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How to Live Off the Grid: According to Wildlife Expert Forrest Galante

Perhaps the last two years have turned you off from this whole humanity thing. We get it.

Or you’ve discovered how calming nature can be, and you’d rather than be your norm than your exception. Sure, that’s understandable as well.

Maybe the stress of the world and the constant onslaught of bad news, catastrophe and supply chain disaster has you wanting to disconnect and rely entirely on yourself for a change. We’re on board with that sentiment. No matter the reason, you’ve found yourself contemplating living off the grid. Completely disconnecting from the infrastructure of modern day humans and surviving on your own without any of the conveniences designed to make living easier. No internet, no phone, no scheduled meal deliveries or ride share services. Just you and the great outdoors.

Is it possible? It certainly seems to be, with the advancements in technology with portable generators, power stations and water purifiers. We were so curious, we decided to ask someone who spends a majority of his time outdoors, and knows the natural world better than most.

Forrest Galante is a world renowned wildlife biologist and TV host. He can currently be seen hosting Animal Planet’s Mysterious Creatures streaming on Discovery+.

We spoke with Forrest over email all about living off the grid, and the supplies, skills and considerations the modern day human needs to make before venturing off beyond civilization and not turning back. Here’s how to live off the grid, according to an expert, complete with top brand recommendations so you’re not left out in the cold with faulty gear. Unless noted, the products featured in this piece were selected by SPY editors.

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Ready America 72 Hour Emergency Kit

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Necessary Supplies for Living Off the Grid? It Depends on Where You Are

When asked about the necessary supplies for living off the grid Forrest explained that the answer to this question is “completely determined by the environment. Cold weather vs hot weather; temperate vs tropical etc.”

“No matter what or where you are, in order to be set up for long term success, you need to provide yourself with clean water, constant food source, available fire and shelter,” said Forrest.

“The environment will dictate what tools you need in order to make these things accessible, and your knowledge and understanding of how to use things to make yourself comfortable, is what will determine the length of your off grid living!”

If you nail down these essentials: clean drinking water, a food source, fire for warmth and shelter, you’ll be that much closer to surviving without everyone you’ve ever known.

Here are a few SPY favorites for helping make the process of satisfying these basic needs easier.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

LifeStraw makes an entire line of water filtration devices that would definitely come in handy while living beyond access of water sanitation services. This filter is designed to provide 3,000 liters of cleansed drinking water without using any chemicals, and remove 99.9999% of bacteria. These don’t have a shelf life and can be stored indefinitely, making them perfect for living off the grid.

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Courtesy of Amazon


LifeStraw Flex Advanced Water Filter With Gravity Bag

If you need a larger water filtration system for, say, your entire family who have decided to join you in living off the grid, LifeStraw makes this larger system with a gravity bag that holds a gallon of water. This would be perfect for a camp setup or a stationary living situation where you need to store water, rather than just be able to filter it on-the-go. It’s also made to remove 99.999% of bacteria, and exceeds US EPA standards for safe drinking water.

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Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops Folding Knife

A knife is a necessary survival tool, whether you’re cutting rope for a shelter or marking a tree for easy navigation. This one from Smith & Wesson is one of our favorites for its quality and affordable price tag. The carbon stainless steel gives it strength without bulk and the convenient one-hand design makes it great for EDC.

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bayite Ferrocerium Drilled Flint Fire Starter

You don’t need to have the raw fire starting skills of an eagle scout to survive on your own, you just need plenty of fire starter. This tool comes with a paracord so you can attach the large Ferrocerium rod to your backpack with ease. The rod itself is large enough to generate plenty of sparks, and last for years, while still being waterproof, largely weatherproof and small enough to carry with you.

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Courtesy of Amazon


FREE SOLDIER Waterproof Portable Camping Tarp

A necessary tip for how to live off the grid? Having a shelter is crucial. Excess sun exposure can cause burns, and staying protected at night is also important. This super affordable tarp shelter is designed to be waterproof and UV protectant, and comes with plenty of ropes, stakes and ties so you can set it up anywhere.

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Top 5 Necessary Items for Life Off the Grid

I also asked Galante what five things he would bring with him if he had to live off the grid starting tomorrow. He kept it simple while hitting many of the basics. Here’s what he chose, in the order in which he chose it.

1. Solid Footwear 

“Good footwear! You can do anything if you have the right shoes, but once your feet are messed up, it’s all over. My Merrell Moab Hiking Boots are always my first grab if I’m heading off grid,” said Galante.

Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof

Merrell makes the shoes you want with you if there’s zero human civilization left around you. These have a waterproof membrane, a breathable mesh lining so your feet stay comfortable and a reinforced toe cap for protection no matter the terrain.

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Courtesy of Merrell


2. A Good Knife

“You need a blade, for building, chopping, cutting, skinning etc. It’s why almost all survivalists always reach for their knives first when heading off grid,” said Galante.

He added “Personally, I like the MKC Knives.”

Unfortunately, almost all of the knives on Montana Knife Company’s website are sold out. But we found a dupe for you to check out.

ESEE-4 Fixed Blade Knife

This fixed blade knife from ESEE is made of carbon steel with a fiberglass 3D contoured G10 handle. It has full flat grind and a drop point blade, and a textured powder coat finish.

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3. A Tarp

“Anything can be turned into a decent shelter if you have a good tarp. You can use it to collect rainwater, make a roof, keep things dry etc. A tarp turns miserable off grid living into comfortable off grid living,” said Galante.


4. Salt

Galante also added this everyday condiment as a crucial ingredient to his formula for how to live off the grid. “Salt and lots of it.”

” As weird as this sounds, if you have salt, you can preserve almost anything. Fish, veggies, meat etc. This means when opportunity does arise to allow you to get something good to eat, none of it goes to waste, and if you’re spending a month out there, you’re going to spend most of your time procuring food, you don’t want to waste it!” said Galante.

Natural Sea Salt

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5. Firestarter

Forrest mentioned the importance of fire for survival earlier in the interview, and mentioned firestarter as one of the five must-have items for life off the grid.

“Getting a good fire going for boiling water, cooking, staying warm etc is essential to comfort and survival. If you have a good fire starter, youren always going to be one step closer to ‘comfortable,” said Galante.


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Essential Survival Skills for Living Off the Grid

I asked Forrest which survival skills are essential for successful living off the grid. I expected him to list a laundry list of skills from starting a fire and gathering kindling to setting animal traps, foraging for food and spotting poisonous plants. Instead, he just had two things.

“Two things and two things only. Attitude and tenacity,” said Galante.

“Of course, having a bit of knowledge goes a long way, but It doesn’t matter what your skill set is, if you have a good tenacious attitude. With the right mentality, you can learn to overcome anything and it’s those accomplishments that allow off grid living to be enjoyable.”

He went on to discuss a particular Hollywood portrayal of survival that’s become essential viewing in our book before venturing out into nature.

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Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who draws upon his ingenuity to subsist on a hostile planet. Courtesy of Giles Keyte, Twentieth Century Fox

“The movie ‘The Martian’ with Matt Damon is a fantastic example of the attitude to have when attempting to live off grid. He never gives up, and even when feeling utterly defeated, he is tenacious enough and dynamic enough to overcome anything that is thrown at him to allow him to survive,” said Galante.

“This is what our ancestors did that the modern world of on demand conveniences has stripped away from us. Taking that fighting spirit of survival, adaptability and willingness to overcome any obstacle is what makes survival and off grid living such primal itch many of us are trying to scratch,” said Galante.


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What Should You Consider Before Choosing to Live Off the Grid?

I also asked Galante what factors everyone should consider before packing up their solar panel, water filter and granola bars and hitting the road. He made an important point that some may not consider about a life off the grid — much of your energy goes towards staying alive rather than actually living.

“You need to ask yourself, are you really up for this? Not just being removed from social media and WIFI, but are you willing to spend the majority of your time securing food, repairing buildings, preparing for winter so on and so forth, just to do it all again the next day//year,” said Galante.

“In today’s society we don’t actually spend a lot of time preparing for just living, and a life off grid is just that. There are no plumbers, no electricians, no babysitters- it’s full on all the time. Survival and off grid living is a 24/7 job. There is no career, no time for self-love, or hobbies etc etc all of the things we are used to in today’s world. Instead it’s a grind all the time, just to keep your head above water,” said Galante.

This is something folks might not consider. Along with detaching from society comes a detachment from all of the modern inventions that have enabled humans to rest, think, ponder and do more than just try to survive. Rather than spend all day gathering food, a 30-minute trip to the grocery store can set you up for an entire week.

Does this mean living off the grid is impossible or miserable, or shouldn’t be pursued? Definitely not. However, if you’re a person whose used to enjoying all the conveniences that come alongside living in our chaotic human society, the shift will be large.


Is Living Off the Grid Harder or Easier Than 100 Years Ago?

I ended the interview by asking Galante if he thought living off the grid now would be harder or easier than 100 years ago. Would it be easier, because of advancements in survival technology? Or harder, because our world is so much more connected, and therefore untangling from it more complicated?

Galante definitely answered, and pointed out an ecological factor I hadn’t yet considered.

“Much much harder. Not only are we softer as a people, due to all of the advancements of modern technologies etc, but the land has changed. Wildlife numbers are at an all-time low across the planet, meaning less game to hunt and fish for,” said Galante.

“Storms are more severe, meaning it’s harder to build strong enough shelters. Seasons are changing so fruits and vegetables are changing. It’s certainly not impossible and not too late to live an off grid lifestyle, but selecting the right, fruitful (literally) and abundant location is key!”