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  • Eric Craig

7 Tips for North Idaho Off Grid Living

Updated: Jan 20

Going off-grid is an exciting and rewarding experience, but it also comes with its own set of unique challenges. You could technically go cold turkey although the adaptation would take longer, or you could go slowly and make your way into a 100% off-grid life.

Here are 7 things to consider if you’re planning to go off-grid:

Tip #1 - Power Considerations

One of the most important things to consider when going off-grid is how you will power your home. No one wants to live in a mountain cabin with candles or a single bulb at night.

There are several options to powering your retreat; including solar, wind, or hydro power. Consider the cost, maintenance, and reliability of each option and choose the one that best suits your needs and budget (or a combination of several options!) Also keep in mind that you should have somewhat around 20% extra power capacity, as running a very tight fitting off-grid power supply system might cause you a lot of headaches in the future.

Tip #2 - Water

Access to clean and reliable water is crucial when going off-grid.

Consider how you will collect, store, and treat your water. Options include drilling a well, using a cistern for storage, spring-fed system, or installing a rainwater harvesting system. Keep in mind that although you need clean, potable water for your home, gardening and some livestock can get by just fine with untreated spring or creek water, so having running water cutting through your property is a major asset!

"The addage “Water is Life” is absolutely crucial to living off grid in comfort."

Tip #3 - Waste Management

Waste management: When going off-grid, it is important to consider how you will manage your waste. Options include composting toilets, greywater systems, and incineration toilets. The most common option among homesteaders is to run a septic tank, and in this case you’re not tied to the sewer grid at all, but remember that septic tanks require regular maintenance.

Tip #4 - Food Production

Growing your own food is an important aspect of going off-grid. Consider how you will grow your food, whether through gardening, raising animals or both. Take into account the local climate, soil composition, and amount of land you have available. Vertical gardening and aquaponics are excellent ways to capitalize on smaller parcels, and the quality of the crops is just as good as regular gardens. Another important topic here is to understand and prepare for the winter, as North Idaho is known for having rather severe winter days. Can your garden survive the winter and, even better, still yield produce throughout the winter months? There are ways to improve harvest yields during the winter, but that’s a whole different conversation for another post…

Tip #5 - Transportation

Consider how you will get around when you are off-grid. Will you rely on a vehicle, or will you use alternative forms of transportation such as a bicycle or horseback? How often would you need a vehicle to visit the nearest town? Do you need 4-wheel drive to access your property after it rains or snows? All of these questions must be thought of prior to going fully off-grid. On the same note, would you need a tractor to manage snowfall or other large projects? Think of every item that you would need to move around, short or long distances…

Tip #6 - Communications

How you will stay connected with the outside world when you are off-grid? Options include satellite phones, HAM radios, and internet services such as satellite internet. In fact, did you know that North Idaho was selected as one of the first test sites for SpaceX “Starlink” service? Reception around here is great and connectivity to the internet will definitely not be an issue. Fiber Optic connections are also available in many areas. You should also consider how much you need cell service, as the surrounding mountains of North Idaho might cripple the signal you get at your property.

Tip #7 - Community

Finally, keep in mind the power of a great community when going off-grid. Are there other like-minded people in your area who are also going off-grid? Building relationships with your neighbors can be a valuable resource, whether it's for sharing resources or having someone to rely on in an emergency. I have lost count how many times I have either offered or received assistance from neighbors, from getting rid of snow on my driveway (it was a lot, seriously) or helping them move trailers and equipment up a steep hill with the Jeep, or simply splitting firewood for new neighbors…

Tight-knit communities are one of the greatest benefits on North Idaho.

Long story short, going off-grid can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it is important to consider these factors before making the jump. Take the time to research and plan, take one step at a time and focus on small, compound progress, and you'll be on your way to a successful and sustainable off-grid lifestyle in no time.

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