Living off the grid is no joke and it's definitely not for the faint of heart. The show Life Below Zero depicts what most experts would call an accurate representation of what life is like for those who have chosen to do so. While it might seem like a great adventure to leave everything behind to go live in the wilderness, it takes guts, brains, and the know-how to do it. One must be equipped with great intuition and natural instinct, the wherewithal to use tools on the daily, and have appropriate hunting and gathering knowledge. This is only the beginning, though -- The real test comes when the winter months roll in.
As viewers, we have the chance to learn from those who have done it before us. Much of the cast of Life Below Zero follow in their ancestor's footsteps, turning back to the native land that gave them life originally. While this is admirable, it's also one of the most extreme challenges anyone can take. To give up everything -- including civilization -- takes some serious bravery. It's not easy by any means but is rewarding to those who respect the land and wildlife that reside within it. From the show, we've learned some pretty valuable lessons (many that keep us from actually up and leaving our homes)... Here are 25 things the show brought to light.
25 It's Cold... As In 100-Degrees Below Zero Cold
Many times, those cast for the show made no secret of the fact that yes... Alaska is chilly. The closer to the Arctic Circle you get, the more frigid the temperatures become. However, what they don't often mention is that the windchill can make the outside temperature feel as though it's 100-degrees below zero. With blistering winds and whiteout conditions, this is an accurate portrait of life in the bush. Many times, it was too cold for the camera crew to venture out, let alone film.
24 Humans Are The Prey
One thing the show does well is to depict the relationship between the hunter and the hunted. Once a person steps foot into the Alaskan wilderness, they're subject to what nature produces -- Not the other way around. The show demonstrated many a time when lethal force was necessary in order to maintain the peace and keep from becoming the hunted. This will always come in as a food source and the cast makes sure to utilize every part of an animal, but their lives are really at risk living in such untamed land.
23 The Terrain Is One Giant Illusion
During a storm, it's nearly impossible to be able to tell which way is up. In one episode, Sue shows the cast how she ties ropes between the buildings on her homestead just so she can find her way. In the midst of a bad storm, you'd be lucky to be able to see your hand in front of your face. Once the storm is over and the ice settles in, it can be challenging to tell the difference between frozen water and solid ground.
22 It's Not Complete Wilderness
Many times, the show will paint a picture of the cast being stranded without even a thought of civilization. While this is true, some of them are not entirely cut off. With limited access to WiFi or a cell tower, some families do have access to communications with the mainland. This is obviously important not only for emergency and safety reasons but in the event that they need something as well. They may live on the outskirts, but that doesn't mean they don't have human interaction.
21 Summers Are Beautiful... And Hot
The show does touch on the fact that Alaska isn't constantly covered in uninhabitable snow and ice. During the summer months, this is when it is most imperative that the cast assemble their to-do list before the fall and winter months hit. Summer is a time for restocking, building, and making repairs, as it's the only time these can happen without a hitch. The summer temperatures can sometimes reach as high as 80-degrees, making it a pleasant season as opposed to the other three.
20 The Alaska Native Claims Act
Interestingly enough, Alaska does have a significant rewards system for the natives who decided to live in the wild bush. The Native Claims Act pays those who can verify their heritage in order to allow them to remain on the land. How does this work? By doling out dividends of stocks that Alaska is involved in, including but not limited to things such as oil-related projects. Alaskans also get paid through a similar agreement, making it a liveable place for those who are native to the state.
19 Reality Shows Are All Over The State
Alaska has gained tremendous popularity over the last few years and they're not only noticing a boom in tourism. There are several nature shows currently running that are devoted to capturing the lives of those who live there. Additionally, there are several legs of shows that have been or are being, filmed in the northernmost state. Anything from reality TV to nature documentaries has been fair game for channels such as National Geographic and Animal Planet... Whether or not the locals agree with this is a different story entirely.
18 Not Surprisingly, Native Alaskans Are Not Fans
Speaking of which, there you have it... Native Alaskans don't have much to say about the addition of these reality TV shows, except to correct some of the points made. While Life Below Zero has been verified as a fairly accurate representation of what it's like living in the wilderness, many aspects are exaggerated to make a point. The crews have found themselves in sticky situations working with natives who were not intended to be actors, thus leading to many disputes off-camera.
17 Much Of The Lifestyle Is Mind Over Matter
If you acknowledge that you're cold, then you're obviously going to be cold and that's all you'll think about. Much of what we witness on the show is personal strength stemming from a desire to do something that not many people would have the courage to do -- Go off the grid. While it seems initially fun, some of the scenarios the cast find themselves in are anything but normal, much of which they need to overcome on their own. The show is about a lifestyle, but it's also about the personal triumph of those who return to their native land.
16 Armageddon-Type Blizzards Are No Joke
Many times, the crew admitted that they were scared of leaving their shelter due to either the weather or potential predators that might be lurking around. When it comes to the weather, the crew often had no choice but to remain put and resort to medieval methods of everyday things just to avoid going outside. Other times, bundling up was a no-brainer, and using ropes to get back and forth was their only option. Storms in Alaska can produce unbearable windchills, complete whiteout conditions, and disorient someone in no time.
15 The Crew Risked Their Lives For Film
In the behind-the-scenes episodes of Life Below Zero, the crew went into some of their most hellish moments. This encompassed anything from braving temperatures they'd never experienced in their lives to wild encounters with the local animal life. To say it was a culture shock would be an understatement, as none of them had any training or life experience to allow them a comfortable stay in the Alaskan bush. Many times, they were in life-threatening situations simply due to inexperience and happenstance.
14 Being Off-The-Grid Isn't Always Conducive To Relationships
We learned in some of the behind the scenes drama that sometimes, relationships can bear the brunt of living off the grid. Several of the cast members could not make their relationships work and the stress of protecting and providing for a homestead proved to be too much weight. Living life in a real wilderness is an accomplishment to be proud of, but it's far from easy. As the show went on, it became obvious that only the strong survive -- Both physically and mentally.
13 Being In Shape Is A Matter Of Survival
We're not just talking about being in-shape so that you can outrun a predator (out here, don't bother). Being in-shape is so much more than knowing when to be nimble on your feet. Many of the cast members built their own shelters or houses, walked miles in the snow daily just for food and supplies, and would complete "housework" that would tire us in no time. Living off the grid is just as much physical as it is mental, and it's about going back to the days when life was 90% hard homestead work.
12 Preparedness Isn't Optional
Some of the cast members have touched on this topic as the individual seasons progressed. The spring, summer, and early fall are the only months they have to prepare for the winter, which often lasts much longer than what many of us are used to. Because of this fact, not being prepared is not an option. Being prepared as far as food, firewood, home repairs, and supplies go is a matter of survival for those living in the Alaskan wilderness. Not being prepared means a rough road ahead and potential for disaster.
11 Huskies Work Just As Hard As Humans
The one thing all the viewers love on this show is the pups. However, in Alaska, huskies have a far different purpose than they do anywhere else. While many of us look at them and think, "aw, how cute!", those destined to live in the Alaskan bush train them to work first, play second. Transportation is a personal choice but for some, a sleigh and a pack of well-trained huskies is the perfect way to get around the barren landscape. These pups have no small job but don't worry, they're rewarded adequately for their service.
10 Whiteout Conditions Mean No Visibility
It's no joke to get caught up in a storm with no civilization around. Many times, the crew found themselves strapping their cameras to themselves rather than over their shoulders, just to keep the battery from losing life in the cold. It's extremes like this that threw various wrenches into the crew's plans. Those who live there are used to it, but also carry with them the weight of knowing that one wrong move could cost them everything. It's this knowledge that separates the true natives from the visitors.
9 Firearms Are Part Of Daily Life
It's not secret that hunting is part of daily life in Alaska, and not just for those who live outside of society's townlines. While many people take up a serious issue with this, it is a way of life for those who rely on it for their main source of food. Whether or not that's accurate has yet to be seen, but nothing from an animal ever seems to go to waste on the show. For those who live in Alaska year-round, hunting isn't just for show -- It's a vital part of using the land for sustenance.
8 Much Of The Year Is Complete Darkness
The daylight hours in Alaska are confusing and can be very misleading for those who aren't used to them. In the winter months, people go days without seeing the sun at all. This is in stark contrast to those living near the Arctic Circle, who can often see days of sunlight throughout the summer months. Regardless of where you are in Alaska, the winter days are likely to be much shorter than anywhere else and should be prepared for accordingly. This means plenty of artificial light and mood-lifting activities.
7 Helicopters Are Rendered Innate After Roughly 10 Minutes
This is all due to the fluctuating temperatures of the Arctic Circle. Alaska can see some beautiful weather during the summer months, but winter is a completely different story. With temperatures that regularly fall to 40 below zero, it's no surprise that even modern machinery has an issue running on those days. Heck, we don't even want to get out of bed when it's below 20-degrees. These frigid temperatures can inhabit things such as gasoline, meaning engines must remain hot and running in order to be reliable.
6 The Amount Of Snowfall
It should be common sense that Alaska sees tons of snow and ice every year, but some places see up to 100 inches in a single winter. Depending on where your coordinates are in regard to the Arctic Circle, it's quite possible you could see more. The crews and cast need to take this into consideration for a number of reasons. First off, it's much more tiring to walk miles in snow as opposed to on solid ground. Secondly, this can affect homesteads and machinery. Thirdly, snow can play tricks on the eyes, requiring a thorough knowledge of your surroundings.
5 Location Matters, There Is No Civilization Nearby
When the show starts off by saying "such and such, located <insert mile radius here> from the Arctic Circle", that's not a lie. While many of the cast aren't completely cut off from human interaction, they do reside a ways away from any viable support. Many times, the show will show them making trips to the nearest town, and it's an all-day event. This means they need to choose where they are careful, whether it be by a water source, a well-protected grove, or close enough to civilization so that they have an easier way of reaching someone in a pinch.
4 Some Form Of Transportation Is Required
Contrary to popular belief, the cast does have ways to get back to the towns closest to them. Whether it's a plane that they can request via satellite or radio communication, a boat if they're near a waterway or a snowmobile, they all have something. It's easy to forget this while watching the show since they are so far from civilization. Additionally, it just wouldn't be smart to live somewhere without access to emergency services, especially in such untamed wilderness.
3 Managing Food Sources Is An Artform
Many of us know that it's easy enough to walk or drive to the store down the road and pick up whatever it is we're out of. This is definitely not the case when it comes to Life Below Zero. Not only does the cast not have access to any type of supplies within walking or driving distance, but many times they're actually cut off from it due to the weather. This means that they need to stock up appropriately for the winter months, ensuring to portion out their food lest they go out to hunt or fish.
2 "Idle Hands" Truly Applies
Especially during the dark winter months, the saying, "idle hands are the devil's plaything" rings completely true. Many of the cast members keep themselves busy, whether it's with household chores or personal hobbies. Books for reading, knitting, sewing, and woodworking are all major components of homestead life in the wilderness. Anyone without a hobby or something to do risks falling to laziness, but also falling to depression in the darker months of the season. You learn very quickly to utilize your time with anything you can do.
1 It's Not That Cheap
When you think about it, constantly going back and forth to the mainland, fixing up a homestead, purchasing weather-appropriate clothes, etc., is not a cheap endeavor. While many watches the show and firmly believe that it's a cheaper way of life, what viewers don't realize is that it sometimes takes money to live without it. While it might be completely cost-efficient once you've gotten started, it takes money to build a home or shelter, own reliable transportation, and stock up for the winter months.
References: ranker.com, survival-mastery.com