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on 4 November 2008
There are lots of ways of living off the grid. The most familiar ones are narrow boats on our urban canals, caravans, and traveller or gypsy communities, and of course remote farms. Less well known are the communes, the renewable energy pioneers, the backwoodsmen and hermits. In his own off-grid converted bus, Nick Rosen travels the country to interview these various types. He meets a man with seventeen children, an armed survivalist community in an old manor house, gypsies, horse breeders, millionaires and subsistence farmers. Most of the book details this adventure. In fact, over half the book is one long chapter called 'meet the people'.

The diversity is fascinating, and there are different things to learn from each. Unfortunately, the author gives more or less equal amounts of time to each project. I found myself skimming ahead over more hippies in the woods, and wishing there was more on some of the more practical social experiments. A little editing wouldn't have gone amiss, choosing the best cases from the thirty or so here and exploring them in more depth. The book could stand to lose some of the travel detail too - some sections narrate little anecdotes, like how Nick got his van stuck in a ditch on the way to see someone, leaving only a paragraph at the end to talk about the project itself when he finally gets there.

After meeting the people, the rest of the book deals with more specific issues. There are chapters on generating your own electricity, sections on water, toilets, and buying land, and some good advice on planning permission. There are asides too, into foraging, the pros and cons of living in a commune, and histories of the grid.

If you're after a practical manual for off-grid living, this isn't it, despite the title. This is more of a source book of ideas, an inspiration for off-grid living. For the detail, see Rosen's extensive website,
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on 29 September 2007
In How to Live Off-Grid, Nick Rosen investigates the possibilities and difficulties of living an off-grid lifestyle (no mains water and no mains power) in the UK.

This is not a typical "How To" guide to off-gridding although the book is packed with useful information. Instead the main focus of the book is on real people living an off-grid life - their motivations, their struggles, their problems, and their solutions.

In the 120 page Chapter 4: Meet the People, Nick Rosen tells the story of his own journey around the UK in his newly purchased camper van meeting off-gridders from all walks of life who are living off-grid with varying levels of success and for a range of different reasons.

These short stories give a fascinating look into the often difficult world of the off-gridder: seemingly a constant struggle against council planners, neighbours, and the elements. Living an off-grid existence is rarely easy, but is shown to be hugely fulfilling.

The rest of the book comprises chapters on generating power, obtaining water, and building shelter. In addition a chapter entitled We Were All Off Grid Once tells the story of how we ended up on-grid in the first place and looks into the main motivations for people to move off-grid today: environmentalism, post-consumerism, rising energy prices, water shortages, rising house prices, fear, and the availability of new technology.

How to Live Off-Grid is information packed and very easy and entertaining to read. The real world practicalities of living off-grid in the UK today are well covered in this unique and well researched book.
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on 5 June 2013
I had hoped this book would be about setting up for living off grid rather than a lot of what I considered to be irrelvant information such as building a shelter out of branches with twigs. The cheap feel of the book along with a lack of relevant pictures or diagrams did not help. Anyone interested in off grid living would do better surfing the net.
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on 15 July 2011
To be honest I found the author's description of his little place in rural Europe, which he escaped to when his frantic privileged urban life got too much, a bit of a turn off from the start.
There are introductions to various practical aspects of housing and looking after yourself that would be useful as a start, but I'd advise doing a bit more research before setting off. The author describes being met with hostility in some places, and I have to say I'm not surprised since a lot of the folk (and/or people they know) he asks for help have had very bad experiences with journalists, and he doesn't offer a lot in return. It's to the huge credit of people who did speak to him and provide advice that they are still strong enough and have the energy to be able to do that. He does seem to have gained some appreciation of the effort involved from the people who have helped and advised him- near the end he asks folk to do their research and seek out other people and places if they're setting out as newbies, as the 'famous' people and places get a lot of queries and people dropping by uninvited- pity he didn't have the benefit of this hindsight when he started out.
For shelter, see 'Ideal Homes' if you can get hold of a copy- there are plenty of other books, zines and resources on how to make good shelters, benders, huts, etc out there. There are also loads of resources on wild food, bushcraft, low tech sustainable energy generation, water purification, dealing with waste, growing and harvesting, etc by people who know more about what they're talking about than Nick Rosen does- do some research, check bibliographies, see who people keep referring to for good, reliable information.
This book would be ideal for someone in a well paid secure job who is a bit stressed and dreams about a survivalist bolthole in case of civilisation's collapse, or so they can get into the sticks without having to see any other people. More of a book for privileged dreamers than your get-on-with-it diggers (although diggers can dream too, they're probably just very different dreams!)
I haven't done a detailed criticism of the separate chapters- they're listed in the contents, and you can find more authoritative work on each of the subjects covered.
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on 17 January 2013
The book alludes to a scenario that the main grids will not be able to meet demand sometime in the future and that we will all probably slide into darkness or freeze in winter all that is except for the clever sods that have prepared themselves for an off grid survival. The slant towards survivalism is not the main thrust of the book however.
Some of the people he interviews come across as hypocritical i.e. they like the idea of living within a community generating their own power and supplying their own water but at the same time they would be 'alright Jack' when the bigger community collapses. This sort of paranoia belongs in the hippy dream world where it is detached from reality and I'm not sure if Rosen empathises with it or not. Irritating it is though.
However he does bring out the problem of too many people living in a small country and some people's attempts to cope with the ever increasing price of housing by trying to move to woodland and countryside....illegally.
Personally I'm very glad that most of the law breakers fail in their attempt to urbanise the green belt but some clever ones manage to get round the rules and Rosen seems to revere such people. At what stage I wonder would he start to think 'hang on a minute we need to protect the countryside from becoming a mass sprawl of dropouts'. But such thinking wouldn't really suit the agenda of this book although one or two planners he interviewed gave voice to the problem.
He is also disparaging towards gypsies or 'travellers' because they tend to leave a load of life's debris behind them when they move on but fails to acknowledge that he has become a 'traveller' himself albeit a part time one so he can afford to take his rubbish home with him when he succumbs to the pleasures of living on grid again.
Some of his off grid dwellers live like that out of necessity whilst others did it out of choice and I think he could have explored the pragmatic or philosophical aspects behind the motivation to leave the main grid system. Was it just misplaced idealism or have some of these people got issues? Perhaps exploring psychological factors motivating some of these off gridders was beyond the remit of his exploration and could be seen as judgemental and I understand his dilemma in that he couldn't be too critical of some of the so called community 'leaders' he interviewed so he hints at it instead. I got the impression he was walking on eggshells trying not to offend one particularly egocentric 'leader'. Though I suppose without a land benefactor the 'serfs' wouldn't have the pleasure of being ruled by the Lord of the Manor. Feudalism rules hey ho and a nonny nonny no.
There are some informative sections in the book about how to generate your own power and supply your own water but I think you'd have to have at least a degree in electrical engineering to understand it all and put it into practice
Having read it it has made me very appreciative to be ON the water and electricity grids so I would recommend the book just for that alone. The grass is not always greener on the other side. I would guess some of his off gridders have a miserable time of it in the depths of a freezing winter and the numbers of off gridders goes up in the warm weather we are informed. I wouldn't want it myself winter or summer. But well done Nick for giving me something to mull over while I peruse the charge of the light brigade.
And to the doom mongers in the book, to quote Sharon Stone......'Get a life'.
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on 26 July 2007
At last, a book about the environment which is not pious or humorless. A
book about living cheaply which is witty, and inventive, and surprising.
The author has really lived the experience, and as a result he can evidently walk the talk .

The first chapter finds him buying a shepherd's hut for 10,000 sterling
because its all he can afford, and chapter 2 is an extended and impeccably researched treatise on the foundation of the power and water industries as well as a survey of recent writings on imminent social collapse.

The fun chapter is chapter 3 where he buys a camper van, realises it's the wrong one, or his wife does, and then sells it and buys another one.

Its only in Chapter 4 that he goes round Britain visiting all the off-grid types - a chapter that lasts about 100 pages and is a really inspiring guide to how, what and where to go off grid.

The next chapters are rather textbookish, but that might be useful to some - the most complicated is the section on planning permission, but if you are going to stick your neck out and buy a chunk of land, you are going to have to think out your planning permission strategy in advance.

An important, insightful book.
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on 3 December 2008
What a waste of a potentially interesting topic!
He says that he is unable to afford to buy a house in the country in England,but paradoxically he describes the 'shack' he bought in Majorca for £7000,for which he then spent 620,000 euros for a stone water tank!!!
2 pages later he then states how he has to go off-grid because he can't afford the £250,000 for a cottage in the uk! Am i missing something?
Thats just 1 example of the many inconsistencies that riddle this book.
Rather annoyingly,he omits any useful list of related websites,apart from his own!
Avoid,fortunately,i got my copy from the library.
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on 25 June 2014
An author's road trip around the Uk to visit off-gridders. No practical information on how to become off grid. A better title would have been "Meet Some Nice Off Gridders".
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on 12 November 2007
One of the lesser problems with this book is that the author spends too much time talking about himself instead of the subject. For example he writes in detail about his difficulty in finding parking space when he visits one of the off- grid people. He also brags about getting gadgets for free and talks far too much about his family. He seems to brag about rather than describe his off grid place in Spain. He then says that he can not afford a house in the country in addition to his expensive 2 homes and his van.
The very worst problem is that the book is badly structured, in that the details of how each off grid community works is in a separate chapter to the general description of it and it's inhabitants. It is hard to flick back and forth between chapters. The quality of writing is not the best.

The only saving grace is a very good tiny section at the beginning about the history of the grid. There is also possibly useful bit in the chapter about planning permission at the end.
There is also the odd thing, that Nick Rosen admits himself, about the irony of him choosing to drive a van to be "off grid". I was disappointed.
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on 5 January 2014
I like Nick Rosen ...a sound brit who flies the "off grid" flag in an intelligent way.
Although i think [...] is a bit commercial (intended to sell stuff)
This is more of a "Richard Attenborough" format to what i feel is an interesting "testing the water" approach to Living Off The Grid.
Worth reading - but more like a written documentary than a manual.
Maybe the words "How to" should be removed from the title?
Don't get me wrong, i'm keeping it as a reference all the same - but to me its no "Manual".
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