Off grid living in Alaska ( The Last Frontier )

I have lived most of my life in Alaska, and what I can say is if you love nature you will love this state. There are a lot of people living off the grid in this state, either alone in the middle of the wilderness or in small off grid communities. Living off the grid in Alaska is different than in any other state, self-reliance is key, and small mistakes can cost you a lot. Generally speaking, people who live off the grid here are self-reliant, know how to live off the land, and have at least some survival skills.

Alaska is not a good state for off grid living, although I have lived here most of my life either completely off the grid or in a semi off grid fashion. The truth is that there are a lot of things why Alaska isn’t great for off grid living, the climate is extremely harsh, the cost of living is high, the cost of property is high, and it is extremely dangerous for people who do not know what they are doing. Most people who live here off the grid were born and raised in Alaska, but if you are coming from any other state to live here off the grid then you will be in for a massive surprise as to how difficult life can be here.

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In my opinion, Alaska has everything you need for off grid living, but the truth is that it isn’t for everybody. I have seen a lot of people with different backgrounds come and go over the past decades most of them well prepared but without any actual experience living off the grid in such a harsh environment. Alaska is the biggest state in the country with one of the lowest population densities. Currently, there are only 730k residents living in this state, and more and more people are moving out of this state.

Alaska has only one city with over 100k population, its biggest city is Anchorage with 297k population followed by Juneau 33k, Fairbanks 32k, Badger 19k, and Knik-Fairview with 18k residents. There are a lot of small towns in the state, some are accessible by roads but a majority of them can be only accessed by planes. Newcomers who want to live off the grid here will have a massive shock in their first year, and most of them simply abandon the notion of living off the grid in this state.

Most people who in fact live in this state off the grid have been raised in this state and most of them have lived off the grid their entire lives. Alaska is a beautiful state, and it has everything you need to live off the grid, with that being said it is one of the most dangerous places in the entire world. Not only you have to worry about the harsh climate, the wild animals but also about other people, especially in remote areas.

Trought the years I have crossed paths with several nutjobs in the middle of nowhere, and that sudden realization that you are in the middle of nowhere and a shady person is coming towards you will definitely make you think twice about living here. Don’t get me wrong there are some great people here but you still have to be careful. If you want to take a look at another northern state which doesn’t have such a harsh climate as Alaska then check out my recent article Off grid living in Washington ( The Evergreen State ).

Alaska climate

Alaska has several types of climates due to its large size, in the northern parts the climate is arctic, in the southern parts the climate is mostly subpolar oceanic, and subarctic in the center of the state. The average temperatures during the summer are around 70°F and the average wintertime temperatures are around 5°F. Generally speaking, the northern parts of the state are much colder than the southern parts. If you want to take a look at a state with a lower cost of living and a better climate then check out my recent article Off grid living in Florida ( The Sunshine State ).

Types of crops grown in Alaska

The local climate is not the best for growing crops, although with the help of a greenhouse you can grow potatoes, oats, barley, in addition to some vegetables. If you want to grow your own crops next to your homestead you will most likely need a greenhouse to maximize the growing period. In addition to this, most people who live off the grid here also make their own compost as the land is not that fertile. If you are not a fan of extremely cold winters, then check out my recent article Off grid living in California ( The Golden State ).

Freshwater availability in Alaska

Alaska doesn’t have a problem with freshwater, the average yearly rainfall is around 37″ which doesn’t seem a lot but the average yearly snowfall can be as high as 270″. Harvesting rainwater is also legal, some people who live off the grid in this state either harvest rainwater during the summer or let the snow to melt in large water cisterns. One thing to note that during the wintertime you will mostly melt snow, as even large water cisterns tend to freeze through the winter.

Alaska wildlife

Most of Alaska is untouched wilderness, and there are a lot of large animals living in this state like dall sheep, mountain goats, moose, caribou, bison, black bear, brown bear, and even polar bears. Over the past couple of years more and more polar bears are showing up in Alaska mostly because their natural habitat is slowly melting which makes them migrate to the south. Alaska has a lot of both freshwater and saltwater fish like king salmon, silver salmon, sockeye salmon, steelhead, pink salmon, and rainbow trout.

You will need a license both for hunting and fishing http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=license.main.

Generating power off the grid in Alaska

  • Solar power: Although not the best option for generating power, you can still manage with a couple of solar panels. The main reason why generating power with solar panels is not the best is because some areas get so cold that the solar panels will actually start malfunctioning. Just do not expect to generate a lot of power, no matter if you use solar panels or a small wind turbine. Alaska offers the State Energy Credit which you can claim after you set up the system.
  • Wind power: You will not see a lot of wind turbines in Alaska as they tend to break down once the winter comes, although in some areas of the state they are fairly popular. You can use the State Energy Credit to get the setup somewhat cheaper.
  • NOTE: Generally speaking most people who live off the grid do not even generate their own power, mostly because it is pointless, you have no cell reception and in most areas, you can not even listen to the radio. With that being said you will see a lot of solar panels in smaller off grid communities and in towns.

Alaska off grid laws

Living off the grid in Alaska is legal, and a lot of people and communities do live off the grid because they simply do not have any other alternative. The building code is not that strict and you will probably find a lot of seasonal cabins built in the middle of nowhere, try to avoid these as most of them are “owned” by seasonal hunters or trappers. A lot of people do homeschool their children as the homeschooling laws are fairly relaxed, just keep in mind that you will have to notify the local authorities. If you want to know the best places to live off the grid in Alaska then check out my recent article Best Places To Live Off The Grid In Alaska ( Top 6 Boroughs ).

Alaska road access

Alaska doesn’t have road access to a lot of areas, some places can be only reached by plane. People who live in off grid communities and small towns mostly use snowmobiles to get around, although in some areas they use snow snowshoes.

Price of land in Alaska

The price of land in Alaska is fairly high, although buying a small homestead in this state is around 44% more expensive than the national average. The main reason why housing prices are so high is that a lot of materials have to be imported from other states or from Canada.

Alaska property tax

Alaska’s property tax is higher than the national average, currently, the property tax is around 1.19% and the national average is 1.08%. The county with the highest property tax is Anchorage with 1.31%.

Cost of living in Alaska

The cost of living in Alaska is higher than the national average, you will pay around 44% more for housing, 22% more for groceries, 13% more for healthcare services, and 70% more for utilities. Alaska doesn’t grow enough food to sustain the local population, so a lot of the food and basic items have to be shipped or flown in. Due to the harsh climate, the utilities are also extremely expensive, especially during the wintertime.

Alaska jobs

Alaska has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, currently, it is at 5.8% and the national average is 3.6%. The minimum wage in Alaska is $9.89, which is significantly lower than its next-door neighbor Yukon in Canada. The biggest industries where most people work are natural gas, crude petroleum, coal, gold, zinc, seafood processing, commercial fishing, forestry, and tourism.

Alaska crime rate

Alaska has one of the highest crime rates in the entire country, currently, there are around 8.85 crimes per 1000 people and the national average is only 4 crimes per 1000 people. Do note that the crime rate is even higher as a lot of crime is not reported, especially in remote areas. The areas with the lowest crime rate are around Hyder, Cooper Landing, Tyonek, and Iliamna. The areas with the highest crime rate are around Hooper Bay, Throne Bay, Anchorage, Kenai, and Tok.

Alaska natural disasters

Alaska is prone to having tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, landslides, wildfires, blizzards, ice storms, and winter storms. The most commonly occurring natural disasters are storms, and these can get fairly violent in no time.

In conclusion

Although I love Alaska, but I can simply not recommend it as an off grid state. In any other state if you forget to buy something you just head to the nearest town or city and buy it, in Alaska the smallest mistakes can be extremely punishing.