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Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > Right truck and camper setup for a northern Alaskan winter

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theauroracle

Alaska

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Posted: 02/23/22 07:48pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hello everyone, this is my first post on this forum, so before I start talking about my requirements, I will talk a bit about myself. I have been actively chasing the Aurora Borealis since 2016 and although I have chased it outside the United States a few times, 99 percent of it has been from Alaska, more precisely, northern Alaska. A lot of my travel takes me north of Fairbanks into the Dalton Highway and I have photographed the Aurora from almost every nook and corner of the Dalton till Prudhoe Bay. I started by renting cars from Fairbanks and then because of covid last year, I got an opportunity to spend a winter near Fairbanks and remotely work from there and go at it the entire winter. I also wanted to have my own car, which is a 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser, and wanted to be in Alaska starting fall, so I even towed my Lance 1685 travel trailer and camped all over the Dalton throughout the month of September. Was it the most pleasant experience towing a Lance 1685 with a Land Cruiser? I will definitely say no but it did the job just fine. I was hauling 25 gallons of gas and 40 lb propane on the rack of my car as well, so climbing up steep hills, expecially the Atigun Pass was not fun, but again, it did the job. That was back in mid-September when a sudden cold front moved in while I was camping in the north slope and pretty much transformed the entire area from a fall landscape to a winter wonderland. It was the first time I realized a camper would have been so much better when descending the Atigun Pass on my way back, I was going all over, the trailer was pretty much pushing the cruiser down in whatever direction it wanted to, I had to be very careful with the brake controller and kept adjusting it throughout the descent to make sure the wheels of the trailer do not lock. Probably the most nerve-wracking experience of my life but I did learn a lot from that incident. I have pretty much parked the trailer in front of my Airbnb for the winter and have been exploring in the cruiser and its pretty much made for that, but I do end up needing to sleep in the car for multiple nights, not that its impossible but I am getting old and I personally feel I am ready to start bringing a camper along with me during the winter months as well. I have driven so much on the Dalton in the harshest weather that I even understand small local weather and wind patterns there, so if I ever have to do it, now is the time, and I see so many truckers pulling such heavy loads, so I will take it as a learning curve. Another big reason is I travel with 2 cats, they traveled with me in the trailer and I having a camper will solve the problem of needing to leave them behind as well. I stay in a pretty remote Airbnb east of Fairbanks and power cuts are not that uncommon there which pretty much shuts the heat off, so I have gone above and beyond to get notified of something like that happening but nothing beats having them with me all the time. So that's why I am here, I am planning this trip starting this fall from Seattle WA and I will need to get a truck as well as a camper that will be suited for this job. I might keep the cruiser, I might even sell it, I have not decided that, it's an amazing car. I also have plans to visit Dempster Highway in Canada and drive up to Tuk in winter as well, could not do it this year due to Covid restrictions in Northwest Territories. I might eventually end up buying or building my own place in Alaska, so having a capable truck will definitely come in handy. That's where my lifestyle has been heading over the last few years so I do see it as a good investment. I need some help in deciding both the truck and the camper. For the camper, I have my eyes on the Northern Lite campers, not a big fan of Lance, it did well but I had to put bandages all over the interior to make sure stuff stayed in place, otherwise, everything would have come off from everywhere, even at very slow speeds if the road gets bad. But I am definitely open to all suggestions. I consistently stay and shoot the lights at extremely cold temperatures. This year, I have even stayed out in my car with temps hovering around -60F. I don't care about restrooms, good to have it in fall but I don't expect it to work in winter. All I care about is some heat inside, a bed to sleep and a small kitchen to make some food, and most importantly, the ease of having to maintain and drive it in such conditions. The last point also holds for the truck as well. I might park the camper from time to time to explore the area just in my truck so that might be a consideration between DRW and SRW but I have almost zero knowledge about it. Sorry for being ignorant about these things, I am always good at planning and executing things but with these trucks and campers, I always get very overwhelmed and lose my way completely. I am happy to answer any questions, go and look at resources, any help will be appreciated. Given demand and supply, I think I have to act pretty fast if I have to make it happen this Fall. I am sharing a link to a bunch of pics that I could find where the road is visible, that will give you guys some idea as to the type of roads I am talking about. I am not interested in extreme offroading, my offroading needs are mostly governed by the destination I want to reach or what I want to do. I will prefer reliability over capability in a terrain and place like this, thats the very reason I sold my Land Rover for the Land Cruiser before I made the trip last fall and that was the best decision I took.
https://photos.app.goo.gl/8gjwVSJD9yqMeGTE9

Dave in TN

Middle Tennessee

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Posted: 02/24/22 05:15am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Very cool pics! I can’t help with your question but wanted to make your url clickable.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/8gjwVSJD9yqMeGTE9

jimh406

Western MT

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Posted: 02/24/22 06:29am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

theauroracle wrote:

Hello everyone, this is my first post on this forum


Welcome to the site.

Sorry that I can't really read your post very much with no paragraphs. Btw, you can go back in with Edit and add the the line feeds. I expect you typed in a word processor and the site stripped the paragraph markers.


'10 Ford F-450, 6.4, 4.30, 4x4, 14,500 GVWR, '06 Host Rainer 950 Dbl Slide, Torklift Talon tiedowns, Glow Steps, and Fastguns. Bilstein 4600s, Firestone Air Bags, Toyo M655 225/19.5 Gs, Curt front hitch, Energy Suspension bump stops.


Reality Check

North Bend

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Posted: 02/24/22 07:36am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Agree with Jim.. a bit rough on the eyes. Break it up and more folks will chime in.


'16 F550 CC, 4x4 with Link Ultraride air suspension, '18 AF 1150. Just so we can play with our snowmobiles, dirt bikes and fishing boat. And new 20' tag along...kayaks, bikes, mc's and extra water and food!!

Yukoners

Whitehorse

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Posted: 02/24/22 08:05am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I just increased the font size and was able to use the cursor to help me read your post. I will keep my comments brief but feel free to pm me if you like.

Your choice of Northern lite is perfect in my view. We have driven the Dempster in late fall, ran into a blizzard etc. with our Arctic fox see my sig. That is too much camper for that type of off roading. Even pulling off the road into a gentle swale you go dead slow and it still feels top heavy and adds strain to the camper mounts.

In cold temps you want to stay away from a slide even in a four season camper. By the way we absolutely love our Arctic Fox and wouldn't change it for the world.

I would suggest a one ton short box extra cab with a suitable Northern lite, the lighter the better. And a gas job for sure in those temperatures as you will keep it idling for much of the time.

You will need a good on board gas powered gennie (propane is too loud ask how we know) to keep batteries up as there is very little daylight north of Dawson for the dark months. Research additional heat source that does not require forced air such as direct vent propane heaters.

Figure out how to carry two or three spares and keep jacks etc. where you can get at them easily. Same goes for spare gas you can never depend on making it to the next lodge as the highway can close at any time and stay closed for a week from the wind. So always enough gas to turn around and get you back to Dawson etc. Maintenance shops will not sell you gas.

One last thought is a way to keep some heat on your propane tanks even a trouble light will work with incandescent 60 watt bulb or better yet low wattage battery warmer.

Oh and complete arctic package for the truck, 60 below coolant, battery blanket, dual batteries, oil pan heater, block heater, and interior car warmer for starters.


2006 GMC 3500 4x4 Duramax/Allison SRW LB CC Helwig Sway Bars, Bilstein Shocks, Firestone airbags, Rickson 19.5", Bridgestone M729F 225s, Airraid CAI, Lightforce driving lights.
2012 Arctic Fox 990 Torklift tie downs, Fast guns, Foxlanding, 2500 Onan gennie


mkirsch

Rochester, NY

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Posted: 02/24/22 08:12am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

So right off the bat, it seems you have a misconception that a truck camper means you need a DRW truck. Yet you also seem to be looking for a basic camper which would naturally be lighter in weight, and not requiring a DRW truck, even for "safety."

A DRW truck is not the best choice to be exploring the Alaskan wilderness. An SRW truck's rear wheels follow in the same track as the front wheels, making traveling through deep snow and mud much easier. Each tire on a DRW cuts its own rut, so six ruts vs. two. Takes a lot more power and effort to charge through tough going, if you can make it at all. My DRW is helpless in deep snow, and it's a 4x4 with aggressive tires. Once the rear wheels hit deep snow, it stops. I can back right out, but the front end won't pull the whole truck through.

Ultimately what's "best" is entirely up to you. Everyone has their own idea of "best."


Putting 10-ply tires on half ton trucks since aught-four.

jimbow2

LaJunta , co.

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Posted: 02/24/22 08:37am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Awesome pictures... I'm a amateur photographer as well..... Truck camper people thru our life.... RE: the TC.... we have had our Kodiak K-99 since 2003.. it is somewhat a clone of Bigfoot/Northern Lite...... made in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan..... by peak manufacturing (since closed). brochure states operational at -35 degrees; however we have not tested that claim, but have spent many nights as low as -11 hunting and etc...... The point is campers are out there and nice size would be no bigger then 9.5ft..... with cold weather package there is a weight increase, we now carry it on a dually. but put about 130,000 miles trouble free ( had it to Alaska twice) on a UPGRADED f-250 1999 super duty.... (speed breaks things)... I love to talk truck campers so feel free to private message me..... I might not be the most techie person but have some experience.... Good Luck... jim


jimbow

theoldwizard1

SE MI

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Posted: 02/24/22 09:08am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I don't think you will find camper that will keep you warm when the temps are below -20°F and the wind is blowing, even with a furnace. Propane turns to 100% liquid around -40°F so it will not burn.

Grit dog

Black Diamond, WA

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Posted: 02/24/22 09:23am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Easy on the English teacher stuff, guys…

OP, what an adventure! Our son (in high school) is up in Fairbanks this week with his hockey buddies. Alaska is a special place!
Agree with the old wiz that it will be very challenging in the extreme cold.
Aside from general precautions, have a plan B or C for that type of weather (I’ve worked on the Slope in the winter, there’s a decided difference between being cold and freezing to death, lol), here are my recommendations.
Camper, hard shell, no slides, preferably a Bigfoot type fiberglass clam shell.
1 person, keep it on the smaller side for both weight and amount of space to heat.
Truck, gas powered 3/4 or 1 ton, long bed preferred but short bed is fine if the camper is sb capable. Budget dictates what I’d recommend particularly though for brand and model years.
SRW for sure. I would stick to that pretty hard given the conditions and your intended use. DRW is not out of the question though if that ends up being necessary.
Crew cab IMO for additional storage, or spike camp sleeping quarters.
And have 3 different ways to heat it. I would leave the factory gas forced air in it as an option but it is probably the least efficient.
I’d have a diesel heater or 2 similar to a Webasto but you can find cheap ones, as primary heat. Secondary being the OE furnace and something like a big Buddy heater maybe for a plan C.
And a Honda generator. With a plan to pack enough extra fuel of all flavors needed.

I could come up with 100 different ideas how I’d setup a rig like this. Exciting stuff. The caveat being, there will be challenges.


2016 Ram 2500, MotorOps.ca EFIlive tuned, 5” turbo back, 6" lift on 37s
2017 Heartland Torque T29

Grit dog

Black Diamond, WA

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Posted: 02/24/22 09:25am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

And true story about propane. It don’t work without being pre heated once you get below -30. It’s even a challenge at warmer temps if vaporization can’t keep up with demand.
IE you may be able to use a stove but not a furnace at those temps.

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