Living off the grid in Alaska is no small feat — even for the most experienced outdoorsman — but who hasn't, at one point, heard the call of the wild ringing in their ears? So what does it take to avoid death-by-bear? The folks of National Geographic Channel's Life Below Zero don't make it look easy, exactly, but they certainly make it seem possible. Combine their true grit and a rugged spirit with some amazing tech toys that can help you elevate your outdoor game and you'll be living off the land in no time.
First things first: download the SAS Survival Guide app. The definitive guide to surviving any situation (think: torn limbs, frost bitten toes, drinking your urine to prevent dehydration) has now been reinvented for your smartphone. Whether or not there's 4G in the wilderness remains to be seen, so maybe read up before you set off on your adventure. Life Below Zero star and skilled hunter Chip Hailstone has a motto for surviving the wilderness: "live for the day, but plan for tomorrow." He says part of living off the land is being ready and going with nature's flow. The man can use his bare hands to make a kill and has raised his whole family in the Alaskan wilderness, so it's best to take his advice.
Now that you're ready, whether you're settling in after a long hike in the Alaskan Bush or just trying to rough it under the stars in your local national park, you'll need a place in the woods to call home. If you aren't hanging at Sue Aiken's Kavik River Camp, you're going to need to fend for yourself, just like Sue does when she isn't hosting hunters at her camp in the Summer. She's 500 miles from the nearest city, so she knows what it's like to be alone with 83 grizzly bears lurking near her. But Sue's survival tips might help you face your fears. She says "If it hurts, don't think about it." The MSR Hubba Hubba tent is ultra light (3lbs 7oz) so if your biceps have gotten weak at the desk job, it won't even matter. It's also the most compact of its kind, so it can wedge into small spaces and be carried to faraway places, making it the perfect backpacking tent.
If you're brave enough to leave the sweet, warm protection of your tent, you'll want some comfy armor as you explore your harsh surroundings. Hypothermia can set in if you're in temps below 40 degrees F and you're drenched in sweat, rain or snow. If you find yourself mumbling or stumbling, you're losing coordination, hypothermia is probably rearing its icy head. To prevent this mess, get the Mountain Hardwear Phantom jacket it's an 850-fill down, water resistant, warm hug in the isolated wilderness. The large pockets can fit everything — from hot-water bottles to that emergency flask of whiskey for when the fear sets in. It's also so compact, that it stuffs into its own pocket.
To keep from turning into an icy arctic treat for Alaska's aggressive carnivores come bedtime, crawl inside Sierra Designs' Mobile Mummy. The Mobile Mummy is more than your basic sleeping bag: it can be used in -15 degree temps and its arm ports allow you to use your arms for some solitary shadow puppetry without losing the warmth of your synthetic womb. Pair it with the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm inflatable pad, and you'll feel like you're warm in your apartment, not facing the elements. Weighing in at just 15 ounces, this pad provides an important barrier between you and the icy cold ground.
While in icy solitude, you'll want to have your Black Diamond Spot Headlamp, so you don't easily slip through some thin ice or bump into a carnivorous stranger. It burns brighter and longer than your average headlamp in the same price range. It also has several modes for long-range spot illumination, for when you need to see if that howl was a lone wolf or the partiers at the nearby campsite. This is crucial for following an important survival tip: if you feel lost don't panic, just follow the acronym S.T.O.P: sit down, think, OBSERVE, and prepare to gather materials. This light with up-close floodlighting for when you need to distinguish a tasty snack from a potential death-inducing plant, helps you follow that acronym to a T.
Speaking of snacks, after a day of exploration, you'll want to cozy up next to your BioLite CampStove to cook up that caribou that you triumphantly killed and skinned with your bare hands. At least, that's what Glenn Villeneuve would do, since he lives 100% off the land in the Alaskan wilderness. When he isn't hunting moose, caribou, porcupine and sheep he picks berries, roots, and leaves. If you're extreme like Glenn and not sure how to find the caribou to hunt, track nearby wolves' patters to find game. Like Glenn, you can salvage the meat off of a wolf-killed animal, so you don't have to do the work yourself. But if this is too hardcore, grab those pre-cooked sausages you bought at the grocery story and get out your camp stove. It can burn twigs so there's no need to carry a gas canister and its heat converter can charge gadgets via a USB port. OK, so maybe a USB port is a bit of a copout, but haven't you heard of Alaskan glamping? Step up your bougie camping game with a Jetboil coffee maker that turns your camping stove into a french press.
While you may not be living in a land of peril and constant deadly threat, these tools will help you rough it to the degree in which you need to get in touch with your inner outdoorsman. To live vicariously through the men and women of the cold north, watch Life Below Zero. Tune in Thursday, April 9th at 9PM on the National Geographic Channel.
Kristina Loring is an independent radio producer, writer, and digital strategist living in San Francisco. She loves exploring the hidden design in cities and riding a bicycle away from tech epicenters toward the sea.