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Can you live comfortably in Alaska?

Alaska is known for its extreme cold temperatures and remote wilderness, which can make it seem like an inhospitable place to live. However, with the right preparations, knowledge and attitude, it is possible to live quite comfortably in America’s northernmost state. Here we’ll examine what it takes financially, practically and mentally to make a comfortable home and life in Alaska.

The Cost of Living in Alaska

One of the biggest factors that determines comfort in Alaska is having enough money to afford the higher cost of living. Prices in Alaska tend to run higher than the U.S. average due to the remoteness and lack of road access to many areas. Some key costs to factor in:

  • Housing – Prices vary hugely around the state but expect to pay more for rent or mortgage in cities like Anchorage and Juneau. Buying remote land is cheaper but then you need to build/maintain your own property.
  • Food – Groceries cost around 30% more in Alaska due to import costs. Stock up when visiting the lower 48!
  • Fuel – Gas prices in Alaska are notoriously high. Heating oil is also very expensive in winter.
  • Goods & Services – Most items have to be shipped in so come at a premium. Services like repair technicians also cost more due to travel time.
  • Clothing & Gear – You’ll need to equip yourself with warm, high quality clothing and accessories that enable you to get outdoors.

To live comfortably you’ll want an income that meets or exceeds the U.S. average while accounting for Alaska’s higher prices. Jobs in industries like oil, fishing, tourism and government tend to pay well due to the high cost of living. It’s wise to have savings on hand too to deal with emergencies and spikes in seasonal costs like winter heating.

Dealing with Alaska’s Climate

Alaska’s cold temperatures and long winters can be challenging. A few ways to make winter more comfortable include:

  • Insulated home – Prioritize high insulation with double paned windows to hold heat in. Wood stoves also help.
  • Proper winter gear – Invest in a good parka, boots, gloves and thermal layers so you can safely spend time outdoors.
  • Winter hobbies – Have indoor hobbies like reading, crafts, music or streaming shows to pass long nights in.
  • Vitamin D – Many Alaskans take supplements due to lack of sun exposure in winter.
  • Get away – Take a trip to a warmer spot if it all gets too much.

It’s also key to come prepared with emergency supplies like extra food, water, warm blankets, tire chains, shovels, battery packs and medications in case you get stranded in a blizzard or face power outages.

In summer, temperatures are milder but you’ll need to handle near constant daylight and pests like mosquitoes. Light blocking window treatments, nets, bug spray and keeping active outdoors help.

Living Off the Land

Those wanting to live remotely in the Alaskan bush often rely partially or fully on subsistence living. This involves utilizing the land’s natural resources to provide necessities like food, water, fuel and shelter. Common subsistence activities include:

  • Hunting moose, caribou, bear, small game, waterfowl
  • Fishing for salmon, halibut, trout
  • Trapping fur bearers
  • Foraging wild plants, berries, mushrooms, timber
  • Collecting water from streams, rain or snow melt
  • Chopping wood for fuel to heat homes

If you want to live comfortably off the land, be prepared to invest significant time learning essential bush skills like hunting, butchering, preserving meat, foraging edibles and fire starting. You’ll also need the right equipment and facilities like guns, nets, smokehouses, wood stoves and root cellars.

Maintaining Health & Wellness

The isolation and harsh conditions of many parts of Alaska can take a toll on mental and physical health. Some self-care strategies include:

  • Community – Connect regularly with family, friends, neighbors and community groups.
  • Physical activity – Bundle up and embrace the outdoors. The landscape provides world class hiking, skiing, paddling and more to stay active.
  • Nutrition – Eat well and take Vitamin D to maintain energy and immunity, especially in winter.
  • Nature – Spend time observing spectacular Alaskan wildlife and scenery to lift your mood.
  • Preparation – Stay on top of tasks like chopping firewood so you don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Hygge – Create cozy spaces and activities like reading by the fireplace.
  • Travel – Get away occasionally to prevent cabin fever.
  • Healthcare – Access medical services via clinics in hub towns or telehealth.

Having strong mental resilience also helps in dealing with Alaska’s challenges. Reach out for help in dealing with seasonal depression that some get during dark winters.

Best Places to Live Comfortably

Some of the best places to enjoy a good quality of life in Alaska include:

  • Anchorage – As the largest city, it offers abundant jobs, amenities, healthcare and urban conveniences.
  • Fairbanks – A cultural hub with the comforts of city living mixed with easy access to nature.
  • Juneau – Alaska’s lovely capital city nestled picturesquely between the mountains and sea.
  • Homer – A charming harbor town with a mild climate, artistic vibe and great fishing.
  • Palmer/Wasilla – In the scenic Matanuska Valley with mountain views and agricultural areas.
  • Sitka – A historic coastal town surrounded by gorgeous nature and abundant seafood.

Even in the larger towns you’ll still need to prepare for limited amenities and services compared to the lower 48. But they provide a comfortable base of operations with access to urban conveniences, culture and healthcare.

The Unique Lifestyle

More than just dealing with cold winters, successfully living in Alaska means embracing the state’s unique lifestyle. Here are some key elements:

  • Outdoor orientation – Most activities revolve around the landscape from fishing to skiing to simply enjoying long summer days outdoors.
  • Self-reliance – You need to be independent and able to handle emergencies yourself until help arrives.
  • Adventure – There is ample opportunity to challenge yourself tackling rugged terrain or learning new survival skills.
  • Connection to nature – Enjoy close proximity to pristine wilderness, spectacular northern lights shows and abundant wildlife.
  • Community – Isolated living fosters close-knit social circles where neighbors rely on each other.

There’s a certain resilient, adventurous spirit needed to truly thrive in Alaska. If you embrace the lifestyle wholeheartedly, the challenges just make day-to-day life all the more meaningful.

The Convenience Factor

Comfort Factor Urban Alaska Rural Alaska
Access to goods & services Moderate Very limited
Healthcare availability Good Scarce
Infrastructure/utilities Reliable Unreliable
Transportation Decent network Minimal options
Entertainment/culture Fair variety Very little
Dining variety Good selection Limited options

When evaluating comfort level in Alaska, a key consideration is access to modern conveniences and infrastructure. As demonstrated in the table, those living in smaller towns and remote areas need to be prepared for very limited options and unreliable utilities and transportation.

The Bottom Line

Is it possible to live comfortably in Alaska? Absolutely, but it requires ample financial resources, practical skills and most of all, a resilient spirit of adventure. While not for everyone, embracing Alaska’s challenges and opportunities for self-reliance can make for a highly rewarding lifestyle. Just be prepared and ready to adapt as needed when making a home in America’s last frontier.