Probably my most favorite subject and biggest weakness according to friends and family, is gear. I do not discriminate, if it has a cool function or I can justify it to myself, it becomes a part of my stash. That being said, this next piece of the road trip puzzle is chock-full of gear and suggestions for your trip. I will post links for most of what I have at the bottom of the post if you want to take a look at what I am talking about or buy it for your own trip.
The kit that I will have with me during this trip has been built over the culmination of the experience I have gained from the 3 trips before. The biggest concerns I have is fuel, road safety, emergency supplies, and food.
Fuel is the biggest hurdle for Betty. Being a V6 and most likely running in 4WD for a large part of the trip, I am guesstimating a worst case of 12 mpg. Betty has a 16.5 (maybe 17, I have never run out of gas…) gallon tank, so the shortest range that I will expect would be a whopping 192 miles. There are stretches in the middle of the trip that will be about one and a half that range, which means packing spare fuel. Betty will be packing 13 gallons of fuel in reserve in her cargo rack. I use the Kolpin (now owned by Rotopax) gas cans and brackets to keep my Yakima cargo rack free to fill with, well, cargo. I am adding a 5 gallon tank to my original 8 gallon kit for this trip just to over prepare for the possibility of a fuel problem.
Because we are headed into this trip during the middle of winter roads will be covered in snow, and optimally, minimal ice. To prepare for that inevitability I have stacked the deck in my favor by filling my kit with a snow shovel, tow strap, kitty litter, scrap piece of carpet, 5×5 tarp, head lamp, and reusable led “flares”. But even before that list of items that are only used in the event that things have gone terribly wrong, The car should be equipped with measures to keep you on the road in the first place. Betty is a 4WD SUV that is currently rolling with some (pardon the pun…) studly tires with great knobs. A high quality snow tire is the second line of defense for winter driving, right behind snow driving experience! No matter how great the car and tire combo, the driver is the limiting factor in how well the car stays on the road. I also have invested in some new off-road style lights that are more commonly referred to as “moose lights” in Alaska. They are really helpful for boosting your visibility beyond what your high beams can reach. I am not an expert on lights just yet, but I was sold on the Rigid brand of light bars for their durability and customer reviews.
No matter how confident I may be in my driving capabilities I always have emergency survival gear in the car in the event that I am stuck outside in an Alaskan (or in this case Canadian) winter. The first issue that I need to tackle if I am stranded in AK is keeping my body heat up. A majority of heat loss comes from your head, feet, and hands. keeping these areas covered and warm is the first step to keeping yourself healthy and capable of moving on to the next step in getting out of the situation you are in. I always carry a bag of spare clothing consisting of a warm windproof hat, weatherproof gloves, extra wool socks, a down puffy coat, and rain gear. The rain gear is a really important piece of the puzzle because not only keeps you dry, but it is a wind barrier as well. If the weather cant break through your outer shell, your body will be able to fill the space beneath with a nice warm barrier to keep you functioning in an emergency. I also carry a sleeping bag or a few blankets when I know I will be traveling for a few hours, being able to hunker down for a few hours with an extra layer of warmth never hurts.
Being cold is a workout!! Your body cranks up the furnace and starts shoveling calories into the fire to keep you warm, it only takes a little while out in arctic conditions for your body to need more fuel to throw on the fire. I always carry a few granola bars, almonds, and a liter or two of water in my car as well for some good calories and hydration.Due to the remote location and distance we will be traveling, Brad and I will also be traveling with some freeze dried food from Mountain House and a jetboil stove for backup food. Warm food is a morale booster and also helps with temperature retention in the body. I am a personal fan of the classic spaghetti with meat sauce and beef stroganoff.
As promised, a list of the equipment I have mentioned above and some links to check it out for yourself!