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Off the Grid Living

Updated on August 11, 2015
A small of the grid cottage that blends into it's surroundings.
A small of the grid cottage that blends into it's surroundings.

What is Off the Grid Living

Off-the-grid living has been coined as a term that corresponds with living independently, without the use of common public utilities, such as water, electric, phone and sewage. Most people use the term to describe their use of self-sustaining building materials and living conditions. Generally people who live off the grid like using their environment to create a life that is beneficial to their surroundings. The term “the-grid” refers to the power grid, which most people are incredibly reliant one, and one that a growing number of people have decided to abandon.

Self sustaining home in California
Self sustaining home in California | Source

Things You Need to Learn About to go Off the Grid


You will need to think of shelter as an essential if you are going to live off the grid. If you are camping, a tent might be all you need. But if you are in for the long haul you will need to think about what type of shelter would suit your terrain, and your budget. Generally small spaces suit people just fine on small budgets. Some other options include campers and RVs, pop-up campers, small sheds (turned into homes), shipping containers (turned into homes), tree houses, shacks, cabins and all kinds of other unique possibilities.

Assessing your budget and climate/terrain needs can help narrow down your options. You can easily assess your needs by checking what others are doing around (or close) to you. If you are in the mountains you may need to do some clearing and grading if you want to put a cabin on your land, or you could decide to use a shipping container that's only needs 4 corners braced, so only tree removal and digging in supporting posts is needed. But you would also need to assess the climate to determine what kind of air controls you need. It really depends on your wants/needs and budget.

A cost assessment could help you lay out all of your options and easily track what expenses will be needed for each type of shelter. Be sure to include the following into your cost assessment.

1. Temperature Control (Heat/Cold)

Extreme climates, either hot or cold, will play a major part in your shelter requirements. Insulation and providing adequate relief from extreme heat, or cold will be required. You have many options, but this will be a major expense. The bigger the shelter the more expensive temperature control will be. Of course, options like RV's and Campers provide temperature control included.

2. Electricity (Lighting/Cooking)

Solar panels are increasingly popular with off the grid homes. They can be expensive to install, but the long term benefits of a solar system far outweigh the initial costs. Another option is Wind Power, which is much harder to come by, and is expensive to set up, but again, long term benefits outweigh the short term disadvantages. Below are some good resources to get more information about solar and wind power.

Solar Power:

How Solar Panels Work

Wind Power:

How do Wind Turbines Work

Water (Bathing/Toilet)

Water and sewage can be a bit of a pain. Sewage systems are expensive to install, but do provide an all in one system. If a septic tank is out of your budget though you can always look to composting toilets. Their are many composting toilets, check out Amazon's selection of composting toilets to see what options are available.

As for water; collecting rainwater is generally the preferred method of off the grid water usage. You can get really creative with rain barrel systems, and can even do it yourself. Check out the basics of rain water collection with this simple book "The Water Collection Handbook". It shows you exactly how to set up your own rain water collection system and how it works and how it can work for you and your family.

Essential Off the Grid Living Tools

Besides general food and clothing supplies, you will want to bring with you each one of the items below. These are essentials you shouldn't be without if you plan to be off-the-grid for a long period of time. I pulled this list off the top of my head, and I am sure I am missing some items though. I will try to update as items come to mind.

  • Emergency First Aid Kit
  • All purpose knife
  • Hammer or mallet
  • Water/water purification devices
  • Flashlights/headlamps/lanterns
  • Axe
  • Fire starters/matches
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Repellent
  • Map
  • Compass

Let me know if I should add something to this list!

Where to Learn More Information

To find more information about living off the grid visit We are a new site trying to bring together the most relevant and helpful information for the self-sustaining, camping, and off the grid enthusiast. Feel free to write us and tell us what you want to learn about, and see on our blog!


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      This seems to be a very interesting topic for many individuals. I feel that society can greatly benefit from having more individuals taking steps towards becoming green.

    • poetryman6969 profile image


      3 years ago

      Some say if we every get hit with a massive EMP blast or a sustain solar storm that many could die. Many of us would have trouble feeding ourselves without the grocery store and most of us would die without indoor plumbing since all other immediately available water sources for city dwellers are suspect.


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