So you’re fed up of spending all of your hard earned cash on bills, and you’ve decided that you want to live a more simple and self-sufficient lifestyle. Sound’s like you need some tips about living off the grid.
The Vanlife movement is sweeping the world by storm, and more and more people are handing back their house keys in favour of the open road. You might have read the article on What Off Grid Living Is Really Like by our full time vanlifers Seb & Rose, so we’ve thrown the question of ‘How To Live Off Grid’ in a camper to them. They’ve been living off the grid for around nine months now and have a few tips and tricks that might help you on your way to becoming an off grid hero.
Take it away guys!
Living Off The Grid
The idea of living without any of the amenities that we’ve always had to hand can be extremely daunting, especially as most of us have relied on them for our entire lives. Trust us though; living off the grid is much easier than you think. You just need the right tools and a little bit of know how.
We’ve been living off the grid full time for the past nine months now, and we’re going to share five of our top tips with you that we’ve picked up from building and living in our self converted camper.
SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT – We’re going to be referring to the electrical system in our van in this article. If you’re going through a self build yourself or just like reading about vans, then you should check out the ‘How To Build A Camper’ E-book that we’ve brought out in conjunction with Van Clan. Check it out here!
Right, plug over – on with the tips!
Get Some Good Park Up Spots
The first thing you need to consider before you start living off the grid in a camper is where your van is going to live. The beauty of having a free lifestyle means that you can park up and sleep wherever you want, within reason of course, and some places are always going to be better than others.
This will totally depend on what city or area that you live in. We’re lucky because we’ve got a lot of greenery around us, but we still park up on public roads and near other houses. It’s all about assessing the area.
- Pick a quiet spot where not many people go up an down on a night. It’s always best not to park outside businesses that have 24 hour security, or they’ll tell you to move when you’re laughing too loud whilst watching Taskmaster…..
- Chose a few different spots so that you’re not always in the same place. People are often wrapped up in their own worlds and don’t notice you, but it’s a good idea to have a few spots, if only for the change of scenery!
- Put a wheel clamp on your tyre even when you’re inside the van. After all, why would anyone be chilling out in a clamped vehicle?
- Blackout curtains are great for stealth camping too. We can have lights on inside the van and you can’t even notice that anyone is in from inside the van…unless smoke is coming out of the chimney of course.
Of course, if you have a nice bit of field or a friendly farmer then none of these things will even matter. We’re assuming that, like us, you live and work in a city. If not, then feel free to paint your van bright yellow and throw caution into the stealth camping wind.
Solar & Electrics
You can’t charge up laptops and phones whilst living off the grid, right? Wrong! We have two 12 volt batteries inside our van, and they power everything from our 12v fridge through to our TV when we want to binge a bit of Netflix.
It’s all about having the right gear to charge your batteries and keep them topped up, and also the right units to be able to power your appliances.
Charging The Batteries
We have two 100w Solar Panels on the roof of our van that create free electric for us every day. As long as there’s a bit of light, our solar panels are converting the suns rays into battery juice and constantly topping up our batteries. Our 12v fridge has never stopped running since we fitted it at the beginning of our full time van life; it’s a great feeling using a natural energy source for what would have once cost us hundreds of pounds.
If the sun isn’t shining, we also have a split charge relay that charges up our batteries whenever the engine is on. It doesn’t matter whether you’re stationary or on a long journey, the relay will charge your batteries up and provide some tasty voltage for your charging needs.
Utilising The Power
If you’re just charging a phone or using a USB device then a 12v socket will do just fine. But what if you need to charge laptops or use a food processor? You’re going to need an inverter for that. They come in different sizes and power ratings and convert your 12v batter power into the house 240v that you’ve come to know and love. We’re not going to bore you with the details, just know that its totally possible. And if you do want to know how to do it then buy our E-Book; there’s about 80 pages on electrics in it!
Find A 24 Hour Gym…& Some Good Friends
So we’ve covered where you’re going to sleep and how you’re going to charge your phone, now you need to know how to stay clean. We wondered how we would cope with not having a shower, and the truth is we haven’t noticed that much of a difference. No, we don’t smell, we have a membership with a 24 hour gym that has full shower facilities. The cost is way less than a water bill, plus we can keep fit at the same time.
Washing and drying can be a challenge, but you just need to plan ahead. We were planing on using laundrettes when we started living off the grid, but our friends thought that what we were doing was so cool that they instantly gave us full access to their washers and dryers (plus it also helps to have parents that don’t live a million miles away)
If you don’t have a laundrette or any friends near by, then check out the Scrubba Washbag – a portable washing machine for the road.
Cook Fresh Meals & Make Meal Plans
This one shouldn’t be too hard, even if you’re living off the grid, but we’ve included it because it can be tempting to eat out a lot now that you’re saving tonnes of money. You might have made meal plans whilst you lived in a house, but now you can spend time visiting markets instead of rushing down to Waitrose.
Making a meal plan means that you’re only buying what you need one week at a time. this avoids food going off and any wastage, plus if you’re living off the grid in a camper then you don’t have masses of space to store 10kg bags of rice or a box of pineapples anyway.
Get yourself a RidgeMonkey before you go off grid. It’s essentially a sandwich toaster that you can put on top of your stove, but if you get the XL version then its big enough to cook pizzas, fish, lasagne and any other oven based meals that you thought you were going to have to live without. Just because you’re living off grid doesn’t mean that you have to give up the good stuff.
You’re also going to need water for cooking, so build a water system thats easy to access and learn the points where you can get free water from; outdoor taps, gyms, graveyards friends houses etc.
Get A Reliable Heat Source
From hot water bottles through to coal fires, you should consider equipping your camper with something that will keep you warm when the temperature drops. Living off the grid means that you’re on your own when it comes to having a gas or electric provider, but you can easily keep your rolling home warm with a few different options.
We installed a woodburner in our van and we’ve never regretted our decision. It kept us alive over winter, warming our van up to 22 degrees C when it was -8 outside, and coal and wood are pretty cheap to come by. If we build it up right then it stays warm until we wake up in a morning too, which means we can keep it going constantly if we need to.
We decided to go for a coal fire instead of a gas night heater because we do a lot of cooking and wanted to keep the gas solely for cooking. However many people prefer them to a coal fire because they aren’t as messy and you can control them remotely, but we knew we wanted the country kitchen feel in our van.
Check out Gas & Diesel night heaters, and also have a look on our previous articles about our coal fire so that you can compete the two.
Living off the grid is incredibly rewarding, but it’s definitely a case of ‘you get out what you put in’. It might be harder than just turning up at home and flicking on the TV or going for a shower, but you have much more free time and less restraints holding you back, leaving you to go and enjoy the world and make some awesome memories.
We work whilst living in our camper, and we’re stockpiling money for our trip around the world. If you have any questions about how we live our off grid lifestyle, contact us at vincentvanlife.com and we’ll help you out as best we can!
Written by Seb & Rose @vincentvanlife