Living off the grid is hard work, there is simply no getting around it, but that is kind of the point of off grid living. If you want to live in a self-reliant way you will have to do almost everything yourself. Far too often people think that living off the grid is like heaven on earth, mostly because they see some cool stories on IG or FB, the truth is that living off the grid is not that spectacular, and sometimes it can get extremely lonely.
There are a lot of people who have no skills which are valuable for off grid living and have attempted to live off the grid, some thrive while others give up after the first year. The problem is that most people are so used to modern-day comforts that they find it extremely difficult to live without them. They might think they can manage to live off the grid, but soon as the “honeymoon” phase passes and the winter is upon them they are going to rethink their life choices while refueling the wood stove in the middle of the night several times.
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Generally speaking, most people who thrive living off the grid are the ones who have DIY skills, can off the land, and have survival skills. There are a lot of people who actually enjoy building things, foraging, fishing, hunting, and trapping. Usually, there are also people who love the outdoors, and everything they can do outdoors. I always tell people who want to try living off the grid is to learn as much as they can before they do so.
The good news is that when it comes to skills for off grid living is that anybody can learn, you only need to be willing to do so. Even if you have never chopped firewood or tied a knot you will still manage, as long as you persevere and keep on going. Even if you think that you have a lot of skills, you will probably learn a lot more during the first year of living off the grid. If you have grown up in a remote area then odds are that you already have at least some skills which will make living off the grid a lot easier. If you want to live off the grid and you are on a tight budget then check out my recent article ( Top 25 ) Places to live off the grid for free.
1. Finding water
The most important skill for living off the grid is all about water, everybody knows how important water is, but few have the skills to find water. If you have planned to live off the grid for some time already and you have already purchased a plot of land then odds are that you already know from where you can get water. As a general rule, flowing water takes the path of the least resistance, and it is flowing in the lowest points of the valley.
You have 3 choices of finding water
- Groundwater: You can access the groundwater by digging a well, not all areas have the groundwater close enough to the surface and some do not even have any groundwater, in this case, there is no point in digging a well. Digging a well is dangerous work, so always hire a professional who knows what he is doing.
- Surface water: The surface water is the one found flowing on the surface, as a general rule flowing water is recommended as this is a lot cleaner than stagnant water. Stagnant water tends to be filled with parasites, protozoa, bacteria, and viruses, although you will have to filter and purify the water before using it.
- Harvesting rainwater: This is by far one of the easiest ways to get water, as long as the local climate is humid enough. Just channel all the rainwater into water barrels or a cistern and there you go, just keep in mind that you will still have to filter and purify it.
2. Filtering water
A lot of people think that filtering and purifying water are the same things, they are two completely different things. Filtering water is when you force the water through a filter, which catches small and large particles of dirt, and professional filters also filter out bacteria, parasites, and protozoa. There are a lot of different water filtering devices, my recommendation is to use one which is gravity fed, although don’t forget to get one that is large enough to fit your families needs. If you want to know more about the legal aspects of living off the grid then check out my recent article Is living off the grid legal? ( 11 Rules to Follow ).
3. Purifying water
After you have filtered the water you will have to purify it, they are some chemicals that you could use but by far one of the easiest ways to purify water is to boil it. Just get a cooking pan, put the water in it, and let it boil for a couple of minutes. The reason why you will have to purify the water is that boiling it will kill viruses and other small bacteria which might have slipped through the filter, water filters do not have the ability to filter out viruses and chemicals.
4. Harvesting firewood
A lot of people do not consider harvesting firewood as being an essential skill for off grid living, I beg to differ. You will have to know when it the best time to harvest firewood, which kind of wood burns the longest, and which one gives off the most heat. Most people already know that deadwood is the best for starting a fire, but not all dead wood is good, wood that is already decomposing or rotting tends to be very wet which means that it will be impossible to start a fire with it.
If you live in a humid environment then your best option for firewood is to find branches that are still suspended in the air. In humid areas, once the deadwood hits the ground it starts to absorb water. If in the area the winters tend to be cold then you will need to find out which kind of wood found in your area burns the longest and gives out the most heat. This will be different from one area to another so make sure to ask around what kind of firewood people use during the wintertime.
If you live in a location where fishing is possible then consider yourself lucky. There are several ways on how you can fish, some need high tech equipment while others are primitive methods. My personal recommendation is to learn how to fish in a primitive way, with a stick, a hook, and some string. This way you don’t actually have to pay any money for the equipment.
If you can hunt and you also have the necessary permit to hunt then this will be a good addition to your off grid skills. Just remember to hunt smaller game, as processing and preserving the meat of larger game can be difficult.
A lot of people use trapping not only to get food but also to make some extra money with the furs. Trapping is different from one region to another and what kind of trapping method you use will depend mostly on the type of animal you want to trap.
Foraging can be an extremely valuable skill, although only if you know what you are doing. There are a lot of poisonous berries in the wilderness, and something as common as diarrhea could be life-threatening in the middle of nowhere.
A lot of people who have never experienced living off the grid imagine themselves working in the middle of their vegetable garden. While this is fine and dandy, but if you have never grown your own food then you will struggle. Gardening is not only a lot of work but there are a lot of things which you have to know like when is the best time to plant, how much you should water them, and when to harvest. My personal recommendation is to find out what are the most common vegetables and crops are grown in the county, generally speaking, these will be the best for your area also, and try to learn as much about the different crops and vegetables.
Most of the people trying to grow vegetables or crops fail in the first year, this is mostly because not all areas have rich enough land to be able to grow crops. In some areas, it is vital that you make your own compost and without it, it will be extremely difficult to grow anything. I won’t go much into detail on how to make compost as I have already written an in-depth article about it so check it out How to make compost at home step by step ( In 12 Steps ).
11. DIY skills
If you are planning to live off the grid then you will need to have some do it yourself skills. A lot of things can and will go wrong, a lot of things need maintenance, and you will have to fix almost everything by yourself. You will have to figure out how to set up the solar panels, how to clean your septic tank, and so on. There will be a lot of improvisation on your part, and that is normal, especially if you live in a remote area, try to use everything you have.
12. Preserving food
Everybody who lives off the grid should have at least some basic skill on how to preserve food, especially meat. Most homesteads do not have a large freezer as these tend to use a lot more power than what a solar generator can produce. Usually, people who live off the grid preserve meat and other food in several different days. The most common ways of preserving food are by salting, picketing, dehydrating, canning, and smoking.
Generally speaking, smoking only works for meats, although you can salt and pickle both meat and vegetables. If you are planning to fish or hunt then your best options will be either salting or smoking. My personal recommendation is to start with salting, this is the easiest way to preserve meat but it also tends to use a lot of salt. You can preserve fruits and vegetables by dehydrating them in the sun.
13. Processing meat
Some would say that processing meat is not a skill but a form of art. There are certain ways on how you can butcher and process the meat from certain animals, you have to know what is good to eat and what is potentially dangerous to eat. You don’t need to be a qualified butcher although you should probably practice before you move off the grid, some people freak out when it comes to butchering one of their livestock, hopefully, it won’t be you.
Survival skills are extremely important for off grid living, you should know how to live off the land, hunt, and fish. Consider these survival skills as a backup plan, there are a lot of things that can go wrong, and the further away you are from civilization the more dangerous small mistakes become. One of my friends who was trapping in Alaska had his cabin destroyed one night due to the high amount of snowfall, right after his snowmobile broke down.
He had to walk two days to the nearest town, and when I have asked him why didn’t he remove all the snow in the cabin to get to his food he said that he would have used more energy by doing that, and he wanted to avoid sleeping outside at all costs. So he grabbed what he could and walked for two days straight.
Not a lot of people talk about self-defense when it comes to off grid living, although in my opinion, this is one of the most important skills to have. Living in a homestead right in the middle of nature sounds beautiful, but it can also be dangerous. There are a lot of people who illegally cut trees, hunt, fish, and trap, and they tend not to be the friendliest especially if you catch them on your land.
One of the first mistakes that you will probably make in the first year of living off the grid is not getting enough salt and spices. You will have to learn to cook at least some basic dishes, the fewer ingredients it has the faster and easier it gets. Don’t worry if you do not have any cooking skills yet, you will improvise and find out what you are good at cooking, also do not forget to get a cookbook or two, especially if you do not have access to the internet.
17. Personal hygiene
Yes, you hear it right, personal hygiene is a skill, especially if you live in the middle of nowhere. You will have to find a way on how to keep your daily routine of washing your teeth and cleaning yourself if you stop then this will lead to health issues later down the line.
18. Raising livestock
Most people who live off the grid tend to also have at least some chickens, and maybe a goat or two. You will need to learn how to tend to the animals to the best of your ability, buy some medication for the most common diseases if possible. Do note that if you are new to off grid living than you probably shouldn’t raise livestock in the first year, take it with baby steps, first the vegetable grade, then livestock.
Once you are comfortable enough that your homestead can fit a couple of animals then make some calculations on how much you need to feed the animals and if you have the ability to grow that much food.
19. Repair and maintenance
Sooner or later things will break and you will have to fix them, as a general rule you should have some extra materials and several tools with which you can do the maintenance and the repairs. You will have to know how to maintain the entire homestead, from plumbing, heating, waste disposal to something as basic as a fence.
20. First aid skills
You will need some first aid skills, sooner or later you will injure yourself. Small cuts and blisters can be extremely dangerous if they get infected, so you should know how to treat and clean a wound, and how to bandage. It is also a good idea to get some antibiotics if possible, although in most states you will need a prescription.
Crafting is an essential skill for off grid living, for the most part, you will improvise and make some tools to make certain things easier. Something as simple as a spear can go a long way if you know from what and how to craft it. Generally speaking, most of your crafting skills should be around wood as this is probably one of the most abundant resources and one of the easiest to work with.
22. Money management
Living off the grid doesn’t mean that money isn’t important anymore, far from it. The difference between someone being successful and someone being unsuccessful while living off the grid is how they manage their money. Most people who live off the grid have a tight budget and every penny must be counted for, my personal recommendation is to make a chart on what you spend each month and identify the possible useless items and get rid of them.
As you can see you will probably have to learn a couple of new skills, these skills will be the base of your ability to live off the grid, without them, you will definitely struggle. As time goes by you will learn several new skills, but it is a good idea to learn at least the basics of the above skills just in case you might need them.