Deciding how basic you would like to go off-grid is a very personal decision and different for everyone. I have some neighbors that have a gas generator and use propane (cooking and heating) while others operate 100% off their solar generators and wood stoves.
The answer for what “works” for you will vary, based on a couple of things:
- Convenience – How quickly do you want your system/set-up to operate?
- Time/Energy – Are you OK with taking more time/energy for your set up? i.e. cut down a tree, buck it, and then chop wood to start a fire for your wood stove? Or do you want to flip a switch and turn on a propane stove/heater?
- Money – How much do you want to invest initially for your set up, or even grand total?
For us, we are a mixture of convenience for the least amount of cost so we do not “have to go” into town for supplies while we are off-grid and our little off-grid getaway is not a money pit of expenses. Here is a list of the ways that we get around not being connected into the grid:
|Connected to the Grid||Off-Grid Conversion|
|Electricity||400W Solar Panels with SMALL battery bank (two 12V) and a 400 Goal Zero Yeti along with a Biolite stove that can recharge our small lipstick external batteries for USB lights throughout the cabin.|
|Water||Creek water in 55 gallon water barrels stacked high for gravity fed pressure (water used for washing/bathing only).|
Drinking water – we haul in large jugs. Other neighbors just use a Brita filter or Berkey.
|Heating||Start a fire OR use Mr. Buddy Heater with good insulation in the cabin.|
|AC / Cooling||USB powered fans placed behind some ice in a bowl trick and also, fans placed in the vents to pull out warm air.|
|Light Fixture||Solar lights, USB compatible and for a last resort, battery operated lights. I don’t like using battery operated lights as I have to have batteries on-hand instead of being more self reliant.|
|Coffee Maker||French Press (we have an insulated REI french press that works very well) and other times, just use instant coffee.|
|Refrigerator||Engel (cheaper $$) or Yeti Cooler (or double walled cooler) that keeps ice cold for 10 days and food up to 5 days at FDA approved temperatures for meat. Our Solar generator can run a counter-top ice maker for ice and freezing bottles of water prior to going off-grid helps as well. |
We are increasing our solar battery bank to maybe have a small fridge…..
|Kitchen / Cooking||Camp Chef Everest (propane) stove top for quick meals, Jet Boil for just hot water/coffee and a Biolite Wood Stove/BBQ Grill.|
|Toilet||Depending on the neighborhood, some have outhouses, composting toilets, kitty liter method, Folgers’s Can, or a gravity fed (for the water) toilet with a septic tank. Either way, try to leave no trace. We also have an Off-Grid Sink for washing up in the evening before bed.|
|Shower||4-walled shower structure with a hanging solar shower bag; We are working at building an enclosed shower room to keep more of the heat in during the colder times of the year. I do have a Helio shower that I have used before and also like this when I have to take a facecloth bath in the cabin when it is really cold outside.|
|Dining||Under the stars by candlelight or in a Coleman screen room during the day for shade.|
|Seating||Stumps, rocks, and Log benches made from stumps.|
For us, the folding camping chairs are great! We also have a Kelty love-seat which is almost like a coach. Some of our folding chairs, we have gotten at Sam’s Club for $20 and they are less than 2lbs and fold up to about the size of a large toiletry bag. We also have a lot of hammocks.
For more details on what we have decided for our little cabin in the woods, you care read more about it here.
Again, the answer is different for everyone and you may have multiple “evolutions” of your systems where you are consistently fine-tuning or upgrading them.