Montana is one of the largest states in the country which also has one of the lowest populations. The population density is so low that if you do not live in any of the cities your next-door neighbor could live a couple of miles away from you. Currently, Montana’s population is around 130k people, its biggest city is Billings with 109k residents followed by Missoula 72k, Great Falls 58k, Bozeman 45k, Butte-Silver Bow 35k, and Helena with 31k population.
Living off the grid in Montana is legal, but this is not a good state for off grid living, mostly due to the local climate, especially during the wintertime. Although the state offers generous incentives for wind and solar energy systems, but the harsh climate and the cost of living aren’t great for off grid living. On the other hand, if you want to move to a state which has a low population density and a lot of untouched nature then Montana is probably one of the best options for you.
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Living in Montana can be fairly difficult, most of the state is untouched wilderness and winters can be brutal. The residents of this state have at least some survival skills, and most of them have a preparedness mindset. People who live off the grid in this state often stockpile food for at least a couple of weeks, mostly because when it snows getting around can be extremely difficult and dangerous.
In addition to this, people who travel in this state are advised to have food and water for at least a couple of days in their vehicles. In case their car breaks down it could take days till somebody finds them, now you might think that they should just use their phone to call for help, but the problem is that not all areas have a phone signal, in fact in the vast majority of the state your phone will be useless.
During the wintertime, a lot of communities become isolated once the snow starts falling, and this isolation can be anything between a couple of days to weeks. If you are planning to live off the grid in Montana, get ready for some hard work, most of the year you will be preparing for the winter. If you want to take a look at one of the neighboring states then check out my recent article Off grid living in Wyoming ( Cowboy State ).
The climate in Montana is a northern pacific coastal climate, and in the eastern parts of the state, the climate is semi-arid and in some areas continental type. Basically, this means that summers are short and almost could, on the other hand, winters are long and fairly cold. The average temperature during the summertime is around 70°F, although in July it can be as 85°F. During the wintertime, the average temperature is below freezing. If you choose to live off the grid in this state then you will most likely heat ith firewood, due to the harsh winters in this state the firewood can often get wet, for more information check out my recent article How to dry wet firewood ( In 6 Easy Steps ).
Types of crops grown in Montana
The most common type of crop grown in this state is wheat, although the state also grows potatoes, flax, beans, peas, apples, and grapes. In addition to this Montana has a lot of farms growing cattle, in fact, there are more cattle in this state than people. Not all areas in this state are suitable for growing crops, people who live in this state of the grid grow vegetables in greenhouses and they also make their own compost. North Dakota has more options when it comes to growing crops and livestock, for more information check out my recent article Off grid living in North Dakota ( Peace Garden State ).
Freshwater availability in Montana
In the western part of the state, there are no problems with freshwater due to the climate, although in the eastern parts of the state where the climate is semi-arid you will have some difficulty harvesting enough rainwater or accessing groundwater. The average yearly rainfall is around 15″, although in the mountainous areas the rainfall can get as high as 100″ per year. The average yearly snowfall is between 30″-50″ and in the mountainous regions it can get as high as 300″,
As most of the state is untouched nature, Montana has a lot of different types of animals like the grizzly bear, moose, wolverine, bighorn sheep, elk, mountain lions, coyotes, white-tailed deer, lynx, and black bears. In the local rivers and lakes, you will find bull trout, brown trout, yellow perch, burbot, black crappie, American paddlefish, and westslope cutthroat trout. You will need a license both for fishing and hunting http://fwp.mt.gov/fish/license/.
Generating power off the grid in Montana
- Solar power: Generating power with solar panels is not ideal in Montana, although most people who live off the grid in this state tend to use both solar and wind power systems mostly as a backup. Montana has probably one of the most generous solar incentives, the Residential Alternative Energy System Tax Credit is 100% of the total cost although only to max $1000. There is also the federal tax credit which is 26% for which you could also apply if the solar system costs you more than $1000.
- Wind power: Montana has a $500 tax incentive for wind turbines, on top of this the state also offers generous loans of up to $40 000 which have to be paid back in 10 years. You can still apply for the federal tax credit for wind power as well.
Montana off grid laws
You can live legally off the grid in Montana, in fact, due to the low population density, a lot of people and communities do live off the grid. The state also offers generous incentives and affordable loans who choose to install solar or wind power systems. Due to the harsh winters a lot of people chose to homeschool their children, especially if they do not live near a city, the homeschooling laws are fairly relaxed and you can apply even online. If you want to know the best places to live off the grid in Montana then check out my recent article Best Places To Live Off The Grid In Montana ( Top 6 Counties ).
Montana road access
Road access will become a problem during the wintertime if you plan on moving to Montana then make sure that you have some sort of bugout bag in your vehicle or at least some food and water. The last thing you want is for your car to break down in the middle of nowhere during the wintertime as it could take days till somebody finds you. Most people who live in this state use 4×4 wheeled vehicles and people who live in remote areas also use snowmobiles.
Price of land in Montana
The cost of land and housing is more or less the same as the national average, the median cost of a home is around $231k. Generally speaking in the western parts of the state the price of property and land is a lot cheaper, although this area has a semi-arid climate.
Montana property tax
The property tax in Montana is around 0.84% which is below the national average of 1.08%. Stillwater County has the lowest property tax in this state at 0.63%.
Montana cost of living
The cost of living in Montana is lower than the national average, you will pay less with 25% for transportation, and 10% less for utilities. The cost of housing, health care services, and groceries are right at the national average.
The unemployment rate in Montana is at 3.4% which is somewhat below the national average of 4%, the problem is that Montana’s unemployment rate is trending upward. The minimum wage is at $8.50 which is somewhat higher than in the neighboring states. The biggest industries where most of the people work are agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, renewable energy, and tourism. Montana’s economy is fairly stable and it has been growing faster over the past couple of decades.
Montana crime rate
Even though the population density in Montana is low, the crime rate is fairly high. Montana’s crime rate is at 3.74 crimes per 1000 people and the national average is at 4 crimes per 1000 people. The safest areas are around Elliston, Hysham, Opheim, Winnett, and Stanford. The areas with the highest crime rates are around Billings, Helena, Crow Agency, Great falls, and Missoula.
Montana natural disasters
Montana has few natural disasters, the most common ones are winter storms, ice storms, and floods. Although floods are fairly common, but the truth is that floods that cause a lot of property damage are rare.
Overall I can not recommend Montana for an off grid living state, and if you have ever experienced winter in Montana then you probably know why. The time for growing crops is fairly short and you will be preparing for the wintertime through the summer, simply put you will either love living off the grid here or you will hate it.