When we moved onto our off grid land in September we put up a regular summer camping tent that is made camping trips, not to live in for four months. When Mother Gaia started sending the colder Temps, we bought some tarps and a tent heater. We used what we had to insulate the tent…blankets and towels around the edges, canvas tarp on top of a regular tarp on the floor, pushed our belongings to the walls to block the cold. It worked well as long as the tent heater was on. It was quite warm and comfy however, a summer tent with a mesh top is not meant to hold heat. I’m thankful for propane and our access to it! I’ve also had it in me to not only survive but thrive in this situation. It’s amazing what we can do when we’re in a do or die situation…we do or we die, it’s a choice.
What began as a few weeks in the summer tent ended up being a few months. This was not planned nor would I recommend anyone plan on doing it. There are better options. We were fine, warm and dry however, there wasn’t much room and we have 2 dogs and all our basic stuff in the tent with us. We have a queen size air mattress and more blankets than we need which was much appreciated since we had to turn the heat off at night. Since the heat was propane and we only had a small tent heater, we didn’t feel comfortable leaving it on in such a small space when we weren’t in the tent or when we were sleeping. Kudos to those make quilts!
After realizing our hot tent was stuck in a shipping crate (thank you Brandon Administration!) we knew we needed to do something for a winter outdoor kitchen for the time being. The hubs made an overhang with a tarp, this is also helpful in keeping rain from seeping in. I was able to use the kitchen in colder weather but in rain and wind we dined on sandwiches and salads or visited our favorite country cookin’ restaurant. I love to can and preserve food as well as cook healthy meals. As an herbalist, homesteader and artisan, I use my kitchen a lot. I did my best with what we had and it worked out better than what we expected. I’m grateful for that. I’m also grateful we’ve moved up in the world…into our hot tent!
I’m not trying to paint a pretty picture of ease here, the truth isn’t always pretty, it is necessary for growth and success. We did have some drawbacks and aggravations during our temporary occupation of our summer tent. I see all these as challenges, opportunities to grow and learn. I’m not saying my attitude and behavior are always matching that thought, I do need an attitude adjustment every now and again. I’m pretty good at adjusting my attitude as I’ve had much practice!
The biggest challenge is there isn’t much room. We did have a second smaller tent for storage and we do have a storage unit so we weren’t trying to fit all our belongings in the tent, just what we needed. Clothes, shoes, bedding, food, dog food, electronics, chargers, air mattress, 2 plastic 3-drawer dressers, storage bins, excessive amounts of blankets, coats, heater in a safe space, laundry basket, hygiene items, etc. Simply studying while The hubs was sleeping was a challenge. Often I went to the van so the dogs stay settled down and I didn’t accidentally shine a light in his eyes. The hubs needs his beauty sleep 😉
The weather was another challenge. We thought we had things planned where we would get minimal unwanted weather. This worked out great for the time period we planned. That’s about it. After a few experiences, we had our tent staying completely dry and intact in storms, rain and wind. There were a few nights where I thought for sure the whole thing was going to blow away in the wind. It was harder to keep the tent really warm in the wind but it was OK, not great but we didn’t freeze either.
The space was a challenge…two of us trying to find our clothes and get dressed took some strategic planning and maneuvering. Often when Rick was getting ready for work int the morning, I just kept put on the bed to stay out of his way. Other times I would go to the van to do my early morning studies. It was just easier and I only woke him up once…when I exited the tent.
Much to my surprise we did not get any critters inside the tent and minimal bugs. We had the occasional spider or fly, not infestations. No different than in a house. We were on freshly cleared ground in woods that has been untouched for I don’t know how long. There are plenty of insects out here and we totally took over part of their home. I’m assuming they welcome us 🙂 The only critters we have are field mice. They like to get into our outside kitchen and leave their little poops around. Although our kitchen is now attached to tour hot tent and not in the same space, the mice must have saw us moving and moved right along with us! We’re getting an outside cat and looking into other alternatives that are Gaia friendly. I’m open to suggestions!!! The little guys are adorable, they just need to stay out of my kitchen. Mice poop or not, I thoroughly clean everything before making anything. This is a habit when I opened Love of Lotus, when we were on grid in a house. Off grid does not equal dirty, my standards remain high.
The mice and bugs bring me to a very important issue…food storage. It doesn’t matter where or how you’re living, food storage is very important. We need our health, it’s what we rely on when nothing else is going our way or we’re having a stressful experience. We don’t want to eat mice poop or bug droppings or anything else that could get into our food. I’m a bit excessive when keeping food secure. Being off grid, we have no time to be sick. We do have an ice maker as ice is very important for food storage for us. We have a good sized cooler so our food storage for cold stuff is limited at this time. If you’re starting out, I recommend the biggest cooler you can find that holds ice very well. The less we need, the less we spend energy making. Anything that goes in the cooler gets double or triple wrapped with reusable storage bags and wraps. I don’t want anything getting wet as the ice melts. Eggs are always on top so we don’t crush them. Dry food is kept in sealed bags or air tight jars with a lid. Bread is kept wrapped and inside where it won’t get crushed. Water takes up space so we only kept a gallon at a time in the tent unless we’re expecting freezing temperatures. I fill up all our jugs this time of year just in case the rain barrels freeze. Cold food needs to be below 40 degrees. After it got cold, we were able to keep some cold food out of the cooler such as fruits and veggies and leftovers that were going to be eaten before the temperature went above 40.
There wasn’t room for a pantry in the summer tent however, there is room in the hot tent!!! Moving to the hot tent was like moving to a mansion. It’s much roomier!! I’m able to store food and everything else out of the way. We’re currently building a kitchen, bathroom and storage space onto it. We’ll have off grid indoor showers, kitchen sink and compost toilet. We don’t need to turn off the heat every time we go outside although I do turn it down. The hot tent holds heat and there is no breeze. It does really well when there is wind. It came with a fly and we have tarps over it, rain doesn’t get on it at all. Its on a platform, it’s very nice to be off the ground.
Our experience came with a lot of lessons. We made plenty of mistakes which are nothing more than learning opportunities. When you’re off grid, attitude when things don’t go as planned is everything. It will either make or break you. This experience has forced me to reach deep within myself and get creative. I’m liking it a lot, the growth and connection to Mother Gaia are amazing. I’m learning so much about myself, the hubs and living off grid in general.
Do you have any experiences in tents? I’d love to hear about them and how you got through them.