By LAPG Staff
Jun 17th 2019

Fundamentals of Off-Grid Living

People have different definitions of living off the grid, but it essentially means that families live without relying on any public, governmental, or societal assistance. It's more than just slapping some solar panels on your house, raising some animals, buying some survival gear, and using well water. It's a lifestyle. Moving off-grid takes planning and preparation.

Once you're off-grid, you must keep up with your homestead's chores and maintain the lifestyle. Off-grid living takes endless hard, productive work to ensure that you have a constant supply of electricity, fabric, food, water, and gas.

Why Do People Choose to Live Off-Grid?

People have different reasons for leaving the urban world. Many people have to live off of the grid because they live in remote locations where electricity, water, and other public services aren't available, or these services may be available but are too expensive.

Off-grid farming

Some people just like the lifestyle or want to go back to the basics. One hundred fifty years ago, and before, everyone lived off the grid since electricity and running water didn't exist. People worked hard from sunrise to sunset. While the work is hard, this lifestyle can be very rewarding.

Most people already living off-grid say that the mental shift is high on the list of essential preparations. If you're going off-grid because the rest of the world is in a significant decline, shifting your mindset may be difficult. If you're doing it simply to escape the chaos of urban life, then you probably have more time to prepare yourself for living a sustainable lifestyle without outside help.

The Necessities for Off-Grid Living

The list of necessary items for living off of the grid may differ for some people, but there are some requirements. Here is a list of necessities that create the fundamentals of off-grid living:

Land

Land is critical. It's the foundation of your homestead and a place to call home. The land must meet the needs of your off-grid lifestyle. Ideally, it's out in the country with plenty of room to grow food, build your home and outbuildings, and raise animals. Of course, land is expensive, and many people make do with small parcels of it. Do whatever suits your needs and meets your budget. Remote properties are usually cheaper, and you can get more for your money.

Off-Grid Living - Land

Living off the grid means freedom to live and build the way you want to. It's about self-reliance, independence, and sustainability. Going back to your roots without the comforts of modern life or luxuries simplifies your life. The home is the basis for everything involved in homestead living.

Shelter

Shelter means different things to different people. Do you want a stick-built house or a tiny house? You may choose the minimal route and live in a yurt or a small cabin. If you plan to stay on the property while you're building your shelter, you'll likely be camping.

A large tent and sleeping bags are necessities. You may also need some type of stove, depending on the season. Make sure you ask an expert about stoves and tents with stove pipe holes before you throw something together that may be unsafe. There are plenty of people out there willing to share their knowledge on homesteading and living off the grid.

Truck and Trailer

Ideally, a truck and trailer are necessary for farming. You'll need a vehicle to haul things in, such as vegetables to the market or wood to build your home and outbuildings. A cargo trailer and truck are excellent in emergencies, in case you need to throw all of your belongings in the trailer and go. They are especially important if you're leading a nomadic off-the-grid life.

Some people can't afford a nice truck and trailer. A used vehicle, preferably a truck, will work just fine. You probably won't use it very often. Even an SUV or large car could be a great asset.

Food

There's a certain freedom in no longer going to the grocery store to get your food, but now you have to raise and grow your own. There will still be specific necessities that you'll need to get from a store, such as sugar, salt, flour, and other essentials that you can't make or are too difficult to make yourself.

Bartering is another popular way to get the necessary food and other essentials that you need. Many people living off the grid partner with other people to obtain needed resources. You may trade your home-grown vegetables to someone who raises chickens in order to start your own flock. You may need a mechanic for your vehicle or farm equipment and trade with a mechanic who needs something that you have to offer.

Off-Grid Living - Food

A garden is vital and, depending on where you live, you may need a greenhouse for the winter season. In an ideal world, you'd plant a garden with raised beds, as well as a traditional layout. Grow vegetables and fruits in your greenhouse.

Learning how to preserve food is also critical for survival off the grid. Preserving food lets you stockpile it for emergencies and the winter months when you won't have as much access to fresh produce.

Water and a Collection System

Clean drinking water is crucial for your homestead and, since you won't have access to city resources, you'll need to find your own supply. When choosing land, look for property which has a natural water source that you can haul water from.

During the planning phase of building your home, you should keep in mind the distance to the water source if you plan on hauling water from a creek or river. A long journey to and from your water supply will quickly become tedious and waste precious time.

You also need a water collection system to capture rainwater. Your water collection system can be a complex cistern system or just a rain barrel connected to your house's or cabin's gutter pipe. Drilling a well is a permanent solution to a virtually endless supply of water, but this process is often expensive.

A water purifier is another useful tool. Natural water sources often have pollutants, depending on where they are located and what feeds into them. A water purifier eliminates bacteria, chemicals, and other contaminants. If you're looking to go the inexpensive route, you can fashion your own water filter out of things found in nature.

Septic System and Waste Disposal

Waste disposal is a necessary evil and something you need to plan for. If you are leaning toward building a full-sized house, installing a traditional septic system may be the way to go. Just because you're living off the grid doesn't mean you have to build an outhouse for a bathroom. A composting system for waste disposal is another option. Some laws govern how you dispose of human waste, so make sure you understand the requirements for the location of your property.

Energy and Energy Storage System

Living off the grid means that you need to generate electricity. You'll need a power-generating system that has backups and allows you to run the appliances in your home, such as a washing machine, refrigerator, stove, computer, TV, etc. Going off the grid doesn't mean that you have to live in the dark with candles, although you could go through times when this happens. You also don't have to use a washboard to do laundry. You must prepare for anything possible to happen, however.

Off-Grid Living - Energy

Solar panels and a wind turbine should provide you with all of the energy that you need. A 250- to 500-watt wind turbine and several 250-watt solar panels should supply the power you need to run your household. The wind turbine is an excellent backup to the solar panels for long periods without sunshine. When there is no wind, then you'll rely on the solar panels to generate electricity. These two electricity producers complement each other and create an incredible electricity-generating system.

There's more to this equation to truly be self-sufficient. You'll want a device that stores power because, without one, there won't be any power at night unless there is enough wind for the turbine to create energy.

Decide how much electricity you need by figuring out how much power all of your appliances and electrical devices use. Each device should have a label on the back that provides its amperage and wattage use. Add all of those numbers up, and that will help you estimate approximately how much electricity you use over 24 hours.

So, you generate power all day long but none at night. This means you won't have electricity at night to watch TV or run the lamps. The solution is a system that stores power. Battery banks and energy storage systems are expensive, but, if you can afford them, they are well worth the price. When you add the inverter, charge controller, and other necessary accessories, the system could cost as much as the wind turbine and solar panels combined.

Survival Gear

Remember that you're on your own. Whether you live just a few miles outside of town or miles away in the wilderness, you need survival gear. These supplies include medical supplies, sturdy tactical flashlights, knives, batteries, emergency food kits, blankets, multi-tools, and much more.

Off-Grid Living - Survival Gear

Think of anything that you would need in an emergency. You'll need to prepare for electrical outages, bad weather, medical emergencies, household emergencies, and any other type of emergency imaginable. You can never be too prepared. Literally stock up on everything you need to survive.

Tools

When you move out into the country, there's no more running next door to neighbor Joe to borrow his chainsaw. You'll need a variety of tools to fix things that break, to farm, and to build items. At the very least, you'll need:

  • Hand Tools – wire cutters, C-clamps, pliers, vice grips, scrapers, clamps, paintbrushes, chisels, and any other small tools

  • Chainsaw

  • 4-Inch Grinder

  • Handsaw

  • Cutting Torch

  • Table Saw

  • Welder

  • Chop Saw

  • Hand Drill

  • Axe

  • Vice

  • Machete

  • Drill Press

  • Shovel

  • Screw Drivers

  • Rake

  • Wrench and Socket Set

  • Hoe

  • Carpenter Pencils

  • Post Hole Digger

  • Tape Measure

  • Hammer

  • Level

  • Wheelbarrow

  • Lumberjack Tools

  • Dolly

  • Come-Along

  • Utility Trailer

  • Chain and Cable

  • Tractor

  • Cordage and Rope

  • Tiller

  • UTV or ATV

If this list of tools and machinery looks overwhelming, don't worry. These are common tools used in everyday life off the grid. However, if you don't know how to use some of these them, you should start learning how to as soon as possible.

This list of tools may seem like every tool on the planet, but it represents the bare minimum. Without them, living off the grid will be tough. These tools are crucial to the maintenance of your cabin or home, as well as repairing equipment.

Building materials are also critical for homestead life. You'll need supplies to build fences and chicken coops, repair things, and much more. Some people living off of the grid live close to scrapyards, and this is a very economical way to obtain the materials that you need. You never know what treasures you'll find on a trip to the scrapyard!

vegetable garden late summer

Going off the grid requires a lot of planning and preparation. You can't rush into it without thinking through the process. The initial investment can be expensive, so it may involve saving money for months or years before you can make the move to freedom and self-reliance.

Some people choose to do it in stages. They may start with the most basic shelter and setup, and then add elements of off-grid living over time. Perhaps the smartest way is to make sure you have everything on this setup list, and then move off of the grid. Unless you have a financial cushion, living off-grid will be a challenge. It can take months or even years to settle into this lifestyle.

The will and the mindset to live off-grid are vital to your success. It's one thing to talk about homesteading or the freedom of never relying on government sources; it's another altogether to actually do it. This lifestyle takes a lot of hard work and perseverance, but living a self-sufficient lifestyle is very rewarding and worth the extra work.

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