There is a great deal of information to be found when you begin searching for information on living off the grid. It bothered me a great deal when I found very little about issues specific to women, however. Specifically, how are women handling hygiene issues that are far different from men?
I speak for myself and my closest friends, who also live off-grid. This is how we deal with specific issues that pose problems for life lived tiny and off the grid. Continue reading to be enlightened on how women handle living off the grid. I’m post-menopausal so I did speak with some of my younger friends about what is working best for them when it comes to menstruation.
Forget About Using Blow Dryers and Curling Irons
Most women are used to using a blow-dryer to dry their hair in the winter, at the very least. Gadgets like these that seem benign can prove to be energy vampires.
A blow dryer can use up to 1800 watts of power per hour! That is impractical for living off the grid, though a friend tells me that she runs her generator just so that she can use her blow dryer, along with an electric trimmer for body hair. I am more of a purist and don’t really fuss with my hair. A year or so of living off the grid helps you realize that the chickens don’t care what your hair looks like. Hats cover it up when you go to town. Bandanas work too.
Hair Care and Cleanliness
The first year that you are off the grid, you’ll try to wash your hair often. After your first dry spell, you’ll try to conserve water and spread your washings out to once per week. Eventually, you’ll resort to bathing with a washcloth and skipping your hair for two or three weeks.
It’s possible to use coconut oil, massaged into your hair daily to keep it very healthy and shiny. The oil will help move dirt from your scalp. With regular brushings, you can keep your hair looking quite very nice.
When you first begin to not wash your hair, you’ll note that your hair appears oily. This is a transitional period. Your body needs to adjust to the fact that you aren’t using harsh shampoos to strip your natural oils away now. Your body is used to making tons of oil to keep your hair healthy. Now it can take a break.
Your hair will naturally stay shiny without appearing oily in short order. You may then wash your hair only when you deem necessary and some women go months before they feel the need. I wash my hair about once per week during the summer. I go longer in winter than that because I am not sweating as I do in summer.
Long Hot Showers
Forget them… Just kidding. You don’t have to totally go without those little things that make you happy. You simply have to adjust your expectations.
I have alternatives to offer you though.
One of my friends has an honest-to-goodness cast iron cauldron, big enough for her to sit inside. She heats it over a fire outdoors and takes her hot baths in it. The cauldron, tucked into the woods near her cabin, is a tranquil scene where she can relax.
I’m a bit more practical myself. I purchased a rechargeable camp shower, hung shower curtains to create a box around my front door on my porch, and solved my issues. I heat water with a tea kettle or a large pot, depending on how long of a shower I want to take.
I place a five-gallon bucket with my water on the porch, inside of my makeshift cabana, and I shower with my camp shower. It works well and is as close to an indoor shower as you can imagine.
Winters pose an entirely different dilemma. It’s too cold to shower or bathe outdoors. Last winter, I used a 40-gallon tote as a bathtub. The only hard thing was dumping it out, so I drilled a hole in the floor, installed a spigot in the tote, ran a hose through the floor, connected that to the spigot, and problem solved.
You can stay as clean as you want while living off-grid, provided that you have access to water. If you don’t, then using baby wipes is a reasonable back-up plan. If you use the outdoor method or dump your bathwater outside, make sure that you use biodegradable soap that is free of chemicals.
Dealing With Menstruation Off The Grid
This topic gets off-grid women chattering like hens at the hen house. The issue for women is that they don’t always know what to do. Using sanitary products like tampons and feminine napkins is not conducive to living off the grid. They are not healthy for the environment and fill landfills. If you are in the midst of nowhere, disposal is impossible.
What do you do?
Each woman handles it in her way. Some women sew cloth pads and soak them in the same way as soiled baby diapers. Then they launder these pads separately from other things, store them when dry, and re-use. It is a labor-intensive method. Plus, the idea of re-using pads in this manner is distasteful to many women.
Most women give two thumbs up to “the cup” which is a pliable silicone or plastic cup that can be folded and gently inserted as a tampon. It needs to be removed and washed out every two to three hours for most women although, some report being able to go much longer on light days.
The cup needs to be washed and sterilized with something gentle and stored in a plastic bag in between uses. It’s been called a miracle and probably one of the most important things you’ll need when you move off the grid.
Some women don’t like it and prefer pads while others report flowing too heavily to use just the cup alone. Try it and decide for yourself what method or combination of methods works best for you.
Women face hygiene issues that are different than for men. Most women need to bathe consistently, at least between the legs, to avoid yeast infections that can become problematic. Men are less prone to these things, though it can impact them as well.
Living off-grid is a trade-off in many ways. I don’t have a lot of modern conveniences, though I’ve made allowances for the things I truly love. I conserve water because the rains are few and far between in the hot summer months, here in Oklahoma.
On the other hand, solar panels work really well here, so I’ve been able to continue enjoying my guitar hobby with small amps that use less than 30-watts of power. Granted, it’s not a stack of Marshall’s but it works for me.
I’m an avid coffee drinker and I learned the hard way that electric coffee pots use an incredible amount of electricity. I swapped my Mr. Coffee for a camp stove and a percolator. To be honest, it’s the best cup of coffee you’ll ever drink in your life. I can’t believe I ever didn’t make my coffee this way.
This life, being off-grid, is worth the few things I’ve had to change and what I’ve given up. I have been given so much more in return. My health is better. My anxiety is far easier to live without here. I’ve discovered the beauty of sunrise and I go to bed earlier. I’ve also lost my fear of trying new things.
Life is good when it is simple, but it isn’t always slow – like when a fox is in your hen house and your heart is racing as you load a gun. It doesn’t matter that you are a woman. You can do this. The one thing I can tell you without reservation is this: The fox doesn’t care about your hair or if you’ve showered in the last few days. Your hens won’t care what your hair looks like at that moment either.
Your days are what you make them out here. I’ve learned to live more in the moment and that has helped me appreciate life in a way that I never did before. I’ve found a peaceful place within that I know I would not have found living in the city.
Women are used to doing many things at once, wearing many hats, and adjusting our lives to meet the challenges we are faced with. Living off-grid merely poses different challenges and teaches you that you can do anything.