The Earth is bountiful enough that those who possess the right amount of fortitude, problem-solving skills, and survival know-how can turn a small plot of land into an ever-giving resource. The idea of going off-grid is appealing to many—it means living every single day in the fresh air and honing a more sustainable way of life. By turning to natural living, you put less strain on the environment, learn how to become entirely self-reliant, and experience the many joys of Mother Nature. Yet living off the land is not for the weak or ill-prepared. It takes years of groundwork and skill-honing to get to a place where you can survive (and thrive) without municipal utilities, grocery stores, and other resources we take for granted every day.
What does it mean to live off the land?
If you’re reading this, you’re probably already relatively well-versed in the off-grid lifestyle, but, for those of you who are brand-new to the idea of going rogue, here’s a bit of a rundown: Living off the land means to survive only by the resources—food, water, and power, primarily—that can be harvested from the natural land.
In other words, those who live off the land survive by hunting or foraging for their food and harvesting power from natural sources like the sun or wind. Whether you call it homesteading, off-grid living, or permanent camping, living off the land is a rewarding way to train yourself and your family to be fully self-sufficient.
The three most basic requirements of off-grid living
There are so many reasons to unplug and set up shop on your very own piece of land, but you absolutely should not go forward with this lifestyle if you don’t have access to the three basic requirements of homesteading:
1. Water – On-grid dwellers don’t have to worry about sourcing water. It’s pumped straight to their homes through the public utility or a well. Off-grid, you’re on your own. You can bring water to your home site in various different ways, such as rainwater harvesting, digging a well, or using wind or solar power to supply H2O to your home via a freshwater source. When you go off the grid, you’ll find very quickly that water is a precious resource. You won’t get far without clean, reliable water, so save those containers and stock up!
2. Food – The pursuit of food (energy) is nearly everything in wilderness living. When you remove yourself from the typical way of life and opt to live off the land, you instantly turn from a regular citizen to a hunter-gatherer. Food sourcing means becoming skilled at hunting, fishing, gardening, farming, composting, land management (e.g., creating the ideal food plots to attract deer or other food sources to your property), and many other vital life-giving skills.
3. Shelter – Staying safe from the elements—cold, rain, wind, snow, and extreme heat—is one of the most important things you can do to stay productive, safe, and (quite frankly) alive when you’re living off the land. Building shelter doesn’t just mean having a reliable roof over your head. It also means having a stash of rugged cold-weather gear and failsafe fire-starters on hand. Security from intruders and wild animals is also a vital component of reliable shelter.
Other things to consider when going off-grid
If you’ve got a plan for how to handle water, food, and shelter, then you’re already well on your way to a very sustainable homesteading scenario—but, of course, there’s more to think about. Here are a few other things to consider:
- Yes, you (probably) need power – Sure, we’ve all spent that week or two camping with only a battery-powered lantern and a raging fire to sustain us—but living without power for the long-term isn’t just inconvenient, it’s downright unsafe. Your use of power will surely decrease when you go off-grid completely, but you still need it for things like warmth and cooking. Consider all of your off-grid powering options—solar power is the most popular and accessible for many homesteaders—and select the option that’s the most reliable and sensible for your particular needs.
- Throwaway goods are not sensible – Plastic and other throwaway goods are generally no longer on the table when you decide to permanently live off the land. Anything that’s not made to endure in harsh, demanding conditions season after season is a no-go. You should go into your off-grid environment with long-lasting apparel, equipment, home goods and supplies. Spend time shopping around for the most durable outdoors apparel, including coats, pants, mid-layers, base layers, gloves, hats, and face masks that can be worn or repurposed for many years.
- It’s all about safety and survival – At the end of the day, if you do nothing else to prepare for your new lifestyle, it’s key that you know how to take care of yourself in the event of an emergency. There may be scenarios where you have to return to “normal” society—to get medical attention or to restock supplies, for example—and you have to be open to that and willing to put your survival first no matter if it compromises your personal principles. Learn everything you can about first aid so that you can deal with everyday issues and injuries swiftly and appropriately.
- You may get lonely – Homesteading and off-grid living are all about self-sufficiency. That means self-sufficiency in feeding yourself, sheltering yourself, and entertaining yourself. Even if you plan to enter this lifestyle with a spouse or your whole family, you will most likely have bouts of loneliness since you’ll be interacting with fewer people on the whole. Make sure you’re prepared for this and have a plan for how to handle it.
Being prepared and enjoying the ride
Switching to an off-grid lifestyle may be one of the best decisions you ever make. You’ll feel more productive and rewarded than ever. However, if you don’t lay the groundwork for a safe, healthy, and happy homesteading lifestyle, you may put yourself (and others who have decided to take this journey with you) at risk. Spending some time getting prepared is the very best thing you can do to ensure a positive outcome.
About the Author: Natalie Bucsko serves as the Marketing Communications Specialist for RefrigiWear. From the Dahlonega, GA headquarters, Natalie oversees all content, including the website, knowledge center, blog, catalog, email, and social media. Before joining RefrigiWear, Natalie worked as a Marketing Coordinator for several years at companies ranging from startups to insurance. She enjoys cooking and baking, sports, reading and spending time outdoors – especially when it is cold!
Originally published 2/13/2019, updated 12/21/2020.