Whether you’re saying goodbye to society for a month-long campout or an indefinite plunge into the wild, going off the grid for extended periods of time requires careful planning and preparation. The reasons for breaking away from civilization are many, but the things you’ll need out there on your own are consistent whether you’re looking for meditative peace or you’re fleeing a multi-state warrant issued after that string of bank heists. (Please, don’t rob banks, sir.)
If you’re going off the grid, you’ll need the gear on this list to make your new life safe, sustainable, and maybe even pleasurable.
Large-Capacity Water Filter
Without clean water, you’re, uh … well, dead. You can bring along many gallons of water when you set out from civilization, but sooner or later you’re going to need to start making your own fresh water. The best way to do that is with a reliable water filtration device. For long-term water purification, skip the smaller personal-sized filters and get a filtration system designed for use by multiple people, like the Sawyer Products SP191 Point Zero Bucket Purifier Kit. It can produce up to 170 gallons of clean water per day; as one person will use but a fraction of that, the filter will last for months before needing maintenance. As a backup, also bring along purification tablets such as MadiDrop water purification tablets, each of which can treat 20 liters of water per day and lasts for an amazing 12 months.
Lots of Shelf Stable Food
You can always plant your own frontier garden, hunt for game, and fish the nearby rivers, lakes, and streams, but a large supply of shelf-stable food is a safer bet. Don’t worry, you don’t need to live off oatmeal, freeze-dried beef stroganoff, and hard tack for the duration of your off-grid life — you can keep a rather standard pantry, in fact. Take a look in your own kitchen and you’ll notice that many of the items you likely eat regularly have amazingly far-out sell-by dates. Boxed or canned beans and soups, pasta and rice, canned fruits and vegetables, tuna or chicken, and many other foods that taste fresh when cooked will keep well provided you can prevent exposure to hot or freezing temperatures. (And don’t forget to stock plenty of oil for cooking, by the way. Also, you’ll need cookware, but you thought of that, I’m sure.)
Reliable Fire Starters
Lighters run out of fuel and matches are single use (and easily damaged by moisture). While convenient and always good to have on hand, these easy fire-starting tools can’t be the only ones you bring off the grid with you. I recommend variety and redundancy when it comes to fire starters, meaning multiple different types of tool. A solar fire starter will never run out of burnable material but is useless at night or on rainy or cloudy days. A ferrocerium striker starter will work in just about any conditions, but it won’t work forever. And so on. With multiple fire starting tools, including a trusty lighter and matches, you’ll be good to go.
Going off the grid means much less use of technology, but let’s be honest: You’re not going full-on pioneer days, are you? If you planned things carefully, all of your powered devices, from your headlamp to your radio, will use rechargeable batteries. (I mean built-in internal batteries, for the record.) That way, all you need is a device that can recharge them, and for that, you can’t beat the, an electric generator powerful enough to run standard 120 volt AC devices and that holds its charge for a year. Also, with the addition of a solar panel, it can be charged up itself in about half a day. Yeah, it’s expensive, but it’s effective. I know because I’ve used one.
Out there on your own, things get pretty dark at night. So bring a flashlight. And a headlamp. And several lanterns. I also recommend you bring a stockpile of good old candles, too, and a windproof clear vessel (a large jar, e.g.) in which you can house them. If all your batteries drain and/or your generator fails, you can stave off the dark the way people did for tens of thousands of years: by using fire.
Grill That Doesn’t Require Fuel
Cooking over a campfire is great when you have the luxury of time and good weather. A wood-burning grill can speed up the cooking process and, if you choose the Camp Chef Alpine Cabin Stove, can be used inside a cabin or a large tent. It comes with an optional stovepipe attachment that can send smoke up and out of your shelter, so you can cook “indoors” even in bad weather while also enjoying welcome warmth. As it burns wood, you won’t run out of fuel.
Comprehensive First Aid Kit
Before you go off the grid, pay a visit to a dentist and a doctor and make sure your body is in the best possible condition. After you go off the grid, you are your own doctor, so be ready for whatever medical issues come your way with a great first aid kit. I recommend you buy one designed for use by multiple people to ensure it will have enough supplies to last you for the weeks or months you spend on your own. Also, make sure it is sealed against the elements or that you place the kit in water-tight packaging yourself.
Shelter That Can Handle the Elements
Until you’ve got your log cabin built, you’ll need a reliable shelter that can protect you from the elements and provide some semblance of home. A big tent will provide more comfort, but also may be a liability in high winds or under heavy snows. I recommend a large tent like the Coleman Carlsbad, which even has its own screened in a vestibule, but also bring along a smaller, leaner, and sturdier tent like the four-season , which can handle winds, snow load, pouring rain, and will keep you warmer in the cold. In mild weather, stash the small tent inside the big one. As bad weather looms, break down the roomy guy and tuck it away into the rugged guy.
A Damn Good Sleeping Bag (or Two, or Three)
A great sleeping bag can keep you safe and warm even lying there fully exposed to the elements. Staying warm is a matter of safety; staying comfortable is a matter of getting good sleep and having a generally tolerable life. So bring at least one heavy duty, reliable winter bag, but also consider a lighter sleeping bag for milder weather. And maybe a mid-weight bag if you’re going off-grid for the long run. And don’t forget a good cot or air mat. And maybe bring a nice blanket, too, for those in-between season nights — I favor Rumpl for camping blankets myself.
Means of Protection
Honestly, you should probably have a firearm with you if you’re really headed out into the backcountry for an extended (or indefinite) stay. But you don’t need a gun to stay safe from predators (that will probably leave you the hell alone anyway) as long as you have some other means of self-protection. Even with a firearm, it’s a good idea to have a can or three of bear spray nearby at all times. This gives you a nonlethal but reliably effective way to ward off an animal that comes too close. This spray will also work quite well on unwanted human visitors. And if anything gets too close, a sharp knife can help there, though ideally your knife will only be used for cooking and whittling.
Bring lots of books. Seriously.