Many people dream and fantasize about changing the way they live, about starting to live the life freely, differently, and maybe more in tune with the nature. The true way to make this happen is to start living off the grid, and one of the best places to live this way is Alaska.
Not a lot of people are brave enough to live off the grid in Alaska, but there are those who have transferred their life to this remote state. Alaska is almost untouched by humans, making it peaceful, quiet and natural, allowing you to enjoy off grid living in the forest.
In this article, I will go through the important aspects of living off the grid in Alaska, and how you can plan and do it successfully.
Is It Legal to Live off the Grid in Alaska?
It is legal to live off the grid in Alaska, as long as you follow the rules of the state. In the USA, the laws and regulations differ from state to state, so it’s not entirely legal to live off the grid in the USA wherever you please. When it comes to Alaska, it is legal, but it’s always advised to check the laws of the state. This way you will avoid getting fined or prohibited from living off the grid wherever you wish. You should also become familiar with the local regulations regarding the production of solar and wind energy.
Generally speaking, as long as you’re paying property and other taxes, the government should leave you alone. You must follow local building codes and zoning restrictions. Also, check local laws regarding rainwater collection, some places do not allow it.
For more information, please read my article about the legality of living off the grid in the USA.
How Much Does It Cost to Live Off the Grid in Alaska?
The cost of living off the grid in Alaska can range from $80,000 to $300,000. Sure, it’s not cheap but you must remember that you’re changing the way you live entirely, and at first, you may need to spend and invest in your future living. With time, living off the grid will be less expensive than modern-urban living.
With that said, the cost varies depending if you prefer to build your own cabin or purchase a cabin that is already built, and also where in Alaska you’re planning to live off the grid. A small cabin in an area that is less desirable can cost around $80,000, while a big cabin in a more primary location in Alaska can cost around $300,000.
Here are a few examples when discussing cost of off grid living in Alaska:
- Small cabin (Seward, Alaska): a small cabin with 1 bedroom that is 0.52 acres in Seward can cost around $99,500.
- Medium cabin (Willow, Alaska): a medium cabin with 3 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms that is 40 acres in Willow can cost around $190,000.
- Large cabin (Trapper Creek, Alaska): a large cabin with 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom that is 200 acres in Trapper Creek can cost around $385,000.
Bear in mind that this is not the entire amount you’ll need to pay when considering starting life off the grid. There are other expanses to take in mind, like installing solar panels in order to generate power and energy (unless the cabin is already fully-equipped), getting equipment to raise livestock or grow fruits and vegetables (unless you’re planning to purchase food in a store), and more.
Again, the cost varies according to your needs and plans. Some prefer to live entirely off the grid and grow their own food in solitude, while other prefer to live away from the city and the urban life, but still purchase at the store and enjoy modern technologies and appliances.
For a complete and comprehensive guide on the cost of living off the grid, please read my article about how much it costs to live off the grid.
If you are skilled enough, there is always the option of building your off grid cabin by your own hands, just like the individual in the following video did:
Alaska off Grid Living: Things to Consider
In order to make a successful transition to living off the grid in Alaska, there are a few crucial things to consider, including location, terrain, sunlight, access, water, temperature, and others.
- Location: First, you have to decide how far away and secluded your cabin to be. Some people prefer to live far away as possible, while others prefer to live off the grid, but still close enough to a nearby town for shopping, groceries, supplies, or even enjoy a day trip from time to time.
- Permits and zoning: Always check for permits and what the law states when considering buying a piece of land or building a property. You can’t just start building wherever you please, and there are specific rules and regulations what you are allowed to build and what not on the land you own. For example, there may be areas where you are allowed to build only a one story home, or live near a lake, yet you are prohibited from using it as a source of water. So, as I stated earlier, always check the law, rules, permits and regulations.
- Taxation: This is actually not a problem when considering off grid living in Alaska. Just wanted to mention here and let you know that when it comes to taxation in Alaska, it is the lowest in USA. Alaska does not have income tax, sales tax, estate tax and inheritance tax. There are only 25 municipalities that demand taxation when it comes to property.
- Terrain: This is also an important factor to consider. Alaska is a vast place, and it’s not all trees. Even between the forests, there are spaces that are wide open. Also, the soil is not the same in different areas in Alaska, so consider it as well. If you want to grow your own food, make sure that the soil is suitable for it, and that there is enough sunlight in the area.
- Access: You need to consider access points and routes to your off grid home. Consider how you will be going off and getting to the house. Will you be using a car / SUV / boat / small plane (not uncommon at all in Alaska, depending on the terrain)? If the land you’re purchasing to build your cabin is already developed, then there will probably be established roads there as well. However, this isn’t always the case. If the road is not 100% suitable for a car, you should get an SUV. Also, consider getting sleds or even a snowmobile for the winter and cold months. After all, it is Alaska we’re talking about.
- Sunlight: Sunlight is important to grow food and support a garden, trees and plants, but also to generate energy using solar panels, which is the most common and popular way to generate power while living off the grid. So, if you’re planning to generate power using solar panels, make sure that there is enough sunlight in the area. Additionally, get several batteries to store enough energy for the sunless days.
- Water: There are many fresh springs and lakes in Alaska, which comes in your favor. It is best to have access to these sources of water, but also make sure to have the necessary rights and permits to use this water. Of course, you shouldn’t use the water straight from the lake, and must purify and distill it for safe usage and consumption. Another way to have and use water is by collecting rainwater. You can easily construct a rainwater catchment. If access to water is unavailable, your best option will be to drill a well on the land you’ve purchased. Again, it’s important to know all rules, restrictions and get the desired permits before you start any kind of drilling.
- Temperature and weather: Alaska is big, and the weather can differ from one area to another. The more you go north, the colder it will get, so it’s important to know how much cold you’re willing to endure. There are even locations in Alaska where temperature can get as low as 40-60 degrees below zero. Also, during the winter, it is very cold in interior areas as well as in The Arctic. As for the average annual snowfall, we are talking about 74 inches, as well as 16.57 inches for precipitation. Be prepared for low and cold temperatures and be safe during the winter.
- Homeschooling: If you plan to move to Alaska with your family and have children, you should know that there are no laws in Alaska for homeschooling. This means that you do not have to notify authorities or anyone else if you prefer to teach your kids alone at home, and no one will check or inspect this issue.
- Farm animals and gardening: Alaska is very easy going with its laws, and if you’re planning to raise farm animals and occupy yourself with gardening, here is what you should know: there are no restrictions or any prohibition when it comes to gardening. As for farm animals, you can raise them only if you are able to provide them with warm housing and fenced pastures.
Once you considered all these factors, the off grid living in Alaska can be quite possible. See how a retired couple did this in the following video:
Now that you have an idea about what it is like living off the grid in Alaska, I would like to share some tips that may be useful when preparing and moving to Alaska.
- Getting used to being alone: Living off the grid in a remote location is nothing like living in the city surrounded by friends, family and other people. Yes, you will enjoy peace and quiet, no one to bother you or suffer from noise, but for some people this can get crazy after a while. That is why it is crucial that you learn to live peacefully with yourself and alone. There are ways to learn being okay while living alone. You can learn to meditate, do yoga, read books, write letters, move with a family or a friend, occupy yourself or have a pet living with you. If there are any neighbors around or close to you, get to know them and enjoy some company and new friends. If the area you’re based at has satellite or cell service, you can make some calls and talk to friends and family from time to time as well.
- Accept and respect nature: Remember that you’re living now in the territory of wild animals. It is important to be careful and thread lightly. Always be safe, never try to engage if you’re not in any danger, and respect the animals and their surroundings. Alaska is home to many animals, among them are bears, moose, deers and other creatures. If you don’t interfere in their way and they don’t feel alarmed, scared or in danger, they won’t come your way and will leave you alone as well. Respect the boundaries and consider building a fence around the area of the garden. However, bear in mind (pun intended) that some animals may at times climb over the fence and enjoy the fruits of your labour. So, don’t try to fight big animals that can injure or even kill you. Instead, best to plant more and be prepared to share.
- Learn how to shop for groceries and supplies: When living off the grid in a remote and secluded area, shopping needs to be adjusted as well. You’re not in the city anymore, so you won’t just drop by at the store if you ran out of milk or the kids want a snack all of a sudden. Depending how far away you live from the nearest town or grocery shop, you’ll have to buy supplies and food that will last for weeks or even months. Buy products that last for a long period of time, get flour, canned foods, butter, sugar, water, and anything you need that can last and is non-perishable until your next purchase.
- Grow your own food: You can always grow your own food, which will save you a lot of money as well as hustle to get to the store. There’s also a great sense of accomplishment and pride in consuming something you’ve grown all by yourself, and it will probably even taste better. Of course the area, soil, amount of water, sunlight and everything else needed to grow your own food needs to be suitable. It is advised to grow food during the summer in order to preserve it for the months of winter. You can build a greenhouse or invest in one. This will allow you to prolong the growing season and not rely only on summertime, as well as growing food that can be difficult or even impossible in Alaska.
- Getting used to the dark: At some areas of Alaska, like the northern corners of the state, it is very dark for months. Even in interior areas of Alaska it gets pretty dark during the winter, as daylight becomes shorter. It’s not easy to live in the dark and can bring on depression, but it’s a part of living in Alaska, getting used to the dark and not having it affect your mood.
- Hobbies: I’ve already mentioned that it can be quite challenging at the wilderness, secluded, away from anything and anyone and during the winter when you’ll be spending most of your time at the cabin, it’s important to find something to keep you busy and occupied. A hobby is good for the mind, the soul and even the body. If your hobby requires supplies, get as much as needed for months ahead. It can be anything you love doing and is available where you’re at. Painting, sculpting, knitting, anything you desire that makes you busy and happy. On your next shopping trip to town, purchase all the required supplies and even get some extra in case something gets lost, ruined or broken. You can also read books, watch movies, so whatever your preferred activity is, it is important to keep yourself occupied and entertained.
- Exercise: It is crucial that you keep yourself strong and healthy, especially when the nearest town and medical services are far away. Plan a weekly routine and keep at it. You will feel better (emotionally, mentally and physically), become stronger and healthier. An exercise is great for the body, but also for your mind. And, being in Alaska, you can always add wood chopping to your plan, in case you need to burn wood to keep you warm at nights and during winter.
- Outhouse/composting toilet: Not all cabins off the grid include a toilet, so one solution is using an outhouse as a toilet. Septic systems are not always available when living off the grid so far away. Many people who live off the grid in Alaska use outhouses, so it’s very common there. How and where to place the outhouse is all up to you. Some prefer to place them farther from the cabin or house in order to be safe from the smell that may arise. Another great option is a composting toilet. They are convenient, used indoors and there is almost no smell at all coming out of them. It’s also a great option during the winter when you simply want to stay inside the house, for all purposes.
- Wood stacking: One way to heat the house and keep yourself warm is using heat from wood. You can always check for installation of solar panels and use the sun as your source of energy, but if you wish to save money and prefer old-school living, wood is the way to go. Wood chipping can take the entire summer, but you’re preparing for the cold and dark winter. Split the wood in two using an axe and then pile it all orderly together. Having someone to do this work for you may be quite expensive. The location of your living will determine how cold it gets during winter and how much wood you will burn. This can be between 5 to 15 cords of wood during a single winter. Another way to heat the house is using oil. The downside is that it also can get expensive and you can’t afford to run out of it, especially during winter when it’s freezing and the roads may be blocked, not allowing you to get into town to re-new the supply.
- Communication/Internet: Living off the grid and secluded far away in Alaska can be a dream come true, but it’s smart to have a way to communicate with the “outside world”, especially at times of trouble and during emergencies. There are places where there is no cell signal or satellite communication, so it’s best to have a way that will allow you to stay connected. There are off grid communication devices that do not require cell service or WiFi for them to work (goTenna Mesh, Garmin inReach Explorer+), and there is a way to get off grid Internet as well.
- Get a seasonal job: Living off the grid in Alaska is not always cheap. Sometimes, materials and equipment that are usually cheap in other states can be more expensive in Alaska. If you need money or don’t want to get stranded without it, you can get a seasonal job and earn some cash. It’s pretty easy to find a seasonal job in Alaska, thanks to their thriving tourism industry that lasts for 5 months. That leaves you the rest of the year to relax and enjoy your off grid living in Alaska.
As you can see, living off the grid in Alaska can be a challenge, but it’s worth it. Despite the cold climate and potential expenses, Alaska truly opens the off-the-gird possibilities for you. You should really give it a try!
Naturally, there are other places in the USA and the world that you may consider. I prepared several articles that can assist with this decision. You can check the best places to live off the grid in the USA, as well as the best places to live off the grid in Canada. Don’t want to limit your options by the North America? Read about the best places in the world to live off the grid, and also my guide to off-grid communities around the world.
As you can see, the world is open to an off-the-grid lifestyle. Dare to dream and to make your first step toward your freedom!