Lessons learned from living in an InForest off-grid rental

Confession: When I booked a working holiday in a InForest Cabin this summer, I wasn’t looking for an introductory course in sustainable living. I just wanted to get away from the city without sacrificing the comfort my three teenagers demand. I had that, but I took away so much more.

I feed on the re-energizing effects of nature and escape to the mountains, the beach or the desert whenever I can. It’s something that has become increasingly possible for many thanks to advances in solar panels, battery storage, data coverage, and flexible work-from-anywhere policies that have proliferated since the COVID-19. Now people can do their work from just about any place that brings them joy.

InForest cabins are completely off-grid, but that doesn’t mean you have to do without modern luxuries thanks to advancements in solar power and Starlink internet. Can you spot the dish?
Photo by Thomas Ricker/The Verge

I knew that my energy needs would push the already well-equipped solar cabin to its limits. I had all the equipment I needed to work remotely while entertaining my family. That means an e-bike, a projector, two Bluetooth speakers, five phones, two laptops, a tablet, three smartwatches and a Starlink RV internet kit from space to keep everything connected. This is in addition to the lights and full suite of kitchen and utility appliances already inside the cabin.

For a week this summer, I was able to work and play in the middle of a forest in Sweden, despite being completely disconnected from the network. The experience gave me a taste of what is currently possible with off-grid technology and a better understanding of the trade-offs needed when resources are scarce – lessons that I have since applied to daily life now that the energy prices in Europe have exploded.

The concept

InForest is owned and operated by Jesper (40) and Petra Uvesten (41) who dreamed of creating a series of off-grid cabins for people wanting to get closer to nature. The couple opened the doors to their first eco-friendly, self-contained cabin, Ebbe, in 2020. The Vilgot and Esther cabins soon followed. Each is named after one of their three children.

Jesper and Petra in front of one of the InForest cabins named after their three children.

Jesper and Petra in front of one of the InForest cabins named after their three children.
Photo: In Forest

Jesper also works full time with the EU working on rural development, while Petra is a dedicated triathlete. The two run InForest on their own, though they also have occasional part-time help so they can take vacations. Their goal is to go from three to 10 houses.

The three little cabins are located in dense forest dotted with tranquil lakes and hunting caches in the hills of southern Sweden, about two hours east of Gothenburg or three hours west of Stockholm. The cabins are handmade by Treesign, a local builder of tiny homes. Each house had to be put in place by a truck over several kilometers of dirt roads.

I booked Esther, named after Jesper and Petra’s daughter and eldest who (rightly) insisted that the largest of the three houses be named after her.


The Esther house is powered by a large solar panel on the roof, with six 320W panels helping to keep a pair of 2.4kWh lithium-ion batteries charged. Every home is equipped with an inverter to supply 220V AC to wall outlets located wherever you hope to find one.

Electricity production benefits enormously from the long summer days in Sweden. Jesper tells me that their solar system is configured to deliver about 1.5 kW of charge per hour, which is enough to fully charge half-empty batteries in about two hours. All excess energy is then diverted to the outlets. When the sun goes down, the house depends entirely on batteries for electricity.

The short winter days in Sweden are a real challenge for the cabins

The short winter days in Sweden present a real challenge for cabins, as the low and weak sun cannot keep the batteries charged. This means that InForest cabins can only be booked from March until around mid-October. Jesper hopes to extend the season by purchasing an electric vehicle with two-way charging capabilities.

Ideally, he would like to buy a Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck, but there are no plans to come to Sweden anytime soon, so maybe the new Volvo EX90 SUV will arrive in 2024 instead. Whatever he buys, he can recharge his relatively large battery of over 100 kWh at home before heading to each cabin every few days to recharge their much smaller batteries. Jesper or Petra already have to visit each cabin every two or three days anyway to clean them and fill the water tanks.

Jesper stands in front of the closet where all the technology is.  A water hose connects to the back of the house to fill the 250 liter tank.  We brought our own clothesline.

Jesper stands in front of the closet where all the technology is. A water hose connects to the back of the house to fill the 250 liter tank. We brought our own clothesline.
Photo by Thomas Ricker/The Verge

Fresh water comes from a 250 liter (66 gallon) water tank. The house is also equipped with a 10 liter (2.6 gallon) water heater, which is enough for about five to seven minutes of hot water.

Cabin LED lights, a galley fan, DC fridge/freezer, heater fan and water pump all require power. Jesper estimates that each house draws about 100W per hour when idle, which allows the batteries to power the house for about two days without any load.

However, homes require more than electricity. They are also equipped with a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) system for the combined water and air heater as well as for the stove and oven. There is also a waterless composting toilet from Separett which InForest takes care of after guests leave.

InForest homes are designed to be serviced, so all technology is housed in an externally accessible utility closet to avoid interrupting guests. External connectors make it possible to fill the water and, if necessary, to recharge the batteries, as soon as Jesper and Petra find a suitable electric vehicle.

The experience

I’ve never been more aware of my water usage, thanks to a gauge mounted on the wall inside the bathroom. InForest claims its 250 liter reservoirs provide enough water for about three days of average use by two adults. Jesper says guests typically use about 41.6 liters (11 gallons) of water per person per day when staying in their cabins, compared to 140 liters (27.5 gallons) per person in a typical Swedish household. I was traveling with a family of five, including three image-obsessed teenagers. So challenge accepted!

This water gauge is my mortal enemy - and the agent of change, ultimately.

This water gauge is my mortal enemy – and agent of change, as it turns out.
Photo by Thomas Ricker/The Verge

Seeing how much water we had left on that gauge accomplished more than any amount of scolding. In our seven days at the house, we only had to refill the water once, I’m proud to say. But that meant a pretty drastic (but simple) change in behavior, like turning off the water while soaping up in the shower or brushing your teeth. Things I’ve never done before, I have to admit. It also involved designing a dishwashing method that would conserve as much energy and water as possible.

I just wish the cabin had a power meter as well. I have no idea how far we got to draining its batteries, or how much excess power all those panels produced during the day. As I learned when reviewing solar generators, it’s easier to change power consumption habits when you see them mapped over time. That said, not knowing if the power would go out at any time was a strong motivation for everyone to keep their social media consumption devices plugged in during the day while the sun was actively powering the ports.

The urine-diverting toilet also lacked a meter, but seeing paper starting to sprout from the poop chute on the last day was a pretty good indicator that it was filling up. Luckily it’s ventilated so it was odorless. The restrooms collect solid waste in a biodegradable bag which is disposed of on an off-site compost pile after guests leave.


Esther’s kitchen is fully equipped with all the appliances you would expect except a dishwasher.
Photo: In Forest

Purists who quote Thoreau often tell me that I am wrong when I share my off-grid experiences. I’m supposed to totally disconnect and leave my gadgets at home. But I’d rather strike a balance, bend nature’s will to my needs one moment, then surrender to her desert the next. The grass can’t be greener on the other side if I live life on the fence.

Lessons learned during that week in my InForest rental turned into new habits upon my return. I always turn off the faucet when brushing my teeth and soaping up in the shower. I unplugged a dozen rarely used gadgets that were slowly draining power. I also plan to equip my house with solar panels and a backup battery. Although I have access to what seems like an endless supply of electricity and hot water here in Amsterdam, high energy prices are causing resources I previously took for granted to suddenly become scarce.

Of course, I know I should have been doing these things for years. But somehow, attaching emotional memories (stress!) to the idea made it easier for me to change my behavior. And let’s be honest, saving money is also a powerful motivator.

My biggest lesson is this: technologies have advanced so much that off-grid living is a more viable option than I previously thought, without having to compromise too much. But it’s a good idea to try it out for yourself before you fully commit.

InForest isn’t alone in offering off-the-grid getaways. A Google search will likely yield several local suppliers near you. Otherwise, Airbnb’s redesign in May makes it easier to find experiences like off grid living for those who want to go into the woods to try living a little more deliberately.

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