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Adventures Across Guide to Living on Public Land

Updated: Aug 8, 2019

Hey everyone! In spirit for mine and Austin’s upcoming adventure, I decided to create this guide for you on how to live on public land. If you’ve read my book, A Year Against the Rain (buy the book HERE!), you’ll remember that we lived on public land for 30 days, and then intermittently during the next year. It was a lot of fun, and challenging for newbies, therefore this guide! I hope you find it useful in some way!

So why do we like to live on public land? It’s great for transition periods. Two years ago, we wanted to move away from Wisconsin, but didn’t know where we wanted to live. It was very easy for us to scout the scene on a day to day basis, visiting many national parks and cities along the way until we found a place that suited us. It’s also very cheap to go on a trip and live for free on public land. Paying for hotels or campsites would put a HUGE expense on us, and we’d rather rough it out in the middle of the desert than stay in a cozy hotel. Hotels aren’t even cozy to be honest!! In a few weeks, we’ll be making another move, maybe just for the winter but who knows! Ha!

So, how do we do it?

  1. Sell EVERYTHING you can’t fit in your car. Stuff holds you back. Get rid of it! That trophy from 2nd grade? Chuck it. All you need are the essentials. Think, food, shelter, water, clothing. Passions are important too, and for us bringing snowboards and books was important. Everyone is different. If you’re fortunate to have someone who will hold some things for you while you’re gone, then that’s amazing, take that chance. I leave things with my parents that I’m not ready to let go of, like old journals and musical instruments, because if I ever get to the point where I want to stay somewhere I’ll add those to my place. As for now, they stay in mom’s basement in a closet.

  2. Car camping is okay, but we recommend a tent. Sleeping upright in a car seat is terrible for your posture, and if you’re hiking everyday and being active, you’ll get burnt out quick. If you have a bigger vehicle, then making a bed inside is possible and slightly easier for clean up in the mornings. Do what’s best for your situation. We have a small car that fits all our stuff and that’s it. Tent is a must for us.

  3. Where do we sleep? We spontaneously pick a spot each day, deciding where to go in the mornings and finding a spot that’s around that destination. There’s lots of public land out west (aka national forests/national land, the forest roads, dirt desert roads, etc.) DO YOUR RESEARCH!!! Some rest and truck stops out west allow you to sleep there for a few hours. Take advantage of the sleep you get in more public places, stealth camping can be a bitch in a car trying to sleep at Walmart.

  4. Showering: Trucks stops, or get a membership at a gym somewhere. It may seem weird showing at a truck stop but it's not. Forget about being weird. If you want to shower in the rain or with a solar shower, use organic and biodegradable products only. Mother Earth doesn’t want to be polluted with chemically soaps and shrivel in pain. Lakes and rivers are also an option, but then again, the organic products. Be respectful of Gaia!!

  5. Food!!! It’s easiest to go vegan here… making guacamole while driving through deserted Colorado is so fun and nourishing, especially when you eat it while driving 100 mph through a deserted national park. Vegetables and fruits don’t have to be refrigerated and you will eat them fast. They’re much healthier than eating road snack food and will nourish you while you’re being active on your adventures. Keep yourself healthy, it’s worth it. I have tons of one-pot meals to share, it’s seriously so easy pulling out your Coleman one burner stove, throwing a pot with some rice/lentils/beans/quinoa and assorted veggies. Soups are definitely possible too. The options are endless!

  6. Clothing: Choose.a duffle bag. Put as many clothes that fit in there. That’s all you need. Laundromats will become your friend, and there’s usually wi-fi in them. Part of living on public land is becoming more minimalist, and if you’re not drenching your clothes in sweat, you can wear a shirt 2-5 times before you need to wash it. Can you imagine how many days you can go with just a few shirts/pants? I’d recommend having at least 7 pairs of socks and underwear, that way you have a pair for every day of the week and can do laundry once a week.

  7. Wifi and charging your stuff: Go to coffee shops! Go for the local, indie, hip coffee shops near where ever you’re at for the day. Soak in the chill vibes, charge your shit there, and work on your digital nomad stuff (or not, you can always check your Facebook there.) Charging stuff in the car is an option too.

  8. When you find a camping spot: Make sure to leave the place cleaner than you came folks. Mother Nature doesn’t want your garbage and shit laying all over her beautiful land. Be responsible and respectful. Also, if you’re trying to get “high” or use substances on your trip, I personally recommend you don’t. Paranoia ruins everything - it’s best to keep that for home and not high risk situations that can already be stressful.

  9. What to do? We’re digital nomads. We have our personal passions that we combine with nature really well - hiking, visiting nature parks, being spiritual with trees, we visit as many hiking trails as possible. Fit any moment not in the car out hiking, being active, and adventuring. It’s great for the soul, taking pictures, videos, having spiritual experiences, meeting new friends, or doing extreme sports like snowboarding, biking, kayaking, skiing, skateboarding, hiking.

  10. What about money? It’s best to save at least $2,000 before doing this. The first time we went out, we were able to live 30 days on public land while still eating pretty healthy and visiting 6 national parks and many not-as-well-known parks. When you cook for yourself, food is cheap. If you have a fuel efficient car, $50 can get you almost 800 miles. Pretty rad.

Those are my top 10 tips for how to live on public land. That’s about all I have for you today. Have you ever tried living on public land? How was your experience? I’m curious!!

Till next time,



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