All the technology required for the average adventurer to get off grid and thrive is not just finally available but affordable. A lifestyle almost anyone can enjoy well into their senior years is within reach.
Or just leave it behind... you can always come back again later.
Here's the formula: V(ehicle) + H(eat) + A(air conditioning) +( B(battery) * P(ower generation) ) + ( M(obile voice, texting, internet hotspot) * L(aptop computer) ) + A(ddress) + F(inancial services. eg. Bank account). You can easily substitute V for C(abin) or long term T(ent) and upgrade to a fully electric vehicle if you have the budget but let's assume here you don't.
Here are your variables: ( I(ncome) - ( G(as) + Deisel + W(ood) + S(upplies. eg Groceries.) + F(ees and taxes) ) ) - ( G(ear) + T(ools) ). For the sake of simplicity equipment repair or replacement is treated as F. (Small math joke 'cause I'm a nerd.)
A Working Example
This is a blueprint for the bare minimum. You can do much better. You can augment in ways as limited as your imagination (once you have the substantials in place). A home is an extension of you. When living on the road even more so. Consider this your opportunity to find out what really matters and generate a plan for achieving it without going broke in the meantime.
This is a good overview, even, for those who ultimately pay several thousands of dollars for a professional rig... or part timers just looking to get away from the city once in a while without the cost of maintaining a cabin on a lot somewhere.
Upon tearing out the interior of the bugout van you bought last year from that weird mechanic in town you line the interior with various kinds of insulation, seal it, and install mechanical vents. You did your research, saved enough, and the work is done. Tying your mobile home together with a durable cloth. A small table, some cabinets that fold out double for a bed. You surround your future mobile work station with extension cords you've plugged into your 2000 watt pure sign inverter which you use to convert the DC power in the battery to AC for sensitive devices.
Learn how to convert watts to amps!
Let's say you have a 100 Amp Hour 12 volt battery. That'll run 5 Amps for 20 Hours or 10 Amps for 10 hours at 12 volts. You get the idea. Check the back of common household devices to find the amps it uses and subtract that from the amps per hour you're trying to operate under.
Upon checking your 2x200 ah 12 v Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries you finish connecting the wires leading to the Charge Controller managing the flow from the 4x100 watt solar panels mounted on the roof underneath the fold-able 200 watt wind turbine you can flip up in times of need.
If all else fails your diesel fueled emergency backup power generator can fill the batteries which you've stored in an interior cabinet across the "room" from your tiny wood stove. Lithium doesn't work in sub zero temperature. You can safely run your laptop, TV, charging stations, or even a coffee maker once you've got basic heat established. You have power all the time even all night if you want. Warm and dry in a blizzard or a thunder storm.
boondocks - a remote, thinly settled rural area.
Tossed carelessly over your passenger seat is a map with little yellow dots marking all the parks, camp grounds, and generally safe wild areas where you can boondock for days or weeks at a time. For free or the occasional eleven dollar fee any time of the year. You pick your favourites and soon know the best places at the best times to make honest money.
An occasional few days helping locals care for their lawns or clearing driveways, chopping wood if you're near hobby cabins. Income enough to pay for your entire month of basic needs so you can afford to take a few online courses when you're tired of driving. Explore local attractions. Fish in every lake. Meet new people and welcome weary road friends over to your fire. Every year your family grows as you try to figure out your purpose in life. You lose count of the conversations.
Unlimited internet hotspot through your phone and your laptop can handle news, blogging, writing, and a growing Twitter audience. The videos you shoot in the middle of a living paradise are starting to bring in some scratch from Youtube. Your Twitch account highlights natural backgrounds as you play games sitting on a massive bolder overlooking a river surrounded by silent beauty.
Remember, that time you found a camper passed out while you were clearing some litter left near your fishing spot? Not breathing... that CPR course you took during swimming lessons last year paid off didn't it! Maybe you should do a first aid course next...
Green Energy Engine
Here's a breakdown of your renewable power system with pro tips and typical prices so you know what to expect whether you're gonna do this yourself or hire a friend to stack the deck for you.
Bonus Tip: Make friends with someone in every town you visit more than a few times. Always bring a gift and they'll let you store supplies for your next pass through. (Good friends have extra supplies waiting for you when you visit.)
Solar Panels - You can get them almost anywhere that carries hardware these days. NEVER pay full price for solar panels and don't worry about breaking them. These things are pooped out by machines for almost nothing now. You can always get a 100 watt panel for 33% or less of the sticker price. Do not pay much more than $200.00CDN for a 100 watt solar panel and if you're patient you can get an even better deal.
Charge Controller - Solar panels will likely come with charge controllers and you will likely not use them beyond testing the panels as you will want to buy a slightly more heavy duty single Charge Controller for around $100.00CDN. Yes, you need a good charge controller.
Lithium Battery - Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries are a must have. They can last 10 years or more and pay for themselves many times over. Battle Born is the staple brand of this industry as of this writing, though not the cheapest or highest performing; they'll cost you around 1400.00CDN (950.00US) for a 100au battery (if you are super frugal you can get away with 1 of these to start out but you will want to add more). High upfront cost but worth it. Do NOT buy anything other than Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO₄), whoever you get it from, and make sure it comes with a built in BMS (Battery Management System).
Pure Sign Inverter - There is no replacement for pure sign. Do NOT buy a modified sign inverter. Do NOT buy an adjusted sign inverter. Pure sign only. Again it will cost about twice as much for the same watt capacity, but it's critical that you only use a pure sign inverter. This is an item that also comes up on sale frequently and you can get a 1000 watt inverter for as little as 300.00CDN.
Typical Starter Build Cost
Van $600.00, Insulation $200.00, Cloth eg. denim rolls $100.00, Screws, Aluminum tape, Tuct tape (blue), several rolls of Duct tape (classic gray), Strong Glue, and Staples $100.00. You can get up and running for as little as a thousand dollars.
You can use scrap wood to build cabinets and interior structure or spend a few hundred bucks at a lumber yard. Find an old sink for 10 bucks at a garage sale. In fact you can get most of what you need at garage sales if you want to really deck it out. Whatever you do make sure a mechanic has gone over it to make sure you're not going to break down any time soon.... but if you do you're very well prepared.
Typical Monthly Overhead
Mobile device bill for phone and hotspot $50.00, Gas for Vehicle $100.00, License and insurance for van $25.00, Diesel for backup power generator $10.00, Fees for taxes, parks, campgrounds, fishing licenses and misc repair/replacement $35.00, Supplies which are food, water, stationary, hygiene, etc $200.00. You're looking at around $420.00/mnth est. on basic needs before you learn to optimize your budget.
Tips & Advice For Beginners
Doesn't hurt having a propane tank nearby for cooking. Wood is freely available or very cheap. As in $200 a cord of seasoned birch would last you all winter and the bigger concern is are you in a place where you can store a cord of wood cause you won't want to carry it all with you. Some people hunker down during winter and do more traveling the rest of the year.
Consider buying an inexpensive, undeveloped acreage for a mobile home base. Much of the year you'll be able to use electric heat rather than wood stove because of the tiny spacial imprint. You can run the vehicle to warm up as a back up emergency measure or use the diesel generator. You have options. Wood being the most effective on coldest days. It's all about the safe install of your stove pipe and vents within your tiny, sealed, insulated space.
For gear you'll have cloths, boots, blankets, outdoor dress for all weather, dishes and cookware, cameras, mics, portable HDs, tripods, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, tents of various sizes, and other items you find useful in your activities. You'll collect what you need as you go along.
Tools will include knives, little cooking stove (propane or electric), pliers, screwdrivers, saws, axe, possibly small chainsaw, striking flint and steel, bear spray, bug spray, noise makers, fishing rods, tackle, nets, walking stick and so on. Consider firearms and traps if you're gonna be deep in the bush for long periods.
Your laptop should be thin, light, cheap and disposable. Make sure it can run a free opensource video editing software and mix audio files. Store all your digital stuff on the cloud or on portable hard drives. Have backup tablet for critical functions and use your mobile device to keep in contact with loved ones on a regular basis. Keep all your devices fully charged at all times including flashlights.
Now all that's left is pick a direction and drive. Have fun and post anything interesting you find. Excelsior!