10 Mistakes People Make When Going Off the Grid

Are you tired of the rapid pace of everyday life? Are you ready to settle down on your own land while living life on your terms? If you answered “Yes”, you’re not alone. Each year, thousands of people make the switch to self-sustainability. Unfortunately, many of them are ill-equipped when they do it, and so the experience isn’t as pleasant as they imagined. To make going off the grid as smooth and seamless as possible, I recommend you avoid making the following 10 mistakes:

  • Mistake #1: Not using solar power.
  • Mistake #2: Not enriching soil with organic material.
  • Mistake #3: Not taking advantage of elevated water sources.
  • Mistake #4: Not setting up a proper waste disposal system.
  • Mistake #5: Not bringing a gun.
  • Mistake #6: Not understanding local zoning laws.
  • Mistake #7: Not investing in production animals (bees, chickens, etc.).
  • Mistake #8: Not having basic gardening knowledge.
  • Mistake #9: Not being physically and mentally prepared.
  • Mistake #10: Not having fun.

This isn’t an extensive list by any means. I simply wanted to show you, what I think, are the 10 biggest mistakes newbies make when going off the grid. Here’s a video of a fellow survivalist explaining her biggest mistakes (and how to avoid them):

Going Off the Grid – How to Get Started

Going off the grid requires a high degree of self-sufficiency. I have many friends who’ve left behind the trappings of everyday life (materialism, mortgage payments, etc.). But it definitely wasn’t easy. They had to learn a lot, as well as become tougher mentally. When someone moves off the grid for the first time, there will be a quite a bit of culture shock. Think about it- your lifestyle will be completely labor-dependent. If you become lazy, you could die. As I mentioned in a previous article, there are nine things you need to go off the grid. They include:

  • Land
  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter
  • Waste Disposal
  • Security
  • Medical
  • Power
  • Communication

I’ll admit- this list looks a bit daunting. By once you break it down, it becomes easier to manage. Why did I mention “power”? Well, because you need power when going off the grid. If definitely won’t be as much as you’d normally use, but a small amount will help. This is where solar chargers, water-powered generators, and wind turbines all come into play.

Practice Self-Sufficiency Beforehand

If you’re a newbie, I highly recommend practicing self-sufficiency before going off the grid. By this, I mean you should do things where you currently live that will teach you how to be self-sufficient. Here are some examples:

Plant a Garden

Going Off The GridI’m not just talking about a garden with one or two types of vegetables. I’m talking about building a garden with a variety of vegetables. See if you can manage this where you currently live. If you can’t do it where you are now, how can you expect to do it going off the grid? In short, you won’t be able to. Even if you live in an urban environment, you can still plant a garden.

Become a Repairman

Going Off The GridWhen things break in your home, don’t hire someone else to fix them. Try fixing them yourself. Remember, part of being self-sustainable is being able to fix your own stuff. This includes vehicles, appliances, clothing, and tools (among other things). When going off the grid, you won’t be able to call someone if your solar charger breaks. You’ll need to figure things out on your own.

Learn About Food Preservation

Going Off The GridAre you familiar with food preservation techniques like canning, dehydrating, or freezing? If not, start learning about them. These will be huge in your quest for going off the grid. You can preserve foods relatively inexpensively, especially with today’s modern-day techniques. Food preservation techniques are beyond the scope of this article.

Practice Frugality

Going Off The GridI know I’m being a little philosophical here, but remember that going off the grid is about minimizing your “baggage” (both mental and physical). No matter where you are right now, learn to appreciate what you already have. Resist the urge to buy things you don’t need. Self-sustainability requires that you develop discipline like you’ve never had before. While hard in the beginning, I promise that you’ll become a better person because of it.

Learning New Skills – The Key to Self-Sustainability

Going Off The Grid

The more you know, the more you’ll thrive. I’m sure that anyone who’s been off the grid for any significant amount of time would agree. Learning new skills, even just the basics, can go a long way towards making your experience off the grid a pleasant one. Here’s a list of some of the things you need to learn before going off the grid:

  • Advanced food preservation techniques
  • Butchering and field dressing livestock
  • Collecting water (hand pumps, rain barrels, etc.)
  • Filtering and purifying water in large volumes
  • Woodworking
  • Clothing/knitting patterns
  • Alternative medicine and basic first aid
  • Basic surgery
  • Vehicle, tool, and equipment repair
  • Beekeeping

Do you need to become an expert at each of these? Absolutely not. I personally know at least 150 people who live off the grid. And guess what? None of them are “gurus” (they certainly aren’t experts at everything mentioned above). The key is to become good enough at keep yourself alive. By “good enough”, I mean that you’ve gotten to the point where you can apply a skill set at a moment’s notice. There’s no need to stress about becoming a master.

Acquiring Fresh Water

Going Off The Grid

The human body can go weeks without food, but only days without water. If you don’t get your water situation handled when going off the grid, your experience will be far from pleasant. Rather than tap into a municipal water source (or drill a well), consider taking a more “primal approach”. My favorite option is collecting rainwater and storing it in tanks. Once setup, this system is mostly automated. I also like it because it’s inexpensive. Plus, with just a little filtration, rain water can be turned into fresh and healthy drinking water.

Pee and Poop

When going off the grid, waste disposal should be a top priority. Many of you flush your toilets every day, never fully appreciating what you have. Off the grid, you won’t have this luxury (unless you get a septic system installed). Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of toilets. Why? Because they waste perfectly good water to produce sewage. Not only does sewage smell bad, but it’s also nearly impossible to turn back into safe drinking water. I have a better idea- use your poop as compost!

Human Waste as Compost – The Humanure Handbook

Given the right conditions, human waste can break down into rich compost. As disgusting as it might sound, your poop can help a garden thrive. I recommend investing in The Humanure Handbook. I’ve read this book from cover to cover, and I must say, it’s amazing. It will walk you step-by-step on how to convert human waste into safe compost. If you think about it, it’s actually quite fascinating. The book will even show you how to build a “$25 humanure toilet”. Before going off the grid, please grab a copy. It’s not that expensive, and will pay for itself in the first day.

The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure

If using human waste as compost doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then consider a commercial composting toilet. It will cost you about $1,000, but it will make your life far easier. In all honesty, both options are fine. I’ve been using my poop as compost for a few years now, and I’ve never had any issues. However, I understand that many people might be uncomfortable with this. So if you have the extra funds, investing in a commercial composting toilet might be the better option.


Going Off The Grid

Would you think I’m crazy if I told you that the entire power grid is incredibly inefficient? Well, it is. This complex network of electrical components requires constant maintenance and monitoring. Not to mention, if one line is lost, it could mean power outages for thousands of other people. Imagine if everyone had their own way of generating electricity- this would be a non-existent problem! As I mentioned earlier in the article, the best ways to acquire energy are with solar chargers, wind turbines, or water-powered generators. Let’s talk about each one individually:

  • Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Panel: When going off the grid, this is a super-valuable tool to have. These panels produce electricity when exposed to direct sunlight. While they’re not strong enough to power an entire house, they’re good enough for simple electronic equipment off the grid. In short, it’s something you shouldn’t go off the grid without.
  • Wind Turbine: If you’re going off the grid somewhere with ample wind, then consider investing in a wind turbine. These can be a great addition to your setup, and will add diversity to your power sources. Be sure to check out the WindPax. This tool will allow you to produce 400 watts of energy with nothing more than the wind.
  • Water-Powered Generator: There’s nothing like leveraging the power of running water to produce electricity. It’s simple, efficient, and isn’t associated with any ongoing costs (only an initial investment). Be sure to check out the Power Sprout. Although expensive (between $900 and $1,800 depending on what model you buy), this little tool will allow you to convert running water into usable energy.

When going off the grid, don’t be reliant on any single form of energy. Diversify as much as possible. It’s very unlikely that all three systems will fail at the same time (if they do, then you’re very unlucky!). But on a serious note, there’s no better feeling than producing your own electricity off the grid. It’s something you must experience to fully appreciate.

Heating & Cooking Fuels

Going Off The Grid

Most modern homes use propane or natural gas as fuels. But not only are these expensive, they’re also limited in nature. Moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is a far better option in my opinion. Here are some alternative heating and cooking fuels to consider when going off the grid:

  • Wood: When living off the land, wood will be your most abundant resource- so use it! Stocking up on wood will have little environmental impact, and will allow you to survive the winters. This is where having a smaller living area comes into play. The smaller your home, the less wood you’ll need to use to keep it warm.
  • Alcohol: Personally, I don’t think it’s that common. However, if you have a small still to distil alcohol to burn in an alcohol stove, this may be a great alternative to regular heating and cooking fuels. I would look more into this to see if it’s a viable option for you when going off the grid.
  • Methane: I’ve heard of people who created systems that produce methane from their waste. Personally, I’ve never seen one of these systems in person. But from what I’ve heard, they can be tricky to build and operate. Nonetheless, it’s still an option to consider.

Basically, the less you can rely on natural fossil fuels, the better.

Bottom Line

By no means is this a complete guide to going off the grid. I’ve only scratched the surface. I simply wanted to give you a glimpse of what to expect when making the switch. The first step is to decide that you’re serious about going off the grid. This is something you need to completely dedicate yourself to. Otherwise, you’ll find it very difficult to sustain yourself. I’d love to hear your opinion. What do you think is the biggest mistake newbies make when going off the grid for the first time? Leave your answer in the comments below. Thanks for reading.


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1 Comment
  1. Reply
    val June 13, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Mistake #5: Not bringing a gun. You should change gun to weapon. I can do more damage with a blade then anyone can with a gun. What will you do when (becouse you will) run out of bullets? Bows n arrows are better when hunting becouse they will not scare the rest of the wildlife away. Guns are more likely to be taken away by cops then other things. If your bow brakes you can repair it, knife gets dull you can sharpen it. What will you do if a non replaceable part (say a pin) brakes in the wild? Order a new one? Also your envirmoent can be your weapon too. And about your farm life … Dont prevent hunter animals, they scare your livestock causeing them to help toil your soil. Let nature work for you. Ted talks de desert video.

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