top 10 off grid challenges and hardships

30 Oct


So far it’s been quite an adventure moving off the grid.

Not all of it has been a bed of roses, there were challenges and hardships but there’s a silver lining and solution for everything. Time, patience and ingenuity has proved to be the best way to look at things, however a little bit of comfort can be resolved with (are you ready for it) … a few products.

That’s right.

Putting a little bit of money into consumer products really can make life more enjoyable and help with productivity.

off grid challenge #10 – privacy & socializing

Believe it or not this has been a challenge. I want to live off the grid to get privacy and solitude, yet not all the time. Sometimes I’ve sought company, but the right sort of company. I’ve been interrupted on multiple occasions just when I needed (or was getting into the zone). Nobody is at fault here, it’s just a process. My feeling is some people seeking community living want companionship and teamwork. This can pose a bit of a threat to a writer, creative, computer geek or any introvert wanting a bit of time. Other times, it’s nice to have help with tasks that are difficult for one person or where knowledge is limited.

solutions: define your personal boundaries, position your abode in the area with the least traffic, find people that also seek solitude by emphasizing the benefit of cooperation and pooled resources (social activity can be planned instead of being a daily occurrence), have a system to indicate when you are busy if people can’t respect your space, invite and arrange time away and with friends, carefully screen the people in your living situation, attract people with similar interests and philosophies.

off grid challenge #9 – animals

When you live on a hundred acres in the middle of the forest you need to be aware of the possible dangers or pests. That includes bears, wolves, coyotes, moose and mice. Not much else is really a threat, except bugs (but that’s a whole new topic). I’ve had a few bears, coyotes and wolves walk into camp this summer and basically leave me alone. I’ve more or less animal proofed. The mice do get in sometimes.

solutions: I keep my camp clean. I lock things up and leave no food or smells lying around, including in the RV. That means doing dishes right away and disposing of the dish water in a methodical way by using it for my toilet water and than burying my compost. As for mice, everything is in sealed glass or metal containers. I set traps (sorry, they are cute but it’s me or them) and dispose of them in the woods where something else consumes the carcass. Nothing gets wasted. I also have an air horn to scare away the animals and keep my keys handy so I can get into one of the two vehicles.

off grid challenge #8 – keeping the RV clean

Living in the woods means lots of leaves, dust, dirt and sometimes mud. The cleanliness is extra important for health, animals, bugs and general hygiene. Even though it’s a small space, it’s quite a deliberate and time consuming event to clean up because it’s a daily task.

solutions: I take my shoes off and end up sweeping the floor about 3 times a day. I also wipe down the counter and spray with my tea tree oil, vinegar water mixture frequently. Leaves it smelling fresh and disinfects too.

off grid challenge #7 – bathroom duty

Going to the bathroom is fine. I have a toilet but…I have to empty that toilet every 3 weeks or so. I dig a hole and empty my collection bucket. Not the nicest of tasks but it’s bearable.

solutions: I have a few solutions for next year. The first being a bigger container, so I can empty it less frequently. I use as little water as I can (my recycled dish water). The next is to get a maceration pump which breaks down the waste and carries it to a hole with piping. I may also consider a compost toilet or compost out house (luxury style) that only needs attention about twice a year.

off grid challenge #6 – weather

There is no avoiding the weather. It is what it is. Sometimes it’s too hot and humid, other times it’s cold, sometimes it’s damp and recently it’s been rainy and windy. You learn to adjust and accept it.

solutions: I’ve had to deal with the humidity by opening windows. Using shade and fans is also an effective solution. There are many solar powered fans or low use DC powered ones. As for the cold, more clothes, blankets and a propane space heater generally do the trick. With the heater, I can only turn it on for a short period of time to make sure I don’t “poison” myself. Next year I’ll have a proper portable building with some form of a fireplace, possibly a rocket stove / heater. As for the damp, wet and wind…batten down the hatches and get a good book or movie for the computer.

off grid challenge #5 – space

Sometimes I feel a bit cramped. The RV is not a perfect use of space and when it rains I can feel a little trapped.

solutions: I generally keep a minimal amount of stuff. Things that can be stored outside, remain outside. I have made the best use of the RV space, added shelves and made a special shelf to sit above the driver seat. I also removed the second sink to make a little more space in the back closet area. Next year, working with a 12 ft X 8 Ft square space will be much better. All in all it was pretty good to have my own four walls. When the weather was good, I stayed outside in the screened in tent, went for a walk or a swim and kept busy wood working or enjoying nature.

off grid challenge #4 – keeping clean

Keeping the RV clean is one thing and certainly plays a role in keeping yourself clean. When it’s cold or damp, it’s tough to keep clean.

solutions: During the summer, I was able to swim quite a bit. I also have a shower stall but no water hook up, so I had to boil my water and add it to a container. I then used a cup to wash and rinse my hair and body. I also have a spray bottle with tea tree oil, vinegar and water that gives my body a pretty good clean, partial or full. Laundry was hand washed and hung on the dryer unless it rained too much, than I went to the laundromat. Next year, I’ll be building an easily movable but contained shower that heats itself using plexi glass and metal, I’ll use a portable water to go machine for heating the water and providing pressure. Worse case scenario is to buy a solar shower and build an outside stall but I will have to bug proof it or else I’ll be eaten alive.

off grid challenge #3 – power

This was by far a little more of a challenge than I expected. I have very little in the way of electrical devices, mostly lighting, my computer and tablet but when you need it, it seems to run out. Just to keep those item charged requires a bit more than a 120Watt solar system with one crappy 12V battery. I also had power tools to run and if I didn’t use them, I would add to my carpal tunnel and hand strain.

solutions: Currently the solution is a generator, a 5000W generator to use for the tools and give me back up power. We are slowly working on a solar solution with at least 500 Watts of power, preferably 1kw to produce enough that we don’t worry. Storing it may involve a rotating system of 2 6V batteries. Eventually, I want to add wind and look at power solutions that involve kinetic energy so batteries can be reduced…eventually, but not yet. I don’t want to be isolated from society, communication and my writing (as well as lighting) so I want a little bit of power. I also want a fridge and the ability to do a few things we take for granted with a little more ease.

off grid challenge #2 – comfort

It wasn’t too bad this year but “I ain’t getting any younger”. In my mid forties I get some aches and pains. It’s harder to climb things and I don’t recover as quickly. General luxuries help.

solutions: Generally, it’s about stages of comfort…I call it stepping stones, which is about taking it in little steps to improve your situation. Keeping the bugs out is the first thing. A comfy chair is next. Improving lighting follows. Next year I’m adamant to have a nice plush comfy bed, in fact, I want a whole 100 foot room for just that purpose, sleep and comfort with another 100 foot building as a kitchen and living area. The bathroom and shower will probably be separate. I also want a comfy (perhaps recliner) chair to lounge, rest and read. A good desk chair and counter top to work on for both food preparation and my writing would be a bonus. Heating and cooling are always something to work on. Fortunately, I’m most of the way there.

off grid challenge #1 – bugs

This year the bugs were bad. The bugs were bad outside, so bad you couldn’t go outside without the right gear and they were getting in all the cracks, screen holes and crevices. At first I wasn’t completely prepared for it and money held me back but…I’m a hearty Canadian so I toughed it out.

solutions: I used mesh from a fabric store to cover all the windows and openings on the RV. I also sealed things up. This kept the bugs out. I then bought a screened tent, a great find for $8 at the thrift store and with some found plywood for a floor it made a comfortable area for every to sit. I also had to wear pants and got some thin summer ones, the kind that convert to shorts. Topping it off with a couple light spring jackets for a couple dollars from the thrift store and a mosquito netting hat completed the challenge. Keeping lights down and closing the doors quickly is easy to practice if you are used to it…not so easy to get guests to understand that – spending my youth at the family cottage and camping taught me the value of coming in and out quickly.

There you have it.

Not everything was hunky dory and there are still a few solutions to be developed but…challenges and hardships exist in every facet of life. How you approach it will determine your level of success. This summer was a great success…I’m still here. I endured and mostly enjoyed it all.


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