Living Off Grid in British Columbia

Going off grid is becoming increasingly attractive, especially to people who haven't done it yet. There are ls of reasons to consider going off grid.
First, it's more sustainable and has less impact on the environment (most of the time) than modern, urban living.
Second, it offers a simpler lifestyle.
Third, it requires less money.
Fourth, it may offer more security, especially if the current financial crisis becomes worse.
Fifth, its kind of romantic.
All that said, its not easy. If you're ready to take the plunge, British Columbia is a great place to do it if you like fantastic scenery, you aren't afraid of bad weather from time to time, you like wild and remote areas, freedom and hard work.
BC has many different areas where you can go off grid. The first is the coastal area, either on the Mainland or on Vancouver Island. You can be by the sea and enjoy a moderate climate. Temperatures will seldom go below freezing, but there will be lots of rain coming in off the Pacific during the winter. As a plus, marine scenery is outstanding, and there is plenty of opportunity to enjoy crabs, salmon, cod, halibut and prawns (you'll need a boat).
Once you cross the Coast Range and get into the Interior of the province you will experience more blue sky, but in the winter you'll also get colder temperatures, and in some areas, much more snow.
The Okanagan/Kamloops area is dryer, and warmer, year round, with the understanding that as you climb in elevation it will get colder.
The Kootenays are snowier, generally, and more remote. Large valleys between mountain ranges define this area, which is fairly remote even though its in the southern part of the province.
The Cariboo/Chilcotin is in the center of the province. Winters are long, but the area is huge, with thousands of lakes and rivers. Its great cowboy country. If you want horses and a log cabin, this is the area for you.
North of Prince George the province becomes very remote, in ways that someone from the Lower 48 of the US or Europe might find hard to imagine. Let's just say its really remote, with few roads, and really long winters.
Let's say you pick an area. Now what? If you're going to live off grid you need shelter, heat and water, not to mention food. Water and heat aren't a huge challenge in most of BC. There is lots of fresh water and that creates lots of potential heat on the mountain side in the form of trees. That means lots of wood cutting, however, and splitting and stacking. Wood that you cut in the summer and let dry is more enjoyable than wet winter wood.
Shelter is a different challenge. No matter where you are in BC you can die from the cold in a few hours during the winter if you are not prepared. You absolutely require somewhere to get warm and dry. That could be a tent, or a trailer, or a camper, or a cabin, or a yurt, but you will need something. If you don't bring it you'll have to build it. Building off grid is very hard.
Here are a few things to remember: most off gird sites in BC are not within walking distance, or for that matter, easy driving distance, to a building supply center. If you're driving off grid in a pick up truck with a trailer, then you're halfway there. You can load up on tools, nails, chainsaws, generators and redi-mix. However, if you're using a boat to access your build site, or worse, a horse, a plane, or walking, it can be very hard to get heavy stuff where you need it to be. You'll either do without or be very creative.
Don't get me wrong - people have done it many times, and you can too, but its hard, and progress will be slow.
Some options are:
Finding a property with existing buildings.Building in stages before you take up permanent residence.Using a trailer, bus or camper as a base.Making a small shelter that is weather tight and then making use of tents and taps to keep equipment and supplies dry.
Other things to consider are that you won't have power tools off grid unless you bring a chainsaw or a generator, at least until you get your micro-hydro, solar or wind system set up. You also won't have electric lights or satellite access to the internet to get questions answered (unless you plan for that).
On other words, don't under estimate the challenge.
If you're still willing to try it you have to ask: where do you get the land?
Can you just squat? As a matter of fact, yes you can. BC is huge, and you can easily get yourself lost. However, if someone owns the land, or wants to log it, or guides in it, you might get kicked out. Its a risky business.
You can also rent a place, but the market for that is very unorganized. It isn't easy to find someone who has property who will rent it to you for a long enough term for you to make the improvements you'll want.
That leaves buying, which you can always do. The issue is price. Waterfront properties can be expensive, but they can also be very reasonable. Smaller places cost more per acre, but large remote acreages can sell for less than $1000 per acre. You can find out about property for sale by simply starting with Google. There are lots of for sale by owner sites catering to rural BC. You can also contact me for help - again, google me; I'm easy to find.
Rob Chipman is broker owner of Coronet Realty Ltd,a Vancouver BC, area real estate and property management company specializing in residential rental real estate and non-resident taxation for offshore investors.
He also specializes in off grid, fly in, waterfront or otherwise unique properties in the Cariboo Chilcotin region of British Columbia. He has a blog at Off Grid BC as well as Bush Pilot Properties.

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