Photo by Bjorn Bulthuis.
Living in the woods, far away from the chaos of society can sure sound appealing. And Alaska is a great place to do that—many residents near towns like Fairbanks live full-time in dry cabins without plumbing. In fact, it’s difficult for builders to work with the permafrost ground, so more houses are “dry” than you might expect. Living in a dry cabin is a great way to cut living expenses and enjoy a simpler lifestyle. But how do you take care of basic needs—like drinking, bathing and going to the bathroom—in a dry cabin? Here are a few different ways it can work.
Haul in your own drinking water. Many people near Fairbanks actually bring in their own drinking water in large tanks anyway. There are places to fill up in town, and it’s just like going to the gas station—except you’re pumping water.
Be ready to slow down in the kitchen. Want warm water to wash your hands? Hot water to clean your dishes? You’d better get ready to wait. Heating your own water for those chores takes a bit of time. If you have electricity, plug-in kettles can make the job easier. To do dishes, some people use three different tubs: one to wash, one to sanitize, and one to give them a quick rinse. When dishes are done, the water’s tossed to the wind.
Get used to an outhouse or composting toilet. Many people say this is much easier than they thought. You can arrange your outhouse to be as comfortable as you’d like it to be. The biggest inconvenience might be layering up to go outside when it’s cold. Some people use a portable toilet inside the cabin. These involve a regular toilet seat on top of a bucket, lined with a double-sealing bag. Chemicals or wood shavings are added to help absorb odors.
Rethink your bathing routine. When you have to haul every gallon of water you use in your cabin, you might think twice before taking a 20-minute shower. That is, if you have a shower in your cabin. Most residents rig some sort of gravity-pressure shower system or set up a basin they can fill with hot water. Just remember, you’ll have to heat all that water if you don’t want a cold shower. Many communities have facilities where residents can pay to shower. That way, you can enjoy a real shower occasionally and still use an at-home bathing setup.
Learn to love elbow grease—or the laundromat. Some cabin dwellers take matters into their own hands, heating up several gallons of water in a bucket, using a hand tool to agitate their laundry in sudsy water, and rinsing and hanging it to dry. But if a trip to town sounds like more fun, you can pack up your dirty laundry, pay a couple bucks and spend a little time at the laundromat relaxing while the machine does the work.
Living in a dry cabin takes getting used to if you’ve never done it before. But it also brings a sense of freedom, self-sufficiency and satisfaction. If you’ve ever dreamed about living off the grid, Alaska is full of opportunity. For more information on seasonal work in Alaska that can open up this type of lifestyle, check out www.alaskatourjobs.com.