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  • Writer's pictureClotaire Mandel

Bikepacking Alaska : Cheap life

Well, I have to admit that the title is a bit of an oxymoron. Life in the US is expensive, and in Alaska even more so, and in the remote corners I leave you to imagine. Anyway, it was a bit of a surprise. Having spent a long time in New Zealand and Australia, I thought I'd be price-proof, but I have to admit that this is another level altogether. Which means I've had to completely rethink my food ambitions, and adapt to what I can afford and what I can find. But it works with food as it does with everything else. Phone plans, accommodation, restaurants... So here are a few tips in bulk while bikepacking Alaska to avoid breaking your bank account.

bikepacking alaska arctic circle

- Camping For sure, you'll have to camp. Unless you have an absolutely astronomical budget and are in places where you can find hotels, you'll have to camp. This requires a bit of organisation, particularly because of the bears. But it's very easy to find somewhere to camp just about anywhere in Alaska, from roadsides to people's backyards. If it's raining and you don't feel like pitching your tent in the rain and packing it away in the rain either, think about how much a night costs indoors, and measure your trouble outdoors against the cost of a motel, hostel or youth hostel.

bikepacking Alaska camping deadhorse

- Warmshower

One of the accommodation networks with Couchsurfing. Here as elsewhere, but it's all the more interesting here because hotels are expensive and people are really responsive. These are often people who have travelled themselves, who have found themselves in situations similar to yours and who will be happy to offer you a roof over their heads.


- Second-hand shops

In the big cities, especially Anchorage, you'll find good second-hand shops. You'll be able to get your gear for less, especially for bear sprays, but with a bit of luck you'll be able to find what you need more generally. The outdoor chain REI has a second-hand equipment section in its shops, but there's even more on the website, which lists all the gear available in the rest of the US. You'll need to have it sent to you, so allow time to receive it and potentially an address, although you can have it delivered directly to a REI shop. There are only two: Fairbanks and Anchorage.


- Bear gear

This is an expensive piece of equipment that you probably don't have and may never use again once you've crossed the north of the Americas. Some people use simple waterproof bags that they hang from trees, but trees are sometimes scarce, and there's also the risk of losing everything in a few minutes, bags and food.

Some hosts in Anchorage have a little box with what the tourists couldn't take with them on the plane, so bear spray!

Some hostels and locals are also happy to lend out equipment if it's only for a short period.



ursak bear bag

Also, as we're talking about not spending too much money, you need to calculate the cost of a Kevlar bag in relation to what it protects.

Ursak bags are expensive, but they are designed to withstand the jaws of bears. They cost money to buy, but you can be sure of keeping your food.

If you have a cheaper, but surely less effective, system, you risk losing the bag and the food. At the price of food in this part of the world, and also the fact that shops are very sporadic, it can quickly become more expensive to have tried to save in the first place. - Discount bins As with all large supermarkets, you'll find special offers and discount products. It's worth taking a look, and lowering your expectations if you find a much cheaper alternative. I found packets of nuts for $1 at a petrol station. It's a bit of a lottery!


- Filter coffees

Filter coffees in cafés, petrol stations or other restaurants are often inexpensive and all you can drink! What's more, you can sit in the warmth, charge your electronics and use the toilets and wifi. If you're sleeping outside, this is the cheapest way to charge your batteries, whatever they may be.

alaska filter coffee

- Eat what you find

Not having too many expectations when it comes to food allows you to adapt and take what the supermarkets are willing to offer at low prices. When you want avocados but they cost almost $5 a piece, you rethink your ambitions. Taking the time to shop around and cobble together a meal from the current promotions is surely the best way of ensuring you don't end up paying too much.


- Too much food

On sections that require you to take a lot of food, it may spill out of the bear bag and have to be stored in a standard waterproof bag, praying that nobody touches it... Given the price of waterproof bags and food, it's sometimes better to pay for a campsite where you can put all that food under cover rather than risk having your bags ripped open.


- Loyalty cards

Supermarket loyalty cards are really good value and the offers are often very attractive. They're free and instant. And even if you're just passing through once, the people at the checkout will quickly cobble together a fake subscription in thirty seconds so you can take advantage of the benefits.


- Costco!

Costco is a wholesale chain, so it's much cheaper. That said, you need a loyalty card to get in. If you have a host in the area, chances are you can borrow their card. Otherwise, it costs $60 a year, and may be worth it if you plan to spend some time in the USA. On the other hand, it's available in large quantities. Solo, it's probably not worth it, unless you post some dry food in advance. But in a group it's probably a very good idea.

- Talk to people

Don't be afraid to tell your story and approach people. The generosity and hospitality of the locals will lead to some wonderful surprises.

alaska bike touring

- Going out reasonably

You can get by reasonably well, as long as you don't go out too much. Restaurants are expensive, as are bars and cafés. Everything is expensive. But on top of that, you have to add the tip, which adds up every day.

It's already a bit expected, it's part of the service. And things are always presented in such a way as to make you feel a little uncomfortable about pressing the right button.

But above all, you should know that some waiters are sometimes paid $2 or $3 an hour! The rest of the salary comes from tips. So it's not just nice manners, it's also what many people earn!

It's a crazy system, but I'm not going to go into detail about how I feel about this part of the American dreamland.

- Make do with what you can afford

Finally, you have to be aware of the price of things, as basic as fresh vegetables, and unless you can live comfortably, you have to accept that in this part of the world you have to make do with what you can afford. Sadly, it's the poor quality products that are cheap. And the same goes for accommodation, you have to make do and take situations with a smile.

It was all the more difficult as I'd just arrived from South-East Asia, and had a slightly wider choice with my budget.



bikepacking life alaska mosquito

- DIY

The cost of labour for bicycles is quite high, so for anything basic, it's best to learn on your own using YouTube and spare parts!


- FB Groups

Alaska is a small world, and communities are also made up of Facebook groups. Don't hesitate to check out the local groups for hikers, cyclists or simply towns if you have a question or piece of advice to ask.


- Hitchhiking

If you want to get around, skip a stage or make a diversion for a side visit, don't worry too much - hitchhiking works really well!

The public transport network is not exceptional, everyone has a car and uses it!

What's more, everyone has a pick-up, so hitching a ride with a bike isn't too much of a problem. Pick-ups or tourists' caravans will also do.

Whatever happens, it doesn't cost anything to get around with a helping hand, and it's probably easier here than anywhere else!



dalton highway bikepacking biketouring alaska

- Don't come to Alaska

If you want to get around, skip a stage or make a diversion for a side visit, don't bother too much - hitchhiking works great!

The public transport network is not exceptional, everyone has a car and uses it!

What's more, everyone has a pick-up, so hitching a ride with a bike isn't too much of a problem. Pick-ups or tourists' caravans will also do.

Whatever happens, it costs nothing to get around with a helping hand, and it's probably easier here than elsewhere !


 

If you've enjoyed this article and/or found it helpful, there are ways you can support my journey.


In the about section, you'll find the link to Paypal and Patreon.


Thanks a lot!

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