What Does Off-Grid Mean?

What does “Off-Grid” actually mean? We all have heard the term off-grid, but what does that really mean? Here we give a quick rundown on what off-grid means.

TLDR: Off-Grid: When you go off-grid, you are essentially removing yourself from the reliance on the existing power grid. When off-grid, you are responsible for your own power, water, and sewer, or other utilities.

What Is “The Grid” Anyways?

I can’t remember the first time I heard the term “off-grid”, if I think back it was likely around the time the tv show on Nat Geo “Doomsday Preppers” was airing. The premise of the show was people all over the United States and how they prepare themselves for a societal collapse or for lack of a better term, a “doomsday event”. 

Ever wonder how all the homes you move into all have power already? There is no hookup involved in the process? Or maybe how water, cable, and phone lines are just ready to go? When city planners build a town, they must incorporate a “grid” of utilities that provide essential utilities to these communities. 

Ever notice when a neighborhood is being built that prior to a house ever going up, the construction crews are laying large pipes and other underground equipment? Well, that’s the building and assembly process of the “grid”. Each of those underground utility pipes is responsible for items like cable, power, sewer, and water. Maybe you haven’t noticed those, how about the green utility boxes at the end of your street? Or maybe something as simple as a traffic light? All of these items are essential items that are all connected to the grid. 

That not making sense? Imagine being in an airplane high above a major city at night time. It’s quite a sight to see the pattern of only lights visible representing the city. That network of lights you see is a good visual representation of the grid in that area. Where those lights end, and you only see darkness? That’s when you start heading off-grid. Those areas are generally not connected to the cities utility grid. 

For some, going off-grid means getting away deep into the national forest or BLM land for a self-sustained camping trip (check this out for how to find those off-grid camping spots). For others, it can be a complete transition to a self-sustainable life completely removed from society. 

Generally speaking, a doomsday event would be a scenario like mass illness, a terrorist attack, the Yellowstone Volcano eruption, or another similarly large scale issue that disrupts or completely shuts down the “grid”. 

Living Off-Grid 

When you go off-grid, you are essentially removing yourself from the reliance on the existing power grid. You have decided to be responsible for your own power, water, and sewer. Calling the power company for service is not an option. Many people are drawn to this self-reliant lifestyle and also enjoy the challenge of living for themselves rather than for society. More on the items you’re going to need can be found in this helpful guide here.

Where Do Who Live Off-Grid Get Their Utilities?

I thought you might be wondering that. In an off-grid living scenario, because you are responsible for your own utilities, you have some options. For some, they choose to live a primitive life, using only what can be found in nature (sunlight, fire, water sources, wind). Others may choose to go a bit more advanced and create a fully solar-powered off-grid home. The choices become vast the more you look into it and planning for this can become a bit overwhelming for some. 

Off-Grid Communities

If you want to go off-grid, but you’re not into the idea of being completely self-reliant, then maybe a commune lifestyle is more your style. For decades commune communities have been living in peace with each other and living completely off-grid.

From growing their own vegetables to building their own homes, these communities work together to sustain their off-grid lifestyle with teamwork. Before you throw on your sandals and run off to live in a commune, you may want to do some research. Many of these communities are very strict in who they allow in as they live by their own set of rules, religions, or some other use of control measures. 


In recent years as the thought of civil unrest becomes increasingly more of a reality, there have been several movements increasing the visibility of off-grid living. Many companies offer full-service consulting for helping you start your new off-grid life. From shipping container homes to cabins and full solar power options, the ability to go off-grid has never been easier. Check out this builder for an idea of what can be done.

Choosing to live off-grid can be a very good way to save money and live a minimalistic life. Conversely, others have spent millions building off-grid homes with safe rooms and underground communities. If you want to know more about how to prepare for civil unrest, check out this guide, here. No matter what your plans are, just know you have lots of options. At a minimum, you now know what off-grid means!

Mike is a Colorado resident, an Army veteran, and a former Police Officer, and an avid outdoorsman. MIke is a Pro Affiliate for popular brands such as REI, The North Face, Nemo, Yeti, and many more. Mike has camped, hiked, and overland all over the United States. From backpack Elk Hunts on Public Land, solo truck camping to Multi-week Overlanding adventures with his family, Mike is very familiar with these outdoor topics.

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