Six Things to Do to Prepare for Going Off-Grid

Print Friendly

An updated version of this article can be found here:  Six Ways to Get Ready for Going Off-Grid.

Anyone who has gone camping overnight knows that there is a certain magic involved when sitting by a campfire or camp stove, sharing fish tales and roasting marshmallows over the flickering flames.  The whole idea of being off-grid for a few days is embraced as a big adventure and something to look forward to as way to disconnect from our busy lives and the digital world.

Alas, as fun as a camping trip can be, the adventure could get tiresome if not downright frightening if you were forced to camp due to either a short term power disruption or the longer term side effect of a major disaster of calamitous proportions.

Think about it.  We depend on power for the most mundane things.  Lights, heat, cooking, laundry, basic hygiene and of course, let us not forget about computer and internet access, are all driven by the power grid.  Unless you are lucky enough to own a generator (and even then you need fuel – lots and lots of fuel), when the grid goes down, so does life as you know it.

Also remember that if you do need to leave the premises in an off-grid emergency situation, you will only be able to carry along the things that you need to survive.  You will not be able to carry along comfort or sentimental things such as photo albums or any other items that remind you of happy memories you might have.

So what is it like to go off-grid?

A couple of weeks ago Todd, the editor and prepper guru at the Prepper Website, got a taste of the off-grid lifestyle for himself.  And no surprise, things did not quite go as planned.  He shared the following with me.

prepperwebsite (2)

Lessons Learned Off-Grid

Last week, my dad and I spent three days at his property in East Texas to clean up and prepare for a future foundation for a structure that we would like to place on site. We’ve been wanting to go for a while now (when it was cooler), but we were waiting for the well to be finished up. The property is totally off-grid, with no electricity, propane and even the well needs the generator because the pump is so deep, so I knew that there would be some lessons learned as these city folk spent three days out roughin’ it!

Lesson: I over estimated my physical ability to work out in the heat. I’m not a wuss. I work hard and I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty. But most of my day, nowadays, is spent inside in the AC. The heat just drains you and I was constantly thirsty!

On the way up to the property, I was looking forward to stopping at Whataburger (only in TX I think) to have a big hamburger before getting to the property and eating “camp” food. Dad wasn’t hungry, so I told him not to bother stopping. As soon as we arrived, we started unloading the tractor, clearing a path for the truck and trailer and setting up the tent and shade cover. By the time I knew it, it was late and I had lost my appetite. I was thirsty though. It seemed like I couldn’t quench my thirst. I had water and Gatorade, but I was always thirsty. I did monitor myself and my dad. I made sure we were drinking, using the restroom, sweating, etc.… So we weren’t in danger, but it was hot.

I wasn’t as sore as I thought I would be afterwards, but the heat did take a lot out of me. I weighed myself at home, even after eating a hamburger on the way back home, and I lost 5 pounds! I’m sure it was all water and I’ll gain it all back!

After the generator was started and hooked up to the well, I had all the cool water I wanted. But this situation did cause me to reflect on the fact of “what if” I had to bug-out and the water I had in my BOB ran out. You can only carry so much water. In hot climates, this needs to be really thought out!

One of the items that we both thought were invaluable were those neckties that cool you when you soak them for five minutes. I have purchased one for each member of my family off of eBay, but the two that I had with us were from Wal-Mart. I found them in the sporting section for under $4. We used them constantly.

Lesson: I forgot some important items. I feel like I’m a pretty organized person. I also have a pretty good memory. But there was so much that I was trying to remember that I forgot some important items. I don’t usually have to make lists, but I can see how they insure that you don’t forget important items.

prepperwebsite (1)

I forgot my camp stove, sun screen and table. The table wasn’t a big deal. Dad had one that we could take up there, although it was a lot smaller than what we needed. For the rest of the items, we stopped at Wal-Mart. I hated to buy another camp stove, but that’s what we were using to heat up water, etc.… I could have made a fire, but I’m glad that I didn’t go that route. When you’re tired and hot, spending the extra time and effort to build a fire isn’t what you want to do unless you absolutely have to.

There is always going to be items that you forget, making an effort to minimize your forgetfulness is very important.

Side note – the Sporting Goods section in small town Wal-Mart’s suck compared to those found in the “big city.” The Sporting Goods section was about 1/3 the size of the one that I’m used to.

Lesson: Things broke and didn’t work. My sunglasses, bic lighter and generator broke or didn’t work as I thought. I’m bad with sunglasses. Actually, I never take my sunglasses out of my truck. They stay clipped to my visor when I’m not driving. But the sun was so bright that I thought I should wear them. I don’t know how it happened, but somewhere along the line they broke. I can still wear them, but nevertheless, sunglasses are important for eye protection and eventually, the small crack that developed will give way and I won’t be able to use them.

The thing that freaked me out was the lighter that was fairly brand new, didn’t work. The wheel was bent and wouldn’t strike the flint. Thank goodness I had backups. I lit the stove with my Primus Fire Steel. If that didn’t work, I had the fire steel on my Gerber fixed blade sheath and also the fire steel on my paracord bracelet. I could have ultimately used the flint in the lighter and the car lighter too.prepperwebsite (3)

Lastly, the generator didn’t work just as I thought. This is my first generator. We need it to run the pump on the well. I don’t like this, so I’m working on a way to make sure we can have water, even if we don’t have gasoline. But I digress… I purchased the generator the week before and left it in the box. I assembled it on site (wheels and handles) and started it. It wouldn’t stay on! I pulled the string, checked all that I knew, but it still wouldn’t stay on. I breezed through the manual, looked at the troubleshooting section and still no luck. After about an hour, I figured it out. Basically, it was not enough oil. The automatic shut-off was not allowing the generator to get going due to the lack of it. At the store, the salesman sold me a bottle with enough oil for two changes. So, with that information, I put in half of the bottle, right? It wasn’t enough! After putting in more, it was fine.

I should have assembled the generator at home and gave it a test run first before I really needed it. If the generator wouldn’t have run, we would have had a rough time.

The equipment not working didn’t lead us to tragedies or anything, but it still speaks to the need for redundancy and to the fact of making sure your equipment is in working order BEFORE you need it!

Lesson: The items that I counted on the most. I had multiple knives with me. However, my Kershaw Shallot knife was the only one that I used…and did I use it. I love that knife.

The other thing that we used a lot and could have used more was rope. We used a lot to put up our big shade cover. Because we only had a limited supply, we couldn’t string the cover all the way to the next tree like we wanted to. It still worked for us. But the lesson is that you can never have enough cordage!

In conclusion, I love it out in the country! We are already planning to go back up there again in the next week or two. I will take all these lessons into consideration as I start planning the next trip. But I’m sure that the next trip will have more lessons to learn. And that’s the beauty of it all, learning and growing and making adjustments as we move forward.

Never say never when it comes to being prepared

Camp Trip @ Black SturgeonNow I know what you are saying.  “I already know that stuff . . . that would never happen to me.”  Well think again.  In Todd’s case, he had time to do advance planning.  He is an experienced prepper and a smart guy.  Yet in this – what turned out to be a good practice run – he learned that he had some shortcomings.

Unlike Todd’s recent experience, in the case of a real emergency, you would have no time to plan while in the moment.  Instead, you will be in a “what you see is what you get” situation.  To help mitigate the lessons you will learn in the field, I would like to summarize six things you can do to prepare for going off-grid.

Six Ways to Prepare for Going Off-Grid

1.  Stay in good physical shape.  Life in the rough is more difficult that life on the sofa.  You will more likely than not be walking with a pack, carrying water, chopping wood and performing other strenuous activities.  The best way to prepare for this is to get in shape now.

2.  Plan on water for drinking – and lots of it.  Make sure that you acquire some way to purify water in the field plus make sure you have some way to carry the water whether it be it bottle or a portable bladder.  Heat will be your enemy in this regard, so be prepared or you will go down like a flash from dehydration.

3.  Think about the gear you will need and start acquiring it now. There will be no Santa Claus to deliver gear to you when the grid goes down and if there are stores open (unlikely) they may not have what you need.  And just as important, keep your gear together in a central location – you are less likely to forget about it if it is all located in one place.

4.  Redundancy is your friend.  Sure, it is great to use a lighter or matches to start a fire.  But also have a flint and steel as well.  The same thing applies to lighting (candles, lanterns and chemical lighting), knives and other items.

5.  Practice in advance.  Go camping and enjoy a family weekend in the wilderness.  Learn how to use your stuff before your life depends upon it.

6. Make a list and check it twice or even three times. Put a checklist in your bug-out-bag and use it.  I personally keep a list on the inside of my closet door – front and center where it can’t be missed.

The Final Word

Even the best of preppers can learn from real-time experience.  Of the six ways to prepare for going off-grid, perhaps the most important is taking the time to drill and to practice in advance.  Hone your craft and have fun doing it.  And as always, hope you never have to use your off-grid skills for more than just a day or two.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!


Note:  Todd is the owner/editor of The Prepper Website. He is also an assistant principal in the public school system and a bi-vocational minister.  He’s a great guy too and together, we have helped work technical kinks out of each other’s web sites.  As I have always said: it takes a community of like-minded folks to make stuff happen in a positive way!

Spread the Word – Tell your friends: Share Backdoor Survival with your friends. All you need to do to send them a short email. Now that was easy!

Bargain Bin:  Over the months, I have shared many of my own personal survival gear favorites.  For what I am now calling survival gear 101, be sure to read Survival Gear Checklist – 15 Items to Get You Started as well as The Useful and Affordable Pocket Survival Kit.

Rothco Medium Transport Pack:  This is the pack that I have.  The most remarkable part is that it is only as wide as your back meaning that even with a full load, it does not bump into things as your travel along a narrow path.  It is also compatible with a hydration bladder.

Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets:  These don’t take up any room to speak of and are useful for disinfecting contaminated drinking water in a pinch.

Cyalume SnapLight Chemical Light Sticks:  Another survival must-have.  Read about chemical lighting in the article Lighting Your Way With Chemical Lighting.

Swedish Firesteel – Army Model:  Once you get the hang of it, it is actually fun to light a fire with a flint and steel.  Be sure to practice now so you have the technique down in advance, before your bic lighter goes patooey.

Want to help support Backdoor Survival?
Purchases earn a small
commission and for that I thank you!


Six Things to Do to Prepare for Going Off-Grid — 11 Comments

  1. Wonder how many other Prepper GURUs like Todd are out there? Don’t get me wrong, I like the ‘Drudge’ format of his site and check it daily. But running to Walmart on day 1, not checking the oil in their genny before starting it, and can barely go 3 days without fast-food? That’s a typical weekend warrior around here, not a prepper.

    You don’t have to go anywhere to go off-grid, just walk over to that gray metal box in your basement or closet, open the door, and flip the big switch. Then close your water and natural gas mains. Now survive comfortably for a long weekend. If you can’t at least do that, in January up north or in July down south, I wouldn’t call yourself a prepper.

    • I believe that more to the point, most preppers are fully able to fend for themselves if they are sheltering at home (bugging in). The real problem is when they must leave and bug-out in the wilderness or other unfamiliar territory.

      Turning off the power and going off-grid in the comfort of your own home is a good drill to perform and everyone should do that from time to time. But being away from your stuff is a whole other story. Now that I think about it, I should have come up with a better title (such as Six Things to Do to Prepare for Bugging Out).

      • I apologize, could have worded my earlier comment better to be sure. Was reading other articles around the survival blogosphere about preppers dealing with the current eastern US power outages before I saw this one, and it just struck a nerve. Lots of unprepared ‘preppers’ out there – with no redundancy and untested plans that they just found out don’t work. That was where my off-grid testing in your own home comment came from. Anyone else shocked to see the number of bloggers/commenters on other sites having a difficult time with such a minor event like a power outage? We live off the grid in bugout country, unprepared people (except in the ‘bullets’ category probably) bugging out in our direction after a SHTF event is my greatest concern. The Walmart won’t be open, and no, I won’t lend you my spare XYZ…

        I wouldn’t trust that genny Todd, the top-end may have some damage (and hopefully not the bottom end too) from the lack of oil. It almost certainly has more wear than it should based on it’s age/usage. I wouldn’t trust it for anything critical, like running a well pump in drought country.

  2. another note on the generator, most if not all gas caps have vented lids, they must be adjusted or
    the air will be choked off and they will quit. keep a log of how many hours a full tank will run the generator and plan on having an ample supply of fuel on hand
    for a couple of weeks. you can buy Stabil gas additive to help with the new mandated ethanol, or you can render your generator incapacitated until it can be worked on with extra parts needed.
    Simply making a list of your daily life-style, what you eat, how you prep foods, bathing, chores, etc. you can make a list of needed items and determine what is needed and how much to have on hand, plan for at least a weeks worth of extras. our first winter off grid taught us that running out really sucks. having extra parts for machinery is a must. practice rationing and even if you only implement a little rationing at a time, you can start getting used to having less, we do this on a daily basis, some think we’re nuts, but it may be a way of life for everyone real soon.

      • Gaye,
        thanks for your kind words. I try to do my best, and it’s hard work at times, but I wouldn’t change back to on grid living. I’m actually liking it. next year I will have some new things to use for barter/sell. hope all is well with everyone.
        Happy Independence Day Everyone, be safe.

  3. @Sam – Thanks for the feedback. However, I think you missed the point. This post was about “lessons learned” not the perfect off-grid trip. The purpose of the trip was to clear out some of my dad’s land and since there are no utilities on it, I knew we would be “off-grid.”

    I would take exception with your definition of being a prepper. There is no one mold or type of person that would make a prepper. Eating fast food, making your own bread, making no trips to Walmart, making 100 trips to Walmart doesn’t really play in the definition. Being a prepper for 1 day or 100 years doesn’t either. We come in all shapes and sizes. I think the important part is that we move more and more to a preparedness lifestyle. I try to do that myself and hopefully share the articles and websites I read on my site for others to learn from too.

    I would agree that you can go “off-grid” at home. I think that is a worthy endeavor and should be tried by everyone at some point.

    Although it sounds cheesy, I believe in lifelong learning. The post was a desire to share what I learned on my trip with my dad.

    Thanks again Gaye for posting it.


  4. I guess I could be classified as a survivor if the thieving society would leave me alone.
    I have two wells with hand pumps. 9000 gallons of propane. 500 gallons gasoline stored inside. A small effecient generator. Two + years of firewood stored indide. Enough .22 ammo to eat rabbits, squrills, etc for a loooooong time. Canning jars, salt for preserving meat etc. Garden seeds and many other items.

  5. I have various fire starting tools and methods … the more the merrier right. I was also reading the other day where you should take you b.o.b. and only your b.o.b. on a weekend camping trip. It’s the best way to find out what you are missing.

    As for camping, we do a lot of camping, so that part we have down.

  6. L.A. based production Company seeking families that are preparing to live off the grid within the next 3-6 months or even sooner. This is a documentary setting for a highly respected cable network. Please reply if interested. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.