When it comes to RV personalities, few are more recognizable than Tom and Caitlin Morton. Along with their two dogs, Mocha and Bella, the couple have been full-timing since September 2015 when they sold their home in Michigan and moved into a 33-foot Doubletree RV fifth wheel. In 2019, the two decided to give truck camper life a try by getting a Lance 1172 for an epic, 15,000-mile long expedition to Canada and Alaska. The Mortons covered the six-month trip in a 20-episode series called “Go North” which streamed on their popular Morton’s on the Move YouTube channel. In addition, to YouTube and social media feeds, the couple also co-hosts a television show called The RVers which airs on the Discovery Channel, PBS, Fun Roads TV, and various streaming platforms. They support themselves through the Mortons on the Move digital media business, as industry consultants, and as co-founders of the online RV education platform called RV Masterclass (www.rvmasterclass.com).
Thanks, guys, for talking with us. We’ve been following you for years and we’re thrilled to learn that you were getting a Lance 1172 loaner for your Alaska trip. What drove the decision to do it in a truck camper?
MOTM: During our travels we had come across many places that we could not get our fifth wheel to, or were uncomfortable to try. Whenever we talked about Alaska, we talked about doing it in a smaller, more capable rig so that we could get out further into the wilderness, be more adventurous, and be more flexible in our camp spots. That rig to us was always a truck camper on the back of a 4×4 truck.
Lance was the first truck camper manufacturer that we started research on—back before we had the Go North trip on the mind or really knew anything about truck campers. We met them and got to talk to them at the Tampa RV Show in 2018, and the pride and passion in what they made was apparent. In interviewing Gary Conley of Lance about why people should consider truck campers, he confirmed all our musings and speculations that a truck camper would be the ultimate Alaska vehicle for us. That initial connection, followed by research on the durability of its rigs and their reputation over the last several decades of making truck campers, was what drove our decision to partner with them on the Go North expedition.
The Lance 1172 is known as the company’s “flagship model” with two slide-outs, a 42 gallon fresh water holding tank, and a large dry bath. What traits did you like best about it?
MOTM: Well, for starters, we need to talk about that second slide-out! Having that extra slide-out was amazing, especially with us moving from a 33-foot fifth wheel into a truck camper. All opened up inside, we forgot we were on the bed of a truck. With that extra space, you have a full dry bath and plenty of kitchen space, both of which were very important for our extended trip. We boondocked most of the time without access to additional facilities and cooked most of our meals at home too.
At 35 gallons each, we also enjoyed having the biggest grey and black water holding tanks Lance puts in its truck campers, as well as having two 30-pound propane tanks. This made it easy for us to stay out longer dry camping in between fills/dumps.
The Lance 1172 requires a large truck to safely haul it. Which truck did you use?
MOTM: We had a 2019 Ford F-350 to haul the camper. It was a platinum edition with lots of bells and whistles, our favorite of which was the dynamic cruise control that seemed to work fine with the camper loaded.
With a fully-loaded weight of 5,000 pounds for the 1172, did you need to make any modifications to your truck to haul it?
MOTM: The truck received a couple of modifications to improve performance with the camper. We had front and rear Hellwig Big Wig Sway Bars installed, which optimized handling and reduced body roll. We also had a pair Hellwig’s Big Wig Air Springs installed. These were inflated to level out the ride of the truck, which sagged some under the added weight of the camper, and helped soften the wear and tear on the chassis.
What kind of mileage did you get on your trip?
MOTM: The Ford averaged 11 mpg across the whole trip hauling the 1172. With the truck’s 45 gallon fuel tank we had plenty of range for the long hauls between fuel in some of the remote locations of the north.
With your extensive experience, what benefits do you think the truck camper has over other types of RVs?
MOTM: There are pros and cons to every RV, but we think the truck camper wins in the versatility department.
Over larger rigs, it’s just easier to drive, easier to maneuver, and can go so many more places. We found our travel days were less stressful because we didn’t have to scout ahead for every fuel station, every pull-off, every attraction to make sure we’d fit. We had more boondocking and campground options than we knew what to do with, plus the ability to turn around practically everywhere—even if it was a 30-point turn.
Over a smaller rig like a class B or class C, first of all, you’ve got much easier access to 4×4 capabilities and high clearance with the truck. You can get 4×4 vans that are more expensive and still not as capable. Secondly, you can drop the camper at your campsite and have a get-around vehicle so you don’t have to pack up your life every time you want to go somewhere. This also means you have a very capable vehicle to get further down the road or up the mountain for some off-road exploration. Finally—and this a personal preference—while you aren’t open to your living space in the back for convenience, you also don’t have to listen to the squeaks, groans, and bangs of a camper moving down the road the entire drive.
What did you think about Alaska? Exactly how long were you there?
MOTM: Alaska was incredible. The drive to Alaska was incredible. The whole experience was life-changing. The expedition was six-months long and we spent about 2.5 months of it in Alaska. We got there the first week of June and drove the Denali Highway to Denali National Park, went to Fairbanks for the Midnight Sun Festival, and drove the Dalton Highway to the North Slope just past the Brooks Range and Gates of the Arctic National Park. Then we returned to Canada to drive the Dempster to the Arctic Ocean in July, then came back to Alaska for August and visited Valdez, McCarthy, Homer, Seward, and Anchorage.
The state is huge with such a vast diversity of terrain from tundra to coastal fjords capped with immense glaciers. The midnight sun is a wondrous experience in itself and makes you feel like you’re in another world. The wildlife is unlike anything we’d ever experienced—grizzly bears, the salmon run, the caribou, the moose. Everywhere you go there is an amazing adventure to be had.
What were some of the highlights of the trip?
MOTM: Making it all the way to the Arctic Ocean and camping right along it was a highlight just because of where we had made it. For years we have looked at maps and pondered, what’s up there? So standing at the ocean’s edge, knowing there was no more human settlement to the north, and spending the night there was incredible. In addition to some of the best camping we have ever experienced, the experiences we had were amazing, like salmon fishing in Valdez, jet skiing to glaciers in Whittier, and hiking in Denali National Park.
Having spent six months on this trip we were also able to experience multiple seasons and see things that only exist in each. We experienced things like watching spring avalanches in Banff National Park, experiencing a sun that never sets above the Arctic Circle in summer, and the incredible Northern Lights in the fall as cooler temperatures set in and the mountains became dusted in snow.
We assume you did a lot of boondocking while on your trip? What were some of your favorite spots?
MOTM: Over 70 percent of our trip was boondocking, our favorite way to camp! As for favorite spots, I’m not sure where to begin because there were so many. Overall, we had the best campsites on this trip north that we have ever experienced, partly because of where the truck camper could go and partly because there are just so many amazing places along the route. The most epic spot we stayed was probably along the Salmon Glacier on the road out to the Granduc Mine from Hyder, Alaska. We were perched cliffside about 800 feet above the most stunning glacier we had ever seen. Spots along the Top of the World Highway, up in the Brooks Mountain Range and along the Denali and Dempster Highways were pretty incredible too. The best part of these spots was that we were almost always completely alone in the most vast wilderness we had ever experienced. We had never experienced such solitude and beauty before.
Did you have any mishaps on your trip up north?
MOTM: For the most part, things went really well, but some things were just out of our control like an incident we had miles from nowhere on Canol Road in the Yukon which we documented in Episode 9 of the Go North series. Just as we were heading to bed we heard something underneath the truck and upon investigating found a full-sized porcupine chewing on everything! We used sticks to pry the bugger out and after chasing it off found another one up on the spare tire doing the same thing. This was the middle of the night and after an hour of coaxing and prying this prickly critter we finally got them out.
We thought that was the end of it but just as we were heading back to bed we could hear that the visitors were back trying to crawl back under the truck again. We decided we couldn’t stay there and upon leaving at 3am we immediately got a check engine light and knew they had chewed through something important. We were hundreds of miles from anywhere and in the morning we found that they had chewed through all the wires for the truck’s diesel particulate system.
Luckily Tom has an electrical background and we had soldering irons and tools with us to repair the wiring harness and get us back on the road. Because of this experience, we will always carry a soldering iron with us on pretty much any trip!
Do you have any advice for others contemplating a trip to Alaska?
MOTM: Don’t blow through Canada. More than half your miles will be spent in Canada and there is so much to see and do. This trip was our first extended experience in Canada and we took full advantage of our time there. British Columbia is gorgeous and full of Rocky Mountains!
Also, just make sure you’re prepared, especially if you plan to wander further from the main roads. The main roads tend to have fair amounts of traffic in the summer and plenty of help in the case of a breakdown, but backroads can get extremely remote very quickly so make sure you can make repairs and self recover in a tricky situation.
What’s the most worrisome or scariest moment you’ve experienced during your travels?
MOTM: Canol Road just after a heavy rain. Shortly after the porcupine incident we continued along the remote Canol Road and ran into another truck camper coming the other direction. He was an old-timer who knew the road well, but warned us that it was a bit muddy and slippery up ahead. We had already been warned not to attempt the road in the rain and it had been dry…. up until this point. As we continued, it started to rain and the road deteriorated quickly. With the heavy camper, duallys and stock Michelin LTX tires on the truck we quickly started sinking in and slipping.
At first it was just a forest road, but of course as it turned to mud it proceeded out onto a cliff face and got very steep. There was really nowhere to turn around, and the way was longer going back anyway. In 4×4 low we barely made it up a few hills and made some controlled slides down others on the edge of a cliff hundreds of feet in the air. We’re used to a little slipping here and there but have never been so scared of losing control and both our hearts were beating out of our chests. Our tires were completely caked in clay-like mud that eliminated our traction and we think that a set of wider tread tires would help significantly and would be a good investment even if it were just for this one situation.
Did you have any notable run-ins with wildlife like bears or moose?
MOTM: While we saw plenty of bears and moose our most notable unintentional run in with wildlife was the mischievous porcupines we ran into on Canol road. As for intentional run-ins, while in Homer, Alaska we took a float plane trip to Katmai National Park in Alaska that is famous for the brown bears that catch salmon right out of the waterfalls. We didn’t go to the famous waterfall spot, but we sure did see the bears! These bears see so few people and are so preoccupied with the salmon they are catching that we could safely watch them from less than 50 feet away! Some of these bears were thousands of pounds and it was a bit unnerving being so close at times, but so awesome to watch them fishing so close up.
Based upon your positive experiences, do you think you’ll buy a truck camper at some point in the future?
MOTM: Oh, we’re pretty sure there’s a truck camper in our future! There are so many more places we would like to travel that we feel a truck camper would be best suited for. We have seen much of the US by large RV and would like to take on more of the backroads and places we could not go before. Eastern Canada and Mexico are on the list, plus many of the more mountainous places in the Lower 48 like Utah, Colorado, and the Sierra Nevadas. We’ve also tossed around the idea of taking one abroad at some point! We loved the north so much that we would consider going back some day and we would definitely do it by truck camper again—it just makes so much sense.
You have an extensive social media following. Can you tell us about your channels and how our readers can follow you?
MOTM: Sure, the easiest way to find all our content is through our website at www.mortonsonthemove.com. Here we share stories of our travels and educational material about RVing. You’ll also find us on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. The 20-episode Go North Adventure in the Lance Truck Camper is available on our YouTube Channel, as well as more Truck Camper and Alaska travel videos in our “Explore More” series. You can also find us on The RVers TV Show which is currently in its Season Two on Discovery Channel. You can find out more about the show at thervers.tv or on Facebook.
This has been great talking to you. Thanks again for taking the time to talk with me. Do you have any final advice for our readers?
MOTM: Two things we’d recommend to anyone planning a trip to Alaska is, one, take as much time as you can, and two, don’t hold back—if there is something you want to do while you’re there, do it. You don’t know when or if you’ll ever have the chance to do it again, so go fishing, go flying, go bear-seeing, or whatever else you’ve been dreaming of doing and enjoy.