One of our readers has sent us his account of what has become an annual family tradition of vacationing at a friend’s off-grid property in Montana. See what Clay has to say about the lessons he has learned over the years, including how the off-grid living lifestyle has spilled over into his normal grid-tied life in the city of Portland, OR.
Every year my wife and I leave our quiet home in Portland, Oregon for our friend’s 500 acre ranch in western Montana to get away from it all and enjoy the great outdoors. In the 12 hours it takes us to drive there, we transition from our traditional life with all of the amenities one expects to find in the city to a total off-grid experience.
I’ve been making this trip for over a decade now, and have become accustomed to the off-grid lifestyle. Now, I can make the transition instantly and find that I do not miss my grid-tied energy appliances in the least. However, the first few years took some getting used to. No lights that turn on with a wall switch, no running water (we use a hand pump to pump water up from the cistern), no refrigerator (we use large coolers and block ice purchased in the nearest town), and no modern bathroom facilities (a simple outhouse until recently. A couple of years ago we dug a crib septic system and installed a flush toilet. The water is fed to the toilet from the irrigation system), and all cooking performed on a wood or propane stove.
At the ranch we do have a computer and a land line for dial-up access to the Internet, so we are not completely cut off from civilization. We also have lights (with dimmable compact fluorescent bulbs), a television, VCR, and a radio should we ever decide to use them. All of these electronic devices require electricity to operate, of course, and the energy for them is 100% supplied by solar power. The ranch has a moderately sized solar panel which charges a series of batteries. These batteries, in turn, provide the power for the lights, computers, etc. There is also a back up generator if required.
I have learned over the years, to bring my own solar devices and chargers as well. Now I bring my Brunton solar ipod charger to keep my ipod charged. I also bring a Solio solar hybrid charger to capture solar power and take with me hikes and overnight camping trips. The Solio solar hybrid charger comes in very handy when I need to recharge my GPS, cell phone, or even give my laptop a quick boost.
In addition, I have found a few products from Everlite which provide me with solar power lighting options which allow me to dispense with traditional flashlights (and their batteries) and lanterns such as the Coleman white gas and/or battery powered styles.
The Everlite solar LED spotlight captures energy from the sun and will easily provide enough light to read by in the evening, light up a small room, or provide enough light to get around with at night in the pitch blackness. Similarly, Everlite has a mini Everlite LED lamp which is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and is what I use in place of a flashlight when making a trip to the outhouse after dark. Lastly, Everlite also has a solar headlamp LED device which also charges from the sun works like a traditional headlamp.
Every year, after returning home, I am much more conscious of devices which I can use with solar power and take with me to the ranch. My annual off-grid experience is something that I look forward to every year, and I am always looking at ways to live more sustainably at the ranch while enjoying some of the comforts of home. If it wasn’t for work and family, I could easily live the off-grid lifestyle permanently.
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