Three Things

Heading off grid involves a bit of planning. But only a bit. Basically, you need three things when you go off grid:

  • vehicle
  • sleeping bag
  • stove

Simple as that. I’ll get into some details about this and some other gear, like baby wipes v wash cloth, but for now, just three things. That’s it, just three things. And you probably already have one or two of them!

The Vehicle
This is the easy part. Maybe you’ll just take your car, maybe rent. Not that it’s easy to get, but it’s a simple thing (btw: there are always different ways to get what you need<link to green tortoise>). I’ll elaborate later in other posts because the vehicle issue matters, yet few folks have many options when it comes to vehicles, either they have one or will rent one. I’ll talk about the ideal (a pickup or SUV) later. For now, any car that can easily drive 1000 miles. Not that you’ll be driving that, necessarily, but you get the picture. Reliable transportation! (TIP: compact and economy cars are excellent given reliability and efficiency; also, if you rent, get insurance).

Oh yeah, going off grid does not mean going four wheeling. It could mean driving on gravel roads with a couple miles of washboards, but nothing that you need to drive fast over, and just about any car can drive on graded gravel. That said, the main thing the car must have is good tires. Don’t even go if you don’t have good tires. It goes from, it’s unusual to get a flat in a new tire,,,, to you’ll  definitely get a flat in a tire more than 3/4 worn.  That said, I’ve rarely gotten a flat. And I just got a 4WD truck, but didn’t need the 4WD, so far.

The Sleeping Bag
Where you sleep matters a lot, obviously. You can get a sleeping bag and stay in your car, although that is a really bad idea when you can get a tent for under $100. Therefore, go ahead and get a tent, even if you plan on sleeping in the car. (TIP: the car is an excellent place to retreat to in nasty weather, NO COOKING IN THE CAR).

All sleeping bags are rated for the lowest temperature that they will work. A 30˚ bag is good down to freezing (32˚F), but things wont stay warm in that bag if the temperature drops below 30˚. So the question is which temperature rating to go with? In general, get a bag rated 10˚ below the coldest it gets at night. In the high desert of the Southwest, temperatures can dip into the 40s at night in Summer, so a 30˚ bag would be ideal for me, except that sometimes it gets a little cooler, so I have a 20˚ bag. In fact, I have a down comforter that I use instead of a sleeping bag. I just hate being constrained in a bag and I’m very warm natured. If you are cold natured, or just get cold easily, or just scared about it, don’t worry, there’s plenty of ways to stay warm. Bring a friend.

(TIP: Get a sleeping bag that can zip open at the feet; it’s a great way to keep warm while staying up late watching shooting stars. BTW: there are shooting stars every night off grid!)

One last word about sleeping bags, just get one. They get more expensive as they get lighter for backpacking. Don’t get a backpacking sleeping bag, unless you’re going backpacking. Also, just get the shape you like. Check out the zipper; most zippers are ok, but some are just annoyingly sticky or loud, what’s with that?

The Stove
As far as I’m concerned, the stove is about making coffee. Since I realize that there are other concerns which I take on in the pretense of writing a guide (of any kind) for a general audience and that one of these concerns would be hot food, I must concede that indeed, the stove has multiple uses in standard culinary fashion and deployment.

That said, it’s really about the coffee. Any time of day. Whether it’s coffee at midnight to watch a few hours of meteor shower or the sunrise over the canyon or coffee in the shade of a juniper beside a road rising to a pass in Nevada, coffee hits the spot. In reality, just drinking hot water first is truly the off grid way a friend of mine learned in outdoor training. And I always, ALWAYS have green tea. Somehow, coffee doesn’t do it sometimes, and green tea does. And then there’s Ramen, don’t get me started on Ramen.

Getting a stove is easy, as is all the gear I’ll recommend, you can get it at Walmart/Target or REI. REI is better. I’ll cover the details about the stove, but it needn’t be more than a single burner that screws onto the top of the gas canister.