Outfitting Your Alaska Roadtrip

Alaska Road Trip Outfitting

Outfitting, at least for our discussion here, would be the collection of all the gear that you desire to take on your trip to Alaska.  It’s everything you need to survive, enjoy, observe and capture important memories of your trip.

There’s little doubt that you could just take all your travel gear, stuff it in the vehicle and head on down the road for Alaska.  That certainly would get you there and back, just the same as properly outfitting yourself for the trip.  The value of outfitting yourself properly is the ease by which you’ll be able to move from one area to the next.  When it comes to packing and unpacking, a proper outfit will allow you to easily get to what you need quickly without unpacking the entire vehicle.

For example, when laundry day comes, you’ll know what you need to grab and won’t have to go rifling through all your gear to find all the dirty laundry in the middle of a parking lot.  When you want to grab a road soda, half your gear won’t come tumbling out of the vehicle and onto the muddy ground.  There’s a number of arguments for a good setup, so we’ll share what we’ve learned.

Everything Including The Kitchen Sink

It’s easy to over plan for a road trip like this traveling to Alaska.  You’re combining a massive road trip, camping and general travel simultaneously and it’s easy to get carried away under these circumstances.  Obviously you don’t want to find out on the day you’re intending to leave that all the gear and stuff you’ve selected doesn’t fit in your vehicle or you have to undergo careful choices about what not to bring.

packedgearIf you have your checklist, several days before your intended departure, we recommend performing a test fit of your gear.  Try to get as much of your gear together as is possible and figure out how you want to store it in the vehicle.  It will probably take you a few times to find the optimal packing scenario, but be mindful of things you’ll need to access more frequently while you’re on the road.  Prioritize your items in order of the frequency used and try to pack them accordingly.  So, for example, your vehicle maintenance kit would likely see the least use, so it can clearly go at the bottom of all the gear.  You’ll only need your tent and sleeping gear at night, so that can go somewhere in the middle.  Planning resources, clothes, personal effects and food likely receive the highest priority and therefore the most accessibility.

If it doesn’t fit, take it all out and try a different way.  We’ve found in our vehicle that our gear fits incredibly well in a particular configuration, but not as well with others.  Sometimes the problem is really a matter of playing “tetris” and trying to find a suitable packing order for the gear.

If you must break things out to optimize the utilization of space, you will appreciate finding appropriate containers for items so things don’t get all jumbled up.  Long road trips have a tendency to make the smallest, most important loose items find their ways into the smallest, most inaccessible places.  Grocery bags, smaller bags, backpacks, pillow covers and so forth can all be used to maintain organization in small spaces you’re trying to take advantage of.

Maximizing Your Packing Space

cartopcarrierIf you are fairly sure you’ll have difficulty storing your gear, or you find you don’t have enough space, you might have to alternative options for storage.  You may want to consider alternative storage options like a rear hitch cargo carrier or perhaps a roof mounted storage for some additional bulky items.  Both of these options are viable methods for significantly increasing your storage space.

Rear hitch cargo carriers are quite optimal for temporarily increasing space.  If you don’t have a hitch, it’s not incredibly expensive to get a well rated hitch installed on most vehicles.  For some vehicles, this may block the rear door of the vehicle, so you’d have to think about what you want to store outside as you may be removing it frequently.  Keep in mind this will be exposed to elements and also subject to theft, so choose what you would keep here carefully.  Also, be mindful of your exhaust when using a cargo carrier.  Hot exhaust that points straight out the back of your vehicle could easily melt fabrics, rope, plastics and otherwise.

Car top carriers are a good option if your vehicle features a roof rack.  You’ve likely seen these before, they come in hard plastic and fabric, and are mounted to the tops of vehicles.  Plastic carriers carry the highest price tag, however, are also immune to weather conditions and will last considerably longer.  Fabric car top carriers tend to be less fuel efficient in design and are also subject to adverse conditions more so than hard plastic carriers.  Most are highly water resistant and made of durable fabric, so it’s a viable temporary option if you need something cheap and temporary.

What To Do If Your Gear Won’t Fit

If you’re all out of options, first, make sure you’re taking advantage of all your available space, every nook and cranny of your vehicle should be at your disposal.  If you do find yourself in the circumstance where you’ve over-prepared for the journey, you will need to make some choices based on what’s more important against what’s nice to have.  You will likely need additional room for food, souvenirs or other things you might pick up a long the way, so you want at least a little storage available for any extras.

overlandexpressIf you can substitute a less bulky item as a suitable replacement, do so.  For example, your cast iron kit takes up 1+ cubic feet of space.  Could a simple pot and pan work for you if you opt not to cook on the fire?  Would a collapsible water container be a better fit for your situation?  What happens if you remove a tarp or two from your kit?  Can you work with a smaller sized cooler?  That could save a lot of space right there!  Play with some of these variables to see if you can gain the space you need.

Prioritizing Your Gear If Needed

Review your checklist for any non-essential items, paying particular attention to larger, bulkier items you want to bring with.  If you have redundant systems, like water storage for example, you might just have to plan around more frequent water fill ups.  If you’re carrying a large amount of something, like say clothing, this will be a good place to make sacrifices so long as you do so without defeating your preparedness.  (We encourage trying to fit all your clothing in one moderate size bag so as to maintain your storage space.)  Remember, you can schedule more laundry stops along the way if you need to.

As you review the checklist, you want to define three primary types of equipment, gear and essentials.  A one through three system works well for this.  The first group is essential, meaning you have to have it to survive, maintain comfort or it’s critical to the success of the trip.  (These are things like your tent, bedding, sleeping bag, clothing, kitchen, first aid kit, etc.)  Mark these items as a one.  Consider the next group as things that would be technically nonessential, but would negatively affect your trip.  (Like perhaps specialized cooking gear, extra tarps, extra bungee cords, etc.)  Mark these items as a two.  The third group will comprise of nice to haves, or non-essentials, that certainly make the trip more enjoyable but you could live without.  (e.g camera, binoculars, etc.)

From here, you’ll have a relatively prioritized list of where you need to make your sacrifices.  Obviously you’d start with number three items and work your way up, if needed, and start with larger things that will actually make a difference.  It makes no sense to remove, say, an emergency rain poncho if it’s taking up little no space in an all ready essential backpack.  Obviously you don’t want to just get rid of all your personal effects either as that could make things a lot less enjoyable overall, too.  It will be a balance of priority two and three items that can make the difference.

Make these choices carefully.  Meaning, you probably don’t want to dump your spare fuel or water to make sure you can bring your camp chair, clearly sitting is less important than being dehydrated or stranded!

If you’ve exhausted all your options, which we find almost impossible, you might just need to take a different vehicle and that might be something you have to consider.

A Quality Long Distance Camping Outfit

fairbankscampRemember, what you’re doing here is essentially ensuring the success and enjoyment of your great Alaska road trip.  So long as you address your immediate needs and requirements and have maintained your preparedness, you will enjoy the trip.

The most important things you will have with you will be those that will keep you comfortable, dry and sustained throughout the journey.  Comfort is an incredibly important aspect of long distance road tripping with camping in mind, it’s what will make the long days and short nights all that much more enjoyable for you.  We do need some creature comforts too, technically non-essentials, but those items that will make your trip enjoyable.  There’s little use in sacrificing a camera if you won’t have captured the memories and moments along your journey.  If sacrificing your coffee percolator will make you grumpy in the mornings, it’s a near essential, so just go with that.

Preparedness Matters!

We feel that preparedness is an important goal for a long road trip, like the one to Alaska.  A lot of times it’s the things you need the least most of the time, but the most one time.  With so many miles being involved, the likelihood of something happening is greater.  Being prepared to change a tire, in the rain and mud may seem like an unlikely possibility, but let us tell you the preparedness for such an event is absolutely worth it when it happens.

Although we’ve tried to make things as accessible and informative here as possible, it’s likely your situation is very different and you likely need to account for those things.  Do put some thought into what’s important to you and yours on a journey like this.  Also remember that this is a learning experience, even if you’re an experienced road traveler.

You will almost undoubtedly find you bring things that you don’t actually use, just make a note for next time and maybe leave it behind on your next trip.  It’ll just be gear with many thousands of miles under it’s belt, all that more experienced for another adventure!



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