How to Live In the Wilderness Legally?

Live In the Wilderness

A few days after New Year, I was ready to hit the road. It felt like my life was falling apart and there was nothing I could do about it. I just wanted to take a break from reality.

I put my house up for sale, packed my essentials, and planned to live in the wilderness for the rest of my life. I’m still thankful to the gentleman who intended to buy my house but ghosted me at the last minute.

I would’ve lost my house and everything, and still be unable to live in the wilderness. Why? Because I was unaware that living in the wilderness was illegal if the due process was not followed. Wow! One can never stop learning. Did you know that to live in the wilderness, you must take legal steps that would permit you to do so?

Indeed, living in the wilderness is very much allowed, provided you do it legally. Most forest lands are government-owned, which means camping out on such grounds can be seen as trespassing. To live on privately-owned lands, you are required to obtain a permit.

If like me, you’re considering leaving everything behind and going on to live in the wilderness, you must take specific legal steps to do this seamlessly. You wouldn’t want to have problems with forest protection agencies. Keep reading to find out what these legal steps are.


Depending on your desire to connect with nature, camping exists in multiple forms, namely backcountry and frontcountry camping. So what’s the difference between backcountry and frontcountry camping, and why pick one over the other? What gear should we consider for each type? Read our article to find out more.


How Can You Live in the Wilderness Legally?

Deciding to live in the wilderness is not something you casually decide to do. I guess that’s why I was unable to follow through with my decision to leave everything behind. Apart from the legal aspect, there’s a long list of things you have to put in place before deciding to live out there. Do you know there are no shopping malls or corner stores in the wilderness? It’s going to be just you, your instincts, and Mother Nature.

Thinking about it now, my desire to leave everything behind and live the rest of my life hunting and making my own fire was just an overreaction because I was not ready for what the wilderness had to offer. I will expand on this as we progress in the article.


But first, where can you live in the wilderness legally?

There are numerous forests you could live in legally. You just have to understand the legal implications and procedures associated with each forest before jumping into action.

The United States’ Wilderness

According to the United States Department of Justice, the Wilderness Act of 1964Opens in a new tab. allows people to live in the wilderness temporarily, provided they abide by certain legal conditions. “There shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment, or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such areas.” If you’re considering living in any forest under the U.S. jurisdiction, you have to keep in mind that by law, you are not allowed to erect any structure if you’re dwelling in a forest owned by the U.S. government.

There are vast forests in the U.S. that are suitable for living off-grid. If you want to live in these forests without having any issues with government agencies, you must abide by the laws that protect such lands. This might be difficult because you cannot obtain any documents to gain access to live freely in the woods. Although, there are clever ways to navigate this.

The Freedom Residence resource gives detailed insights on making the best of living in the wilderness legally. You can either do this by purchasing land, maintaining a mobile campsite, or staking a mining claim. But, how are these achieved?

If you urgently need to move to the wilderness, you can sell all your properties and purchase land in the wilderness. You must have conducted thorough research on the area of interest, including checking the cost and buying process before deciding to move ahead with your decision.

Once you purchase it, the land becomes your property, which gives you legal backing to build your property and kick start your life in the wilderness. If this is too much of a burden, you can maintain a mobile campsite instead.

Although not a favorable decision, a moving campsite will allow you to live in the wilderness legally, provided you don’t exceed the camping duration in a particular area. In the U.S., campers are allowed to stay legally in a specific place without any required documents for a specific period (usually 7-21 days). If you’re not bothered by frequent movements, this is an easy way to live in the wilderness legally.

Although, there is a blind spot for moving campsites. You can stay in specific locations for as long as your desire, provided that law enforcement agencies are not present to monitor your movements and check whether you’ve overstayed the twenty-one-day period.

Finally, if you’re staking a mining claim, you would be allowed to stay in certain forests for as long as your mining permit lasts. The General Mining Act of 1872 sets the maximum annual fee at $5 per acre. This means that provided you keep paying your yearly mining fee, you can stay for as long as you want.

The Canadian Wilderness

Another wilderness that has the reputation to offer a serene life is the Canadian wilderness. If you want to gain access to such environments, you have to take legal steps because the Canadian government has zero-tolerance for land invaders and squatters. Unlike in the U.S., you can’t live in Canada’s wilderness without owning the land you’re residing on or possessing legal permission from the owners of the land, allowing you to camp or build cabins on their lands.

This is how it works in most countries in the world. You can’t reside on land that you have no legal rights over without having issues with the authorities. This does not make it illegal to live in the wilderness; you need to check off the legal requirements and you’re good to go.

I would’ve made the biggest mistake of my life if I went on to live in the wilderness. This is not because living in a wild environment is a terrible idea. Actually, it positively affects the quality of your life — but more on that later. I assumed I could pick up my life, decide on a forest to live in, and settle there without following any legal procedures. I know I’d have figured it out eventually, but the first few months would’ve been challenging.

This is the reality for most people who decide to move into the wilderness. They overlook the legal requirements, which are crucial to living off the grid. The way people can’t settle wherever they desire in the U.S. and Canada is the same way you can’t just settle in any forest, anywhere in the world. You must take legal steps before making a spur-of-the-moment decision.

Now that you understand the legal requirements of wilderness settlement, I’ll be addressing the factors that must be considered before heading into the wild.


What to Do Before Going to Live in the Wilderness?

Going camping is fun, relaxing, and mind-cleansing. It helps you bond with nature and feel renewed, at least until you return to reality and rejoin civilization. But, camping is not the same as living in the wilderness. It’s a permanent move that has to be critically evaluated, except if you plan on living in the wilderness only for a while.

Whichever case you are in, there are vital things you must do before going to live in the wilderness. They are as follows.

Create a Plan

Unlike me, I’m sure you have a solid reason for wanting to live in the wilderness. I considered going to live there just because things were not running their course. I had a picture in my head of what I wanted to achieve but it felt like life didn’t just want me to catch a break. Like a king in a movie, I decided to go into exile. I knew my loved ones would freak out, but it was a risk I was willing to take.

However, my decision tanked because I didn’t have a solid plan. I didn’t know what to do after deciding to live in the wilderness. How was I going to survive? What is my sustainable meal plan? Was I ready for the extreme living conditions? All these questions were unanswered. If I had gone ahead to live in the wilderness, things would have gone south for me. I couldn’t have lasted six months. This is why the need for a plan cannot be overemphasized.

It would be best if you had a plan for everything. Simple details, like what to do when you’re bored in the wilderness, must be considered. You might not have access to the internet or be able to enjoy recreational activities, like watching a movie, grabbing a cup of coffee, or socializing with friends. It’s just you, alone.

Therefore, making a plan would enable you to prepare adequately for the journey ahead.

Get Accustomed to Life in the Wilderness

Your life currently looks nothing like living in the wilderness. Living in the forest is like going back in time to live like a cave dweller. Electricity might not be a luxury in the wilderness; this would require you to get used to an alternative power source. It is not something you learn overnight. If you plan on going into the wilderness in six months, now is the time to start preparing.

It would be best if you understood that the wilderness’s survival tactics are way different from living in civilization. The chances of waking up to a wild animal on your doorstep in the wilderness are very high. What would you do in such a situation? Would you panic or allow your survival instincts to kick in? If your answer was the former, you have a whole lot of preparation to do. Living in the wilderness is no joke.


Off-grid camping or primitive camping means camping in a remote area without any reservation nor nearby facilities, like a bathroom, water, or grocery store. This may not be ideal for everyone which is why it’s important to research what you need to know about primitive camping before you embark on your trip. 


Research People’s Experience in the Wilderness

Thanks to the internet, you can gain access to people’s first-hand experience in the wilderness, including how they adjusted, the survival tips that helped through it all, what the weather situation was like, etc. This will help you prepare for what to expect in the wild.

I knew someone who moved into the wilderness with his family. Lucky enough for him, he was able to acquire a piece of land that was a stone throw away from the city’s borders. Thus, they had access to everything, from security to running water, constant electricity, food supply, access to road networks, etc. It was like a vacation for him. I guess his experience prompted my decision to leave everything behind and face my fears. But unlike him, I didn’t have the willpower to do so.

He had a splendid time in the wilderness, and I’m sure you would too. Just use the internet to your advantage, and see how people were able to successfully live in the wilderness without experiencing health complications or mental drawbacks.

Get Your Supplies Ready

Another thing to do before going into the wilderness is to get all your supplies ready. Once you’ve researched what people need to survive in the wilderness, I recommend you create a list of the essentials and make them available. You cannot survive in the wilderness without having the necessary supplies.

Lastly, Practice for the Wilderness

Before actually heading into the wild, why not give it a two-week trial? Go camping in the woods with all the necessities and pretend like it is the real deal.

Doing this will give you first-hand experience of what life in the wilderness would be like. If you find it enjoyable, going into the wilderness permanently will not be frightening. However, if you dread every moment of it, you might need to give yourself more time before deciding to make the big move.



People who are sick and tired of their everyday lives may think that they’re better off living somewhere in the mountains away from everything that is causing them stress. This does sound like a good idea, especially if you’re a nature lover, but the thing is, you can’t just pack your things and go live in a forest somewhere because it is against the law. 

If you’re really set on living in the wilderness, it is important that you do this legally. You also need to be prepared for a life that is very different from the one that you’re used to. Use this article as your guide when you’re preparing to leave your old life behind to start a new one somewhere more remote, and hopefully, more peaceful. 

Living in the wilderness legally can be fun, exciting, mind-blowing, or scary. It depends on how well you are prepared for it. Now that you understand what it takes, the legal requirements, and the processes involved, the experience should be an amazing one for you.

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