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flyboy47

Ideal Alaskan RV?

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I am in the military, about to head up to Fairbanks Alaska for my next assignment. My wife and I were looking to possibly purchase a travel trailer for camping adventures while we are stationed in AK. I would much appreciate this community's help and assistance when it comes to selecting the right make and model. 

Based on my research so far (I am completely new to the world of RV'ing), this is what I think I need (in order of importance): 

a.) Less than 5,000 lb dry. This is the towing capacity for '14 my nissan pathfinder. However, once in Alaska, we will have a Yukon XL which has a 8-10K capacity. In other words, we need it to be 5,000 lb for travel to AK but not necessarily for use while in AK. Now, having surveyed possible brands/models, I doubt that we will actually buy anything that encroaches on 5K dry, but it's still something to keep in mind. 

b.) Not spending more than $15,000. I am fine buying used. 

c.) Well-insulated and ready for cold weather. I've researched some possible recommendations, like the Heartland Mallard M185, with a temperature rating of 0-100 degrees. That works great. It sounds like fiberglass is the way to go for good insulation, as well as a robust base that's possibly heated. Some other possible brands were Starcraft, and from other research: Bigfoot or Arctic. We won't be roaming around the Alaskan interior during winter, but it would be nice to be able to get some good camping when things are somewhat cold (i.e. not JUST June, July and August). Specific brand/model is where I need the most assistance. 

d.) This is not absolutely necessary but hopefully we can get something somewhat versatile. I know that truck/camper combos are probably the most versatile, and we don't have a truck, but it would be nice to not be limited to merely straight, paved roads (like a 5th wheel would be, I imagine). How do I outfit the trailer to be more "off" or "rough" road ready?

e.) The trailer needs to accommodate 2 adult sleepers and 2 children. I have a 1.5 year old daughter, and am planning on having a second child sometime while in Alaska. It sounds like a bunkbed in the corner is the way to go. 


I don't know anything about storing or winterizing or really anything else regarding owning and maintaining a travel trailer. 

With all that said, I am open and ready to receive feedback, suggestions, accusations wink.gif or whatever. Thank you so much!!

Alex

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Welcome to the Escapee forums!

As ardent a user of RVs as I am, I'm not sure that I think this will be a good plan. Remember that Alaska has only a small portion of the state in which there are roads to travel over so you will only be able to see a small portion of the state from an RV. In addition, the season it is usable is also relatively short. The other issue is RV size versus sleeping capacity as your going to be pretty limited in what you will be able to safely tow. My advice is to move slowly on this decision and to spend a lot of time looking at the RVs that will meet your needs and be in the towing limits of your Pathfinder. We travel in a 20' travel trailer that weighs about 4000# when loaded for travel. It is all that our V-6 SUV can handle and I would not recommend it for cold weather. 

Edited by Kirk Wood

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I have no experience with Lance but I just read about their model 1575 and think it would work well for you. The tanks are huge, it sounds like it's well insulated although they didn't post a temperature range, it has a tub for bathing kids, it has LED lights. What it doesn't have is much storage. Personally, I would put shelves in that closet to greatly increase its capacity. It's very lightweight to tow on your trip up. It doesn't have a lot of weight capacity once you get there, though, so you'd likely store some heavy things like tools in your tow vehicle.

That's my first take on that particular model. If you find other brands/models you'd like feedback on I'm sure a bunch of us would jump right in to give you our thoughts.

Linda Sand

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We camped on the shore of the Yukon River (a bit north of Fairbanks) one June for about a week.  It was hot!  Do not know how hot but the Fairbanks radio station we tuned into was reporting 90-91 degrees.  So its not just cold in Alaska expect a little bit of every type of weather.  Later, J 

PS Make sure you get something with a screens, both windows and door(s).

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I answered you in your other post so I won't add here.  I do think if you could find a small RV with bunks that would be the way to go for the children.  They, and you, need your own space. Sleep patterns are different for everyone so having to use the dinette or couch as another bed can be very inconvenient.  I hope you can find something suitable to you.  Your weight limitations will be difficult for room enough for 4 people. Good luck!   RVing in Alaska is very popular... with those living there and with visitors.  Depending how many days off in a row you'd have you'd have many, many gorgeous places to stay and you could even venture into Yukon.  There's also a demand for used RVs if you ever choose to sell. Many use them for fishing and hunting cabins.

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8 hours ago, 2gypsies said:

I do think if you could find a small RV with bunks that would be the way to go for the children.  They, and you, need your own space. Sleep patterns are different for everyone so having to use the dinette or couch as another bed can be very inconvenient.  

If you planned to live in your RV full time, I would agree with that. But for weekends and vacations you could put the kids down in the bed then move them to the dinette when you are ready to sleep. The biggest challenge may be keeping the kids in the bed. You might want to look at netting to keep them safely in bed.

Linda Sand

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For Alaska, key issues are tires and suspension (frost heaves, rock bruises, and general road  abuse), avoid a kitchen in the rear (high thrust area), and make sure the screens are good and the heater works.  At 5,000 lbs you are almost into tent trailer territory.  

Strive for load range E tires, and avoid the ST tires if possible.  LT or Light Truck tires will live longer for travel to, from, and within Alaska.  

You want PEX water lines, so even if a bit of water remains they won't burst.  You need a water heater bypass valve so you don't try to fill the water heater with antifreeze.  Camping may be possible from April to October, but expect freezing temps thru May and again in September.  Been snowed on both months.

You will want a walk around bed, but it won't be available in your weight range.  The lighter you go, the flimsier, which is OK for the usual trip to the local lake.  You are not going to the local lake.  

Don't know where you are at, and choices of brands are very much a geographic issue.  Arctic Fox would be good for the cold season, but are heavier then you want.    If you have a choice, ship the Nissan and drive the Yukon.  For what you want, you really need to be looking at a trailer around 25' and maybe 7,000 lbs.

Best wishes for success.  We did this in 1969, but to Ft Richardson, now JBER.

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Tee Jay,

 

Thank you so much for the help. This is the kind of advice I've been scouring all over the internet for. 

I have looked and looked and looked and I the unit I have my mind set on (right now) is the Heartland Mallard M185. It's got an enclosed, heated and sealed underbelly and 2'' thick fiberglass insulated walls. On an ultralite, it has been virtually impossible to find anything with an enclosed underbelly, or fiberglass insulation, or walls thicker than 1.25''. The Camping World reps tell me this model is good down to 0 deg F. I know that this does not necessarily include all the water lines, etc, that you mentioned. But with a 20K BTU heater and some extra propane (and maybe some DIY insulation on the windows/doors and water lines), I think I might be okay in April - Sep. What do you think? 

Again, this advice has been invaluable. Especially the tire recommendation and PEX suggestion. I really appreciate it a lot. And thank you for your service!

Alex

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Have you yet been introduced to Reflectix? It's basically bubble wrap with one reflective side you can cut to fit your windows to insulate them. 

Linda Sand

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Welcome to Alaska! My advice? Buy small. Buy used. Pay less than you've budgeted for the trailer. Use some of that money to go on more outings. Keep in mind that you plan to use the RV for camping and short-term get-a-ways -- not to live in full-time. Also keep in mind that two members of your family are going to be very small. Modifications can be done to make most any RV more comfortable when it is cold out, and many of them are easy and inexpensive.

Much of our Alaska RVing has been done in a 24-foot trailer, a Wildwood by Forest RVer; it was inexpensive (some would say, "cheap,") when new. We have comfortably used it year round in Alaska.

Have a great adventure!

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Looks like you found one that meets your specs.

The tire comment is all about sharp rocks in the construction areas, where a heavier tire will hold up and a lighter tire can get a puncture.  Check the tire specs for the proper air pressure for your actual weight.  The PEX is about water freezing, as when you park it for a week in September without winterizing it and get a hard freeze.  Lots of folks can not deal with the 11pm sunset and 3am sunrise and cover the windows with foil to block the light so they can sleep.  Reflectrix works for that as well.  Camping when a hard freeze, keep the cupboard doors open so warm air gets around your plumbing.  You will quickly meet a lot of others with all the same questions and issues and they will have a lot of solutions and suggestions.  

On your drive up, be very careful about loading the trailer, as overloading it will be real easy with under 900lbs of cargo capacity.  Water and propane could take over half that, so keep the water down to 20 gallons or less and use the campground water when available.  We have found good roads until past Whitehorse, after which vigilance is needed for the frost heaves and road repair.  If you are using an equalizer hitch in the frost heave area, be extra careful to slow way down.  Some folks loosen the set-up, and some just don't use it.    WD does not do well in vertical articulation.

Compressed air works well for blowing out the lines, especially if you have a low point drain, which is now sort of standard.  I think the water heater takes a 1-1/16" socket to pull the plug and drain it, so draining the water after a shoulder season outing is pretty simple, just remember to do it.  Use the pink RV antifreeze for the final over-winter bedtime treatment.

Have fun and enjoy the trip.  We are leaving for the Kenai around June 6.

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Congratulations at finding an awesome floor plan for your family in a small RV.  You'll really enjoy having the bunks and the big tanks sizes for a 21' trailer is amazing.  Enjoy!!

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Hey guy you are on the right track. We stayed at the military bases FamCamps all through Alaska as well as the Military resort at Seward with their fleet of bay and deep sea fishing boats. Eielson and the Anchorage Famcamps are very nicely done as well as on base but they feel like they are off base. Here is a link: http://www.militarycampgrounds.us/alaska

Now what I would do is call autovon and see if the Famcamps know of any used RVs you might be able to buy once there. As well your military sponsor should be able to beat the bushes at your new assignment about the most popular for the region RVs and maybe used ones for sale on base/post.

I assume you are going to either Elmendorf or Eielson, unless an Army aviation member. Both places have outstanding RV support but don't overlook the resorts like the Seward one with apartments and hotel like living on one of the best locations for sea and turf adventures. They also have RV spaces with full hookups.

We entered Alaska on our RV Trip in May of 1999 but had been touring Alberta and BC on the way up via the Alaskan Highway, and back via the Cassiar Highway. I did not go until two years after I retired. We retired at Lackland and moved directly into our 36 foot HitchHiker fiver when I was relieved from duty in 1997, and already had the Ram 1 ton dually with the Cummins Diesel.

I did all the Canadian paperwork and carried a Savage 24C .22 over 20 ga shotgun on our trip. Be advised if you drive up not to try to carry any kind of handgun (all handguns are forbidden through Canada) or any legal long gun without doing the paperwork for taking it through Canada. However you can ship them and Alaska is pretty loose on carry and possession of handguns or long guns. In fact, I would advise not going hiking or 4 wheeling away from town or base without a bear capable rifle or slug gun. But active duty requirements may preclude that. Check with your sponsor or Security Forces LE desk for direction to on-base weapons regs. If you are worried about shipping guns via TMO you can ship them from one FFL here to another there. Ask TMO before you get too close.

Have a blast, Alaska is not the frozen North most expect. The summer was in the mid 90s when we were there. It's the lack of the sun that really distinguishes Alaska from the lower 48. You will need to learn about winterizing for winter there for sure. Everyone with an RV there will know how. If you buy new make sure you have the antifreeze winterizing bypass valve installed on whatever rig you get.

Safe travels.

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If you can, buy in the lower 48. Alaska prices are high on everything including campers.You will probably be doing a lot of boonie camping without hookups so try for larger tanks and batteries. If you will be in Elmendorf/Fort Rich you can stay on base but the fun will be on the Kenai like camping on the Homer Spit and fishing or if around Fairbanks you will have millions of acres on BLM land up on the Haul Road or down to Denali NP.  We camped in a small pickup camper for the 13 years we lived in Alaska but there was only two of us. But we had a ball. You can even camp along a stream and pan for gold. (But you won't make enough to pay for the camper).Anyway, choose carefully and have a ball.And thanks for your service.

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