How to Live on Public Land

How to Live on Public Land

Explore America's Campgrounds

Building permanent structures to live in one spot in national forest areas in the United States is prohibited by law. But a temporary, nomadic existence is possible as long as you adhere to the three-week rule. This means that you spend three weeks in one spot, break camp and move onto a different section of the forest. This nomadic lifestyle requires careful planning, knowledge of survival techniques and the ability to live with only the supplies you can carry from place to place.

Items you will need

  • Backpack

  • Water

  • Magnesium fire starter

  • Knife

  • Tent

  • Sleeping bag

  • Cooking utensils

  • Food

  • Toiletries

  • Topographic map

  • Compass

  • Money

Step 1

Hike into your chosen area of national forest with your backpack loaded. Locate a small clearing halfway up a hillside that is near a stream and has lots of brush surrounding the area. Cut a branch from a pine tree and use it to sweep the area.

Step 2

Drink a bit of water each hour to stay hydrated. Gather firewood and tinder from the surrounding area. Locate enough softball-sized rocks from the nearby stream to build your fire pit. Place the stones in a circle, lay out small twigs in the shape of a square and put a handful of tinder in the middle. Light the tinder with your magnesium fire starter. Allow the small twigs to catch fire and slowly add larger firewood.

Step 3

Set up your tent in the clearing with the opening facing downhill. Place your sleeping bag in the tent. Cook some of your food over the open fire. To maintain your health, eat at least 2,000 calories per day while outdoors.

Step 4

Keep your body and teeth clean. Be sure to bathe daily. Bush your teeth every morning and every evening. Keep your feet clean and dry.

Step 5

Spend time each day looking at your map. Use your compass to take hikes away from your camp to locate your next suitable site. Hike into the nearest town to buy supplies with your money. Break camp and relocate every 20 days so that you are following the letter of the law.