Alaska - What to take

There are always some good ideas given on the forums, and a few that make me chuckle, as I am sure it does others that have actually driven the Alaska Highway.  Sometimes I think it must be difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff, reading this forum, for a first timer trying to plan a trip to Alaska.  I would guess there are at least 1,000 or more people on this forum that have made the adventure trek, some multiple times.  Many of them have some really good web sites with photos and verbiage about their trips. If a person looked long enough they could find a photo of every inch of the highway to Alaska.  

The trip to Alaska is not difficult at all for most anyone of average health and a vehicle in good shape, plus a healthy limit available on their credit cards. LOL  My wife and 2 pre-teen age daughters made the trip in 1989, in our motorhome from Nenana to Colorado.  This was before the Alaska Highway was paved.  It is no longer a wilderness road, but is now a good two lane paved road through a beautiful wilderness. It is just a series of 300 to 500 mile days, more of them one after the other, than most RVers have ever done on a single trip.

I make very few changes to our rig or what we take, whether we are going to Boston to see our daughter, to Colorado for the summer or are headed to Alaska.  One of the main items I do change are the fishing flies that I take to each place, plus on Alaska trips I take a portable fly tying kit.  Sometimes I will change out a rod and a reel.

Only you know what you and your spouse (or spousal equivalent ) like to do.  Try to figure out what you want to do and take the needed items for that.  i.e. if you are into birding then make sure you take binoculars for each of you, camera gear, hiking gear, etc. Each trip we go north, I find myself more and more involved in photography of the area. So sorry I didn't take more photos the first ten or so years I lived in Alaska. Plus many I lost in moving from Colorado to Florida. I like to carry several cameras on the trips. We have a Nikon DSLR, but like most, it is large and bulky. The smaller ones that fit in a pocket or bag, are the ones that get used by us. I try to change out the camera chips on a weekly basis. I down load to my laptop daily, but then change chips and keep the "loaded" chip, for when I get home. With memory being as cheap as it is these days, it works for me. At times I have run a larger SDHC chip, 8 or 16 gigs, that I use for the entire trip. Each night I will download to the computer, and weekly I will burn a copy to a larger flash drive (thumb drive). Either works for me to safeguard the photo data. I had a problem with overlapping numbers on the photos of my different Canon cameras I used last summer. Different photos on different cameras were assigned the same number and has created a problem on this web site for me. Clicking on a small thumbnail photo, may bring up a different large photo, with the same number name.

It seems to me that a large part of how much people enjoy their trip, is tied to them figuring out ahead of time, why they want to go to northern Canada and  Alaska. Much easier, IMHO, to plan a trip when you know why your are going. Some see Alaska as a turn around spot to head back home. Long ways to drive, not to have a goal to accomplish while there. I usually pick a "theme" for the trip, for me. My wife has the places she wants to see and do as well. Our trips try to blend the two together. Seldom do we both get everything done we want to do, but there is always next time. As I go through my photos of campgrounds of the north, I realize I need more of some places. So that will be one of my themes for the next trip.

I especially enjoy hot springs, old mining camps, wild animals (not much on bears), water falls, computer stuff, etc.  So I try to make sure I have what I need for those endeavors.   My wife and I read a lot so we will change out the books we take with us depending on where we are headed.  I have half a dozen books on Alaska, Colorado, the North East that get changed out.  The Milepost seems to alleviate some of the anxieties of first or second time travelers, so get one.  While it contains a lot of information it is far from being the “bible” of northern travel, even though they claim it on the cover.  IMHO it has become a bloated advertisement collection instead of the fine travel guide it once was with the previous owners. I am sure the current owners of the Milepost, a very fine publishing house, makes more clear profit than the previous owners knew was possible. The current owners allow the businesses that advertise to write their own narrative descriptions of their business.  Some have very active imaginations.  If I could only take one travel book it would be Church’s Alaskan Camping, a very honest view of campgrounds.   

I carry a few spare parts and the tools needed to change them.  Most are very vehicle specific.  Such as a diesel lift pump for my Dodge as that is a known problem area for my year truck, 2002.  Plus I carry a serpentine fan belt, couple of fuel and oil filters, a lower radiator hose, purchased in Valdez in 2004, which will probably never be used, a portable air compressor and tire patch kit, jumper cables, (2) ten ton bottle jacks.  The only item ever used was an oil filter which I had a quick lube place use instead of their filter. When we traveled in a Class A, I tended to carry more tools with me. (my wife claims I am a tool collector, LOL)  Also have a junk box of spare small items, washers, screws, pop rivets, electrical wire, fuses, glue, hose clamps, nails, etc. Fire starters are handy to carry, hot dog roasters, as is a fire tool of some sort, to turn logs, etc.