How to live off the grid in the woods? ( In 15 Steps )

Living off the grid will be a challenge to everybody, and off grid living in the woods comes with a lot of extra challenges. When most people think of off grid living they usually imagine living in a small cabin or homestead in the middle of the woods, the truth is that not a lot of people who actually live off the grid do it in the woods. Most off grid homesteads that are in close proximity to the woods either set up their homesteads at the outskirts of the woods or in a clearance in the woods.

You can live off the grid in the woods by finding a place where you have access to fresh water, either by a local stream or by having the ability to harvest rainwater. You can easily survive in the woods by foraging and hunting as long as you have the necessary skills. In addition to this, you can also grow crops,  even in the middle of the woods as long as you make a clearing.

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Even in the best of circumstances off grid living is hard work, now imagine living in an off grid homestead in the woods where your ability to grow crops and generate power is extremely limited. Generally speaking, people who live in an off grid homestead in the woods do not do it all year round, usually, they live at the homestead for a couple of months while they are hunting and trapping. I am not saying that there are no people living with a more permanent status in the woods but it is kind of rare.

As to how difficult or easy will it be to live off the grid in the wood is mainly determined by the location. The USA has different types of climates, and one state can have several types of climates, this will directly impact what you can grow and how you will generate power. Generally speaking, the southern part of the country has a hotter climate, which means that you can grow crops and the winters are fairly mild.

In the northern part of the country most people who live off the grid, no matter if in the woods or not will spend almost the entire summer preparing for the winter. During the wintertime, there is not a lot to do, other than the usual maintenance, but during the summertime, you will have to tend to your crops, gather firewood, and preserving food for the wintertime. If you are wondering how you can make money while living off the grid then check out my recent article How do off gridders make money? ( Top 34 Ways ).

Living off the grid in a clearing in the woods

Finding a clearing in the woods where you will set up your homestead will make your life a lot easier. The main problem in living in the woods is that the density of the forest will limit your ability to grow crops, harvest rainwater, and to generate power. Crops need direct sunlight to grow fast, and you will also need direct sunlight to use your solar panels efficiently. If you do not have a local stream and you choose to harvest rainwater then it will be a lot easier to do so in a clearing in the woods, as the trees will not block the rain.

Find water off the grid

If you want to live off the grid in a forest then you will have to find water, my recommendation is to find a source of water which is running above ground like a small stream or river. In most of the country, you will have no problem finding underground water, the problem is not with accessing it but with the logistics of moving all the equipment to your location. Digging a well in the middle of a forest can be done but getting all that equipment to make the well will cost you a lot of money.

The last thing you would want is to go to the nearest town and get water from there, as this will be extremely expensive in the long run. Some people will set up water tanks and ask the local firefighters to fill it up with water, although you can only do this if your homestead has good road access, and odds are that in the woods you will have no road access at all. Another option would be to harvest rainwater, but this will be also difficult in the woods.

Once you have found a local stream or creek, then you can either manually get water or set up a simple gravity-fed system that will allow you to use the water without constantly having to refill your water barrels. If you set up your homestead in a forest clearing then you can also harvest rainwater in water barrels or cisterns, just remember that you will have to filter and purify the water before using it. There are several ways to harvest rainwater, for more information check out my recent article Best ways to collect rainwater ( Top 11 Ways ).

Growing crops off the grid

Even a small vegetable garden can be extremely useful, the problem is that most crops and vegetables do need direct sunlight and below the canopy of the trees in a forest there is not a lot of access to direct sunlight, this is why there is no grass growing in forests. Your best option will be to either settle in a clearing or clear a small area in the forest so you have access to direct sunlight. In areas where the climate is fairly cold, you can set up a greenhouse.
On what kind of crops you can grow will entirely depend on the local climate, in some areas of the country you will be able to grow crops all year round, although, in the wast majority of the country, the growing season will be limited to the summertime. In Kansas, you will have no problem growing plenty of types of crops, for more information check out my recent article Off grid living in Kansas ( The Sunflower State ).

Make compost off the grid

If you are planning to grow crops in a forest then you will have to make your own compost. The soil in most forests is not ideal for growing crops, this is mainly because the trees will absorb most of the nutrients from the ground and you will have difficulty growing anything without compost. Luckily making compost is fairly easy, just use your leftovers and the local vegetation to make it. Most people who live off the grid in areas where the soil is not ideal for growing crops, make their compost in the first year and start growing crops in the second year.

Using a wood stove while living off the grid

In areas where the winter is fairly cold you will need to use a wood stove, you can use this both for heating and cooking. While you are building your homestead make sure to incorporate the wood stove if you add the woodstove after the construction is complete then you will have to do some extra work. You have to be extra careful with what you isolate your homestead so that the wood stove doesn’t ignite it or damage it.

Gather firewood off the grid

During the summertime, you will have to prepare for the wintertime, and you have to gather as much firewood as possible. Smaller twigs and branches are good firewood for the summertime, but during the wintertime, you will need larger logs as these will burn for a longer time and they will also generate a lot more heat. My suggestion is to build a small shed where you keep the firewood, otherwise, the firewood will absorb a lot of water and will be almost impossible to ignite.

Generating power off the grid

A lot of people who live in the woods will abandon the idea of generating power, as solar panels do not work efficiently without direct sunlight and you will not be able to set up a wind turbine in the middle of a forest. Even if the solar panels will not work at their maximum efficiency your best if not the only option will be to still use them. Some people make a small clearing in the forest where they set up their solar panels.

In addition to not having direct sunlight on your solar panels, you will also have to take into consideration that in the northern parts of the country the days will be a lot shorter during the wintertime. I have seen a couple of people storing power in batteries for the wintertime, this is doable although you will have to limit your power consumption as even the most modern batteries can not hold as much power as you might need.

Plan everything to live off the grid

Most people fail at the logistics part, having a good piece of land is not enough, it also has to have at least some kind of road access. You have to think of how will you get your building materials to the location, generally speaking, the more remote the area is the more it will cost you to transport things or it will be simply impossible to get the materials there. Most forests will have dirt roads which are used by loggers, the problem is that most of these roads are not mapped, so you might want to ask the locals if there is a road through the forest.

Off grid transportation 

A lot of people who live off the grid will use ATV’s during the summertime and snowmobiles during the wintertime. If you are in good physical condition then you will have no problem walking long distances during the summertime, but during the wintertime, a hike of a couple of miles will take a lot longer, especially if you are not used to walking in the snow. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money then my recommendation is to use a bike during the summertime and snowshoes during the wintertime.

Disposing of waste and garbage off the grid

Most people who live off the grid will use a septic tank, generally, this is the best way to dispose of your own waste. The big problem in the woods is that garbage and waste will attract a lot of animals, from mice, rats to other larger predators and herbivores. If you move to bear country you have to be extra careful how you dispose of your waste and you will have to get more information from the local authorities.

Off grid building regulations

No matter in which state you set up your homestead you will have to abide by the building regulations. In some areas, you can get away with building a tiny cabin or a house without needing any permit although it is always a good idea before you start the building process. Generally, speaking tiny homes that do not need a concrete base will not need a permit, although this is not always the case, but a house without a concrete base will allow heat escape through the ground which is the last thing you would want during the wintertime.

Off grid laws and restrictions

A lot of people think that off grid living is illegal, the truth is that there are no laws making off grid illegal, but in some areas, you will have restrictions. Generally speaking in states which have an arid climate you will either not be permitted to harvest rainwater or you will be limited how much you can harvest. Areas with lush forests shouldn’t have the water harvesting restriction, although how you store your water is regulated in some states.

Using an off grid satellite phone

In areas with dense forests, you will have no cell phone service and no internet service. In this case, you might want to have an alternative way to contact people, especially during an emergency. Satellite phones are fairly cheap nowadays and you can easily power them with a small solar panel, some of them even come with a solar charger.

Off grid weather radio

In the northern part of the country, the weather can turn fairly quickly, especially in the areas where there are plenty of mountains. These weather radios are fairly cheap and you can also power them with batteries or with solar power. Just check the weather every day to make sure that a big storm is not forming nearby, storms can get tough especially in a wooden cabin, you will know what I mean the first time you sit through a storm in your homestead.

Backup plan for living off the grid

It is always a good idea to have a backup plan, things don’t always turn out as you would want. Do not go all in and invest all your money into an off grid homestead if you have never lived off the grid in your entire life, not everybody can handle the off grid lifestyle. The only thing which is guaranteed is that things will go wrong and you will have to work extra hard to fix and maintain everything.

In conclusion

A lot of people would want to live off the grid in the woods, although it is not ideal as living in the woods come with a lot of limitations. You will find it difficult to generate power and to harvest water, in addition to this in some areas, it will be extremely hard to grow any kind of crops. My personal recommendation is to camp for a couple of days in the area before making a decision, have a feel of the land learn what the pros and cons are of the area.