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View Full Version : Is it hard to live outside?


cuauhtemoc
07-01-2011, 08:38 AM
Suppose I decided I could do without all, or most, modern conveniences, and I lived in a warm climate. How hard would it be to just buy a tent and live outdoors somewhere? This is assuming I could still have a job of some kind, just instead of coming home to an apartment at the end of the day, I would come home to a tent and a sleeping bag at a campsite.

Our ancestors did it, but how hard would it be for somebody to do that today?

The Hamster King
07-01-2011, 09:18 AM
The biggest problem with extended camping is grooming. If your job requires you to show up every day in a clean suit with your hair washed, that's going to be a real challenge, particularly on days when the weather is bad. Living outdoors means accepting a moderate level of ongoing grubbiness that may not be acceptable to many employers.

Other than that, it's pretty feasible. When I was younger I lived out of a tent for weeks at a time, and I've had friends who lived outdoors over an entire winter. It's actually easier to do today than it was for our ancestors. Camping gear is much better than it used to be.

Shark Sandwich
07-01-2011, 09:18 AM
So you're employed, so you have a source of income, and won't be needing to "live off the land?" Meaning, you'll still be able to run to the store for bread, cans of beans, matches, ice, medicine, etc?

If you plan on staying employed, you'd need to be by a clean water supply. Whether it be a spring, stream, or a nearby spiqot, you'd need a source of fresh water to clean yourself and your clothes. That or you'd need to spend a lot of cash on gallon jugs of water. Or create a way of gathering, storing, and filtering water.

You'd need to find a campsite that drains well in bad weather. You don't want to sleep in a tent that has an inch of water in it.

Other than that, I'd say it wouldn't be a walk in the park, but it's doable.

cuauhtemoc
07-01-2011, 09:24 AM
Is it expensive? I mean, how much is it to rent a little spot to keep a tent on, in like a campground or something?

Do people do this? Is there a community of people who just got sick of everything and decided to go nomad?

And if so, are they desperate madmen with nothing to lose? Like, would all your neighbors and peers be always waiting for you to let your guard down so they could stab you and take all your shit? What little shit you had left, I mean.

StGermain
07-01-2011, 09:40 AM
To get a job, most companies require an address. You might be able to move into that lifestyle while you're employed, but I've heard that one difficulty homeless people have is not having an address. Most prospective employers run background and credit checks.

StG

Telemark
07-01-2011, 09:43 AM
Is it expensive? I mean, how much is it to rent a little spot to keep a tent on, in like a campground or something?
Most campgrounds have seasonal or even year round rentals that are quite reasonable. People generally put campers on them but no reason you couldn't set up a tent. You'd probably want something like a canvas wall tent so you can stand up and move around inside. Campgrounds have showers and bathrooms so that would be a pretty simple solution.

You can go more primitive but it sounds like that's a set up that could work for you. In places like Aspen or other resort communities out west the people who work there often live in tents down valley since it's the only thing they can afford.

TriPolar
07-01-2011, 09:48 AM
It's easy to live outdoors. It's difficult to enjoy it.

emmaliminal
07-01-2011, 09:49 AM
If you have a steady income and a truly reliable climate, the limiting factors are mostly societal. If you can afford it, there are ways to approximate shower and grooming facilities without plumbing. They won't be as easy to use as indoor plumbing, of course.

There are lots of full-time nomads -- RVers. Staying put is harder. If you don't own land, you need permission to stay wherever you've pitched your tent long-term. Some campgrounds allow that, but many don't. Different local jurisdictions have different ordinances about living conditions and different levels of enforcement.

"Desperate madmen with nothing to lose ... always waiting to ... stab you and take all your shit" is a fair description of some (not all) of the folks who live in homeless people's semi-permanent encampments near urban areas.

The fact is that few people with the resources for permanent housing desire to live without it, because temporary housing is simply a lot of work. But they do exist.

overlyverbose
07-01-2011, 09:55 AM
It's easy to live outdoors. It's difficult to enjoy it.

This is my thought as well.

I've lived in a tent for a month, and it didn't suck, but I didn't have to go to an office job - I was an archaeologist living on a dig site with a bunch of other archaeologists.

The biggest challenges are what you'd expect: lack of modern facilities (it sucks to have to walk a while in the middle of the night to find someplace appropriate to go to the bathroom, then have to burn it and bury it), hygeine challenges (though if you have a solar shower bag, sponge baths aren't too horrible) and cooking. The cooking was the easiest to get used to - gain enough experience and cooking over a fire or using camp equipment to make a decent meal isn't hard. But you really can't use "experience" to fix the bathroom problem. No matter what, you're still going to have to hike to take a crap.

blondebear
07-01-2011, 10:11 AM
A guy named Glenn Campbell had a blog* called "Homeless by Choice", where he discussed the aspects of living outside. Here's his 2006 treatise, The Virtues of Homelessness (http://www.familycourtchronicles.com/philosophy/homeless/)

*he has a lot of blogs, including one that recounts his adventures in Rachel, NV and his encounters with a whole host of Area 51 types.

Dangerosa
07-01-2011, 11:25 AM
I've known my share of folks who have done the RenFaire circuit - moving from Festival to Festival and living in campers/tents/vans. Often the festival provides showers/bathrooms - and there is definitely a community.

cuauhtemoc
07-01-2011, 12:30 PM
Well, to get the reliable climate, I'd have to move. But if I moved, I'd be unemployed, which means I'd be trading one disadvantage for another one.

Maybe I should start hanging around those Ren Faire people, see if I can join their nomadic community.

TriPolar
07-01-2011, 12:33 PM
No matter what, you're still going to have to hike to take a crap.

Excellent way of highlighting this.

Ibanez
07-01-2011, 12:39 PM
This guy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYJKd0rkKss) did it at age 55 lived out there until his mid 80's. He had supplies flown in and occasionaly left for the city at times, but for the most part he lived out there.

Dangerosa
07-01-2011, 01:29 PM
Maybe I should start hanging around those Ren Faire people, see if I can join their nomadic community.

They are a pretty accepting bunch and if you want a nomadic lifestyle, its a pretty good one. Hook up with a crafter that does the circuit - you'll get paid barely enough to eat and for gas to get from site to site, but for these guys, its enough.

(Unless you have significant talents in slack rope walking, juggling, folk music or are a crafter yourself).

(Me - I'm more fond of 401ks, medical insurance, and a real bed than the freedom of not working for the man.)

chappachula
07-01-2011, 01:32 PM
..I have a job.....just instead of coming home to an apartment at the end of the day, I would come home to a tent and a sleeping bag at a campsite.

Our ancestors did it..,
not just your ancestors.....
the American National Parks have plenty of employees (well, volunteers, mostly) who work every day for the Park, and then go home to a campsite.
They are called "tent cabins"---a wooden floor with a canvas tent pitched over it. They have a light bulb or two, and the campground has a central building with showers and flush toilets.

Applicants fight hard to win a slot among the privileged few who work and live that way.

Hello Again
07-01-2011, 01:56 PM
Suppose I decided I could do without all, or most, modern conveniences, and I lived in a warm climate. How hard would it be to just buy a tent and live outdoors somewhere? This is assuming I could still have a job of some kind, just instead of coming home to an apartment at the end of the day, I would come home to a tent and a sleeping bag at a campsite.

Our ancestors did it, but how hard would it be for somebody to do that today?

Can I ask you something? Have you ever lived in a tent, on the ground, too small to stand up in for more than a night or two?

The ability to actually stay dry when it rains is something you are cavalierly discounting, along with access to fresh potable water and a sanitary place to poop. If you are "living in a tent" near sanitary facilities, you aren't really living "like our ancestors" (whatever that means, but I think you mean without modern facilities). I mean, there's nothing about a tent that makes it better than a built lean-to or sleeping platform - if you have to stay near water, and you do, you're not that mobile.

The quality of life difference between living-in-a-tent-on-the-ground-in-the-woods and living in a platform tent served by electricity and hot showers, is indescribable. Actually the difference between tent-on-the-ground and 3-sided Adirondack shed is pretty huge in and of itself.

cuauhtemoc
07-01-2011, 02:25 PM
Applicants fight hard to win a slot among the privileged few who work and live that way.

I'm gonna have to look into this. Do you have a link? Who would I be competing against? What kinds of qualifications would I need to have a shot at being one of the chosen?

chappachula
07-01-2011, 02:43 PM
I'm gonna have to look into this. Do you have a link? Who would I be competing against? What kinds of qualifications would I need to have a shot at being one of the chosen?
google : "volunteers in the park" +"national parks"
there are jobs for everything from highly skilled engineers and architects to unskilled labor like janitors and gas pumpers. There are volunteer positions for working with the public giving nature talks, etc.
But be aware that there are hundreds of applicants for each position........

Erdosain
07-01-2011, 03:31 PM
There was a New York Times article (here) (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/31/garden/31yurt.html) about a young couple with a baby who moved into a yurt in Alaska.

This is a several thousand dollar yurt but it still sounds pretty awful.

cuauhtemoc
07-01-2011, 03:36 PM
There was a New York Times article (here) (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/31/garden/31yurt.html) about a young couple with a baby who moved into a yurt in Alaska.

This is a several thousand dollar yurt but it still sounds pretty awful.

I'm not going to read that article because it's about people living outside in Alaska, and I'll get nightmares.

If you're going to move outside, you do it in a warm place, that's what I say.

Chefguy
07-01-2011, 03:44 PM
If you have a parachute, you can do whatever you like. If not, that's a difficult lifestyle for someone who has no experience with it. Homeless people do it year-round, but they are not clean, comfortable or well-fed. There were a lot of guys I served with in Vietnam who used to wistfully say "when this is over, I'm going to Alaska and live off the land". I always advised them to leave a map with their location on it with somebody, so the body could be easily retrieved.

aceplace57
07-01-2011, 03:49 PM
I've heard about college students living in a tent to save money. The Indian dude on Dual Survival said he did that for several years.

Not all tents are the same. A tiny pup tent isn't realistic to use long term. Umbrella tents let you stand, and have room to take a few steps.

even sven
07-01-2011, 04:00 PM
It's not anything special...people from my university (UC Santa Cruz) did it all the time. You do what people all over the world do- bathe from a bucket, using a cup to pour water on you, shit in a deep pit with a concrete slab over it, cook over wood or propane and don't own much worth stealing. If the weather is warm and dry, there really isn't anything bad about it, although doing laundry by hand is a bitch. there are huge swathes of the world where the idea of a house strikes people as pretty useless, and indoor space is jjust a place to store stuff and retreat to when it rains.

cuauhtemoc
07-01-2011, 07:40 PM
It's not anything special...people from my university (UC Santa Cruz) did it all the time. You do what people all over the world do- bathe from a bucket, using a cup to pour water on you, shit in a deep pit with a concrete slab over it, cook over wood or propane and don't own much worth stealing. If the weather is warm and dry, there really isn't anything bad about it, although doing laundry by hand is a bitch. there are huge swathes of the world where the idea of a house strikes people as pretty useless, and indoor space is jjust a place to store stuff and retreat to when it rains.

Cool.

Cara mel
07-01-2011, 11:38 PM
But what about the internet and stuff? Are you gonna leave your laptop at work?

AntiCoyote
07-02-2011, 12:02 AM
An address is very easy to come by, the Salvation Army will let you pick up your mail at their offices or give you a fixed address so you can get aid.

Grooming isn't a problem as I go to the gym and lots of guys shave and spend 30 minutes grooming and dusting and spritzing themselves. So that'd add about $25/month on to your cost.

The two hardest things to get along without are electric and bathrooms. It's hard to find clean restooms to use. And you forget how much you rely on electricity.

Heat and cold you can adjust to over time. When I moved to Florida, my A/C ran constantly, now it goes on only over 90s. And even then sometimes I don't bother. I'm used to it.

My mother still tells me about the cold water apartment she had on Maujer Street in Brooklyn. She didn't leave that till World War II.

Aqualady55
07-02-2011, 12:22 AM
It's great....I did it when I was 50, although I worked at the campground so had access to showers. Even had a waterslide complex next door that I would climb the stairs with sleepy eyes :o and hurl myself down to wake up...what a blast !!!! :eek:

Lived in my tent the whole summer with only a hundred steps to get home to my tent with a stop-over to pick up some coolers and dinner. Lot's of people around to talk to, good ol' fresh air...the outdoorsy feeling. I had lotsa fun!

I highly recommend it. :D

Jaledin
07-02-2011, 08:32 PM
A fellow my father works with, a market research analyst, lived outside in a tent for months for some odd reason. He says he had fun. I know a few other establishment types who've done it for months on end -- some of them had "bed-sores" (one claimed), but most thought it was the ultimate in slumming.

I've only been out for a a month or maybe more at a time (time doesn't work the same way without a watch or a calendar), without having to commute back to the world, so I couldn't say. But if you're organized, why not? Join a gym if you want some showers. Just don't lay a half-eaten pizza by your tent (or tarp, or whatever), if you're wise.

Synthetic fabrics can stink to hell IME, so, maybe keep some fancy duds for going meeting with the townfolk.

Please don't wash with soap in natural waters (river, lake), though -- it's pretty vile to do to the local environment. Get a big collapsible (or not) water container and wash well away from the water and shallow underground waterbed.

Disagree that hand-laundering is a pain, though -- I do it all the time if I'm low on quarters. (As long as it's not polluting, and done prudently, for good-will's sake), the clothes will get plenty clean.