Living off the grid or trying to reenact some Bear Grylls Survivorman fantasy out in the wilderness is not something to be taken lightly or romanticized. It requires experience, knowledge, and the ability to adapt and know when to call it quits. Without the proper supplies, shelter, and preparation, even the most well-intentioned attempts can turn tragic, as was the case for Rebecca Vance, her 14-year-old son, and her sister Christine Vance. Their story serves as a warning for those who think living off the grid in the wilderness is as simple as they make it out to be on T.V.
The Vance family decided to disconnect from the world in July 2022. Motivated by media-driven fears stemming from the global COVID pandemic, they sought refuge in the rugged terrains of the Colorado Rockies. A year later, they were discovered dead in those same mountains.. All three died of malnutrition and hypothermia, according to autopsy reports.
The U.S. Forest Service lists the campground where they were found as “closed due to inaccessibility.” It sits 27 miles northeast of Gunnison near the 13,266-foot Henry Mountain at the southeastern edge of the Fossil Ridge Wilderness.
Despite being convinced that they were saving themselves from COVID by fleeing into the wilderness, the Vance family was woefully unprepared for the challenges they would face. The remote campsite where they were discovered was littered with empty food containers and survivalist guides. Sadly, no amount of reading can replace real-world experience, especially when it comes to surviving in the wilderness.
The family set up camp at an elevation of approximately 9,500 feet. For anyone familiar with the region, this height brings its own set of challenges: freezing temperatures, snowfall, and a scarcity of easily accessible resources. During harsh winters, survival becomes even more complicated, and even with experience things can turn bad quickly.
The family had been missing since October 2022. They were discovered in July when a hiker found the boy’s remains outside of a tent in a remote campsite in the area of Gold Creek Campground, east of Gunnison, in the Colorado Rockies, the reports said. The next day, investigators discovered the remains of Rebecca Vance and Christine Vance inside the tent. Evidence at the campsite suggested that the family was trying to live off the grid but desperately struggled, Michael Barnes, the Gunnison County Coroner who authorized the autopsies, told The Times.
The family members were all “very thin,” and wearing several layers of clothes when found, the autopsies said.
In wilderness survival, knowledge is not just power—it’s matter of life and death. Before making a drastic life decision, educate yourself, gain real-world experience, and never underestimate the power of the wilderness and of Mother Nature. Your life, and the lives of those you love, may depend on it.