Getting your first piece of off-grid property is exciting. You might have big dreams of a beautiful cabin. Or maybe you just want a simple getaway spot.
Once you have your property, you don’t have to wait for your cabin to be built to enjoy it. I will show you how to setup an awesome basecamp that will allow you to enjoy your new space. Even if you don’t have a cabin yet. Read on to learn about all the things that can make for a great off-grid base camp while you work to build your cabin paradise.
For a comfortable base camp at your off-grid cabin site, start with good lodging. We bought and set up this large canvas wall tent to use all spring, summer, and fall. This one has an opening for the wood burning stove that you see in the corner in the photo below. Whether you use a wood burning stove or a propane heater that’s safe for indoors, having good heating is an important part of comfortable base camp lodging. That is, unless you’re in a climate where it doesn’t cool off much at night.
It’s also nice to have some form of cooling or at least airflow. Since air conditioning is fairly complicated and power intensive, I recommend relying on airflow to keep your tent area fairly cool. Open windows or doors on opposite ends of the tent and allow natural currents to flow through. You can assist it with an electric fan. If you’re running a generator or have solar panels, use a box fan or something that will be really effective. If not, go with smaller battery-operated fans.
Deck out your lodging with beds or cots. For the kids, we went with cots. They enjoy the feel of camping out. But for us parents, we actually got a real queen size bed to put in the tent. You can pick up a bed frame used somewhere and then all you need is a mattress set. A bed with sheets and a comforter is just a lot more comfortable to sleep in at night than a cot and a sleeping bag.
You can even set up dividers in some of these tents to create the effect of bedrooms.
Another really nice thing we did was put in a simple floor. These tents don’t usually come with a canvas bottom. So we laid out pallets and then screwed down some plywood sheets we had on hand. This gave us a solid floor.
However you set it up, just make sure you start with comfortable lodging. You can enjoy a lot of wilderness as long as you have a comfortable place to lay your head at night.
From a survival and enjoyment perspective, water is even more important than lodging. However, I think that lodging is kind of the foundation of a good base camp. That said, you need to have a plan for how you’ll get and store water at your off-grid cabin site.
There are actually two types of water to think about. Drinkable water, and other cleaning water. Depending on how you get water to your cabin, all of the water you get may be drinkable. But it doesn’t have to be.
If you have a water source on the property, like a stream or a spring, then you can pump water from that source and into storage containers to use for cleaning, showering, and whatever else you need water for. However, without purifying it, this water isn’t suitable for drinking. So for drinking water, I recommend that you have another plan.
Cleaning and drinking water can be stored in food-grade water storage containers. You can usually get smaller 5-gallon water containers at a local store. These work great for transporting drinking water to use for the weekend. But, if you’re planning a longer-term stay, I recommend getting some larger containers. Especially if you want some long-term cleaning water storage. Learn about how to get good water storage containers for a great price in my article here.
If you do have access to plenty of water at your cabin site that’s not suitable for drinking, you can read all about how to get clean drinking water for your outdoor basecamp and for your cabin in this article.
The next step to a great outdoor base camp is to set up a great outdoor kitchen. You don’t need to go fancy here to have a good experience. Just make sure you have everything you need.
It’s not too difficult to have a great stove, a dutch oven table, cabinets, counter tops, a sink, and lots of kitchen storage for not much cost. I actually wrote a whole article about what things to use and how to get them to set up a terrific base camp kitchen for your off-grid cabin site. Check out my article here.
For your base camp to work, you need an outhouse, or some place to go to the restroom. I highly recommend you put in the effort to build a real outhouse. You may be using it for several years before getting indoor plumbing. And depending on what you plan to do for your cabin, the outhouse may be permanent.
When you start setting up your base camp, start simple. A few posts, a tarp, a bucket, and a toilet seat lid will do the job at first. But it won’t take long before you’ll want something a bit more permanent.
When you’re ready to take the plunge and build a legitimate outhouse, check back. By then I’ll hopefully have written my complete guide to building a permanent outhouse at your cabin site.
We built ours and it took a day for the foundation and concrete floor, another day to frame it all up and start on the walls, and one more day to finish it up. And that was with 1-2 people working on it at a time. It’s not a terribly big job. But once you have it you get a private place to use the bathroom, and you get a small storage building where you can keep things locked up when you’re away from your base camp.
The next step to a comfortable base camp is to install a shower. We eventually want a more permanent shower house for this cabin site. But in the short term we needed something to clean the dust off before going to bed at night.
So one day we built this temporary shower and it certainly does the job. Having a shower to get clean was a game changer for a lot of people in the family. Staying at camp for more than a day or two was rough on some people. But getting a quick shower helps everyone sleep better, which makes the rest of the outdoor experience better.
It’s not strictly necessary, but is certainly helpful to have some electrical power at your off-grid base camp.
If you want to enjoy the quiet and the natural sounds of the great outdoors, though, getting reliable power can be tricky. That’s why I recommend a simple solar panel setup. With a single panel, you can generate 300 Watts or so of power. Not enough for a refrigerator or anything, but plenty for lighting, charging, and other low-power items.
Then, for when you need a bit more juice, I recommend a generator. You can read all about my favorite generator for off-grid use in this article. I have also written about how to quiet your generator so it’s not such a nuisance.
I definitely recommend a generator if you plan to use any power-intensive tools. However, since generators are noisy, I also recommend a basic solar setup for the more constant use items light lights and battery chargers.