Off-Grid Living: A Comprehensive Guide to the Skills Needed for Survival

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Blogger Tammy Trayer has been living off-grid with her husband and son in the wilds of Idaho for the past few years. While building their cabin by hand, the three of them lived in a canvas tent for nearly a year. Perhaps you’ve fantasized about doing the same, or maybe you’d just like to become a little more independent of the modern conveniences that are proving more and more unreliable over time.

I hear you.

The good news is you don’t have to let the grid hold you back. You can begin learning the skills needed for a more self-sufficient lifestyle today with this comprehensive guide.

Let’s get started!

image: cabin in the woods for off grid living

An Introduction to Off-Grid Living

Before we jump into this, let’s all get on the same page regarding how I’ll talk about a lifestyle sans power grid.

What is off grid living?

Off-grid living refers to a lifestyle in which individuals or communities live independently from the traditional power grid. That means they don’t rely on electricity from utility companies or other centralized sources.

This can include being self-sufficient in terms of energy, water, and food production, as well as managing waste and other basic needs without depending on public services.

Are there different forms gridless living can take?

Often when we think of off-grid living, we picture a remote cabin and acres of wilderness. This might be; one could design their own prepper hideaway. However, in truth, living off the grid can take many forms and can be implemented to varying degrees.

Some people may choose to live fully off-grid in remote locations. Others may incorporate off-grid principles into their urban or suburban lifestyle. This can include generating their own electricity through solar or possibly wind power, harvesting rainwater, and growing their own food.

Why choose living off the grid?

Depending on who you talk to, some of the ideas behind off-grid living are to:

  • increase self-reliance,
  • live in harmony with nature,
  • and reduce one’s environmental footprint.

Off-grid living is also a choice for those who want to live simply, with less dependence on consumer culture and technology. It can also be a response to various issues, such as:

  • economic instability,
  • environmental degradation,
  • and a desire for self-sufficiency and autonomy.

However, off-grid living, especially if in a more remote area, can also come with its own set of challenges and difficulties. Things like maintaining infrastructure, dealing with isolation, and dealing with the harsh conditions of the environment all must be addressed. It’s definitely a lifestyle choice that requires a lot of planning, determination, and a “can-do” attitude.

But I’m not interested in any part of living off the grid.

So if adopting any part of an off grid lifestyle seems too far out for you, instead consider this. How you might live when your power is out for an extended period? This is how you would be living. Those same skills are going to be in play.

One woman had an epiphany about this. She felt paralyzed when she imagined her life without electricity. So she wrote about the steps she took to become more self-reliant.

So there we’ve laid the groundwork for what living off the grid can look like. Now, let’s look at the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful in this way of life.

Skills and Knowledge for Living Off-grid

The off-grid lifestyle is a dream for many people. Off the grid living skills can make this dream a reality for many. To begin adding these skills to your own skillset, do this. Keep track of all the ways you use electricity throughout the day. Then ask yourself, “How could I accomplish this if there was no power? Is this something that really needs to be done?”

Truthfully, in a very long-term power outage, there are a lot of things we would be forced to give up. Things such as hours in front of a computer, gaming system, or TV would be luxuries or non-existent. Once the shock wore off, we would find other ways to occupy our time.


How will you prepare, cook, and store food without electricity? You can’t NOT eat, so you better know how you’ll handle sustenance.

Preparing Food

Preparing food without electricity can be done by using a combination of manual utensils, manual versions of electric appliances, and plugging small appliances into a generator.

Think of things like a cast-iron skillet, a Dutch oven, a hand-crank mixer, and a manual can opener that can be used for cooking on a stovetop or in an oven. Manual versions of electric appliances, such as a hand-crank food processor, a manual coffee grinder (a MUST!), and for a sweet treat, a manual ice cream maker can also be used. Ice cream makes everything better, right?

For small appliances that cannot be manually operated or don’t have non-powered versions, a generator can provide power. However, although it’s wise to have a backup plan for those in the event of generator troubles.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Read this post to learn the kitchen items you need to cook more easily without power.

Cooking Food

Unless it’s ready to eat or can be eaten raw, you need a way to cook food, preferably multiple methods. Off-grid cooking methods provide a sustainable way of cooking food without relying on electricity.

One popular method is to use a wood-fired stove or oven, which can be used to cook a variety of dishes from baking bread to stewing meat. Another option is to use a gas stove or a camping stove. However, it may not be as sustainable as a wood-fired stove in terms of sourcing fuel.

Solar cookers are another alternative. They use the sun’s energy to cook food and can be particularly useful in sunny areas. It’s also important to have a backup plan in case of bad weather.

There’s also cooking over a campfire, plus a plethora of different types of non-electric stoves and one oven.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: To help you decide what method to try first, read more about off-grid cooking methods here.

Preserving Food

Off-grid methods for preserving food are essential for both self-reliance and preparedness, regardless of whether you fully adopt the lifestyle or not. Three traditional methods that have been used for centuries to preserve food for long-term storage are:

  • canning,
  • fermentation,
  • and drying.

Canning is a method of preserving food by heating it to a high temperature. This kills bacteria and creates a vacuum seal that prevents further contamination.

Fermentation preserves food by allowing beneficial bacteria to convert sugar and starch to lactic acid. This creates an acidic environment that prevents the growth of harmful bacteria.

Dehydrating/drying is a way to preserve food by removing the water content, which makes it less hospitable for bacteria to grow.

These methods do not require electricity, per se, and can be done by using simple tools and equipment acquired in advance.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Canning is good for more than just fruits and veggies; learn more about the benefits of canning your own meat.

Storing Food

Having food stored is a wise move regardless of whether you’re a serious off-gridder or not. What if you get laid off? Or if someone has a long-term illness? Or supply chain issues erupt? You can save money and cover the gaps by grocery shopping in your food storage pantry. Yet, it makes no sense to go to all that trouble to preserve food if you don’t store it properly; it won’t be good when you need it.

Options for Storage

Root cellars and basements are storage methods that can be used to keep food fresh and safe for the long-term. Root cellars are underground storage spaces that provide a cool, insulated, and humid environment ideal for storing root vegetables and fruits. They predate refrigeration which makes them a terrific sustainable option. When I was growing up, we had a “fruit room” which was the coolest room in the house. We stored more than fruit in it, so I’m not sure how it came by the name, but the principle was similar.

Basements can also be used as a storage space, especially if they are underground or partially underground, and provide a cool and stable environment. Food storage containers protect a variety of food items such as grains, dried fruits, canned goods, and more.

There are many options for storing your food long-term. The biggest concern is to be sure that whatever containers you use and whatever location you store them, you’re accounting for the things that decrease shelf life or actually ruin your food.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Read more about foods that should be re-packaged for long-term storage and how to repackage them.


Gardening is an essential aspect of off-grid living and becoming more self-reliant. It reduces your dependence on supermarkets and other external food sources. Plus, it’s a great way to connect with nature and learn about the cycles of life.

In addition to traditional gardening, food forests, edible landscaping, and permaculture are also great options to consider when gardening off-grid.

Food forests and permaculture gardens mimic natural ecosystems. Designed to be low maintenance, they provide a wide variety of food and other resources such as medicinal herbs, flowers, and natural pest control. Edible landscaping is another approach that incorporates food-producing plants into a traditional landscape design.

All three of these approaches can provide a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. This improves your overall health and well-being, as well as saves you money by reducing the need to purchase produce from the grocery store.

Consider the specific conditions of your location, such as soil quality, water availability, and weather patterns. This knowledge will help you to choose the right plants and to plan your garden accordingly. It’s also important to learn about basic gardening techniques such as soil preparation, composting, and seed saving.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Read this post for tips from a Master Gardener to have your best garden yet!


When living off-grid, sourcing, storing, and using water can be challenging, as it requires being self-sufficient without relying on a municipal water supply. If you’re lucky you have access to a creek or stream, a pond, or a natural spring. If not, then you must consider other sources.


One option for sourcing water is to drill a well. A well can provide a constant source of water that can be used for drinking, cooking, and other household needs. Note that drilling a well can be costly, and the water quality needs to be tested before use. You’ll must consider how you’ll extract water from the well, also, such as using a hand pump or a solar-powered pump.

Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting is another method. This involves collecting rainwater from rooftops or other surfaces and storing it in cisterns or tanks for later use. Rainwater harvesting is an efficient and cost-effective way of collecting water, especially in areas that receive a lot of rainfall. It’s important to filter and treat the water before using it for drinking or cooking. Also, check local statutes that may restrict rainwater harvesting in your area. Harvesting rainwater is quite scalable, which makes it possible for even an apartment dweller with a balcony.

Food-grade Storage Containers

Another alternative is to use storage tanks, drums, or other food-grade containers to store water. These tanks can store water that has been sourced from a well or natural source, including rainwater collection. Just ensure that the tanks are properly cleaned and maintained to prevent contamination.

For irrigation and other non-potable uses, there are greywater systems that reuse wastewater from sinks, showers, and laundry.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Learn about how to locate a natural spring on your property.


Washing and drying clothes without electricity is a crucial skill for those living off-grid. It’s also an important part of preparedness for power outages or other emergencies. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways.

One traditional method is to wash clothes by hand, using a washboard or a scrub brush and a container of water. The clothes are agitated in the water with soap or detergent, then rinsed and wrung out by hand. Another option is to use a manual washing machine, which uses a hand-crank to agitate the clothes in the water.

After washing, clothes can be hung to dry on a clothesline or drying rack. Or, wring them out and press with a wringer to remove excess water before hanging to dry. A solar dryer, which uses the sun’s energy to dry clothes, is another way. This method can be more efficient, especially in sunny areas and during summertime.

These traditional methods may take more time and effort compared to using an electric washing machine and dryer, but they are a viable alternative for those living off-grid and for those looking to be more self-reliant and prepared.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: To begin mastering this skill, learn more about cleaning clothes without electricity here, or learn my top tips for making off-grid laundry easier no matter what method you choose.

Hygiene and Sanitation

Maintaining proper hygiene and sanitation is important not only for keeping the living environment clean but also for preventing the spread of disease and maintaining overall health. Plan and prepare with the necessary tools and supplies to maintain cleanliness and prevent the spread of germs and bacteria.

One important aspect of off-grid hygiene is having access to clean water. It’s important to ensure that the water is properly filtered and treated before use to prevent contamination. It’s rather counterproductive to brush your teeth with water that gives you intestinal worms. So figure out your water!

Personal hygiene practices such as regular bathing and handwashing are essential for maintaining health. A solar-heated shower or a bathtub can be used for bathing, and a simple bucket and a washcloth can be used for handwashing.

Handling sewage

Some options for toilet facilities include a non-pump septic system, composting toilet, an outhouse, or using a “dry toilet” system. that separates liquid and solid waste, to name just a few. Composting toilets are pretty amazing inventions and do not require either a city sewer system or a septic tank. Septic tanks must still be pumped. Dry toilet systems separate liquid and solid waste.

Proper toileting practices, including properly disposing of waste, and regularly cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, are essential in preventing the spread of disease. One of the major risk factors for cholera infection is how human waste is handled.

Don’t neglect your teeth and gums.

And remember dental health. If you get everything else right but forget your teeth, you’re potentially just kicking the health problems can down the road.

Poor oral hygiene, including problems with teeth and gums, can lead to a number of health issues in other parts of the body. What are they, you ask? Increased risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes, the potential for respiratory infections such as pneumonia, and problems in the digestive system.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Read this post to help you better prepare for maintaining proper personal hygiene practices if the grid goes down.


Can you be self-sufficient without relying on traditional healthcare systems? With some planning and preparation, it is possible to maintain good health and handle illness.


Educate yourself through first aid classes, wilderness medicine classes, and other courses. These classes can teach you valuable skills, such as handling injuries, illnesses, and emergencies that may occur when living off-grid. Additionally, having a basic knowledge of common illnesses and their symptoms, as well as the appropriate treatment, can help you take the necessary actions promptly.

Herbal Medicine

When it comes to medicinal remedies, it’s important to be familiar with the medicinal plants that grow in your area and how to use them. Herbal medicine can be a useful addition to your first aid kit, providing relief from a wide range of illnesses and injuries.

First Aid Kit

You should also assemble a first aid kit and other supplies that you may need to handle illness or injury. A first aid kit should, at minimum, include basic items such as band-aids, antiseptic, pain relievers, and other necessary items. It’s important to have a plan and be prepared with the necessary tools and supplies to handle any emergency situation.

Living off-grid does not mean neglecting your health. Continue to have regular check-ups, screenings, and any vaccinations you deem appropriate for you. It’s also important to have a plan in place in case of an emergency.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Read this post to get started learning about medicinal herbs.


How much money do you need to live off the grid? It depends.

Funding an off-grid lifestyle greatly depends on the extent to which it’s adopted. Incorporating elements gradually spreads the cost over time. Embracing it more wholeheartedly may require a more significant upfront investment in equipment and infrastructure.

However, here are some ways you might fund an off-grid lifestyle:

  • Savings: A common way to fund an off-grid lifestyle is to save money over time. This may require cutting expenses and living frugally for a period of time in order to save enough money to invest in off-grid living.
  • Financing: Another option is to obtain financing for the upfront costs of off-grid living. This can include loans from banks or credit unions. One could argue that this defeats the purpose of moving towards greater self-reliance. You’ll need to judge for yourself whether this avenue will ultimately help or harm you in that goal.
  • Income generation: Off-grid living can also be funded by generating income from various sources. Consider renting out a portion of your property, growing and selling crops, or running a small business from your off-grid home.

Living off-grid can be a big change, and it’s important to have a solid plan in place. It’s also important to be realistic about the costs and to have a backup plan in case of unexpected expenses.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Start funding your grid-free goals today with this 52-week savings plan you can begin any time of the year!


Generating and storing power is one of the most important aspects of off-grid living. There are several options for generating and storing power, such as solar, batteries, generators, and wind.

  • Solar: Solar power is one of the most popular options for off-grid living, as it is clean, renewable, and relatively inexpensive. Solar panels generate electricity by converting the energy from the sun into electricity. The electricity generated is stored in batteries for later use.
  • Batteries: Batteries are essential for storing the electricity generated by solar panels and other sources. They store the electricity generated during the day for use at night or during periods of low sunlight.
  • Generators: Generators are another option when solar and wind power are unavailable. They can be powered by gasoline, propane, or diesel fuel, and can power appliances and other equipment.
  • Wind: Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy of the wind into electricity. They can be a viable option in locations with high wind speeds.

Keep in mind that different systems will work better depending on the location and the specific needs of the individual. Research and understand the available options and choose the one that best suits your needs and budget.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Learn more about power generation and storage options here.


Blogger Tammy Trayer, whom I mentioned at the beginning of this article, has emphasized the importance of having the type of mindset that makes off-grid living possible. Her suggestions apply to anyone who wants to live this lifestyle or just wants to be ready for a power outage.

I think everyone today is looking for some form of freedom! That freedom may be something different for each of us, but for my family it was embracing a 100% solar off-grid lifestyle in 2010 in the northern Idaho wilderness where we could make our own lifestyle as we chose and saw fit for our son and our family as a whole. We lived in an 8′ x 14′ canvas wall tent for 8 1/2 months while we built our home on raw untouched land with no utilities or running water.

Let me clear up some of the misconceptions of off-grid living. When I tell people that we live off-grid the first response I get from most people is “Oh I am so sorry!”. This always makes me chuckle because I am really sorry for them being tied to the grid and having that added expense of their electric bill.

Being off the grid does not mean that we are poor, without power or in anyway less equipped than those on the grid. What it does mean is that we have a freedom that you honestly can not put a price on!

Tammy Trayer, Blogger and Off-gridder

A mindset of self-reliance, resourcefulness, and resilience is needed to successfully move towards greater self-reliance and an off-grid lifestyle. Remember that living off-grid is not just about physical self-sufficiency, but also about mental and emotional self-sufficiency. A positive mindset and the ability to adapt and learn are essential for a successful transition to off-grid living.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Here are more self-sufficiency principles to begin adopting today.

Is living off the grid easy?

Off-grid living is an attractive option for those who wish to live sustainably, be self-sufficient, and reduce their dependence on traditional systems. From sourcing and storing water, to generating and storing power, to maintaining proper hygiene and handling illness, there are many things to consider when living off-grid. However, with the right skills, knowledge, and mindset, it is possible to successfully implement an off-grid lifestyle and live with more self-reliance.

What steps are you taking to adopt elements of an off-the-grid lifestyle? Let’s encourage each other in the comments!

8 thoughts on “Off-Grid Living: A Comprehensive Guide to the Skills Needed for Survival”

  1. I have lived off grid for almost three years.
    Oil lamps for Lights are great.
    I have used a zeer pot, propane oven and propane fridge and that was fine.
    A wood stove is used for heat.
    However I live with triple digit heat and I run an ac by generator-way too expensive!!
    Any ideas? We are thinking of going back on grid to save money.

    1. Have you researched a solar generator? Upfront cost is pricey but the sun is free. I want a biggish one for my deep water well. Should work equally well with a/c.

      1. The Survival Mom

        We had a swamp cooler in Phoenix and I loved it!! They are perfect for times of the year when it’s warm and dry.

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  4. Randle Riseling

    Hi Lisa
    Great to see your site! Thanks for helping everyone !!
    I hope to do the same as you !

    Maybe you can help me find a good Christian girl who is preparedness minded ?
    She would want kids and want to live off grid country living.
    Age 25 to 40.

  5. I like your ideas and descriptions of ways to make off grid living comfortable. My wife and are still on the grid but we do have solar power to cut down the cost, ours is a push back system. When the grid does go down we do lose power but we have a generator for those occasions. The one we did do was put a battery backup in our well which also has solar panels to charge the batteries if the grid stays down. In our home we have a wood stove to complement our heat pump system. We have ten acres of woods, 1/2 acre has fruit trees, berry cane and shrubs and a kitchen garden. We feel we can ramp up our garden space if the situation takes a bad turn.

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