Off grid living in the Northwest Territories ( Canada’s Last Frontier )

The Northwest Territories is a typical northern province of Canada, with a harsh climate and low population density. The size of this province is almost double of Yukon’s and the population is only slightly above the population of Yukon. Currently, there are around 45k people calling the Northwest Territories home. The population is fairly stagnant and most of the young people actually leave this province as it has little to offer for them.

The Northwest Territories is not a good place for off grid living, life is way too difficult here mostly due to the local climate and the extremely harsh winters. You also have limited options when it comes to growing crops, and in some areas raising livestock might be extremely dangerous due to the wild animals. You will either love living off the grid in the Northwest Territories or you will hate it, there is simply no middle ground.

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During the past couple of decades, the Northwest Territories has started attracting more and more tourists, and some area’s main income is tourism. The biggest city in Northwest Territories is Yellowknife with around 20k population followed by Hay River with 3500, Inuvik 3300, Fort Smith 2500, and Behchokǫ̀ with 1800 residents. Living in this province is hard work, although there are a lot of people living off the grid but most of them are as minimalist as possible.

By minimalist, I mean that in the northern parts of the province they mainly focus on living off the land and some of them do not even generate their own power. There is simply no point in generating power as there is no cell phone reception, no internet in the vast majority of the province. You will often see people living off the grid in this province using propane heaters, lamps or hand-cranked flashlights.

The further up north you go in the Northwest Territories the more and more difficult off grid living is, because of the climate until you hit a point where it is simply impossible. People who live off the grid here tend to stick to areas whit lakes and forests, the lakes provide them with food and the forest provides them with fuel for warming up, cooking, and building shelter. In the extreme northern parts of this province, there are no forests that will make living off the grid impossible. If you want to take a look at how Yukon is for off grid living then check out my recent article Off grid living in Yukon ( The Land of the Midnight Sun ).

Northwest Territories climate

The Northwest Territories is the coldest province in the entire country, the local climate is mostly subarctic with low humidity. The low humidity matters a lot as the higher the humidity is the colder the climate actually feels. Although the winters can be brutal, but during the summertime, the temperatures can get fairly high, mostly because the days are extremely long. The average summertime temperatures are around 77°F ( 25C ) and the average wintertime temperatures are around -40°F ( -40C ). If you want to compare this province to a state then check out my recent article Off grid living in Montana ( The Treasure State ).

Types of crops grown in the Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories are not the best for growing crops, most people in addition to growing crops also raise livestock as these are much more resistant to the cold climate. The most common types of crops in this province are berries, grapes, vegetables, and some fruits. Generally speaking, the southern parts of the province are the best ones for growing crops although you will definitely need a greenhouse and compost. If you want to take a look at a province with a milder climate then check out my recent article Off grid living in British Columbia ( The Pacific Province ).

Freshwater availability in Northwest Territories

There is plenty of fresh water in the Northwest Territories, there are literally several thousands of lakes. The best part about these lakes is that they are extremely clean, although I would still recommend you to filter and purify the water. The average yearly rainfall is around 13.5″ ( 342 mm) although this doesn’t seem a lot just remember that summers are fairly short and most of the rain falls as snow.

Northwest Territories wildlife

This province has a lot of animals, as most of the province is untouched nature. The most common animals are wood bison, boreal woodland caribou, barren-ground caribou, Peary caribou, muskox, and black bears amongst others. If you love fishing then you will love this province as it has thousands of lakes filled with fish, the most common types of fish are arctic char, lake trout, burbot, northern pike, bull trout, whitefish, pickerel, and inconnu. You will need a license both for freshwater and saltwater fishing https://www.enr.gov.nt.ca/en/services/get-fishing-licence.

Generating power off the grid in Northwest Territories

  • Solar power: During the summertime, you will have no problem generating power with solar panels, although do keep in mind that during the wintertime the days are a lot shorter which will limit the amount of power the solar panels can generate. The Northwest Territories offers one of the most generous solar power rebates in the country, the Alternative Energy Technologies Program (AETP) offers a rebate of around 50% up to $20 000.
  • Wind power: Although generating power with wind turbines is not viable in all regions of this province but if you want to then you can apply for the Alternative Energy Technologies Program.

Northwest Territories off grid laws

Living off the grid in the Northwest Territories is legal, there are no laws prohibiting you from living off the grid. The main problem with living off the grid in this province is not the legal aspect of it but how dangerous it can be, especially if you do not have any experience living off the grid in a subarctic climate. If you have children then your best option will be to homeschool your children, the homeschooling laws are not that strict as long as you notify the local authorities.

Northwest Territories road access

There are not a lot of roads in this province, most of them are in the southern parts. There are small towns in the northern parts of the state although most of them do not have any kind of road access and they rely on airplanes for everything.

Price of land in Northwest Territories

The price of land in this province is similar to Yukon, the actual price of land is low but the price of housing and property is expensive. This is for the same reason as in Yukon, everything has to be imported. If you want to buy a homestead in this province at a below-market price then you need a lot of luck. In the northern parts of the province, you will find that the prices are somewhat lower but this will be different from one town to another.

Northwest Territories cost of living

The cost of living in the Northwest Territories is above the national average as everything has to be imported. Generally speaking the further north you go the more expensive the cost of living is, especially if the community or town doesn’t have road access.

Northwest Territories jobs

The unemployment rate in this province is 7.6% which is above the 6.9% national average. The minimum wage is $13.46 which is higher than in Yukon. The biggest industries are mining, oil, gas, and forestry. In the northern parts of the province, the aboriginal people live off the land by hunting, fishing, and trapping.

Northwest Territories natural disasters

The most common natural disasters in the Northwest Territories are floods, avalanches, blizzards, storms, and even wildfires. During the summertime, this province can seem like a paradise but during the wintertime, it can quickly turn into a frozen hell.

In conclusion

I do not recommend living off the grid in the Northwest Territories, for mostly the same reasons as in Yukon, the climate is not ideal for growing crops, and generating power will be extremely difficult during the wintertime.