Alaska and Back: 60 Days in an Arctic Fox Truck Camper

Alaska. Without a doubt, it’s one of most popular long-range, road trips for truck camper adventurers. Alaska (and the Northwest Territories of Canada) embodies all that’s great about overlanding—enjoying the journey as much as the final destination. We’ve published several articles on this epic journey and the latest comes from a Canadian couple, Martien and Roeby, who together embarked on a two-month trip to one of the last frontiers on earth.

We are Martien and Roeby. We are originally from the Netherlands and travel with our German Shepherd Akira. In June and July of 2023, we took a 60-day road trip from our home in Alberta to Alaska, British Columbia, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories.

As empty-nesters this was our first trip longer than three weeks, so some preparation was needed. We watched a lot of travel videos on YouTube and talked to a lot of people who went to Alaska from our community. Most of them traveled there and back when the roads weren’t even paved yet.

With all that information, we made a map in Google my Maps with the places where we wanted to visit. With our propensity for being spontaneous, we also built some slack time in the schedule for side trips. Most information was available on the Internet, but we also bought a copy of the Milepost book and combed through that as well. With all that in order it was time to buy our truck and camper.

The camper was our biggest worry. In December of 2021, we ordered an Arctic Fox 865 at our local dealership. It was supposed to be delivered in June 2022. With supplier delays brought on by COVID, that date was extended out to the end of April 2023. Unfortunately, that left us only four weeks to get ready and mod out the camper. For the trip, we installed a 300 watt solar power system, a cell booster, a 2,000 watt inverter, switches, and to top it off an extra diesel tank on the back. We took one quick trip to Jasper National Park to break everything in and then we were on our way.

To haul this and previous campers, we bought a 2011 Dodge Ram 3500 Cummins 6.7L diesel 4×4 long-box in 2018. In the winter of 2022-2023, we pretty much went through the whole truck. All the fluids and filters were replaced. New brakes and rotors all around and the turbo actuator was replaced. We already had airbags on the rear axle with Bilstein shocks all around and leveling kit on the front axle. A Hellwig Big Wig was installed to prevent sway of the camper on turns. After researching tires on Truck Camper Adventure, we opted for a set of Cooper Discoverer AT3 XLT 10 ply tires and never regretted that decision. In the 16,000 kilometer trip with at least 3,500 kilometers on gravel, we never had a flat.

We also installed a full set of off-road tools for the trip: an air compressor, jumper cables, power tools, tire repair kits and many spare parts that are housed underneath the rear seats and in the outdoor storage in the camper.

Now that we were ready to go, we had one big problem—fire. The year 2023 was a big wildfire season in Alberta, and our little community was surrounded on all four sides with fires that led to many evacuations. Lucky for us, the rain came 10 days before our departure, which cleared our way for our planned trip.

Where we live, we have seen the “Start of the Alaska Highway” sign many times. We were so happy that we finally could take a picture of our rig underneath that sign!

We stopped at many places on the Alaska highway, where we took pictures of nature and several man-made structures. One of them was the Kiskatinaw bridge, one of the two original wooden bridges left on the Alaska Highway.

For this trip we made a video for family and friends back home in the Netherlands and Canada. We started making videos on YouTube couple of years ago, but this trip was so epic that we wanted to do a better job at it because it’s so much easier to show a video than a bunch of pictures.

As we were slowly making our way north, we got into the rhythm of exploring and relaxing. We stopped at the Testa Lodge for cinnamon buns and for a dip in the Liard hot springs. Unfortunately, there were many gas stations and lodges closed on the Alaska Highway due to COVID. At Kluane Lake we visited the Solders Summit and the Silver City Ghost Town.

Before we knew it, we saw the “Welcome to Alaska” sign. One of our stops in Fairbanks was the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum where vehicles and fashion from the late 1800’s to World War II were on full display. All were in mint condition and are driven every year. Being the gearheads that we are, we felt like kids in a candy store.

After Fairbanks we drove to Denali National Park, but with so many restrictions on pets, traveling with a dog is hard. But we still saw some awe inspiring wildlife, went to the sled dog homestead, and walked up the Denali Road. We never saw Denali Mountain, unfortunately. In hindsight, we were probably two weeks too early, and spring wasn’t really in full swing.

The town of Talkeetna looked nice on the Internet and YouTube, but during a storm it’s a completely different sight. Many of the shops and restaurants in town were closed, but Wal Mikes at Trapper Creek was a lot of fun. Here you can find everything you need and everything you don’t. Mike is a character and very nice. Roeby asked for an interview for our video, and he was very welcoming.

One thing that was high on Roeby’s bucket list was dog sledding. Of course, there was no snow, but we booked a tour at Alaskan Husky Adventures in Willow, which was an amazing experience. When we showed up, they took us on the trails with the dogs. We highly recommend them if you want to do a dog sled tour.

Anchorage was the low point of our trip. We didn’t like it at all. We planned on staying there a couple of days to go sightseeing, but we found the city run down and dirty. After visiting Point Woronzof, where we stocked up on supplies and did laundry, we left. After leaving Anchorage, we did some hiking and sightseeing on our way to Seward.

On a late Friday afternoon, we were crossing a little town called Moose Pass, where they advertised a summer solstice music festival. We stopped and talked to some locals, and they said it will be a great night with music and dancing, so we stayed and had the night of our lives. The next day we continued our drive to Steward and camped at the glacier and riverbed at the Exit Glacier. This was one of our best boondocking spots ever.

We crossed the Kenai Peninsula to Homer and found the Homer Spit another cruise ship destination. It was very “touristy” and felt like we were walking in Disneyland. Other people may think it’s great, but it all felt a bit fake to us.

A must do visit is the town of Whittier and the tunnel. It was spooky and beautiful at the same time. When you travel up north there are only so many routes to travel and roads to take, so in Whittier we ran into a Chinese couple who we met in Seward. We noticed that Starlink Internet is used so often nowadays, that people hardly talk to each other anymore. They set up camp and disappear in their unit to watch TV or play on the phone. I can do that at home just as good, so we like to go out and wander around.

Via the Glenallen highway and Valdez, we decided to visit McCarthy and the Kennecott mines, The last 60 miles of the McCarthy Road are unpaved and full of potholes, water crossings, and fallen trees. At the Chitina Bridge we dropped our tire pressure and three hours later we were in McCarthy. The Kennecott mines are well preserved and very nice to explore. From here you can hike to the Kennecott Glacier, as we did.

This adventure made us hungry for more, so we tracked back to Tok via Alaska One—the Top of the World Highway was calling us. The weather during the drive was nice and clear, and we could see for miles. Of course we stopped at the town of Chicken for a chicken burger. The farther you follow the top of the world highway towards Dawson City the more beautiful the vistas become. We stopped very regularly to take pictures and make videos with the GoPro and drone, or to just soak up the views.

In Dawson Creek we got ready for the famous Sourtoe cocktail and the Cancan Dancers when we ran into another traveler. She asked us if we were from the Netherlands because of the Dutch flag on our front bumper. “We live in Canada, but were born in the Netherlands,” we told her. She was on a special mission to honor her late wife and wanted to go to the Arctic Ocean, and asked if we were going too? We told her that we will in a couple of days we. She was on a time crunch because her flight home was leaving in seven days from Whitehorse.

After some discussion we decided to leave the next day after stocking up on supplies. At the Dempster Highway just as we were fueling up and airing down our tires, a young man came to me and asked in Dutch if we were going to Tuktoyaktuk? We said, yes. He asked if he could join our little caravan because he and his wife were traveling with their baby. No problem for us. So, with two truck campers and one van we made our way on the Dempster Highway.

We took things slow and careful, averaging only 50 kph. Without a doubt, the Dempster was the highlight of our trip. The vast emptiness of the land, the vistas, the feeling of freedom left us speechless. And at the end of the highway was the “cherry on the cake,” the Arctic Ocean. Of course, we had to go swimming and had a BBQ after we added another Dutchie to our convoy, a guy on a motorbike. On our way back we stopped in Inuvik to celebrate Canada Day. Back in Dawson City, we had a nice conversation with Tony Beets and his family from Gold Rush who we ran into at the local Chinese restaurant.

After one last night together at the campground, our little group parted ways after five wonderful days together.

We made our way south again to Haines where we entered Alaska for the second time. We prefer Haines over Skagway as the latter is too touristy for our liking. Back in Canada is where you can find the world’s smallest desert at Carcross. We also enjoyed Boya Lake, which is 350 kilometers from Carcross on the Cassier Highway. The lake’s marvelous blue and turquoise waters make you think you are in the tropics. The only thing it lacked were palm trees. Here is where we could see the first signs of forest fires again.

The Salmon Glacier in British Columbia was another highlight of our trip. Here we camped on the top and got woken up in the morning by a loud rumbling. It was not the glacier moving but a group of eight Brazilian bikers who came and took pictures of the glacier. Our Portuguese wasn’t great, but that was the same for their English, but we tried to have a conversation and with lots of laughs it worked. After some pictures they moved on, and we had breakfast with the great view of the glacier.

The more south we went, the more we drove through the smoke because of the heavy fires. With two weeks left on our holiday, we decided to make a run for the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island where we saw whales from a ferry.

What did we think our trip in a truck camper? We think the rig did great and was the right outfit for us. The level of freedom we had with our little home-on-wheels was priceless. We know we can’t do hardcore off- roading, but the truck camper rig is nimble enough to go anywhere we wanted to go and more.

Did everything go according to our plan? Yes and no. The first three weeks we had lots of rain, storms and cloudy days, but nothing we couldn’t overcome.

If we had to do it over, would we do anything different? For one, we’d travel slower. Coming off a high pace work environment to 60 days of holidaying, takes a bit of time to wind down and get fully relaxed. But this holiday changed us as a couple and as humans. Memories are way more important to us than money in the bank. Since then we have taken more time off to enjoy life and our kids.

If you would like to see our videos of our trip to Alaska and/or more destinations, we like to invite you to go to our YouTube channel: Martien en Roeby on the Go. Keep in mind we’re not professionals, and we are doing this just for fun, memories and to share information. On our channel you can download the map we made in Google my Maps if you are interested. If you have any questions or recommendations, please send us an email.

About Martien Brand 1 Article
Martien (Marinus) Brand emigrated to Canada from the Netherlands with his wife Roeby and his family in 2009. He now calls Northern Alberta home and runs a successful repair business. In 2019 the couple bought their first truck camper and never looked back. Their current setup is a 2011 Dodge Ram 3500 diesel 4x4 with a 2023 Arctic Fox 865 mounted on top.

2 Comments

  1. Great article. We have driven most of the areas that you experienced in our own rig while living in Whitehorse. One small correction to your article for the readers is that the “famous Sour-toe cocktail and the Cancan Dancers” are in Dawson City. The start of the Alaska Highway is in Dawson Creek. Keep on truckin’!

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