OTG 101

Off the Gridding sounds so romantic, don’t you think?  Conjures up adventure, nature, simple, healthy, rustic and and being independent.  Flora and fauna abound.  Ravens. Whales.  Blackberries.  Oysters.

‘Oooooh, what’s not to like?’ 

The short answer: NOTHING!  That image is correct.  It’s heaven out here, no question.

The long answer?  Well, much the same….of course.  Heaven is heaven for a’ that.  But there is a slightly different reality over the long haul from the one first imagined from the statements above.  It ain’t just a walk in the park.

For one thing, you still need some money.  Not as much as you think you need but you have to have some.  I figure $1500 a month per person more or less depending on how far out you are. And that also requires whatever house you have built or bought out here being debt free.  Same for vehicles and equipment.  And the sky is the limit when it comes to equipment. So, bottom line: you need a lump sum to get started and then a regular income even if it is rather paltry.  OTG ain’t free and it is a rare person who can make much of a dependable income out here.

You need a good partner.  All the single people out here struggle so much more.  They also get more and more eccentric without the balances and off-sets a partner provides.  We all need partners and the further OTG you are, the more you need one.  No.  A dog or a pet Grizzly bear does not qualify.

You need basic good health.  Your prostate can be too big, your bowels easily irritated, you can suffer cat allergies or need to remain gluten and peanut free but your back has to be strong, you have to have your balance and you need to heal well.  OTG is physical. It is NOT for sissies.

You need to think outside the box-store.  75% of what you need, you can’t buy at Home Depot.  You are going to have to figure that out quickly and often.  My advice: start now, while you are in the best garbage dump in the world: the city throws away all the stuff you will ever need.  It is literally like a giant free-store if you have the ability to forage and hunt amongst the junk. Preferably with a one ton flatdeck.  Four-wheel drive.

You will need to develop some pretty basic skills quickly.  Like carpentry and mechanics. Skills are currency out here.  And they help keep you alive and your stuff operating. A good attitude and a lot of DIY books will suffice for awhile but you will have to rise higher than that over time.  You will be fixing your own washing machine, car, outboard, computer and, even more often, your own body and limbs.  Smarten up as fast as you can.

Try not to be a zealot about it.  Living OTG is great but you are allowed to enjoy a beer and a pizza if you go to town.  You do not have to be a Buddhist vegan pacifist who only eats raw vegetables and fruit.  That stuff has nothing to do with OTG.  I have no idea what that stuff has to do with but you can eat steak, drink scotch and watch cheap B blow-em-ups and still be an accepted OTG’er in my books.

I may even visit.

Living OTG is a simple goal – you are just not hooked up to all the umbilicals (read: leeches) of the world. Road, electrical, plumbing, social, communication, shopping – they are all grids, systems and the ties that bind.  But that’s it.  You may even try to pull them off of you while living in the city (ignoring the road grid)….it might be possible….but the fewer of the grids there are on offer, the easier it is NOT to have them.  So, I suggest just getting out.

To be honest, I suggest getting out to a small town that has some grid offerings.  Then go a step or two further out so you don’t have to rely on them but you can go there now and then for pizza and beer.  Best of both worlds.

But you don’t have to go far.  There is nothing about living OTG that requires the Dempster highway or Patagonia.  I think it does require a complete immersion in nature, the wilderness and a rejection of concrete, asphalt and stifling institutional-think but I am really only a short distance from the ‘grids’ myself.  Maybe an hour or so away.  I am definitely OFF them, but I can do a hop, skip and a jump to gain a toe-hold whenever that beer and pizza is heard calling to me.

I don’t go often, tho.  My last trip to town was over two months separated from the previous one.  And that was too soon!  If I girded up to attack and plunder the grid three times a year, it would be enough.

“Dave, why tell us this?”

Well, more and more it seems people are considering doing this or, at least curious as to what OTG means.  But almost all their questions show a lot of pre-acquired misinformation.  And many answers I am reading are just plain silly.  Many wannabes feel they have to be self-sustaining, live off the land, hunt squirrels, eat bugs and roots – that kind of thing.  “Gotta build a house from tires and straw bales. Compost my poop under glass”.  Others think they have to go vast distances into harsh environments armed to the teeth and dressed in camo.  I blame Survivor Man, the Idaho Militia and Duck Dynasty – for those very wrong pictures.  I blame hippy chicks for that raw vegan syndrome.

Living OTG can be sane, simple and doable.

It can also be hard.

So, this is a very brief perspective-sharing post to try to share that ‘moderate version’ of the OTG message.





5 thoughts on “OTG 101

  1. Great advice.
    funny you should mention the Dempster Hwy. I drove up to Inuvik about 20 years ago and when I pulled into the Eagle Plains “Lodge” to gas up and buy some beer……..EVERYONE and I mean everyone came out to my truck……they thought I was delivering mechanical parts for the garage next to the lodge…..several people had been waiting days for repairs…..
    The crestfallen looks on their faces when they realized I was “just a tourist”….the shoulders slumped, defeated,,,and back to the bar they trudged…. I couldnt get outta there fast enough….camped out on the Dempster above the Arctic Circle that night and had a great show of Northern Lights……I’d recommend that trip for anyones’ bucket list. Make it mid to late August…the frost kills off the mosquitos and blackflies….


  2. This is the week that my OTG cabin doesn’t feel that way. Everyone else who has a cabin up the lake has arrived with their big boats, tubes, jet skis, you name it. There’s so much action on the lake there are waves two feet high sloshing back and forth. I love the warm weather of summer, but give me a nice fall or spring day when it’s us and the work boats heading up the lake in the morning and back down again in the late afternoon. – Margy


    • T’is the silly season. Our August is fully booked. Madness and scheduling reign supreme. Food flows like a swollen river. Lots of hugging. It used to be two solid months but now, without the Chinese kids, it’s down to a month and a half. After Labour Day things are usually over. Not always. Some are getting smart and come later. Not free fer sure til October. October is my favourite month. May is not to bad. Even the first half of June is usually safe. But it would be nice to spread the invasion out over a few extra months. Oh well, the alternative is unacceptable.


  3. OTG…many are called but few have the jam to answer. A Shmoo would be perfect for OTG, living as it does on nothing but air. If you ain’t handy OTG is not for you. If you think you have the makings of a handy person take the self test, “What you fixed, built, repurposed or recycled?” If you clearly have no experience, OTG might be tuff sledging. Sound habits of mind can not be lacking nor is manana plan A when the boat is taking on water.


    • All that you say is true but neither Sal nor I are too full of jam. We had enough to make the leap but, after that, gravity takes over. You make a landing and go from there. Basically doing what needs doing. The first leap? Given my mindset and age, my kids having fledged and my wife being beaten by her job-it was not a big decision. We chose to ‘have a life.’
      Some choose comfortable existence instead.
      Just a choice, really.
      The first leap is to think about it….=_=


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