More and more people are choosing to live off-grid in pursuit of adventure, challenge, and freedom. With rising housing costs and people looking for more of an experiential lifestyle instead of a material outlook, this is the new dream life.
Living off the grid entails that you are not connected to the amenities that modern society provides. Doing this in a trailer adds its complications, but also has benefits.
First, make sure you have a plan for your basic needs. This plan should include things like:
- Maintaining your electricity requirements
- Ensuring you have potable water
- Heating your dwelling
- Food storage and cooking needs
- Keeping your tools, medkits, etc. in good working order
- Disposal of solid and liquid waste
There are many benefits to living off-grid in a trailer and it can be a way to simplify the process, but it still requires a lot of work to have it outfitted properly.
Let’s look at how you would begin to decide on outfitting an off-grid trailer.
When most people think of a trailer they think of the fifth wheelers that are fully decked out with attachments for hydro, water, and all of the modern facilities that we are used to in our homes.
These travel trailers are meant for drive-in campsites or road trips within city limits and are not designed to go off-grid. However, they can be modified for such a purpose if you have a basic understanding of all the required systems.
An off-grid trailer is a shelter that can both be mobile and remain in one area for long periods while supporting the regeneration of basic resources that someone would need to survive.
These needs include water collection and purification, consistent heating and cooling capabilities, independent power generation, and waste disposal.
Once these needs can be met independently of any municipally provided services then it can be considered an off-grid trailer.
The nice thing is that all of the basic survival needs can be met in a renewable way through technology and techniques that have been used for decades.
If you are going the DIY route with your off-grid survival trailer you can design it your way based on the size of trailer that you go with.
Since this will be a semi-permanent structure with someone living in it full-time, ensuring that your dwelling remains watertight is at the top of the list since this is often an issue with old trailers and new trailers that are improperly built.
The current trailer market is flooded with all types of models that are designed to meet a budget and specific needs. It can be daunting when you consider the different classifications that exist to categorize them.
You’ll often see off-road camping trailers that have rugged tires and are extremely weather-resistant that can be taken out into the backcountry, they are often referred to as survival trailers.
They provide ways to generate most of your energy resources but can also adapt to plug into power.
Off-road camping trailers would be a good start for anyone looking to go off-grid because modifications for conversion would be easier to implement over the current systems provided in the trailer.
The Opus Camper is a good example of an off-road camper that could easily be converted into an off-grid home if you had the money to purchase it.
If you think about it anything can be turned into an off-grid trailer with the right systems and modifications made to it.
However, the conversion experience is not for everyone and there are some innovative products out for people to buy.
When out looking for a trailer that is either already manufactured, or you are going to convert one into your off-grid home you should keep an idea of what you are looking for to be provided and what you want to change.
This will narrow your search and eliminate a lot of the background noise from other products.
The majority of the population needs some form of electricity generation so that they can power things such as lights and heating sources, like a diesel heater for example.
You’d also be wise to plan things like what kinds of batteries and wiring you’ll go with that will optimize the energy that you are producing against what you are using.
This is the most common way of generating electricity and it uses the unlimited energy-producing rays of the sun.
The solar panels can be fitted on the top of your trailer to maximize light exposure during the day. Most off-road trailers come with solar systems installed so this should be done already or easily installed after the fact.
Remember to park your trailer in a sunny location to take advantage of the solar panels. Otherwise, it’ll be a slow trickle of energy that will take longer to charge the batteries.
If you are using more power than the panels can recharge then you will run into issues. Always base your solar power decisions on the amount of electricity you will need off-grid.
Another option would be a solar generator. These are portability batteries that come with solar panels that can be moved based on the location of the sun.
Popular ones can power anything up to 3,000 watts which is generally more than enough to power things like lights and fridges.
Trailers can be equipped with mini wind generation units. They are similar to the giant windmills you see out in the ocean or on farmers’ fields, but on a much smaller scale.
These use the breeze to move a fan which then generates electricity through a spinning rotor.
The downside to using this type of technology is that it does best in open areas where the wind is strong and prevalent.
If you’re using your off-grid tailor to drive around then this is ideal as highway speeds would help to produce more power.
Most trailers come with some kind of water storage onboard which can be accessible when needed. This is important because you will be handling a lot of the wastewater and freshwater tanks regularly to fill and dump.
Some trailers run ultraviolet light inside their containers to kill any parasites and viruses in the water while a filter takes out all the particulate matter.
Activated charcoal filters filter out both sediments and bacteria but also cleanse the water of chemicals and heavy metals.
This is particularly effective against getting rid of lead in your water source. There are methods to make your activated charcoal filter, one of which can be found here.
Be sure to look for a trailer that has food storage included or space to install some because you’re going to need it.
Refrigeration is important for things like meat and cheese, as well as cupboards or a drawer that can stay cool and dark to keep pantry goods from being exposed to the elements.
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If you’re going to have a fridge and freezer then look for one that works off 12-volt electrical which can be routed through your solar setup. Dometic makes some fridge-freezer combination units that are pretty energy efficient.
Heating, in particular, can be a challenge, especially in the winter, and living off the grid entails that you won’t always have access to fuels like diesel or propane to keep you warm.
The best way to heat your trailer would be with a wood stove. There are so many reasons to have one but the main one is that wood is free and free is what you want.
Try to keep doubles of all your equipment just in case something breaks down.
If you’re using a wood stove to heat your trailer then have a backup in case you need to repair the one you’re using.
With something as important as heating it’s best to play it safe so you’re not stuck without.
Repairs are inevitable in any situation, and they can be challenging in an off-grid situation. If something were to break down on your trailer out in the middle of nowhere you are the one that will have to make repairs.
Some good advice is to keep all of your systems simple so that when there are breakdowns it’ll be easy to isolate the problem and fix it quickly.
Having a workspace in your off-grid trailer is important to make any repairs or improvements. This could be something from a space that you use outside to a small workstation inside where you can work out of the elements.
We all have waste that needs to be taken care of properly. This can be in the form of gray water and black water.
Gray water is the runoff from things like dishes and showers that can generally be dumped outside of wherever you’re staying and not cause any adverse effects. This is generally easier to get rid of than black water.
Blackwater is essentially toilet water. Urine and poop can leach into water sources and introduce unhealthy parasites and viruses into drinking water. This form of waste should be kept separate from other water sources to avoid cross-contamination.
When looking for a trailer to use off-grid make sure that it has a section in it for keeping these things separate. Usually, you’ll find several holding tanks in a trailer that are designed to handle this situation for you.
There are other solutions to black water waste other than using a holding tank, which can get messy and complicated with maintenance.
Off-grid trailers can be equipped with composting toilets that use sawdust instead of water which makes for easy cleanup and maintenance.
OPUS Camper USA is an industry leader in creating off-grid trailers and the OP 15 Off-Road Hybrid Caravan will meet all the needs for setting up off the grid. It features on-grid hookups as well as the ability to switch to solar to power the batteries.
This rugged trailer may be at the top end but you won’t need to do much modification.
This type of off-road camper is generally used in the warmer months or full-time in warmer climates for off-grid living.
It has a spacious floor plan with mesh extensions that are suited for places that don’t get particularly cold. It comes with water storage containers on board and some nice rooftop space for solar panels.
This trailer is off-grid ready with a huge water tank and energy-efficient lighting.
This seems to be the transformers of the off-grid trailer world as it goes from a tiny tow load to a sprawling living area that can be set up and taken down quickly.
The Boreas XT is a complete off-grid set up with solar and large water storage capabilities. You can add optional roof tents for sleeping and the entire trailer is decked out in LED lighting.
A forced-air furnace is included with a high-efficiency fan. Keeping a low profile allows you to get up and go in a hurry.
This trailer ensures that you can live 7+ days off-grid with the Tiger Moth. It is a small, self-contained living system with optional additions like a roof tent for more sleeping.
Features like a built-in solar system, spacious living, and air conditioning make this a great bug-out system in hotter climates.
Should You Get One?
Each trailer has its pros and cons but a lot of them have achieved a healthy balance between features and functionality.
The nice thing about a lot of off-grid trailers is that implementing your systems into them isn’t a huge modification since they are already designed to go off-grid.
It does fall to if you want a luxury living experience or something more compact and stealthy.
Compact and stealthy means you’ll probably be doing your cooking outside while a luxury off-grid trailer would have all of those things inside.
Perrin is an adventure guide and naturalist currently living a nomadic life in the Canadian wilderness. His education and expertise is in wilderness survival and wildlife tracking. He enjoys teaching people about the outdoors and has managed large groups on expeditions.
With several accredited certifications, including being a wilderness first responder and a leave no trace expert, Perrin believes it is important for all of us to reconnect with the natural world.