Rico
  4. Freedom Cove, Canada
  5. Tinker's Bubble, England
  6. Tristan Da Cunha, UK
  7. Three Rivers Recreation Area, Oregon
  8. Easter Island, Polynesia
  9. The Azores, Portugal
  10. Macquarie Island, Australia

Final Thoughts

Moving off grid, is much harder and more costly than many realize. Despite the various stories you read about people living effortlessly whilst having no reliance on municipal utilities, I can tell you, the reality can be somewhat different.

Few people have the income or skill set to go off the grid completely, not to mention those not willing to give up their everyday material comforts.  

Despite the obious difficulties associated with becoming self-sufficient, there are real benefits to going green.

Imagine experiencing nature at its wildest, witnessing sunsets that’ll make your jaw drop. You know your reduction in reliance to fossil fuels is doing something good for the planet all life lives on.

Returning to your roots and embracing all that is life, it’s beauty and its thrills all feed your soul and those around you.

In my opinion, one does not need to go all out and completely abandon everything they know in order to live an authentic off the grid lifestyle.

But we can start, one plant at a time. 😊

Additionally, living off-grid does not mean living remote. It can simply mean you do not rely on your local grid for electricity but instead produce your own via means of solar, hydro or wind - solar being the most popular form. 

If you plan on going off grid in any shape or form please let us know in the comments section below, we would love to hear your story.