Going Off Grid: The Definitive Guide for Camper-van Adventurers
Today, we’re going to explore off-grid living, and specifically how our readers can prepare themselves to take the leap.
The life of an off-grid camper is one of solitude, comfort and discovery, but we want to educate our reader as best as possible: you need to know what you’re getting into and how to approach this enormous lifestyle shift.
First, we want to discuss whether or not the off-grid camper life is for you. It’s not enough to have a wild hunch; if you’re ill-prepped for how this lifestyle differs from the ordinary, you might be hit with some unwelcome wake-up calls.
Strap in and take notes if you want to!
The Off-Grid Camper Life: Is it right for you?
Living off-grid is an unconventional way of life. It’s laborious at times, infinitely rewarding, challenging, scary, full of stories and anecdotes, and most importantly – what you want. The ultimate truth is that it’s not for everyone.
Money really, really matters.
No, seriously. This is probably going to be the most important section of our article. Oftentimes when people are seeking to make the change, up-sticks and go off-grid, money isn’t at the forefront of their mind: they don’t prioritise money as a means of sustainability, and it comes back to haunt them.
If you’re going off-grid, there’s two essential approaches you can take: a) a lot of saved money. This is of course dependent on the duration of your ventures; how far you’re looking to travel and what activities you’ll be getting involved in to keep yourself occupied. Or b) a very, very creative way to make new money. There is no clear-cut answer to this, and it will all depend on your individual situation.
Sometimes, off-grid campers came from a very different lifestyle indeed. Some we’ve known have been long-time servants in corporate; or teachers or business owners – who simply needed a change. On the road, you’ll want to either have access to an extensive fund to keep yourself afloat, or figure out ways that you can make money on-the-go.
These jobs are often creative in nature and require the acquisition of clients, selling digital products and working from a laptop.
The alternative, like mentioned, is that you have saved a considerable amount prior to taking the leap. This is a highly recommended approach, even if you need to eventually make the shift to serving digital clients for jobs here and there on the side.
Keep your four-legged companions in mind
We’ve encountered a lot of people who have decided to go off-grid without considering the impacts of the change on their pets. On the surface, this sounds like the perfect setup: you’re embarking on a wonderful journey of explorations, pushing your camper to the limit…long walks and seeing the natural world – what better companion than, say, a dog?
You need to take into account; particularly if you’re going off-grid in the United States or other warm climates – how you’re going to alleviate the stress of the heat on your fluffy friends. Extending this, we need to make sure we over-prepare for food and supplies to fuel their lifestyles. They didn’t ask for this lifestyle shift, and although they’ll happily follow you wherever you go, don’t neglect this brainstorming exercise before you go. How will you feed your pet? How will you keep them warm or cool?
It’s an uncertain world out there!
This is essential. In the excitement of the plans and blueprints; the itineraries and goals you’ve laid out so perfectly, we each need to have a conversation with ourselves about our abilities. Are we strong and resourceful during times of uncertainty?
If you are, naturally, an individual who takes problems and setbacks head-on, finding intuitive ways to get out of sticky situations, and love adapting to new environments, there’s not a single reason you shouldn’t take the leap and go off-grid. A heavy, camper comes with its own set of problems: mechanical issues, consistent need for refuelling, tire punctures…you have to be prepared for it all.
But this isn’t the reality for all.
Hygiene matters. (Just as much as money!)
Living off-grid, however you want to frame it, isn’t always exactly synonymous with clean living. You’ll be eating healthy, getting your rays and your fresh air; but naturally, your approaches to hygiene can take a pretty dramatic turn. Before you even consider going off-grid, consider your own habits and nature as a human being – are you okay with a bit of dirt? Will you sacrifice the comfort of a tiled shower for some a bit more…DIY?
Travel showers are a life-saver if you’re looking for something a little ad-hoc to implement into your camper-van set up. Many models and brands use solar power to warm water up before you use them, they’re pretty reliable, and they don’t take up much space.
If you’re going to be really resourceful, you can find ways to re-use this water for flushing the camper’s toilets and watering your plants if you have any!
Hand-washing is also key here; if you’re not a habitual hand-washer, you might want to make this habit before going off-grid: without wishing to scare potential adventurers, living in the sticks can be rife with infection if you don’t approach hygiene properly. But proper hand-washing, for example, can prevent 30% of diarrhoea-related sicknesses and 20% of respiratory infections. Something to think about.
If this isn’t enough of an insight into what to expect from off-grid living, remember that we have to use the bathroom in our campers. This may seem like an obvious point to make, but consider the changes to your lifestyle and habits as you embark on this journey. You’ll be getting used to new technology (or lack thereof!) and new devices to facilitate basic human needs. Compostable toilets are odourless, intuitive devices that make all of this a whole lot easier. They can be bundled up in the back-compartments of your camper until the time is right. Consider if all of this sounds like your thing. If not, reconsider your plans. This section would be fantastic for affiliate products, Alan – you can ask me more about this on Fiverr if need be!
I’m fine with all that! Now what?
The above section was by no means an attempt to deter our readers. Off-grid living in a camper is an outstanding, enriching and exciting experience. It is simply a ‘disclaimer’ of sorts that we put out there to ensure readers know what they’re getting into.
So, now you’re here. You’re white-hot and laser-focused on going off-grid with your trusty van. You’re enthusiastic about the lifestyle changes; you’re ready for a shift in habits and daily tasks – now, we’re going to give our readers some excellent tips on taking the leap, head-on. What can we expect from this new lifestyle, and what can we do to execute our plan successfully? Read on.
- Be Content with Less
The first thing you’re going to need to do is get used to a different kind of existence. Off-grid living is no place for materialism, or hoarding or excess baggage.
It’s a place for minimalist approaches, and though you may not see yourself as a minimalist by nature; we’ve got some news. Off-grid living is one of the most obvious actions someone takes that indicates they want to declutter their lives. And that’s excellent. Not only that, but your camper will thank you: less weight, less mess, and more space to keep important things. Leave unnecessary items at home.
Our tip: always know when your next meal is coming, and where it’s coming from! Off-grid food is an entire series of articles in itself. You might even end up growing your own food!
Make sure that you have a direct and actionable plan laid out to acquire food – don’t just think vegetables. Tinned food should be stocked as best as possible; but don’t over-do it. Depending on how often you’ll be relocating in your camper, you can think outside the box. Chickens are an incredible off-grid source of food, for example: they’re a recurring source of nutrition with their eggs, and can eventually be used for food themselves. But not all of us have space in our campers for this setup!
If you’re not growing your own food, ensure you build connections with local communities or suppliers that will allow for frictionless delivery and collection of food when you need it most. Relationships go a long way off-grid.
You’ll want to get creative in the kitchen and leverage the power of portable cookers. You can get started with some trusty stove-top ovens that provide a reliable and fun way to prep your meals. Alternatives to stove-tops include pressure cookers, slow cookers and barbecue grills.
- Power is crucial.
Electricity is like water when you’re living in the sticks. More often than not, you’ll be utilising a set of different tools to stay lit up and online. This is generally up to you, and is solely dependent on the demand of your camper; your devices, what facilities you want, among other factors like where you’re staying and how much sun you’ll be getting!
Solar generators are a clear winner on the scene. You can get hold of mid-high end battery banks that work in tandem with your solar sources. You can even get your hands on some great all-in-one kits to bulk up your camper. Our tip is to size up your systems before you embark on your journey. Consider what devices you’ll be using regularly and calculate watt-hours.
Watt-hours = watts x hours (Wh)
An example: mobile phones tend to demand around 2-6 watts of power on a full charge. If yours is 4 watts and it takes you an hour to charge your phone daily, you’ll be using 4Wh per day. This calculation can be done daily or estimated on-the-go.
- Location is key
Okay, so we know where we’re going to live. In our campers. But just like how we should always know when our next meal is coming, we’ll want to know where we’ll be parking our campers next. There is a distinct beauty of the off-grid lifestyle; you get to choose where you’re located. You get to go (almost) wherever you want, but the key takeaway is that some locations are safer, sounder and more appropriate than others.
This is ultimately dependent on where you’re stationed; what country you’ll be travelling around, and your personal preferences.
To lay down some ground rules;
- When you’re set on a specific region or stretch of the world, map out a few specific areas that you’ll bounce to and from. No one wants to be stuck in the same place forever; why would we want to go off-grid if we’re going to limit ourselves?
- Wheel clamps really matter. A giant, very important tip in this article is to utilise a wheel clamp as much as you possibly can.
- Make the executive decision of living truly off-grid, or simply living in the sticks. There is a difference: in the former you’ll be completely alone, while in the latter you might bump into some people. Locate yourself based on just how much human interaction you want. Sometimes, the more alone you are the better.
- Don’t neglect heating
Typically, there are three kinds of heating in the off-grid camper space: diesel, wood, and gas. Yes, you can get portable heaters or space heaters/fans, but these traditionally take up an a huge amount of power. Trust us.
There’s a few things you’ll want to consider when deciding on the above options. In general, you’ll always want to side with the heat source best suited for your camper! We can’t stress this enough. Reviews will give you a good idea of the best heater, but we urge you to consider:
- How you’re fuelling the heater: for example, if you’re using wood, is this the best option for you currently? Is it easy to obtain? gas or diesel, where will you supply the fuel?
- Maintenance costs and emergency funds: heaters are (mostly) reliable. Keyword mostly: make room in your budget for mishaps, and ensure you choose a high-quality heater. It can give up on you at a moment’s notice.
- Is the heat source appropriate for the size of your van? Excess baggage, as we said – is a nail in the coffin. Evaluate your current setup and decide if you’re running the correct operation. Is it safe, and is there breathing space for the heat source?
- Maybe an obvious one: water!
While you’re living off-grid, make a conscious effort to do two things: obtain water, and conserve water. Always be on the lookout for fill-up opportunities; local pumps/camper communities will be more than happy to help you do this, but you need to know where they are to make use of them.
Depending on where you’re travelling, map out the key locations that you can visit in that region to acquire water. Running out of water really is no joke; particularly if you’re going deeply off-grid.
Fresh water will also be crucial for showering, washing dishes and aiding function of your portable bathrooms. If you haven’t embarked on your journey yet, bring more water than you think you’ll need.
You can always fill it up later; but being one hundred miles from nowhere with a few drops of H2O left in the tank is scary.
After all, being frugal with your water and conserving as much as possible will allow you to stay off-grid for longer – which is what we want!
It’s common practice in the off-grid camper scene to take ‘marine showers’: wet your body in the shower and immediately turn off the flow. Soap yourself, shampoo/condition and turn the water back on when you’re ready. You can also purchase conservational shower-heads if you really want to save.
- Keep yourself safe! Security is a must
So we briefly touched on security earlier when we talked about wheel clamps. But there’s a lot more to your security than a single device.
We’d all like to think that living off-grid is a beautiful, tranquil and care-free existence. But for our readers, we always prefer to at least pretend that it can be dangerous.
- Keep track of your camper! Keep in mind that service-based vehicle trackers will often incur an ongoing cost. There’s plenty of providers for these kinds of trackers: we suggest a tracking device for your camper is a priority of yours. A quirky way to emulate a vehicle tracker for a fraction of the cost is to purchase an old iPhone, (or use one you have!) and deploy the Find My iPhone feature. From here, you’ll be able to track the location of your camper at all times – but you do need some faith in the other device if something ever goes awry.
- Window alarms are excellent! These do not incur much cost at all. From Amazon, you can acquire a window alarm for as little as £8/$10. These alarms make it intriguingly difficult to break through from the outside, but allows easy exit in case of an emergency from the inside. Very cool devices.
- You can also deploy all-round camper alarms that utilise your solar power. This is a smart approach but ensure you choose the right system that won’t give you hassle!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of tips for living off-grid in your campers. When it comes down to it, you’ll be wanting to keep just a handful of things on lockdown: food, water, a power. After that, you’re pretty much free to do what ever you wish.
Stay safe out there.