Alaska on a Mukluck String

We have been full-time RVers for 13 years and have talked with many other RVers about going to Alaska. The most common response is that they would love to go but can’t afford it. Our ready response is that we were in Alaska for 14 weeks and spent about $4,000 more than if we had not gone. The experience, and our memories, are worth far more than $4,000!

We have met lots of people who took the two-week cruise to Alaska. They “had a good time.” They spent about $12,000 and didn’t have near the experiences that my wife and I did. We would like for everyone who wants to RV to Alaska to be able to without breaking the bank. It made sense to us, after driving so far to get there, to stay the whole summer. Besides, the best way to see and experience any place is not to just drive through it but to hang out awhile. Go boondocking!

Our frugal lifestyle was easy to maintain in Alaska. We’re OK with eating at home and eating out on special occasions. Out of 14 weeks, we were on electric/water hookups for three weeks.  And two of those weeks were a required stay at an RV park where we did a Habitat for Humanity build, or we wouldn’t have needed hookups for that long. A large battery bank and 200 or 300 watts of solar are key. (Twenty hours of sunshine will yield an outstanding battery charge, and you may go the whole summer without needing to run the A/C.) We found that a catalytic propane heater was all we needed for the cool nights. It runs on a hose going out a small window opening (it needs a bit of ventilation anyway) and tapped into the propane bay. The heater uses no battery. We ran our generator very little — mostly when we needed to do laundry.

Something you don’t want to make the trip without is “The Milepost.” Buy one online well before your trip so you will have time to get acquainted with it. It is packed with useful information and will become your best travel companion. (Well, maybe second-best.) It even describes all the turnouts along the side of the road that can be used for overnighting — through Canada, too.

If you drive to Alaska, you will go through Tok. The town Visitor Center is worth seeing, but the Public Lands Visitor Center nearby is a necessity. They have maps of Public Lands Camping. We used ours so much that it had to be taped back together. You will find that there are places where you can drive down to a riverbank, pan for gold (that is, if you bought a gold pan at the hardware store in Dawson City), and camp for free. (Alaska is different!) We stayed overnight in school parking lots after they closed for summer. We stayed in church parking lots on Saturday night if we were going to attend the next morning. We stayed at Walmart in Kenai, Fairbanks, and Wasilla.

Alaska is “RV friendly.” You will find many dump/fill stations. In 2015 some were free, more were $5.00. The most we paid was $10.00 at an RV park. We suggest dumping with a macerator pump. That will allow you to “equalize” your holding tanks, extending the time between dumps. If your gray tank fills before the black tank (as most do), try this handy trick: Without turning on the macerator, open the gray valve; then open the black valve and let the tanks equalize. Now close the black valve, then the gray valve. You should be able to repeat this process two or three times before needing to dump. Add another hose to your macerator and look for places to dump gray water on the ground. We deal with black water by using four “kitty litter” jugs. Fill three of them with black water. (Don’t even think about trying that with your 3-inch gravity dump!) Fill the last with gray water to flush the system. Now you can haul them off to pour into any toilet. With care, you can do this without spilling a drop.

It would take multiple blogs to suggest what to see in Alaska. We’ll give you just one: Drive your tow or towed up Dalton Highway (“The Haul Road”) and continue a few miles beyond Atigun Pass, the highest drivable mountain pass in Alaska at 4,800 feet elevation.  Find a safe place to get off the busy Haul Road and walk out onto the Arctic Tundra.  Prepare to be amazed; then kneel down for a close-up look at the orchid-like flowers.


Carl & Marty Turner, F413320, were given a one-year membership to FMCA with the purchase of their RV from Lazydays in Seffner, Florida.  They had no trouble deciding to renew that membership!

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.