How to Live Off the Land – The Ultimate Guide

So, you want to learn how to live off the land? Well, you’re not alone. Each year, thousands of people make the switch to self-sustainability. By that, I mean they rely completely on nature to survive. Don’t worry- it’s not as difficult as you might think. With a little knowledge and a positive mental attitude, you can experience the freedom of sustainable living too. I’ll start by giving you an overview of nine things you’ll need to get started. Then I’ll discuss each one individually more in-depth. Let’s get started.

How to Live Off the Land – 9 Things to Have

Here are 9 things that you’ll need when learning how to live off the land:

  1. Land: It goes without saying, but you can’t live off the land if you don’t have any land to begin with! If you read around, you’ll notice that nobody agrees on exactly how much land is “ideal” for self-sustainability. I’ll show you what I think below.
  2. Food: Whether you’re raising animals, or growing crops, you need to learn how to cultivate your own food. Remember, the entire point of self-sustainability is to rely on yourself (not supermarkets) for food. Otherwise, you defeat the whole purpose.
  3. Water: Humans can only go days without water (they can go weeks without food). For this reason, you need to find a fresh source of water that you can access daily. Depending on where you live, you might be able to dig a well. I’ll talk more about this below.
  4. Shelter: I wouldn’t get hung up on finding the “perfect” home. There are dozens of cheap and effective options out there. I know people who live happily in campers. I also know people who are content living in yurts. Even shipping containers have become quite popular. When learning how to live off the land, you can always upgrade your home later.
  5. Power: The goal of living off the land should be to consume as minimal power as possible. For this reason, you’ll need to rely on alternative forms of energy, including wind, solar, and hydro (water) power. Wind turbines, water-powered generators, and solar chargers are all potential options to consider.
  6. Security: When learning how to live off the land, I would definitely invest in weaponry. Specifically, you should own a few guns and/or compound bows. Not only will you need to protect yourself from other people, but you’ll also need protection from animals. Plus, guns and compound bows can be used to hunt wild game.
  7. Waste Disposal: This is a huge thing to remember that many people tend to forget. If you don’t properly eliminate waste products (specifically, feces), then your living area can become toxic and unhealthy. There are a few ways to approach this. I’ll show you how below.
  8. Communication: Just because you’re learning how to live off the land, doesn’t mean you want to be cut off from the world. Communication should still be a top priority. There are a variety of ways to do this, most of which are fairly inexpensive.
  9. Medical: Finally, you’ll need to keep yourself healthy. At a minimum, you should own a first aid kit. You should also know how to perform CPR (if you’re living with someone else). I’ll show you how to put together an awesome first aid kit below.

In a nutshell, these are the nine things that you’ll need when learning how to live off the land. Now that I’ve given you a broad overview of what to expect, let’s dive deeper and discuss each one individually.

#1: Land

How to Live Off The Land

How much land will you need to comfortably survive? As a general rule, I would recommend a minimum of two acres. I’ve heard people recommend up to five acres. Anywhere between two and five will usually be enough. When buying cheap land, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many acres am I getting?
  • How much timber is there?
  • What’s the quality of the soil?
  • Are there any sources of water present?
  • What’s the cost of property taxes?
  • What’s the local weather like?

The cheaper land in the United States will cost, on average, between $1,000 and $3,000 per acre. Sometimes you can get a discount if you purchase multiple acres at once. According to an article by MSN, a single acre in Wyoming can cost as little as $1,600. Obviously, developed property will be more expensive. When learning how to live off the land, you need to take care of land first. Then you can worry about everything else first.

#2: Food

How to Live Off The Land

Once you’ve acquired some land, you need a way to feed yourself. When learning how to live off the land, there are three ways to do it:

  1. Grow Crops
  2. Raise Animals
  3. Hunt

All three are perfectly viable ways to get food. Personally, I prefer #1 and #2 (since they’re more sustainable). There’s nothing wrong with #3 (it’s simply less predictable). Before growing crops, check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. It will help you plan for year-round growing by showing you which plants thrive in certain locations throughout the year. Check it out:

How to Live Off The Land

Growing crops in the winter can be tricky, so I’d recommend buying a copy of The Winter Harvest Handbook. Filled with charts, illustrations, and practical tips, it will give you the knowledge required to grow crops in the winter. When learning how to live off the land, this is a super-valuable skill set to have. 

Secondly, I would recommend learning basic food preservation techniques (freezing, drying, canning, etc.). This is especially important if you’re going to supplement your food supply with wild game that you’ve hunted. If you can master food preservation, then you’ll be one step closer to learning how to live off the land. Finally, invest in production animals (animals that can supply you with fresh food on a daily basis). These include:

  • Cows (Milk)
  • Bees (Honey)
  • Goats (Milk)
  • Chickens (Eggs)

Note, while cows are considered production animals, they can also be a long-term source of food (assuming you’ve mastered you food preservation techniques). The same thing applies to goats and chickens. Chickens are my favorite option since they’re easy to raise and can provide you with eggs on a daily basis. The startup costs associated with raising each animal will vary depending on your needs. For now, just know: when learning how to live off the land, you should rely on A) Raising Production Animals, B) Growing Crops, and C) Hunting Wild Game. Let’s move on to talk about water.

#3: Water

Finding a fresh water is crucial when learning how to live off the land. Although expensive, one of the best options is to dig a well. This can cost between $2,500 and $5,000 (depends on who you hire and where you’re located). However, it’s well worth the investment. You can use FindASpring.com to locate water sources near your land. Additionally, you’ll want to invest in a water storage tank so you can store water for the long-term.

#4: Shelter

As I mentioned before, you don’t need to take the extravagant route when building a shelter. If money’s a concern, start off in something cheap (like an RV). It’s not the most luxurious home on the planet, but it gets the job done. When learning how to live off the land, people often make the mistake of wasting precious resources (time, money, and energy) trying to build the “perfect” home. That can come later. In the beginning, I would focus on cultivating your food and water supply, since these are quintessential for survival.

#5: Power

How to Live Off The Land

Remember, the goal of living off the grid is to cut back on the amount of power you use. As a result, you can rely on smaller, alternative forms of energy, which include hydro (water), solar, and wind power. To harness these types of energy and convert them into usable electricity, you should aim to build one of the following:

  • Solar Charger: Solar chargers will allow you to harness solar energy and turn it into electricity. Good ones can range from as little as $60 to as much as $2,000 (sometimes more). Many of them are used to store energy rather than actively use it. By having backup energy available, you’ll be able to power electronic equipment when needed. Or you can power up your electronic equipment during the day so that you can use it at night.
  • Water-Powered Generator: Hydro-powered generators are neat because, like a dam, they rely on the flow of water to produce electricity. The Power Sprout is a perfect example. Ranging between $900 and $1,800, it can produce clean, renewable energy indefinitely. While the initial investment might be a little high, it’s definitely well worth it in the long run.
  • Wind Turbine: WindPax is an example of a portable turbine. When learning how to live off the land, it’s another great investment to consider. This collapsible wind turbine will allow you to power electronic devices as long as there’s wind present. Their best model is capable of producing 400 watts of energy!

These sources of power can be used to power any electronic devices you have (lights, phones, etc.). Which one is better? Honestly, it depends. If you live in an area that isn’t windy but gets a lot of sun, then a solar charger is obviously the better choice. Just keep in mind, the less power you consume, the less you’ll need to generate. So focus on consuming less power!

#6: Security

There’s not much to say about security other than you need it. When learning how to live off the land, you may need to hunt game. You might also be forced to defend yourself against animals and/or people. That’s why you should invest in a gun and/or compound bow (or a few of them). Make sure you have enough ammunition for each one, and always store it in a place where you can quickly access it if you need to.

#7: Waste Disposal

How to Live Off The Land

Disposing of human waste is a must-do when learning how to live off the land. In general, you’ll have three options to choose from:

  • Septic System: By far the most high-tech option, but it will cost you. You can have one installed for $5,000 to $10,000. If you have the funds, it may be a solid investment. But if you don’t have the funds, don’t worry- you still have other options to consider.
  • Incinerator Toilet: Costing about $2,000, an incinerator toilet will eliminate human waste so that it doesn’t build up on your land. It’s cheaper than a septic system, and can still be very effective.
  • Composting: Why eliminate human waste when you can use it as compost? Well, that’s exactly what the author of The Humanure Handbook had to say. I’d recommend giving it a read. You’ll be surprised by what it can do for you.

Each option offers its own set of pros and cons. Consider reading more into each one to determine which is right for you. Just to give you some perspective as to how serious waste disposal is, here’s a chart with a list of diseases that are caused by waste exposure:

How to Live Off The Land

#8: Communication

Just because you’re learning how to live off the land, doesn’t mean you should cut yourself off from society (at least not completely). Communication should remain an integral part of your life. For living off the land, you’ll want to invest in satellite internet. It costs several hundred dollars to install, and about $50 a month to maintain. For getting internet off the grid, it’s pretty much your only option. If you’re fine without having internet, you can just buy a CB radio or Ham radio- both of which are great for communication.

#9: Medical Skills

For learning how to live off the land, basic medical skills are a must-have. After all, you might be a long way from the nearest medical facility. Don’t worry- emergency medical kits aren’t very expensive. I’d also recommend investing in medical books that can teach you how to diagnose and treat certain things. Obviously, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t rely on a doctor, but knowing these skills can keep you alive long enough until you get to one.

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills

Bottom Line

Learning how to live off the land can be a lot of fun, but it can also be quite challenging. If you aren’t fully prepared, it will make your time more difficult than it needs to be. As eager as you are to get out there, always take enough time researching exactly what you’ll need. Preparation is the key to succeeding off the grid.

Resources

  1. Living Off the Land – Are You Ready? (Secrets of Survival)
  2. 12 Things You NEED To Go Off Grid NOW! (Off Grid World)
  3. I Gave it All Up…To Live Off the Land (The Guardian)
5 Comments
  1. Reply
    Bill March 22, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    What kind of septic tank do you know of that requires electricity? All of them I have ever seen or studied were gravity feed. It may require electricity to get water to the input side, but I have never heard of a septic system that requires electricity.

    • Reply
      Nic March 23, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      … On an aerobic septic system, electricity is needed to run the aerator.

    • Reply
      David March 22, 2016 at 5:49 pm

      Hi Bill. Thanks for bringing that up. I must have been having a big brain fart when I wrote this article. All fixed now. Thanks for stopping by and checking out the site and for your input. Please spread the word! 🙂

  2. Reply
    Don March 23, 2016 at 2:20 am

    Bill . . .

    Believe me when I say there are thousands and thousands of us with VERY expensive pumps in our septic tanks.

    What if you’re home is situated at the lower part of your property and your field lines have to be uphill? Happens frequently…

  3. Reply
    NancyB August 6, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    Anyone know of a solar panel setup to power the anaerobic septic pump? If we lose power, the septic will eventually fill up with liquid.

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