How to Live Off the Land | Homesteading and Off-Grid Living

how to live off the land
Image Credit: Jonathan Kemper

There’s no better challenge than living off the land. While our ancestors were forced to face this challenge every single day of their lives, we can now choose to live this survival-based lifestyle known as homesteading or off-grid living. Homesteading is the act of living self-sufficiently on an individual piece of land or property, whereas off-grid living is where you live off the land but travel from location to location.

To successfully live off the land you need to have your three basic needs taken care of. These three basic needs are food, water, and shelter. The more skills you have related to these three basic needs, the better your chances of successfully living off the land. Some of these skills are hunting, fishing, foraging, gardening, etc.

Take the time to read this guide today and be ready to face the challenge of living off the land. I will tell you how to develop all the skills necessary to live off the land and not only survive but thrive in nature. These skills are invaluable, and even if you choose to return to society, you will carry this knowledge for the rest of your life. You’d be surprised how much this can help you even in regular everyday life as well.

The First Thing You Need: Mindset

Sure, you need many things to survive off the land alone, but none are more important than your mindset. Your mind can make or break you. You can have every essential you need to live, but if your mind isn’t prepared for such a drastic change, you will fail every single time.

It’s essential to prepare your mind ahead of time before you even try this challenge. Here are a few ways to prepare even at home:

  • Live with less: The most significant change you will experience is having very little. You don’t have to get rid of all your possessions; just don’t use them. Have a simple setup at home. Use only the fundamental essentials.
  • Stop using the internet for everything: You won’t have it where you’re going. If you need it for things like GPS or communication, use it only for these purposes. Stop surfing social media, stop looking up every little thing and especially stop using it for entertainment.
  • Develop a more physical routine: Your body will be providing most of what you need out in the wild. You need to be strong and capable. Spend as much time as you can moving your body; a body in motion indeed does stay in motion, and a body that isn’t doesn’t.

Unless you begin living a lifestyle closer to the one you’re preparing for, your mind may rebel against the changes. You will doubt your ability and feel frustrated if you don’t ease yourself into a significant change. Take the time, as much as you need, to adjust to this simpler lifestyle until you are comfortable.

Finding the Right Land for Your Needs

The next thing you need to do is find the land that you can live off. This is something you can do while also getting in the correct mindset, as finding land may take some time. There are some necessities you’ll need to consider when searching for your land.

The first consideration is how much space you want. You’ll need at least five acres for one person to live off successfully. Also, the more area you have, the more success you’re likely to have with hunting if that is something you’re looking for. You’ll want land that is set away from major highways and roads. It’s best to pick a forested space but with a good clearing for your living area. It can be expensive and time-consuming to clear a site yourself. Not to mention land clearing will disturb the natural setup of the land and the wildlife present.

Another important consideration is access to water. Of course, you can drill a well yourself, and having a well would be highly recommended. But it would be a great idea to find land with its natural water source for several reasons such as:

  1. Fishing
  2. Washing
  3. Irrigation
  4. Swimming and relaxation
  5. Animals suited for hunting are drawn to natural water sources

The quality of the substrate of the land is crucial as well. If you are going to be growing your food, you need land suitable for this. You can have the soil tested for viability before purchasing your land. You’ll also need to have enough clear space for growing without taking away from the area you need for your shelter and living space.

Setting Up Your New Home

Once you’ve found your perfect piece of land and have your mindset ready for this challenge, it’s time to set up your home. This is when you are getting into how to live off the land. There are many ways to set up your new simple home, and we’re going to get into the basics you need to live comfortably.

First, you need a place to sleep. The most important considerations are safety, comfort, and durability. There are many different types of shelters you can build yourself either from cheap materials you can buy, materials you find on your land, or a combination of both. Let’s take a look at different types of shelters, and then I’ll give you my recommendation of the best setup for living entirely off the land:

  • Temporary Shelters:
  1. Tarp Shelter
  2. Lean-to
  3. Debris shelters
  • Semi-Permanent Shelters:
  1. A-Frame
  2. Wedge Tarp
  3. Field-Expedient Lean-To
  • Permanent Shelters:
  1. Wickiup Shelter
  2. Cabin

If you plan to move on to your land right away instead of building your shelter while you live off the land, you may need to use each type of these shelters over time. On your first day, you can start with a simple temporary shelter. If you have a tarp, it’s great to combine a tarp shelter with a lean-to type of shelter that will last you at least a few days, weather permitting.

Once you have this basic setup, you can begin work on your semi-permanent shelter that you’ll be spending much more time in as you build your permanent shelter. An A-Frame would work; just find using materials you see around you. Then you can begin the actual work on your last shelter for your home. It’s best to work on a cabin as your final goal. This offers the most protection, insulation, and durability throughout time.

However, I would suggest first transitioning to a wickiup shelter which is like an advanced teepee. This way, you are comfortable while you are building your cabin because it will take you quite a while before it is finished. A wickiup shelter will last you until your cabin is complete, and you can even build a fire in this type of shelter, so it is the most versatile and long-lasting structure you can live in as you develop your final home.

Your Fire Pit

You will need a permanent fire pit, and if you are using a wickiup shelter, you should still have a larger fire pit outside of your shelter. It would be best if you had a fire pit for many reasons, including cooking, heat, a light at night, and deterring predators from your living space. How and where you build your fit pit is just as important as your tinder, kindling, and fuel.

Your fireplace should be sheltered, especially from the wind. Build a reasonable distance away from your shelter or other materials to prevent your fire from potentially spreading from a wind-driven spark. Make sure the ground is dry and completely clear. It’s best to have a spot at least six feet wide on all sides for your fit pit.

Digging about six inches down should be enough to start. Make sure your fire pit is very dry; if you have access to sand, it’s best to put a layer of sand in the bottom. Never use any rocks that have come out of the water for your fire pit, as they may explode when heated.

Always keep enough tinder and kindling on hand but be careful to store them away from your fire pit to prevent any accidents. It’s best to keep your fire burning as much as possible unless you have an effortless way of lighting it. The worst thing that can happen is to let your fire go out and spend hours trying to relight it.

Over time you may consider building a shelter around your fire to protect it from weather, especially if your area is prone to frequent rain. You can also build a fire on a platform if you live in an area that floods. When creating a shelter for your fire, it’s a good idea to leave at least two sides open so you can still use the light from it at night in your main living area as well as keep predators away.

Managing Food and Water

Food and water are the basics when it comes to survival. You’ll need to manage both of these as effectively as possible to live off the land successfully and comfortably. When you first move to your land, it may be good to bring some supplies to start. Non-perishable foodstuffs and water will be beneficial for getting through your first few days or weeks while you get acclimated to your new living arrangements. This also gives you time to focus on setting up your home, so when you do need to go out and find your food and water, you won’t have to worry about where and how you’ll sleep at the same time.

You can drill your own well yourself, but this may be something you want to do before you officially move to your land to have your well water tested and because it requires equipment, time, and money.

Unless you plan on bringing and maintaining a water filtration system, the only way to purify your water is through boiling. You can use water from your natural water source for this or your well water. Make sure that if you’re using a natural water source for your water, it isn’t stagnant water. Pond water usually has much more harmful bacteria than stream or river water.

You should store your water in a dry place out of the sunlight and in containers that won’t leak or mold. If you are close enough to your water source, you don’t need to store much water because you can just boil what you need as you need it.

When it comes to food, there are many ways of handling this. No matter where you are getting your food, keep in mind that you will need a storage system similar to your water. If you need to store much ahead of time, you need a dry area out of the sun. If you are storing more food and water over time, it may be a good idea to build a storage shed.

If you choose to hunt wild animals for your food, it’s best to start small. An easy source of meat in the wild is squirrels. You can hunt squirrels in several ways, and they are easy to trap. Other small animals like squirrels will be easy to obtain in the same ways. Hunting larger animals will take more time and skill and shouldn’t be your first concern. Although once you are well established, bringing down a large animal like a deer can feed you for a very long time if you store the meat properly using methods such as salting.

The best way to manage your food is to plant your crops. This way, you can choose the variety of food you have access to and even grow herbs to flavor your food. Setting up an irrigation system is much easier than you might imagine, and you can grow many different crops next to one another in a small field. Growing crops and harvesting and storing them will be the best way to prepare for the colder months, where hunting and gathering will have worse results. Always prepare to have less food in the future by properly taking care of what you have when food is plentiful.

Final Thought

Living off the land can be one of the best challenges you can ever confront in your life. With some simple preparation in your life now, you can easily adjust to living a simple life. Sometimes it will require hard work, and you may run into hard times, but it feels even better when you succeed.

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