Living off the grid might be more difficult for some than others. Usually, people underestimate how reliant we are on the electric grid system not to mention the other facilities like plumbing, heating, communications, and so on. Your main goal if you are thinking to live off the grid is to make the transition as easy as possible, for this, you will need some off-grid cabin essentials. Most people think about off-grid living that the people who do it are entirely cut off from civilization and have no electricity or any facilities at all.
However this is not true in most cases, usually, people living off the grid even in remote cabins do have electricity with some sort of generator and they all definitely have some kind of heating system. Depending on the area where your off-grid cabin is located will also influence how you will generate power, in arid locations where the sun shines most of the day a good solar generator would be excellent.
If you have decided to live off the grid one of the most important items will be a good water filtration system, my personal recommendation is to get one that is gravity fed, and can filter enough water for an entire family fairly quick Click here to check it out on Amazon.com
If your off-grid cabin is located somewhere in the northern part of the country like Alaska, for example, you will find it harder to generate an ample supply of power due to the shorter days, especially during wintertime. In this case, your best option would be a diesel or a gas-powered generator, although before making this decision make sure you think about the logistics, like how much fuel you need and how will you get it to your off-grid cabin.
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Without a doubt, water will be your most important off-grid cabin essential, without it no matter how fancy your other equipment is you will fail at living off the grid miserably. Most prepper websites generally recommend only a water filter, this is good enough for an SHTF situation but when it comes to long-term off-grid living this isn’t enough. In addition to the water filter, you will also need a water purifier and some sort of water storage system.
The main goal here is to make it as effortless as possible, get as much fresh water as you can, and fill your water storage barrels, you can use this water directly for cleaning. Once you need water for personal hygiene, drinking, and cooking then filter some water out of the water barrel, and then as an extra measure purify the water with boiling.
People generally speaking think of water filters and water purifiers as being the same, but if you have read my article Do Lifestraws work? ( Or do They? ), you probably already know that there are big differences between the two methods. Water filters usually use some sort of membrane with which they filter out bacteria, depending on how small the holes are in the filter will depend on how much they can filter out.
For example, the Lifestraw has a 0.2-micron membrane filter which allows them to filter out bacteria, protozoa, and microplastics. However these can not filter out viruses, chemicals, and hard metals, this is not only the case of Lifestraw filters but all filters. A word of caution, filtering out chemicals with small devices is almost impossible, not even your local water treating company does it and you should definitely not attempt it.
There are literally thousands of water filters on the market you can get anything from battery-powered ones to gravity-fed filters. My suggestion is to get a gravity-powered water filter but first make sure to make some calculations if the filter can handle your basic needs of water like drinking, cooking, cleaning, and personal hygiene. In addition to this, it is a good idea to have a couple of backup water filters as if the only one you have gets damaged or it isn’t functioning for some reason you will not have the ability to repair it.
Purifying water is fairly easy, you just need to get the water to boiling point for a couple of minutes, and this way you will kill any bacteria, protozoa, and even viruses. One thing which water purifiers cannot do is to get microplastics out of the water, but for this, you will have your water filter. If you are a prepper or someone who is looking for info on how to live off the grid you probably have seen water purification tablets, these do work but in my opinion, they give the water a strange taste and I would rather rely on boiling water than anything else.
When it comes to purifying the water you should not think of some high tech specialized tool, rather a simple way of boiling water and its logistics. By logistics, I mean that you will need to make a fire, chop some wood to fuel it, and a large enough metal container in which you will actually boil it.
Water storage systems
Oddly enough most first-time off gridders neglect water storage systems, their idea is to always go to the freshwater source and get water for usage throughout the day. While this might be viable in some locations not all of them have a steady freshwater source nearby. Living off the grid is hard work and by eliminating the job of carrying water every day you free up some time, for this you will need a water storage tank.
Luckily these are fairly cheap and you can find them almost everywhere, generally speaking, these are big blue barrels which are specially designed to hold water. You might be lucky to get some water tanks for free from a local business but if you are not I would not advise you to pick up a second-hand one as you never know what was in it before. You can also store water in plastic water bottles although if you read my article How long can you store bottled water? ( In your Home, Garage or Car ), you will find that not storing these plastic bottles adequately may contaminate and alter the water which makes it no longer safe to drink.
Before making any kind of decision you will need to make some calculations like, how many people will the off-grid cabin have, for how long should the food last, how accessible it is to civilization in case you run out of food, availability of local game and fish if it is possible to grow some crops for the future. My recommendation is to prepare for the worst and expect the best if you need more information on which are the best foods for living off the grid check out my article Food that last for 25 years ( Top 37 ).
Your main goal should be to slowly transition to foods that you grow or hunt, this will be a challenge at first and this is why you should have food for at least a couple of weeks stockpiled in your off-grid cabin. If you have an extremely tight budget you could try to live off the land, in my article How to live off the land with no money ( Free Land & Housing ), you will learn how to do it although this is not meant for first time off gridders as you need a lot of knowledge about your surrounding area and several skills.
When it comes o food you should aim for food types that do not spoil easily even at room temperatures. Some people living off the grid do have a small fridge but generally speaking, fridges consume a lot of energy, and the bigger they are the more they consume so you will not be able to stockpile enough food in it.
These are great as they are lightweight and usually only need some water to be consumed. My recommendation is to get a couple of different types of powdered foods, like powdered milk and eggs just for convenience and some easy cooking. When searching for powdered foods you will probably come across meal replacements, these are fine for consumption once or twice a week but anything longer than that could upset your stomach.
You probably didn’t know but you can stretch out some canned foods for over 30 years, check out my article Longest lasting canned foods ( Up to 30+ years ), and learn how you can achieve that. One major bonus for canned foods in addition to their versatility is their variety.
What would food taste without spices, you will probably find out if you forget to add them to your off-grid cabin grocery list. Everybody likes different kinds of spices, but the most important is salt, without enough salt the human body cannot function correctly. Below are just a few spices, you should add more to your spices depending on what you like.
There are two kinds of people living off the grid, the ones that go off the grid entirely without any electricity and the ones that generate their own electricity. Having your own power generator will make life a lot easier and the transition to living off the grid much smoother. There are some people who go all-in with power generators and they do generate enough power for the entire house and all of their electrical devices.
However this costs a lot of money but with a much more budget-friendly setup you can still power some of your electrical devices like mobile devices, lights, and even for some entertainment.
Solar power generators
In my opinion, solar power generators are the cheapest and most reliable forms of generating your own power. You can find a lot of prebuilt solar generator kits but if you are a good handyman you can find some DIY ways of using solar power. A word of caution, do not make the false presumption that you could use an electrical heating device with a solar generator, generally, these electric heaters consume a lot of power and a solar generator simply does not provide enough of it.
Gas-powered generators usually produce a lot more electricity than solar power generators, the downside is that these need fuel. Depending on how many electrical devices you are planning to run with the generator will determine how much fuel it uses. These are also powerful enough to power an electrical heater which could come in handy, just do not make it your only source of heating the cabin.
I personally do have a gas powered generator but I keep it only for emergencies, like on especially cold winter nights when the wooden stow needs constant babysitting and refueling.
Usually, you will see a fire going at night in most off-grid cabins, not only for heating and cooking but it also has a very positive psychological effect. My recommendation is to have several ways of starting a fire, as you might come across some problems through your off grid living experience.
Flint fire starters
These can produce thousands of sparks during their lifetime, and the sparks created by it are extremely hot so you can even start a fire with somewhat damp wood.
My recommendation is to get ones that are also waterproof, generally speaking, when you need an open flame to start a fire is that the wood is wet.
In addition to its fire starting capability, you can also use it as a source of light.
You will need some way to see in the dark, this is also useful in keeping off local predators that are not used to humans. Same as with every item in this article, it is smart to have different types of lights, and by different, I meant their source of energy.
By far one of the best ways to produce light in your off-grid cabin, and if you have read my article How to heat a room with a candle? ( In 3 Easy Steps ), you already know that something as simple as a candle can even save your life in freezing conditions.
My recommendation is to get ones that are solar-powered, this way it will not put an additional strain on your power generating system and the LED usually works for at least a couple of thousand hours.
You can use it indoors or outdoors, and you can even find hand-crank operated models.
Just be careful with these as they do produce dangerous fumes and they are not well suited for small rooms without ventilation.
Now you might ask yourself why on earth would you need a tent when you live off the grid in a cabin. The answer is simple, extra insulation. During especially hard winters your cabin might not be able to produce enough heat for comfortable temperatures. In this case, just pitch the tent in the middle of the room and this will give you an extra layer of insulation.
Without any reliable tools, you will find it extremely difficult to get any job done. Off-grid living is hard work but with good quality tools, you can easily overcome any hurdles you might come across.
A small hatchet can go a long way in an off grid cabin, and this is one of the must-have items.
Woodcutting axes are larger than hatchets, and they are specially designed for splitting firewood, you should definitely have one.
A good knife will be your most valuable tool while living in a cabin.
If you are planning on making a fence or you have to repair some parts of the cabin you will need a saw.
You will use the paracord in a lot of situations, and without it you are just making things harder for yourself.
A good tarp goes a long way, it can shield you from the sun and it can protect you from the elements, in case the roof is leaking you can just use the tarp to repair it.
You will do a lot of digging, especially if you will make your own compost so take a good shovel with you.
My recommendation is to get the thickest and most well-insulated sleeping bags which you can afford. It is easier to just cool off during wintertime than to keep yourself warm.
Make sure that you do have some extra cash in your off-grid cabin, you never know when you will need it especially in an emergency situation.
Building materials and tools
You probably do not have to build your off-grid cabin, but something always breaks after a period of time. Not having simple tools and materials to fix them will become a hassle especially if more stuff gets breaking down.
- Duck tape
You will need some way to heat your cabin during wintertime, even if the off-grid cabin is in an arid environment you will still need a heater as nighttime temperatures sometimes can fell well below freezing. If you need more in-depth information on the subject check, out my article on ( Top 15 ) Best alternative heat sources during power outage. Do note that some heaters will need in addition to the fuel some electricity as well.
By far this is one of my preferred way of heating my cabin, in addition to providing heat, these can also aid you in cooking.
The problem with electrical heater is that they do tend to use a lot of power.
Gas catalytic heater
Generally speaking, these produce a lot of heat but some of them will need electricity to work.
It is extremely important that you get a propane heater that is designed to be used indoors, otherwise, you might end up with dangerous fumes accumulated in your off-grid cabin.
You have a lot of options when it comes to off-grid cooking, and most people living off the grid use a source of open flame for cooking. Cooking with an open flame is by far the easiest and cheapest way of cooking. One thing to keep in mind no matter what kind of device you go for cooking is the ability to be used it indoors, as weather conditions may not always allow you to cook outside.
Some off-grid cabins do have a fireplace, combine this with an elevated cooking pot and you have an easy way of cooking, although you might have to improvise while cooking something like a stake.
In addition to heating the cabin, this will also allow you to cook any kind of food.
Do not get an electric grill or a gas-powered grill, your best fuel source for cooking is wood so get a grill that only uses wood as a fuel source.
You will find coolers very useful especially if you are preserving food, you can store them in the cooler till you are ready to process them. There are a lot of coolers on the market some require power and some only ice, my recommendation is to get one which has an in-built solar power generator, this way you can also used it to power some of your items.
This is one of those off-grid essential items which you do not know you needed until you find yourself without one. Although you can always improvise with some rocks or wood but having a good comfortable camping chair will be extremely useful.
Please do not be one of those people who gets plastic cutlery just to throw it away, disposing of garbage in an off-grid situation will definitely be a challenge. My suggestion is to get every cutlery made from metal, including plates, these are easy to clean and are extremely reliable.
First aid kit
Every off-grid cabin needs a good first aid kit, something simple as a cut or bruise can get infected fairly quick, especially if you are living in the middle of a forest. If one or more of your family members have some kind of preexisting condition make sure that you add the necessary items in the first aid kit. Infections can be easily treated with antibiotics, although you can not get these without a prescription, but you will find on my site some cheeky ways of getting antibiotics even without a prescription.
Personal Hygiene Items
Do not underestimate how important personal hygiene is, once you break your personal hygiene routine you expose yourself to all kinds of health risks. Make sure that you have the ability to wash your teeth, hands, and the areas where the sun doesn’t shine. Make sure that you dig yourself a latrine relatively close to the cabin, just not too close.
- Toilet paper
- Cleaning products
- Gravity fed shower
New timers often overlook how they will dispose of garbage, and once garbage has accumulated especially with food leftover this will attract all kinds of predators and rodents. This is a vicious circle, once your garbage gets infested by rodents this will also attract predators, making the surrounding area extremely dangerous.
- Garbage bags
- Compost starter for leftovers
- Burn pit for items which you can easily burn, do not burn plastic.
As most of the cooking in an off-grid cabin will be done with an open flame this exposes you to the dangers of burning down the entire cabin. No matter how careful you are you will still need a fire extinguisher, this is especially true in the case of old cabins as most of the material used in its construction are highly flammable. I have seen a lot of people using fuel to start the fire faster, you do not need any fuel besides wood, putting extra fuel on the burning wood will literally backfire.
Most established off gridders also grow their crops, this is not as hard as you might think but it will take some time and a lot of experimentation. First, you have to identify which crops are suitable for your local terrain, after that you have to make your own compost from organic matter so your crops will have a better chance of surviving. Do note that most people who try growing crops fail in the first year, so do not rely on the crops.
Raising your own livestock will reward you big time, just make sure that you have food and medicine for them. You most likely will have to also build some sort of enclosure to protect them from wild animals. One extra benefit of having your own livestock is that you can use their droppings as fertilizer and composter for your crops. In addition to this, you can feed them your leftovers this way nothing goes to waste.
Depending on how long you will stay at the off grid cabin, it is a good idea to have an extra source of food, chickens are easy to raise and they have plenty of meat.
Rabbits are usually raised in areas where raising chickens is hard due to the harsh winter conditions. Rabbit meat is extremely lean, and you can no live off only eating rabbit meat alone, as it contains little to no fat, so make a stew with some added fat.
Make sure you pack for winter, even if it is summer as the night time temperatures will drop significantly especially in a wooded area. It is always easier to gets some clothes off because you are hot than to scramble along with summer clothes in freezing temperatures. My recommendation is to pack clothes made of wool as these keep their insulation factor even if they are wet and they are also fairly easy to wash.
Hiking boots are extremely important, don’t go running off into the woods with your Nike running shoes as they will get destroyed in a matter of days. You can not cheap out on hiking boots, get the one that is the most durable and comfortable to you, a good tip would be to buy hiking boots with one number larger than you need. This way you can wear double socks during winter time which will add an additional layer of protection from the elements.
You not only have to protect yourself from predators but also from thieves. Thieves that might come across your off-grid cabin might think that it is an easy target as it would be far away from civilization.
- Bear mace
- Bug out gun
Emergency Situations Items
This is especially important if you are going off-grid alone, a simple injury that you might not think much of it could deteriorate quickly. Common health issues become life-threatening without the aces for medicine, while you should have a good first aid kit you can not get every medicine for every kind of injury or sickness. Something as simple as diarrhea could potentially kill you as it happened in the case of Christopher McCandless, of which I wrote in my article Best survival movies ( Top 18 ).
Mirror signaling device
Something as simple as a mirror can be extremely useful, you can signal for help with reflecting the sunlight and it will be seen for miles.
In extremely remote areas where the closest person going by is using a plane, it is a good idea to have a flare gun to signal for help.
Fluorescent sticks use a chemical reaction to produce light, these do not produce a lot of light but in the middle of the wilderness, these can be easily seen.
If the off grid cabin is in an area where you have a cell phone signal you should definitely take a mobile phone with you, just in case.
HAM radios can be powered by solar panels, the problem with them is that you need some technical knowledge on how to use them.
When it comes to off grid cabin tools and equipment you can not cheap out when it comes to items which you use every day or with items that actually help you survive such as the water filtration systems and the heating systems. However, my suggestion is to start slowly stockpiling some food and the essentials and only set out to live off the grid once you are sure that you have everything. Do note that every family is different and you will probably have to add extra items to fit your needs.