Living off the land is possible and in most cases it is also legal, although this doesn’t mean that you can go to some random location, set up a shelter, and start living off the land. Most of the land in the US is owned by the government, in some places, you will have no problem living off the land without anybody bothering you, but this is not always the case. Ideally, if you want to live off the land you should own the plot of land, this way you will live off the land legally.
You can live off the land with no money by finding free land, most states do have a couple of counties that offer free land. In addition to this, you should choose a plot of land which is suitable for living off the land, it should have fertile soil and close to a source of freshwater. After this, you should start growing crops as soon as possible and diversifying your food resources by fishing, hunting, and gathering.
One of the problems you will have while living off the land is having clean water, my personal recommendation is to get at least one water filter bottle Click here to check it out on Amazon.com
Living off the land without money isn’t actually that hard provided that you meet your basic needs and have the skills to do them. A lot of people will tell you that living off the land is impossible, usually, these people have rarely gone out of their comfort zone, but if you are planning to live off the land then I am telling you it can be done. If you are a simple city dweller accustomed to our modern technology it will be quite hard to let all that go.
Let’s face it most of us rely on technology in one form or another, imagine yourself living without a smartphone or social media for 7 days, how will you communicate, and what will you do with all your extra time. There are some gray areas in any state’s local laws regarding off-grid living, for more information check out my article Off grid living legal states ( Top 22 ).
In my opinion, the whole point of living off the land is to reduce your living expenses and if possible even eliminate them. There are people who live off the land while paying for their mortgage every month and cutting expenses with producing their own electricity and food, but in my opinion, living off the land means that you must be as close to 100% self-sufficient as possible and with little to no actual expenses.
The most important “item” for living off the land is knowledge, get as much information about the surrounding area. Such as where are the game trails, where you can get fresh water, what kind of trees would be best for building, and which are best for firewood. You should also know the places where predators have their territories as you don’t want to set up camp in one of these areas.
As a preventive measure do let your loved ones know where you are going to live off the land and try to get in contact with them at least once in a while so they know you are well and safe. Do not forget to bring some devices with which you can communicate especially if you are new, I know this kind of goes against the living of the land rules but it is better to be safe than sorry.
Before packing up and going to live the land there are some hurdles which you have to face. Being self-sufficient isn’t that hard but imagine that you have to do everything yourself and you have nobody else to rely on for food, security, and comfort. If you are a social creature surrounded by a lot of people you will find it very hard to cope with the loneliness if you are planning to go off-grid alone. If you want to live off the land in an off grid cabin then check out my recent article ( Top 60 ) Off grid cabin essentials.
Find free land where you can live off the land with no money
If you want to live off the land without spending any money then you should find free land, although most people think that there is no such thing as free land, but the truth is that you can find free land both in the US and Canada as well. On top of that there a lot of counties in the US and provinces in Canada that will give you free land. The catch with most of this free land is that you have some obligations.
Generally speaking, most states and provinces which do give land for free will require you to build a house on the plot of land. Usually, they will give you around 1-2 years to build your house, but in some cases, you have up to 5 years to build the house on the free land. Most of these counties require a deposit before you get the land, this is usually around $500 although not all of them do require a deposit.
List of states and counties which offer free land, I have also included the links on how you can claim your free land.
- Buffalo NY
- Lincoln KS
- Marquette KS
- Baltimore MD
- Mankato KS
- Plainville KS
- Elwood NE
- Loup City NE
- Manilla IA
- Marne IA
- Osborne KS
- New Richland
- New Haven CT
- Plainville KS
- Curtis NE
- Flagler CO
- La Villa TX
- Beatrice NE
- Harmony MN
- Agate CO
- Tribune KS
- Camden ME
- Claremont MN
- Anderson AK
- Muskegon MI
- Cuyahoga National Park OH
Find counties without building codes if you have no money
If you have ever built a house then you probably already know that the price of building it will be increased due to the building codes. For the most part building codes are a good thing, just imagine a big city like New York without building codes. The good news is that there are a lot of counties that do not have any building codes, the price of building a house in such an area will be extremely cheap. I have left the best part to the end, which is that there are some counties that offer both free land and they do not have any building codes.
Get a government grant to buy a plot of land where you can live off the land for free
The government offers several grants and programs to people who can not get a loan from a bank, in case you want to live off the land with no money you can apply to the USDA Farm Loan. These loans are meant for small families who want to set up a farm or a ranch. The USDA Farm Loans have a couple of requirements, you do need to set up the farm in a set amount of time, and the farm or ranch must be functional.
Basically, if you are already planning to live in a self-sustaining manner you can actually get a loan from the government which will help set up the farm. The good news is that even if you are a new farmer or rancher you can still get these loans. In addition to this, the USDA also has a special program called Housing Assistance, which is mostly for low to medium-income families. If you want to take a look at how people survive off the land, then you should check out a couple of movies Best survival movies ( Top 18 ).
Become a farm caretaker and live off the land
Farm caretakers have been around for hundreds of years, and usually, it is an agreement between the farm owner and a person who wants to be a farm caretaker. Usually, farm caretakers tend to work long hours every day, but the good news is that usually, they have housing and 3 hot meals per day included. Some farm caretakers do not actually earn any money, and they work just to have a roof over their head and 3 hot meals per day.
Depending on how much work you will have to do you can negotiate with the farmer, it is actually in the farmers best interest for you to live close by or on the property, some farm caretakers make enough money in a couple of months to last them for the entire year, although that depends on the agreement between the farmer and the caretaker and what kind of jobs you will be doing. This is an excellent way of living if you do not want to spend any money, especially if you love being outdoors and you are not afraid of hard work.
Find land contracts to get a cheap plot of land and live off the land
Land contacts are a good way of owning a plot of land without any kind of upfront costs. Most people who want to purchase an off-grid piece of land will get refused by the banks if they do not have a steady income. On the other hand, there are a lot of landowners who can not sell their land as the land is in a remote location. As a buyer, you can find these land contracts in the city hall, or by asking around.
Usually, these land contracts work based on a contract which includes that the seller will allow you to work his land and you will pay every month or year for the land until you have paid off the entire land and at that point, the land will be in your name. Some sellers write the land in your name at the start while others will wait until you have paid for the land which could take a couple of years. Although these land contracts are straight forward you should always ask an attorney to read them before you sign anything.
Generally speaking, most land contracts will need a down payment of around 10%, but with some research, you can find land contracts that do not need any down payment. There are a lot of local business which have bought land just to have a property under the company, usually, they do this if they want to get a bank loan, as it inflates the value of the company. The good news is that once the company will sell the land they will sell it either extremely cheap or with a land contract.
Another good way of finding land contracts without down payments is to find companies that invest in farmland and in the forestry industry. Usually, these companies will have a lot of lands and they will not be able to sell a percentage of them without having a loss, instead, they do offer for people who are interested in land contracts without a downpayment.
Use adverse possessions to get a property without any money
There are a lot of abandoned plots of land in the country, and the government’s goal is to make them productive. The adverse possession means that a person can become the owner of a plot of land without actually buying it. All you need to do is to occupy a plot of land, ideally, it should be an abandoned plot of land. After a couple of years living there, you can file for adverse possession to have the land transferred to you as property.
The government allows this as it would rather have somebody living on a plot of land rather than being abandoned. The problem is that the plot of land has to be privately owned and if the owners ask you to leave then you have to leave. There are a lot of risks with this approach as it would mean that you have to invest in a plot of land which is not yours for several years. Every state has a different requirement when it comes to adverse possessions, although all of them have a set rule of how long you have to live on the property before you can claim it for yourself.
Generally speaking, you will have to live on the plot of land for at least 5 years, although in some states it is required to stay for 30 years. Although it is illegal to live on somebody else’s property if they do not allow you to do so, but if the land is abandoned then you are good to go.
Buy low-cost housing in an area where you can live off the land
Now that you know that you can get free land, you have to think of what your housing options are. If you are on a tight budget then your best option is to use low-cost housing. Your first option would be to build a tiny house, these are relatively inexpensive and most people can build them without any problems. Although you should be extra careful when it comes to insulation especially if the winters tend to be fairly cold in your area.
To build a house as cheaply as possible you should use the local materials, such as wood. In some cases, you will find that recycled materials such as plastic can be even cheaper, although plastic houses are not the best option in a lot of areas.
Live in a camper in an area where you can live off the land
An old camper or RV can be an excellent shelter, it doesn’t even have to be functional. Some people who live in a camper for longer periods of time will actually build a shelter around it, this way they have more insulation. You do not need to buy a brand new camper, any old junk camper will do, they are fairly easy to repair and extremely cheap to maintain. Your biggest cost will be to get the camper to your location, so make sure that the underside of the camper is still functional, by that I mean that it is not eaten by rust.
Live in a tiny house and live off the land
Tiny houses are excellent for anybody who wants to build a home fast and as cheap as possible. These tiny homes are extremely easy to build, although you can purchase them already assembled and they will also ship them to your land. There are a lot of blueprints online for tiny homes, and with a couple of power tools and some skill, you could build the tiny house yourself. It is a good idea to measure and cut the pieces before you transport them to your destination as odds are that you won’t be able to use power tools in the middle of nowhere if you do not have access to the grid.
Live off the land in a Yurt
A Yurt is basically a large tent, and they have been used for thousands of years in Asia. When the Mongols were invading other kingdoms they were using Yurts as shelter, these were easy to set up and disassemble, this is what allowed the Mongols to move so fast across the land. Once a King has been notified that the Mongolians are approaching the kingdom it was already too late, and most kingdoms didn’t even manage to assemble their troops before the Mongols arrived.
Building a Yurt is fairly easy, all you need is some support which can be either metal bars or wooden sticks, and some kind of waterproof material. You can find extremely cheap waterproof material by buying a swimming pool cover, although a second hand one. On the other hand, you can use a waterproof tarp which is meant for construction workers, these are also fairly cheap. There are some survivalists that tend to prefer to live in tents, for more information check out my recent article ( Top 24 ) Famous survivalists.
Live in a log cabin in an area where you can live off the land
Log cabins are also fairly easy to build, although you should probably build a fairly small one as it will be a lot easier to insulate especially if the winters tend to get cold. Not all types of wood are good for building log cabins, generally speaking, freshly cut wood will be the cheapest but this comes with a couple of drawbacks. Freshly cut wood tends to shrink as the water is evaporating from it, and if you use it to build your log cabin you will start seeing cracks appear in the wood especially if there is a lot of pressure put on them.
Live in a temporary shelter in an area where you can live off the land
Unless you are lucky enough to find some kind of abandoned shelter or a cave you will have to make the shelter on your own. Set up a temporary camp near a stream and start working on your more permanent shelter. Depending on the area in which you are in you should also take into consideration the local climate if winter is coming and you didn’t set up your shelter properly you might end up never waking up from your beauty sleep.
The shelter doesn’t have to cost you any money as you can build it with your local resources if you have the skills for it.
Live in a cob house in an area where you can live off the land
Cob houses are also called mud houses in some areas, all you need is straw and dirt, although dirt which has a lot of clay in it is the best option. This is an ancient form of building a house, and if done correctly it can last for a long time. The problem with them is that they can not be built in all areas, especially not in areas with high humidity. Building a cob house is a form of art, and you will need some help building it.
The good news is that you can still find a couple of old-timers who actually know how to build these cob houses so try to find them in your area.
Use low-cost construction materials to build your shelter
Not only that you can get low-cost construction materials but in a lot of cases you can get them for free as well. Most construction sites will throw away a lot of materials that can still be used, so if you see somebody building or renovating in your area then ask the foreman if you can take away some of the materials which he threw out. Usually, most foremen will be extremely happy to give you the throwaway materials as long as you take them off from the property.
There are a lot of new suburban areas popping up across the country, and a lot of construction companies will construct in bulk, meaning 10-30 houses at once. With the excess and the throwaway materials, you could easily build a nice house. Your main problem will be how you will transport the materials to your plot of land. In this case, if there are several people interested in getting some free materials then band together, rent a truck, and this way you can take a lot more construction materials.
Just keep in mind that you will still have to pay for some of the materials, as not everything which a construction company throws out can be used. On the other hand, if you have some spare wood remaining after you have built your home then you can use this wood as firewood, just make sure that they are not painted or sprayed with some kind of chemicals as these will release dangerous fumes.
You can also find free construction materials on sites like Craigslist and in the local newspaper. A lot of people buy more construction materials than they need to, and their main goal is to get rid of this excess, usually, they are happy as long as you take the materials off of their land but some will ask you for money.
Get low-cost furniture for your shelter
Now that you have a free plot of land, free construction materials and you have also built your house, then it is time to consider what kind of furniture you will use. Generally speaking, most people who want to live off the land without spending any money tend to live in small shelters such as Yurts or tiny homes, which is a big bonus as you won’t be needing that much furniture. You can get second-hand furniture extremely cheaply, but before you buy anything you should try to get some furniture for free.
There are a lot of people who are renovating their homes, usually what ends up happening is that they will give the old furniture away for free, as long as you take it off their property. Now there are a lot of people actually hunting these listings, and then selling the furniture in their store so you have to be quick. Once you see such an online listing you have to pick up the phone and give them a call.
In a lot of cases, the owners will actually pay you to move their furniture and their leftovers from the renovation which is a win-win situation. Your other option is to contact moving companies and see if they have anything for sale, some moving companies will actually take the old furniture and place it in a warehouse and try to sell it. Once the warehouse is almost full they will sell as much as they can as cheaply as possible, one mans trash is another man’s gold.
Join an off-grid community and live off the land
There are a lot of off-grid communities, and you can join them for free, as long as you are a productive member of the community. Usually, these off-grid communities will give you housing and 3 meals a day if you are willing to work for them. This is by far one of your best options to live off the land for free, as you do not have any upfront costs and all you need to do is to work. In addition to this, you will learn a lot by living in an off-grid community.
Grow your own food to live off the land for free
The kind of food you will eat will entirely depend on the area in which you want to live off the land. This taken into consideration you can hunt, fish, trap, forage, and also grow your own food. Altho growing your own food might sound easy it is actually difficult if you have never done it. Most people who live off the land and plant some kind of crops will tell you that the first year’s crops almost always fail. The last thing you would want is to eat dirt in order to survive, for more information check out my recent article Can you eat dirt to survive? ( What are Mud Cakes? ).
Make compost from the natural resources
If you want to grow your own food then your first job is to make compost. In a lot of areas of the country, you need to make compost if the soil is not that fertile. A lot of people just move to a random plot of land, start growing crops, and then fail miserably. Making compost is not rocket science you can use your kitchen scraps to make good compost, although you should never use meat, eggs, dairy products, bones, or oil in your compost.
You can also make your own compost from manure and mix it in with some leaves and grass, leave it for a couple of weeks until the compost is starting to get warm, and then you can use it.
Make an off-grid garden and live off the land
Making a small garden is relatively easy and cheap, if you have never tried gardening then I highly suggest you start with tomato plants as these are some of the easiest plants you can grow. You should also find out what kind of crops grow the best in your area, as not all crops will love the same climate and soil conditions. If the summertime tends to be fairly short in your area then you should focus on high-calorie crops
Get free starter plants which you can grow for free
A lot of people will try to grow their crops from seeds, don’t do this as a lot of seeds will not germinate. Instead what you should do is to use starter plants, these are relatively cheap and you can also get them for free. Companies that sell starter plants won’t be able to sell all of their starter plants especially the ones that do not look the best. They will either throw them away or use them as compost so you should ask them if they can give you a couple.
You can actually make starter plants from a lot of plant cuttings which you buy from a supermarket, just place them in water until they start growing, and then you can replant them. There are a lot of tutorials on how to do this online so you should take a look at them.
Forage to live off the land without any money
Humans have been foraging for thousands of years, but it is extremely important that you pick up a book on the local flora and fauna so you know which plants are edible and which are toxic. Before going to live off the land watch the movie “Into the wild” where the main character is living off the land and accidentally poisons himself. One basic rule is if you see a bird eat it then it means you can not eat it as birds tend to have a very acidic stomach.
Hunt to live off the land with no money
This is fairly simple if you have a rifle you can hunt but as rifles do cost money you should learn more primitive ways of hunting like hunting with a bow, or slingshot. Making a bow from scratch could be difficult as you need to know a lot about how to make a bow and this is extremely time-consuming. On the other hand, you can make a simple slingshot with something as simple as a twig, just wrap on it some rubber cord and you can use it.
The slingshot won’t give you the ability to hunt big game but you can use it to hunt birds and small animals.
Start fishing to live off the land
Fishing can be done with no money in several ways, make your own tackle and bait, spearfishing, and net fishing. If your area has bushes with thorns on them you can use it as a hook, take a small cord and attach it to a stick of wood and to the thorn, then just put some bait on the hook and go catch some fish.
Spearfishing can be done if the local fish tend to stay next to the shoreline, all you need for it is a sharp stick and you can already use it. Make sure you make a small wedge next to its point this will prevent fish from getting away after you have already speared them.
Fishing with a net will cost money so instead, you will have to improvise, instead of an actual net, you can use women’s stockings or even your curtains. If you are fishing in small steam you could also make a small dam to channel the fish into your “net”. Generally speaking, you should have some supplies if you want to live off the land, for more information check out my recent article How to survive in the wilderness without supplies? ( In 6 Steps ).
Trap and live off the land
Trapping is a reliable way of getting food, as you can set these traps up and you can do something else during that time so you don’t need to be there to use it. There are a lot of primitive traps which you can make just make sure if a trap isn’t successful that you take it apart or maybe use it in some other area there is no point of an animal dying in one of your abandoned traps.
Smoking meat without any money
If you are planning on preserving food for a longer time then you should learn how to smoke meat. Smoking meat will increase its shelf life by a lot and if you have some condiments they do taste extremely good. There are a lot of specialized smoking tools online but you can also do this in a more primitive way with only your local resources. If you want to know how you can preserve meat in the wild then check out my recent article How to preserve meat ( Top 12 Methods ).
Have your financial situation in order before starting to live off the land
Before actually going to live off the land make sure you pay all your debts. This is very important as you might go live off the land and in some form, you will think the modern world will simply stop existing for you, it might for you but the debt collectors will find you no matter where you live off the land.
Living off the land isn’t for everybody, you might enjoy the adventure at first but when the hard times come, and they will, you might have to go back to civilization. If you have burnt all bridges for restating your life in civilization you might end up worse than before.
Make sure you have some extra cash hidden somewhere which you can use in your time of need, not eating for a couple of days isn’t dangerous but after a week of unsuccessful hunting what other options are there if you don’t have any money? If you are afraid of a potential financial collapse then you should check out my recent article How to prepare for economic collapse ( In 22 Steps ).
Have good physical fitness and live off the land
Depending on how active you are in your daily life will make it easier or harder the transition of living off the land. If you have an average office job sitting on a chair 8 hours a day you won’t have the physical fitness to provide yourself even with the bare essentials. Going to the gym is better than nothing but my suggestion is to start going for long hikes with a big backpack, this way your body will be more accustomed to living off the land.
Chopping firewood is hard work, before going off-grid get the feel of it to strengthen your muscles. If you think you can cook and heat your shelter with just dead branches you will have a big surprise as these branches will burn off fast and they don’t give out as much heat as a good block of firewood.
Living off the land can get lonely
This is mostly for people who are planning to live off the land alone, you might think that there is no problem for you to be alone and that it is just a question of getting accustomed to it. The harsh reality is that most people fear loneliness and boredom so they often socialize just not to be alone. Being alone is hard when the only voice you hear is only yours, it will be difficult but with some meditation and practice, you will have confidence in your skills and decisions.
Living off the land will lead to a sugar crash
I bet you have not thought about this one but the truth is that modern food is filled with a lot of sugar and its derivates. Your body is very familiar with sugar and it has come to rely on it for energy but if you are planning to live off the land it will be almost impossible to get your daily sugar fix. There are some fruits that are high in glucose but these are rare to find and depending on the area you might not even find any.
Another sugar source would be honey but that is just playing with fire. If you are not equipped to handle a bees nest you could actually die from attempting to get honey. Let us also not forget the other omnivore which loves honey, if there is honey there is a big possibility a bear could also be around.
My personal suggestion is before you go live off the land is to not eat anything with sugar in it for 1-3 months this will allow your body to adjust and you will not get that sugar crash when you go into the wild.
Live off the land for free by harvesting your own water
Without water you will die after 3 days, so make sure you have a good fresh water supply nearby. Your main goal should be to get water from streams and rivers and not from stagnant water like lakes as the stagnant water helps bacteria to grow. No matter if your water comes from a stream or from a lake you need to have the ability to filter water. There are a lot of water filtration systems online but they are either expensive or have a limited number of uses, so your best options are to filter and then boil the water.
Live off the land and use local firewood without spending money
You will need fire for cooking and heat, you will have to learn how to be efficient at harvesting and chopping firewood. Fire also has a positive psychological effect on the brain, just make sure you have enough firewood for the night as trying to gather firewood in pitch darkness is just asking for trouble.
Keep up with your hygiene routine even if you live off the land
This is most often overlooked but without your daily hygiene routine you could end up with serious health issues, and if your situation worsens your adventure could end up abruptly. Think about what are your daily hygiene needs, like washing your teeth, washing yourself, and your “other” needs. Make sure you don’t do your “business” near your shelter, the same goes for your trash as this also could attract the local wildlife. You do not actually need toilet paper as there are plenty of alternatives for that, for more information check out my recent article No toilet paper? ( Top 21 Alternatives ).
You can live off the land without any money but you have to have several skills and abilities to do so. You have to be self-sufficient if you are attempting this and make sure you have prepared your mind and body for it as it might get a big wake-up call if you are not used to spending all of your days outdoors.