5 Essentials to Pack for your Alaska Vanlife Road Trip

By: Scott Adamson
/ December 20, 2019
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been dreaming of the day that your tires cross over the northern border from the Yukon in Canada to the ever sought after Alaskan wilderness.

I think a lot of people, myself included, avoid taking the trip up north because they are leery about venturing into the unknown and prefer to stay somewhere that they find more comfortable.

Well, this summer I finally took the plunge and here are some of the items I’m really glad I had with me when doing Vanlife in Alaska.

The 5 Vanlife Alaska Items I’m Glad I Had

In no particular order here are some of the items that I would recommend taking with you on your journey through Alaska.

1. Bug and Bear Repellent

The locals in Alaska like to say they have a “high-density mosquito population”. What they really mean is “we have a lot of bugs”. For that reason, you need to make sure you’re fully prepared in order to prevent the little critters from ruining your trip.

Some of the items I highly recommend to combat the mosquitos are;

Bug Spray

Personally, I try to avoid using bug spray as much as possible. Bugs don’t really bother me all that much and the thing to remember when living on the road is that you likely won’t have the opportunity to shower every day.  But it’s always smart to have bug spray handy in places like Alaska.


Until my trip to Alaska, I had never heard of a Thermacell, but when the topic of bugs comes up as you start to near the Alaskan border, everyone you meet will tell you that you need to have one with you at all times.

So… We bought 3 of them…

Every store we tried to purchase from were sold out, so I was convinced this was a must-have. I ended up having to order them off of Amazon and ship them to a future destination and pick them up.

The Thermacell that I used is a small camp-fuel fired burner that heats up a small mosquito deterrent mat that emits a smell that protects an area around the device.  You can also buy battery-powered Thermacells.

Eneeko Bug Zapper

Next up on the battle against the bugs is the Eneeko Bug Zapper. This is basically just a small bug zapper that helps handle the pesky critters that sneak into the van when opening and closing the door.

At night I would turn this on and every morning a couple of stragglers would eventually find their way to the bright purple light.

On top of the Eneeko Bug Zapper, which I will call the passive approach, we also bought those tennis racquet style electric bug swatters that did a great job cleaning up the bugs before hitting the sheets.

Bug Net

When the bugs were really bad I would just wear long sleeves and pants and then toss on my Ultranet Head Gear which did a great job protecting me from all the bugs.

You might look like a bit of an idiot, but it does the trick.  Plus – you can still drink a beer through the netting.

Bear Spray

While I personally didn’t have any “bear scares” during my time in Alaska, it’s always a good idea, for additional protection, to carry bear deterrent.

Frontiersman spray will incapacitate a bear’s ability to see or smell while causing no permanent injuries.

2. Air Compressor

The next item I highly recommend bringing to Alaska is some sort of air compressor. Depending on the route you take through Alaska you are going to find yourself on a fair amount of gravel roads.

Having the ability to air down and then air back up your tires is going to make your ride 100x more enjoyable.

On some of these roads, if you don’t air down your tires, the washboard roads make it feel like you are riding a bull at the rodeo prior to airing down the tires.

3. Fire Starters

I’ve mentioned this one before and I stand by it… Bring fire starters!

The wood up in Alaska is often damp and without some form of fire starter, we would not have been able to have a fire most nights.

At the end of a long day of driving and finding the perfect camp spot, a fire is the perfect way to end the day; reminisce about the amazing day you’ve just had, and chat about the adventures ahead.

4. Paper Maps

Let me tell you – You are not going to have good service on long stretches of this trip.

Relying on offline Google Maps and other GPSs may not be the best idea. We had often found that even though we thought we had downloaded the required maps, we would find ourselves in a bit of a dead zone and require the paper maps to get us back on track.

Something about a paper map always just makes the adventure feel a little more authentic. Maybe that’s just me struggling with not wanting to identify with my inner millennial.

5. GPS / Communication Device / VHF Radio

This one is huge especially if you are traveling with other people.

When I went to Alaska with a few friends, we used Walkie Talkies. It’s really handy to be able to radio to the people in front of and behind you in order to stay on the same page. Things like gas stops, lunch breaks, and campsite hunting are made way easier by having the ability to quickly chat with each other.


A bit of an add on that I think everyone who does any sort of solo off-road travel should have is a GPS Communication Device such as the ones available from the company Spot or Garmin.

Personally, I have the Spot Mini Gen 3 but after traveling with people who have the Garmin inReach Mini, I think I would prefer the Garmin. Either way, it’s great peace of mind that if a certain situation goes really sideways, you have the ability to contact someone who can assist you.

If nothing else, it gives my Mom some peace of mind.

Bonus Tip — Alaska Mile Marker Book

Ok, I know this was supposed to be my Top 5 recommended items for Alaska, and I truly did try to narrow it down to items you may not have considered yourself, but I had to throw in this final bonus item.

The Alaska Mile Post Book. This book is available online and in any gas station across Alaska. In short, this is the road-trippers bible to the Alaska Road Trip.

Let me know if you have any questions! I hope you enjoy your trip to the Great White North as much as I did!

Scott Adamson
Wanderful Idea Guy
Coffee drinker, adventure seeker, below average photographer.
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