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Off-Grid Essentials

Usually, I write about why we choose to live a minimalistic lifestyle, but these five items made our six months off-grid possible, so I am going to rant and rave about them:

1. A Berkey

Water. An essential piece of any household, on or off-grid. Before we purchased our Berkey water filter we were spending an unimaginable amount of money on potable water. It takes a lot to keep a family of five moving and grooving. Our Berkey takes the water worry out of the equation. The 2.5-gallon water filter takes about 6 hours to clean the water dumped into its top. After the water makes its way through the filter it is drinkable. We drink spring water, and campground water with no worries.

Our closest water up on the range was five miles away. We would drive our three water tanks (one 55 gallon tank and two 25 gallon tanks) to the neighboring primitive campground, and our friend Colin (a fellow camp host from Maine) would help us fill them. We made this trip once every two or three days, more on laundry days!

*We have learned to make sure the top of the Berkey is full at night before bed, so there is always plenty of water for coffee in the morning.

2. Honey Wagon

It is not as sweet as it sounds. Honey Wagon is just a nice name for shit tank. Our portable dump tank is what we used to empty our black tank. Yes, the poop. Up on the mountain our camper was not hooked up to a septic system. Jake (God Love him) emptied our 28-gallon black tank into the 28-gallon Honey Wagon. He attached the honey wagon to the hitch of the truck because shit is heavy, and nobody wants to lift it. Then he dumped the smelly contents of the wagon into the sewer tank provided for the hosts. At no point in time does Jake actually come in contact with the waste. However, just seeing it through the tubing is too much for me.

The Black Tank is the least glamorous part of RV living off grid, and I am so grateful it was not my chore. Thank you, Jake.

3. Washing Machine/Spin Dryer

Everyone wants to know how we did our laundry… The simple daily chores of off-grid life are the most intriguing.

We have a small washing/spin drying combination machine. When we first arrived in Colorado, it took me two trips to the laundry mat to realize we needed a different solution to dirty clothes. As a family of five, we make a lot of dirty laundry, and I was not spending my days off in a laundry mat.

Before we took the nomadic plunge, I remembered reading about this super washing machine on multiple blogs and saw it on a few fulltime family YouTube videos. For less than 200 dollars, it was worth the risk. Hell, if it worked for three months the cost of the washer would pay for itself. Going to a laundry mat is not cheap, especially when the closest one is over an hour away.

We bought the little washer on Amazon, and it was delivered to our mailbox. Our first laundry day at home was an exciting one! Each load of laundry uses 3-5 gallons of water to wash and rinse it. Remember, Jake carried every drop of water that this family used up on Rampart Range Twice! Once before we used it, and once after! While we were camping on the river (First month and a half in Colorado) this task was a little easier. At 9,300 feet up on the mountain, with the closest water being five miles away, the task was a little more time consuming.

So long story short! We did laundry much like everyone else, just in a smaller washer and without plumbing! The grey water used for the laundry was drained into our honey wagon and dumped the same way as the black tank.

We hung our clothes to dry, after they came out of the spinner. A few minutes on a line in the Colorado sunshine and our laundry was good to go!

I know I’m too excited about doing laundry in the woods, but it was a great feeling being able to hang out at home and do chores. I hate going into town for anything but fun. Being able to get something done, while I read my book in our beautiful backyard was incredibly satisfying.

As for the durability of this little miracle washing machine? She is a beast. We did not go easy on her. These kids get their clothes filthy, we have pets, and we wash a lot of bedding. This little washing machine handled it all with grace and showed no signs of slowing down.

10/10 recommend for anyone who needs some clothes washed. RV… or apartment… if you go to a laundry mat, STOP NOW.

4. The Generator

This one is important. Our source of electricity for the season.

Some (most) camp host positions come with a campsite that includes full hook-ups (sewer, water, and electricity). However, those positions usually involve living in close quarters with other people. Anyone who knows us knows that we prefer the woods. We love dealing with campers, and meet all sorts of cool people up here, but the vibe is different than any RV Park. We would not trade our spot tucked away between boulders for anything, not even hookups.

Our camper has two batteries (Jake knows the specifics, I am not here for that). While we dI’d laundry or charged our work radios, the generator was running, and the camper battery got a charge. Said charge will run all our appliances, and any other 12V device for days before the camper batteries need another charge.

So, although our generator needed to be running to watch the television, everything else in the camper works off the battery. The lights, fridge, furnace, etc.

Electricity is for the birds, haha! Our generator did us fine! And we do not have a fancy one. No quiet setting, or Bluetooth remote. We took the microwave out of the camper, but it runs the air-fryer! The Instant Pot! The AC too! Also, our electric fireplace (and heater). we just could not run everything all at once.

5. Cast Iron Skillet

On the range, I did most of our cooking in the cast iron skillet. I cooked our meals inside on the stove, in the oven, or outside on the open fire.

Cleaning the cast iron is simple. I keep her oiled, and she is happy.

I could go on! There are a few more items that make Camper-Life easier! My Kindle! Our Pour over coffee set-up, solar chargers! And more! But the items above made living off grid as a family of five possible. Without our Berkey, honey wagon, generator, our washing machine, and the trusty cast iron skillet it would have been hard to thrive out in the woods...

But with them…. We killed it 😊 and enjoyed every second (except the shit tanks! But nothing is perfect!).

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