Like many people, I once dreamed of moving to the remote wilderness of Alaska. But, is off-grid living in Alaska still achievable?
Yes, living off-grid in Alaska is achievable. There are currently thousands of people living some form of off-grid life there. The terrain is incredibly tough, and many Alaskans live in ‘dry’ cabins without running water. However, it isn’t for everyone and is one of the toughest lifestyles in the world.
Alaska covers a surface area of 665,384 square miles, and if everyone who lived there was spread out evenly, there would be one person for nearly every square mile (0.8). With so few people and such breathtaking terrain, you can understand why people think of it as the ultimate challenge of survival and self-sufficiency.
Despite the small population, you can’t just pitch up in Alaska and claim some land. Property can be bought or rented, but the few building restrictions mean that building your cabin is relatively free of bureaucracy.
If you have the right skills, mindset, and determination, it could be the destination for you. If you’re serious about relocating to Alaska, why not start by renting a cabin for a month or two and see if it suits you?
How Many People Live Off the Grid in Alaska?
It is hard to get an accurate idea of exactly how many people live off-grid in Alaska, because of the act of going off-grid makes keeping track of them harder. However, we can get a good idea of the general population and where they live.
Of the whole population of 734,002, two-thirds of them live in communities close to the ‘rail belt.’ This is a 484 mile stretch of land close to the main highways and railway.
Incredibly there are only 29 cities and towns with a population of over 1,000 people. Of them, 298,695 live in Anchorage, 32,756 live in Juneau, and 32,325 live in Fairbanks.
Even though many people live in these higher populated areas, some of them still can still be classed as off-grid. 244,667 don’t live in the settlements of the railbelt which gives a rough estimate of the huge number of Alaskan off-gridders. While some of these may live in smaller settlements and communities, many are off-grid or self-sufficient to some degree.
Check out my recommendations of best equipment for going off-grid.
How Much Does it Cost to Live Off-Grid in Alaska?
Whether you plan to build your dry cabin or move into a ready-built, plumbed-in, luxury lodge, you’re going to need money. At the least, you will need land, a cabin, supplies, and equipment.
Buying land that comes complete with a ready-built cabin costs anything from $17,000 to $600,000. The price depends on the size and quality of the property and other factors, including location, access, and local amenities (or lack of).
Looking through this list of off-grid Alaska cabins for sale was a dangerous game for me. I’m very settled where I am, but some of them began to make my feet itch with possibility.
Land to build on
You could save some money this way, but this is the more challenging option. While you may be lucky enough to find some land with everything you need to build your cabin, you will still require shelter while you build it, or a closeby rental property.
Access is crucial when it comes to buying land because any extra items, equipment, or labor need to be able to get to the cabin location without too much difficulty. If you want a larger piece of land, you may have to look further away from the larger settlements. Still, there are many smaller lots available in beautiful locations within a more comfortable reach of small towns and amenities.
Land in Alaska costs anywhere between $10,000, for a 100 square foot lot, and a few million for several acres.
When you’re not self-sufficient, the cost of living in Alaska is high. Because it is so hard to transport products to the right places, the prices are higher than you might expect.
Prices in Anchorage and other more populated areas may not be too much more than you’re used to, but in the remote locations, fresh items, in particular, have to be sold at a premium.
According to Investopedia in Fairbanks, 2019, a gallon of milk costs $3.84, $5.29 for a loaf of bread, $1.50 for oranges, and $5.50 for a pound of chicken. The cheapest food in the state is available in Anchorage, where you can find a loaf of bread for $3.37.
Even if you plan on providing most of your food by fishing, hunting, and picking berries, you will still need to buy or arrive with enough food until you are more self-sufficient.
At the very least you will need a good ax for chopping wood and a gun for hunting. Wood, for warmth and building, is going to be an essential part of life, and if you can’t get fuel or power for a chainsaw, it’s going to have to be done by muscle power.
Many Alaskan residents advise that a gun is essential for hunting and protection in case you run into a bear.
On top of that, depending on how you want to set up your cabin, you may want solar panels, back up generators, and other modern conveniences.
$2,000 in oil royalties
On the other hand, there are some financial bonuses for living in Alaska. Because of the massive amount of money earnt by the state from oil royalties. Every permanent resident receives an annual payment from the Permanent Fund.
You may also be interested in: How to develop your income off-grid.
What Skills Do You Need to Survive Off-Grid in Alaska?
While it is still possible to head off to Alaska for a life off the grid, if it is genuinely achievable is a much more personal question.
When you look through blogs and videos from those people who’ve made a success of living off-grid in Alaska, they are quick to point out that it isn’t for everyone. Even if you find some land, a cabin, and have the money to get set up, your attitude and skill are what will keep you alive.
Basic survival skills
Because of the vastness of the Alaskan wilderness, you may likely end up lost or caught outside, unable to make it home. Being able to make a simple shelter, start a fire, identify edible plants, and navigate the landscape may just get you out of trouble.
Hunting and fishing
Hunting is key to the Alaskan way of life, and being able to hunt and dress an animal will provide you with an essential source of food. This is something you can pick up along the way, but if you know what you’re doing, you stand a better chance of success.
Fishing is also critical, and having access to some of the world’s best seafood is one of the reasons why some people head there in the first place.
Building the strength and ability to chop wood for sustained periods is essential. You will need lots of wood for heat, food and, water. It is also useful for building, so getting handy with an ax is a great way to prepare for off-grid life.
Plumbing, engineering or electronics
While qualifications in plumbing, engineering or electronics may not be essential, a basic understanding of any of them will make setting up a functioning cabin a lot quicker. If you plan on adding septic tanks, solar panels or generators, an understanding of how to set them up, maintain them and fix them when they go wrong is going to come in very handy.
What Is It Like to Live off the Grid in Alaska?
Alaska is home to thousands of people who have uprooted their life and relocated to the Alaskan wilderness for a life of self-sufficiency. Some of those return home having been unsuccessful, but many lead an exciting and fulfilling off-grid life.
Those who make a go of it, often report two main things:
- How hard it is
- How much they love it
To get an accurate picture of what off-grid life in Alaska is like, Bushradical gives some insight in this video:
As you can see, living off-grid in Alaska is not only achievable, but it is the day to day reality of many of its permanent residents. While it is possible, it is essential to consider if it is for you carefully.
If it is, and you have the skills and determination, then taking the plunge could be one of the most exciting decisions of your life.