Living in The Wilderness: What to Know Before Living off The Grid

Living in The Wilderness
Andrew McKay
Written by Andrew McKay

People living in the wilderness have considered a change of pace, leaving the rat race behind and choosing to live in peace out of many troubles way. If you have been considering living off the grid and perhaps trying to live like the ancestors, what do you have to know about wilderness living, like having an organic garden, raising sheep and chicken and diving into this completely new primitive world?

In general, wildness living is about survival, which falls into two categories—staying alive and using the wilderness as a way of life.  The main emphasis is learning how to live independently, using the resources around you in order to stay alive yet fulfilled and well nourished.

Wilderness living is living in a primitive fashion, without items, including axes and guns, as much as possible. But that of course may be impossible by now because most tools we use are manufactured. In order to stay alive and live in a semi- or primitive fashion, whether it is a conscious effort, as in a hobby, you should learn of the basics about what to know to start this kind of life, whether on a temporary or a permanent basis. So, we’re here to present you the techniques and processes to live off the grid. Let’s begin.


Before anything else, you should determine the action to take, something appropriate for the environment, taking consideration the climate, the resources and so on in the place you consider to become your next home. Therefore, you will also need survival skills based on the conditions in the place where you want to live.

Living in The Wilderness

Remember, there is a major difference between living in the woods of the mainland, living in the subzero Alaska and living in the Sahara desert. In this case, you should know how incredibly different the locations are so that you can prepare with the survival skills you need to adapt and live in your desired one.

You should think of the basics first, including the time of the year you find is the easiest to start, the kind and the volume of supplies you need and whether you would have access to the civilization or not. You should also figure out how far away this new home would be and how that distance would affect your current condition and situation.

Basically, you will also need a map of the place where you are going before leaving. Know how to use a map and directions so that you don’t get lost and don’t stress in the new venture you are about to take. Determine if your survival skills are enough to handle the situation or terrain of a specific place. You should also determine if you would need sometime in adapting your body to the new weather condition, for instance.

Taking classes

Before you consider going to the wild and living there for a few days, for instance, you can consider taking some survival classes, including survival skills you will need.  It will be better to have some types of training before venturing into your fight with Mother Nature. You can also contact a few wilderness groups or   adventure organizations in your area for a couple of suggestions and stories of their experiences in the wild. The more you will be able to learn of the experiences you are about to experience will result to a better means of handling any of them.

One of best things to do is to learn identifying some plants, such as the poison oak, poison ivy and poison sumac so that you will be able to avoid them when you are in the wild. As you know, part of living in the wild also entails your knowledge and skills of what to encounter in this new environment, which does not have the convenience and uselessness that you are already aware of in this civilization.

And then, there are also plants that can irritate your sin, such as the cow parsnip with saps that can make your skin very sensitive to the sun, causing it blisters that can be so painful. You should know the terrain on your best ability, in short, before venturing into wild living.

Living in the wild class

In all cases, you should keep your head cool at all times in the new environment and best way to do that is to know as much as you can about it, preparing you with important information you need to know before  you head into it. As you may already know, being unsure and nervous can make you commit to big irreversible mistakes. So in short, you should train yourself to avoid any mishaps while in the wild.

Collecting your things

You should gather your belongings and items in one backpack with everything you will need before going, and it has to contain all the items, which are important but are also easy to carry to avoid the burden of carrying something that may be even heavier than you are.

It will just slow you down and make you tired easily, not allowing you to enjoy your stay and adventure in the wild. You should know that living in this type of environment will mean a lot of foraging and exploring and you will not be able to do these things properly if you would have to take a very heavy luggage with you.

This backpack should contain everything you need on the go, so invest on a sturdy backpack you can rely on when living in the woods, for instance.  Before leaving, pack as much but make sure they are not hard to carry. You should also learn how to pack the bag to the brim, while you are carrying it. Take note, it is also important to have packing skills for this activity.

Purifying water and keeping it clean

In addition to food, make sure that your water is purified, something critical to keep you safe from water-borne diseases coming from contaminated and dirty water.  Perhaps, you cannot really be sure if the water from the freshwater system in the wild is clean because it may contain debris of a dead animal upstream.

The easiest way that you can purify water is through boiling it for at least 10 minutes to ensure that bacteria from the water can be killed. See our article on how boiling kills harmful bacteria that can harm. You can also make use of iodine tablets, which you should use based on directions of the maker.  Aside from boiling or using iodine tablets, you can make use of a water filter straw that you can buy online.

Drink clean water

You can also pre-filter water before drinking using another piece of material, including a clean bandana. Remember, however, the minimum filter size to use is from one to two microns, allowing particles of these sizes to pass through the filter, but best is to use a smaller micron size to filter the water better (although it may take some time to filter water). The easiest to use of all these could be a gravity filter, that is if you could bring one because all you would ever need to do is to pour the water in and do more chores you need to accomplish.

See: Best Gravity Water Filter: The Most Effective Water Filtration/Purification Kits

Speaking of water filtering and purification, you should also keep water clean and safe, something to do if you would be able to keep clean water containers that can keep every single drop of water clean. But in order that you keep your water clean in these storage systems, you should also sterilize them by boiling them for 10 minutes to ensure that all part of them are actually clean to keep your water clean, too.

Signaling for help

When you need some help, you won’t want to miss some chance of someone rescuing you. In this case, it is important that you bring some rescue signals, including whistles. You can also bring a gear to help others determine where you are, but there are some basic ideas to help you prepare for it, especially if you forget taking some gears for signaling.

First, you should learn building a signal fire. You can also learn and make use of a mirror or any reflective objective that can flash the horizon when sending an SOS signal. Alternatively, you can make use of emergency beacon devices you can buy online.

Learning of survival techniques

Do not start living off the grid had you not educated and versed yourself of survival skills. In this case, you may want to learn a few before needing them, and some include building fire, building shelter, preparing a survival kit and so on.  Next thing is to prepare your physical condition, no matter what. You should start exercising now so that you can be in shape before starting with your new life.

Start exercising

Nonetheless, you should have both physical fitness and important skills before you will need first aid. You can consider learning new things as well, and some of them include eating edible insects and grubs (seriously!). Okay now, you will also need a supply list, so you will not have to worry about your life and safety in case you decided to stay in the woods for five days, for instance.

Some of the basics you would need including utilities, such as netting, rope and knives, pistol or rifle, flashlights and lanterns (with extra batteries and oils), vitamin C source, blankets, water filters, matches, fire steel, axe, area map, compass, mirrors, flares and whistles (for quick rescue just in case), sewing and tool kit, radio transmitter and quite a couple of other things you deem important based on the terrain or place you are heading.

Packing the right clothes

Don’t forget bringing the right clothes. This is a no-brainer, but you don’t wear and bring light clothes in a subzero and heavy, thick clothes in the desert.  In general, there are three rules to follow. Cotton is rotten and good friends will not let you bring cotton.

One thing is that cotton is not good in terms of retaining their warmth, especially when they get wet. So, in this case, you cannot depend on cotton clothes to survive the wear and tear, although it is light and comfortable. In short, cotton is not the way to go when planning to live in the wild, even for a couple of days.  Instead, pack with clothing that can survive the wild, including those made for surveyors, loggers and anglers. They will last, although they are quite heavy.

Don’t think twice of taking some extra layers off when you feel hot and wearing some on when you feel cold. And remember, it is best to have enough of clothes than to run out of them because you can always have something to replace one that gets wet or you will have additional layers to keep you warm in case.

You can depend on Merino wool for this purpose. They don’t get wet that easily, so you can bring some jackets made of them depending on the terrain or weather in the place you are going. You can also get pains and jackets for snow and rain, especially in places where temperatures can be over 4 degrees Celsius.

Setting up camp

Find a secure site to stay, somewhere close to the water source but far enough from any danger from animals that stay around water sources.  In addition to finding a secure spot, you should find a stable ground, ideally far from any drop-offs, rocky areas and watery areas—all these may bring you close to the dangers of the elements.

Start building fire

Apart from finding a secure spot in the wild, you should also start building a fire so that you can stay warm and feel comfortable in the wild. Do not build a fire near your valuables and food supply to avoid them from being burned.  Do not cook with the flame right away, but you can first let it sit. The open flame creates a hot coal bed that will burn your food instantly. Wait for the fire to sit before cooking with it.

To start a fire, you can first find birch barks that are perfect to start fires, especially in cold places.  On the other hand, hemlock bows are good if you are looking to keep the mosquitoes and flies away. Nevertheless, you should take extra caution when working with fire and do not leave it unattended for your safety and of the woods.

When done building a fire, you can start making a shelter something that can provide you home while you are in the wild. So, you should have your basic structure, a place where you can sleep is one.  Build a better shelter if you are looking to stay longer in the wild. In this case, you may consider building something stronger and that can support your activities the longer you are planning to stay out there.

Build a better shleter

Overall, think of safety, so never sleep on bare ground. It might get you sick.  You should have a sort of flooring in your shelter. Make use of some leaves, hemlock bows and hay.  Do not sleep in the dirt, or else, you will freeze, especially if you are in a cold location.

Part of shelter is also prioritizing water because you cannot last days without it. They say that people can last up to a month without food but cannot without water. You should stake out some sources where you can rely on for water. If you have a couple of containers, you can fill them in massive quantities so that you will never have to go back to the source every day.

Apart from it, you can also collect morning dew from leaves and grasses using some clean cloth or rag that you can squeeze into your container, although this may not be the cleanest water source you can imagine. This can help you keep yourself hydrated—most importantly.

Considering and meeting your basic needs

In the wild, you should possess the basic skills of trapping, gathering and hunting, a few of the basic survival skills you will need in order to keep yourself nourished. You must be educated of these skills so that you can get food. You can also tap on the resources, including streams and rivers, which can be full of fish and marine food sources. In the sky, there are birds you can hunt and cook to survive, and in the ground, there are edible plants to eat as well.

Outdoors rules infogrpahic

As you can see, Mother Nature offers everything for you, but you just have to learn gathering them for yourself. Aside from learning how to hunt and gather food, it will also help you stay alive if you would learn how to distinguish edible and non-edible food sources (especially mushrooms and plants).   In short,  you will be able to enjoy your stay in the wild if you possess more skills that can help you adapt with the changes in the terrain and climate of the place where you are planning to head for wilderness living.

When in the wild, do not eat anything, unless you know and exactly know it is edible. You can find a book about the flora and fauna in your locality for an easier distinction on plants to eat and not to eat. Apart from recognizing the edible plants in the wild, you should have a good storage system, something you can keep dry and free from contaminants. You should also have a good storage system to keep scavengers from posing a threat to your food supply.

Taking care of business

Apart from such tips that we’ve mentioned above in managing your life in the wild, you should also know how to take care of your business and that includes taking toilet breaks. You should have a toilet of some sort, but make sure that it is not near your water source. Perhaps, you can find and dig a hole for a temporary toilet. If you have constructed something like an outhouse, you might get your butt frozen into wood if you would not put a stryofoam over the toilet seat.

Learning how to walk in a straight line

When in the wild, a good sense of direction is important so that you don’t get lost but you can track your point of origin (temporary home) without any problem. When taking a trip away from your shelter, you should be able to navigate properly. To help you on this purpose, you can make use of a backmarking signs, but make sure that they are behind you.

Learn to navigate

You can also make use of the sun, moon and trees in navigating, something appropriate for people gifted with an internal compass.

Being safe

When you’re alone in the wild, it may be hard to live. Before heading into this adventure then, you should learn how to become your own doctor by learning quite a couple of first aid techniques, such as cleaning and mending a wound.

The main reason is that you will be everything in this adventure if you chose going alone. So, possessing basic first aid knowledge and skills might be able to help you in taking care of yourself, including during emergencies requiring you to put a splint to yourself in case.  But if you break a leg, you should be able to find immediate help because you cannot just move with your leg broken. What you should then do is to us a reliable signaling system, including a beacon device, a whistle or some sort of smoke. You may also depend on a radio or a phone for help.

Final tips

If you enjoy living in this setup and you decide to settle there for good, you should also consider setting up your garden, but make sure that it’s far from animals.  You should also learn how to stock up for the winter by stocking food, firewood and water to last for a couple of months. Lastly, don’t forget making your home stronger to keep it stable against the elements.

There you have the basics you need when deciding to live in the wild, whether temporarily or for good.  Remember, this is not a decision you make overnight, but it takes some time.  You should always keep yourself on top of the situation once you have decided living in the forest or similar outcast environments.  So, when considering transition from city to wild living, think logically and don’t go for it unless you’re sure and ready.

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Feel free telling us any tips or techniques to living off the grid you think would help our community. Finally, bookmark and share this guide to people also deciding living away from it all.

For more tips on how to live off the grid, go see our article on this important topic.

About the Author

Andrew McKay

Andrew McKay

Andrew McKay is a seasoned hunter and fisherman from Anchorage, Alaska. Andrew thinks that he is the luckiest person in the world, as he lives in the most gorgeous place in United States and does what he loves to do. As a member of Alaska Professional Hunters Association and International Hunter Education Association, he is always looking for the ways to improve his skills and to teach people around him.


  • You don’t have to do it alone; humans were able to survive by banding in groups, so I’d find a group of survivalists to join or create my group. It only increases your chance to survive longer.

    • That’s a great idea, Marco. In fact, the wilderness adventure away from home will be more entertaining when you engage nature as a group.

  • I can’t help noticing that the first image is of a makeshift house behind a man who’s supposedly living in the wilderness. Is this legal? Won’t putting up a shelter or any other makeshift building in the wilderness some sort of trespassing?

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