Living off the grid survival guide

By: Scott Heiman, Photography by: Scott Heiman

With years of bush experience, survival expert Scott Heiman knows how to live life off-grid – from campsite layout to safe food and water, here are his top tips.

Living off the grid survival guide
Some fresh food choices last longer than others


Setting up your campsite properly is integral for both comfort and hygiene. As a general guide, consider the following points:

Choose a campsite that is naturally well-drained.

Set your camp upwind, with the kitchen and fire downwind (or at least side-on) to blow away smoke, mosquitoes and other airborne vectors of disease.

To avoid waterlogging your camp, locate showers, water points and drainage downhill (or to one side) and ensure the water can drain away.

External toilets should be further downhill and downwind. Remember to locate them at least 50m from kitchens and potable water sources, 100m from the nearest well, bore hole, river, creek or dam, and at least 600mm deep.

Store food and garbage in sealed containers. Otherwise, birds, foxes and other animals will rummage through it – eating your food and spreading your garbage all over the campsite.


When it comes to drinking from bores, you need to understand where the water is coming from and how the bore is maintained. Although all bore water comes from the Artesian Basin, shallow bores (in particular) are susceptible to contamination. Whether it’s because the bore is proximate to intensive agriculture, industry, mining, or simply situated near a poorly-maintained septic tank, there are many sources of potential human contamination of bore water.

Signs of contamination may include an unusual taste, a low pH (acidic water), soap suds or foaming around sprinkler outlets, abnormal colour or sediment, dying or wilting plants nearby the bore, animals showing a reluctance to drink, or a chemical, sewage, petrol or ‘rotten egg’ smell.

For reliable drinking water, seek out purpose-drilled and licenced bores that access deeper aquifers. Arm yourself with a simple pool pH reader and a high-end water filter, and you’ll be on your way.


Fresh foods have higher nutritional value than processed and tinned alternatives as their minerals, vitamins and other essential nutrients remain intact. And, happily, with today’s 12V technology and solar options, going off the grid doesn’t mean forgoing fresh produce all together. Nevertheless, some fresh foods are better travel companions than others, so plan ahead.

Here are some hardier items to consider putting on your shopping list:

  • Tomatoes – Roma varieties last longer and are tougher than thinner-skinned options.
  • Lettuce – iceberg and cos lettuce hold up better in the fridge or esky than butter lettuce or mesclun mixes.
  • Cheese – the harder the block, the longer it lasts. Soft, un-matured cheeses don’t last long.
  • Steak – boneless cuts require less handling, cook more evenly, are easier to stir fry.
  • Chicken – smaller pieces, like legs and wings, cook more thoroughly and easily than whole chooks.
  • Bratwurst – has a longer storage life than ‘normal’ sausage and can be boiled or grilled.

In addition, keep your fridge clean by regularly wiping it out and ensure it stays cold enough to keep food safe. And, of course, washing your hands before you handle food is an essential part of food safety – just because you’re out bush doesn’t mean the rules of basic hygiene don’t apply.

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The full feature appeared in Caravan World #550 June 2016. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!