Van Life FAQ’s: The Most Commonly Asked Questions About Van Life & RV Life

5 of the Most Common Questions About Vanlife and RV Life

Van Life and RV Living are becoming more and more popular, we all crave the freedom. We love hearing about people journeys into this lifestyle, and we know starting out can be scary.

To help out, we thought we would compile 5 of the most commonly asked questions we get asked about traveling fulltime and vanlife.

🔸️How is it living together in a tiny space?

Vanlife FAQ's

The positives here far outweigh the negatives for us. We have definitely adapted to being together in a small space. There have been adjustments to how we move around, the “van shuffle” often includes the dog. Cooking is a one person job. We have our family cuddles in the back on the king size bed. When we need our own space we have the rotating captain chairs at the front of the van, and Logan loves to sit up there and read. Really though, we live out of the van, not in it. So when we need space we are grateful to be parked somewhere beautiful with all the wide open spaces we could ask for.

🔸️How do you budget for life on the road?

van life realities

We set a budget for ourselves before we left home. Our monthly budget of $3000 includes our van payments, insurance for the vehicle as well as our travel and health insurance, pet insurance, cell phones, groceries, gas, camping fees, and spending money. We know several people who live this lifestyle on bigger budgets, and many who are comfortably living on smaller budgets. Setting a budget is a personal choice, but we think it’s important to be realistic. We have always agreed that if we can no longer support this lifestyle then it’s time to change it.

🔸️How do you earn money?

van life freedom

Logan and I (Kira) both quit our “9-5” jobs before we hit the road. I was an office manager at a dental office, and Logan was a brewer at a busy craft brewpub. It was a priority for us to pay off our debts before making the leap to traveling so we did!! The first step was selling our home in October 2017, it happened very fast as the real estate market in our hometown was booming, and very overinflated.

Logan has been interested in the markets, real estate, and trading, so we decided to invest our money from the sale of our home, and manage our budget with the profits. Because we were just starting out, we started with mutual funds in RRSP and TFSA accounts, and have moved into self-directed investments. We also decided to finance our van, so that money could be invested instead of being locked up in the van. We considered finance rates carefully against the realistic rates of return we could achieve on our investments.

Since hitting the road we have also joined in affiliate marketing programs, and brand partnerships. To be clear, we don’t make this a main focus, because our goal is time freedom. Affiliate marketing and brand partnerships allow us to monetize our social media. It earns small commissions from products we use, and allows us to share those resources and brands we love with our community.

This is a very very common way for folks who work as digital nomads to earn income. It should be noted that it does take work and time. There are really no ways to earn money for doing nothing, so if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

🔸️What do you need to take with you when you hit the road?

This is tough to answer, and in all honesty, I roll my eyes when I read a lot of peoples suggestions for “things YOU need for your RV” or “Gear You Need For Van Life” . In reality, you need so much less than you think. We have never really been minimalists, so it was hard for us to downsize. We felt like we needed so much to ensure we would be comfortable…

The reality is that the more stuff you bring, the more stuff you have in your small space. We have downsized multiple times since hitting the road.

Our suggestion is use what you have, you don’t need to rush out and buy RV specific things. There are definetely things you will pick up along the way, we have some favorite van life gear we suggest too…BUT, Don’t buy something because someone told you you need it, everyones living situation is different. You will be the one to decide what you need or want to make your RV feel like home.

We know people who love to cook. Instapots, camp stoves even a Vitamix you name it. If those items serve you, then great! Consider your space, I would love a Berkey water filtration system but have nowhere practical to store it. What will you actually use? We have bought a few little gizmos that ended up being donated, we thought they would be useful, but they were not daily use items.

When it comes to appliances remember your power source…the first time we made a pot of coffee in our van with our big fancy brewer from home, we blew the circuit and everything in the van shut off….we prefer boondocking to being plugged in, so we have to consider what our battery system can handle.

The things you really need and that we recommend researching are a little less sexy… Things like insurance, updated travel documents (ie. visas, passports) cellular coverage, first aid items (don’t forget your furry travel companions), basic tools (also think of flat tires, or boosting a dead battery) these are all pretty essential.

🔸️What’s the best place we have visited?

van life destinations

Oh man, another tough one!! This adventure has surprised us constantly. I think unanimously we were both blown away by southern Utah, the Mighty Five parks are really something everyone should see. Pictures just don’t do it justice.

We fell in love with Palm Springs and Southern California (though the coast and Redwoods are pretty amazing) the dry heat of the desert was a welcomed treat after being in the Pacific Northwest. The boondocking in the South West is also top notch making van life easy and budget friendly.

The Northwest Territories ended up being a place we spent the second most cumulative time on our whole trip…weeks of unpaved roads, seeing towns and villages only accessible by winter roads and tiny ferries, and the truly wild and untouched land was magic. Seeing the Arctic Ocean via the new road to Tuktoyaktuk was an epic adventure.

van life northwest territories

So there wasn’t one place, there were many….and the biggest reward in this experience is finding new places to fall in love with.

If you are thinking about full timing in an RV or Van, we highly recommend it! Also a great way to dip your toes in the van life experience would be to rent and take road trip to see how it feels for you.

If you have any questions let us know! And don’t forget to check out our post on Moving Saving Apps for van life travel.

Email us: lifeasweroamit@gmail.com

Or comment below👇

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Back On The Road & Mississippi Bound

Van Life – On the road again, our first week back on the road, heading to Mississippi

We are finally Back On The Road & Mississippi Bound!

From Ontario to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi in 3 days.

On The Road & Mississippi Van Life

Well, we did it. We watched for a “warm” gap in the weather and went to pull the van out of storage the first day we saw above freezing temps.

Our experience storing the van overall was pretty good, sadly it ended up being insanely expensive. The storage facility only offers seasonal contracts, so we paid for Sept-May even though the van only ended up being there for just shy of 2 months. It was a price we paid for the peace of mind of our van being tucked away indoors and warm.

So we brought the van back tot he apartment and cleaned it out properly, every cupboard drawer, and surface was cleaned (still soo much dust from NWT, I think it is in the walls, and have no idea yet how we will get it out. Holly was at a boarding facility we were testing out for Ireland. So for a few glorious hours, the van looked shiny and new, and predominantly free of dog hair😍.

Vanliving, Fulltime Travel, Van Life On The Road & Mississippi

We organized all of the cupboards, some slight changes from last year, but overall the system we have seems to work. It is insane how much food we store in this van.

Everything fit nicely, and I am especially happy with my clothes cupboard. I included our new packing cubes in our last post, but honestly, they make my heart happy every time I open my clothes cupboard.

Vanliving, Fulltime Travel, Van Life, packing tips, minimalist wardrobe

After cleaning and packing the van, we cleaned the apartment and dropped off the keys, and said goodbye to our temporary home. Picked Holly up and hit the road.

Our first stop was at Logans mum’s house. We packed up all our winter gear from our time in Ontario, vacuum packed them and are storing them in her basement. We also stocked her fridge and freezer. We had done a Costco shop not too long ago, and now had way more food than we could fit in our fridge, and some items we knew couldn’t cross the border. One last yummy supper with the family and we were off.

Our First Night On The Road:

We slept our first night at an “On Route”, these are the top-notch rest stops along the 401. We were still winterized so we didn’t have running water in the van. Being close to 24-hour restrooms was nice 👌. Also having Tim Horton’s and Starbucks in the morning is a treat.

On The Road & Mississippi Van Life Tim Hortons

The next morning we carried on and crossed the border in Windsor.

This was our first time being stopped and inspected at the border.

They didn’t like hearing that we were not working, and we were traveling for 2 months (though we have crossed three other times, and they never seemed too concerned). We were also honest about the food items we had in our fridge and thought we had remembered to unload everything, that was a no-no.

We had to put Holly in an outdoor kennel, and head into the building. The border guards were mostly friendly and helpful to the people they were dealing with, ours wasn’t, but that’s just luck of the draw. The guards who inspected our vehicle took a few cherry tomatoes, avocados, and peppers…they were from the U.S and we didn’t think anything of it. They let us know that we hadn’t told them about those items and that the fine for lying to them about food is $300. Thankfully they knew weren’t trying to hide anything, so we got off with a warning.

Tip: They suggested making an itemized list of the contents of the fridge and freezer next time. In all honesty, we usually don’t cross with any food in the fridge, that big Costco shop, and the sudden change in weather left us overstocked…we will empty the fridge next time.

The silver lining in all of this is that Holly did amazing. Our biggest fear since day 1 of traveling has been Holly. She has a history of being reactive, so we worried about her having a meltdown at the border. She sat so calmly and sweetly in that little kennel and watched the guards searching our van without making a peep. She looked super sad, but overall that was a huge win. The training we did with her in B.C has been life-changing.

We watched the weather along 3 different routes south. The first day made it as far as Kentucky, the rain was insane! We were staying out of the freeze that seems to be affecting everyone right now, so that was good. We thought we would visit Mammoth Caves National Park, and do some bourbon tasting, but the majority of Kentucky was under flood warnings. With freezing temperatures two days away.

The next morning the driving conditions were horrible and we switched routes twice. We actually had to pull off the highway a couple times because the rain was so heavy we literally couldn’t see. We are from the PNW and have never seen rain like this.

Our route took us towards Memphis, we made a quick stop, and then straight on to Mississippi…and 75° weather! We forgot about the humidity in the south! We instantly delayed, picked up a couple of brochures at the visitor center, where we were greeted with “Y’all are so welcomed here, Y’all are a long way from home! Welcome to God’s Country”. Southern hospitality is real folks.
**Side note, rest stops in Mississippi have free dump stations!

We decided to stay in a state park for the night, we wanted to camp, we needed access to water and sewer so we could finally de-winterize our tanks. So we chose George P. Cossar State Park. Full hookups for $30. Free showers and they even have laundry facilities. The campground was amazing, right on Enid Lake. Huge sites, quiet, and the day we arrived, almost empty! We found out later that the weekend was fully booked out, event though temperatures were dropping again, I kid you not, “it’s ‘coon huntin’ season”. It is a very real thing, and all fill up for it.

Our first time de-winterizing wasn’t too bad. We drained all the antifreeze from the lines and fresh tank. We added water and bleach, flushed all the lines, and the water pump, and drove around the park to slosh it all around, and left it overnight. The next morning, after a perfectly quiet sleep, we drained again and added fresh water to rinse. We added some vinegar to the fresh water this round, one more rinse and it should be good to go. We started using the water for flushing, and washing dishes, man did I miss having our washroom!!!

From there we made our way to Pass Christian down some of the craziest backroads (thanks Google Maps). We got in after dark, which we usually try to avoid, but we knew the spot we would be sleeping from last year). The Walmart in this town is beach front…so we arrived after dark, walked the dog, went grocery shopping, late dinner and off to bed. I think this Walmart has the most beautiful view of any Walmart. It is a quiet spot, not a ton of RVs park there and it’s tucked away on the coast.

So here we are now on the Gulf Coast, we are excited to be back and have more time to spend. We don’t really have a plan, but we will likely head towards Texas first. We are checking out Gulf Islands National Sea Shore as it was full when we were here last time. Logan is in bird nerd paradise. His list for the year is already around 100, and we were in Ontario winter for the first month.

Wrapping Up Our Winter In Ontario

January is wrapping up, and we are getting ready for a fresh start in February!

January is wrapping up, and we are getting ready for a fresh start in February!

We haven’t posted much since we arrived in Ontario, it has been tough.

We have had the van in storage for over a month, and it’s been the strangest thing.

It was a big shift adapting to living in our tiny space, and finding our flow….it was equally strange readapting to living back in a condo.

We were lucky when we headed out this way that a couple who lives in the same building as Logan’s dad offered to sublet their condo to us while we were here, and they wintered in Florida.

The concept of having more than one room, doors to close, light switches to flip…all a little foreign to us.

Some luxuries we had forgotten…. unlimited hot water and water pressure for showers, even a hot bath… a dishwasher (we only used it twice the entire time we were here) we are totally programmed to wash dishes by hand as we use them. Fluffy towels that have space to dry. A full kitchen, with a stove top and oven! A huge fridge and freezer. Being able to take our time, hang up our clothes in a closet and not have to worry about packing up again the next day…

Luxuries aside, we have missed the road. We are conflicted, there’s something nice about the structure and ease of living back in a condo, but we also feel trapped. We went from living in our campervan, to not even have a vehicle to drive.

We had family who let us borrow their vehicles for a couple days here and there, and even paid to rent vehicles to allow us to do errands, grocery shop, and generally get out.

It’s been a crazy experience being here. We remind ourselves constantly that we were here to spend time with Logan’s dad. And we did, we got about 5 weeks with him before he passed. That time is invaluable and we wouldn’t trade it for anything.

It’s been an emotional, exhausting, devastating and draining time. It was expensive, and just all around tough. But those negatives are overshadowed by the time Logan got with his dad when he was still here. The time we spent with his wife’s family, hours and days of round the clock hospital time.

The time we got to spend with the girls, and our niece, this experience created a closer bond. While we wish it was under better circumstances, we are eternally grateful to Logan’s dad for bringing us all together.

So now we try to start to move forward. We have a lot of great things to look forward to this year. It’s hard to be excited about things, but we are trying.

We are going to be getting the van ready to hit the road to try to catch some sunshine. We have friends who are traveling in the southern U.S. and we can’t wait to meet up with them.

We booked our flights to Ireland, making plans for my sister’s wedding. We are going to be renting a campervan for part of the trip too!

We will be heading to the East Coast of Canada for the summer and reaching some pretty remote and stunning places.

We have been out of commission for a while…and we are excited to get back on the road and share our adventures.

What are you looking forward to this year???

P.S. We have been doing some Amazon shopping for the van, and the trip to Ireland, and I will put together a short post with those items soon.

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Full Time Van Life: Staying Connected On the Road

Finding wifi on the road can be a challenge, here are some ideas to help you stay connected

Staying connected and finding wifi on the road…

Working while traveling full time requires that we are connected. So we have come up with some suggestions for finding wifi on the road:

*Our first stop in a new place is usually a visitor center. We like to get a lay of the land, and tips on what to see in the area. Often times they have reliable (though basic) wifi. Typically for emails, checking and messages.

van life travel staying connected, cell service, wifi

*Most of your favorite coffee shops have wifi, Starbucks isn’t your only option, but they are still pretty reliable.

*Many restaurants, especially chains (think fast food locals) have wifi, and usually, you can access the signal from outside their 4 walls.

*Walmart, yep we’ll just say it, sometimes we camp in stunning locals with breathtaking views, and sometimes, we are camped out in a Walmart parking lot. These guys offer wifi in all their stores and we have even been able to upload and download on this connection.

van life travel staying connected, cell service, wifi, life on the road,

Thankfully in this day and age wifi is becoming more and more accessible, but sometimes it means thinking outside the box.

More ideas:
*Libraries,
*Community centers
*Recreation centers (maybe catch a workout and shower),
*Many retail stores,
*Park visitor centers,
*Laundromats (multi-purpose visits are an added bonus)

If RV parks are more your style, many offer free wifi. We have also encountered some that charge for wifi, restrict website access(no Netflix and chill here) and time limits are often placed.

van life travel staying connected, cell service, wifi, life on the road,

Lastly having your own hotspot. You can cover your bases by working with multiple service providers, signal on more than one network is ideal. Our cell service is through AT&T and we will be purchasing a Verizon Hot Spot. As long as we are in service areas with the help of our weeboost this should cover our data needs!

If you have any suggestions for staying connected on the road we’d love to hear them in the comments!

If you enjoyed this article check out our gear guide for van life and full time travelers

Choosing A Van – Introducing Our Roadtrek Zion

Choosing a Van for your tiny home on wheels is a BIG decision. We are introducing you to our Roadtrek Zion, sharing all the details on our first Van Life home, features, prebuild vs. custom, and why Roadtrek.

We wanted to introduce you to our van and talk a little about why we chose her!

We are not sponsored or endorsed by Roadtrek, but we are going to be talking a lot about them here.

We met our van in Chilliwack, BC at O’Connor RV. We had been daydreaming about vans and researching vans, and really binging on vanlife YouTube videos to see what was out there and what it was like.

We love all the custom van builds out there, honestly, they are gorgeous and mostly what got us thinking about van dwelling in the first place. That being said neither of us is particularly handy or mechanically inclined so building out our own van didn’t seem like the right fit.

Our initial idea was a Volkswagon Rialta. we liked that they were a little roomier than a Westfalia, and had a kitchen and wet bath. Mechanical issues, costs, and standing room for Logan ended up being the main reasons we kept up our search.

We found a used Roadtrek 210 Popular online and really liked the look and features of it. So we figured going and seeing one couldn’t hurt. We drove 2.5 hours to O’Connor and went window shopping. Holy cow, RVs are insane, the dealership had everything from vans, to little $5000 trailers, all the way up to the massive half million dollar busses that are arguably nicer than any house we will ever own (leather furniture, a bar, a fireplace, two TVs) really. If you have never gone and walked around and checked out RVs it’s actually a really fun experience.

Back to the vans. We still knew very little about Roadtrek at this point. We saw the Popular models on Chevy chassis. We also got to check out the E-trek, and Adventurous models on the Mercedes chassis.

When you order a new Roadtrek you chose the chassis, and then the features to be included in your van. We did not order our van, so there are definitely things we would change. But the van was 2 years old but never owned so we were able to get a great deal on it.

When we found our Zion we loved it almost instantly.

Let’s start with the exterior the granite metallic paint job was actually our favorite of the available colors. (Though now we would be curious for the temperature to see how a white or silver van compares).

The ProMaster 3500 has a 3.6L, gas V6 engine, with front wheel drive. We may consider diesel and 4×4 in the future but again the base cost was a big factor. Another thing we considered and appreciate, is that we can take this van to any Dodge dealership so, along the way, we have never had an issue getting in for service. Mechanical issues are a headache, but in our minds easier to negotiate than with say a Mercedes.

The side sliding door has a Thule power step that can be locked out when we camp, otherwise it slides out when the door is opened.

There is a backup camera which is helpful. We had never used one before so it took some getting used to. We typically leave our rear windows covered so this is definitely handy.

Our van had the Continental Package. Our spare tire is hitch mounted on the rear of the van. For access to the spare this is great, but given the option, we would choose the standard under mounted spare tire. We have to lower the spare tire to access the rear driver side door. It’s a double-edged sword, we feel like its a little extra security and a buffer to protect our bumper…but it’s a hassle loading and unloading.

We have a full sized 12′ power awning. We didn’t use this much at first but now we use it often. It gives us shade on the passenger side of the van which really helps with temperature control. Easy to set up and take down. When it comes to being stealthy, awnings and air conditioners are a dead giveaway that its a camper van. But we would keep the awning its been really useful.

There is a roof mounted 11,000 BTU Dometic air conditioner. We have a love-hate relationship with this. One it puts the height restriction of the van over 9’5. Its noisy as all get out and it is right above the bed, so using it is not always fun, and at night it’s hard to ignore the sound. The draw of the a\c will kill our fully charged battery in an hour. We have been in some crazy hot spots like Palm Springs, or Key West in Florida where we really needed the a\c to help keep the van livable for us and Holly. We have the ability to plug in if we need to run the a\c a lot.

We have Roadtreks proprietary Ecotrek power module. This now includes 2, 200 amp lithium batteries mounted under the van (there is a lot of debate in Roadtrek land about AGM vs Lithium.) We started out with one battery and Roadtrek upgraded us to two. We are almost always off-grid, so we rarely plugin, and have rarely had any issues managing our power.

We have a 280amp under the hood generator. This is essentially like a second alternator that allows us to charge our house batteries automatically when we drive.

The van has full plumbing, so we have a 36.5-gallon fresh water tank, a 23.5-gallon gray tank, and a 9.6-gallon black tank. Filling fresh water is easy, the intake is just inside the driver side door. We can also connect to city water through a valve on the rear passenger side of the van (we have never needed to).

There is a 25L\7 gallon propane tank mounted under the rear of the van. We have put propane in 3 times in 10 months and we have never run out of propane. (This feeds, hot water, stove, and furnace).

We also have our outdoor shower. We have actually only used this twice, but it’s definitely handy to have.

Since we have a black tank the van comes equipped with a 12V macerator sewage dump as well as gravity dump. We have always used the macerator, we are able to dump our tanks and hit the road in about 3 minutes. We have had the cover for this area replaced twice. We aren’t sure what the answer is, but hopefully, we can find a more durable solution.

We have 2, 100-watt solar panels on the roof. This is actually only enough power to trickle charge our battery management system, so we would love to upgrade this, to power more than our batteries. Roadtreks can come with significantly more solar when you order them.

Stepping into our van the standing room is listed at 6’2 but Logan is able to stand upright with his head grazing the ceiling so this was a pretty good physical fit for us.

The cabinets are oak and the floors are laminate in ebony, and countertops are granite.

The front chairs swivel so we use the passenger seat facing back pretty much any time we are parked. There is a small table that can be installed between these seats. Though we have only used it once.

Our control panel sits right above the sliding door, we can monitor our batteries, tanks (though they are never accurate), our inverter, patio lights, and awning are all controlled here as well.

There are 6 USB ports, 6 12V DC outlets, and 8 110V outlets throughout the van.

We have a fully enclosed bathroom. Its tiny, but it works for us. Having your own toilet when traveling is so nice (no more nasty outhouses). We do use the shower. We are always surprised to hear that some people don’t but to each their own. We try to limit our water use when we are off-grid, but being able to wash off after a long hike and not going to bed dirty and sweaty is a treat. We do have wipes, but nothing beats soap and water.

Our Fantastic Fan is probably our most used appliance. It is remote control operated and has a rain sensor. This fan creates awesome airflow to help keep the van cool, and also works as our exhaust fan for cooking and showering.

Our kitchen includes a small sink, we don’t love the fold-down faucet but it allows more prep space for us to cover the sink, there is a fold up counter to extend the kitchen space. Stainless steel backsplash so cleanup is easy. There is also a 2 burner propane stove. Given the way our battery system works, I am glad to have propane vs induction. We have never run out of propane or had any issues with the stove. Though we may be interested in buying a small induction unit to try.

The storage capacity in our van is actually huge. Roadtrek did a good job of using the space well. We have food and kitchen supplies stored in the two cabinets under the sink and stove (and we stock so much food like we are Costco shoppers). The slide-out pantry is great, though we did have an extra latch installed to secure it so it doesn’t pop open while we’re driving. The large drawer under the fridge has been a pots and pans drawer, a clothes drawer, and now its an everything drawer (laptop, Dyson, first aid, sunscreen, towels, doggy bags, you name it) our closet is also used for food and coffee brewer storage.

Our fridge was another selling feature, it’s a 5 cubic foot NoreCold fridge which is pretty big by van standards (food storage is a biggy for us). We like that it sits high in the van, so we can see what’s in it, and don’t have to bend down to grab things from it. The fridge runs on 110\12v so it requires the battery to operate. There is a small icebox, we would love more freezer space but we make the most of it!

Fridge cleaning day…

We have a 16000 BTU Suburban furnace with a programmable thermostat. We have used this on a few cold nights and it’s worked pretty well to keep us comfortable.

The valves for our water are tucked in a small cabinet under the fridge. We have a Girard hot water on demand system. There are some good and some bad to it. There is no reservoir like in other water heaters, so less space. It’s a heat exchanger, so you have to pass a lot of water through to get the hot water (not great when you are trying to conserve water and gray tank space).

Our 2000 watt Microgreen inverter is stored in a cabinet under the rear driver side bench seat. This allows us to run our 12V appliances and the a\c.

The rear cabinets are also pretty spacious they run all the way to the rear of the van. We store all our clothes in the rear cabinets and we have a lot of clothes!! Our solar control panel is stashed up here. We also use one cabinet as an electrical supplies cabinet. Our remotes, Weboost Drive 4G X, and our antenna receiver for the tv is in here.

Our van came with a Samsung 24″ flat screen tv on a swivel mount as well as a Panasonic blue ray player. We mostly use our own external hard drive for movies, or we stream Netflix.

Our lighting in the van is LED, each light is controlled separately like a push button.

All of the window coverings and upholstery come standard in the van. It would be nice to have more options to make them a little cuter. That being said we visited the factory we met the man who makes most of it, and he does very good work. We may eventually do some DIY projects to make it feel a little more “us” in here, but really we don’t mind black and gray.

Lastly our bed. So our King sized bed is actually three pieces. The Zion comes in different configurations. Ours had the front facing power sofa (also two more seatbelts so passengers are possible). The front-facing sofa slides flat, and the two seats easily transition to cushions for the bed. The wooden panel that is used to bridge the gap under the bed is actually not big enough (we feel the hole in the middle or a sag at the foot of the bed). We will be cutting a new piece to fit it properly. We also have a 3-inch memory foam topper that we will be replacing. We leave our bed down like a bed all the time. There is ample storage under the bed, but it requires raising the bed to access it. If we were choosing or building custom, we would likely have a fixed bed and have it raised to make access easier.

So why Roadtrek?

  • This a Canadian based company, their factory is in Kitchener, Ontario. They have been building Class B campervans for decades.
  • Roadtrek offers a pretty amazing 6-year transferrable warranty. This covers all the RV components. This warranty has already replaced a cabinet, our fantastic fan motor, a macerator dump hose, and more.

The downsides:

  • Roadtreks proprietary Battery Management System is definitely great, but if you do run into problems, you need someone certified to fix it. There is a shortage of great RV repair technicians, and we were lucky enough to find one of the best in servicing Roadtreks, but not everyone is so lucky. Turn around time and back and forth with the factory leaves a lot of owners frustrated. That being said if you can book in at the factory in Kitchener, the service is incredible.
  • Customization is not what they are about. You have a lot of options to chose from when you order a new Roadtrek, but they are not in the business of customizing. With the growing popularity of vanlife, Class B vans, and Roadtreks in general that factory is pumping out more vans than ever. They won’t be adding in features just for you. There are the standards that they offer, and that’s it.
  • The price tag is high. The website lists the base MSP for a new Zion at $96,022 USD. Financing options are available at most dealerships, which is good because most people don’t have this kind of cash. These vans really are gorgeous and are built well. We think the higher price has been worth it for us so far with the warranty alone.
  • In our van specifically, the low clearance is the price we pay for the holding tanks, plumbing, propane, and batteries. Having a van with higher clearance would be nice for the kind of traveling we do. But we have made it work.

If you have any questions about our van or van life just let us know!

Choosing A Van For Full Time Travel- Introducing Our Roadtrek Zion

Choosing a Van for your tiny home on wheels is a BIG decision. We are introducing you to our Roadtrek Zion, sharing all the details on our first Van Life home, features, prebuild vs. custom, and why Roadtrek.

We wanted to introduce you to our van and talk a little about choosing a van, and how we decided on her!

Choosing a van, travel couples, full time travel tips, life on the road, vanlife, realities of living in a van, love van life, roadtrek, campervan

We are not sponsored or endorsed by Roadtrek, but we are going to be talking a lot about them here.

We met our van in Chilliwack, BC at O’Connor RV. We had been daydreaming about vans and researching vans, and really binging on vanlife YouTube videos to see what was out there and what it was like.

Fulltime travelers, travel couples, full time travel tips, life on the road, vanlife, realities of living in a van, love van life, roadtrek, campervan, chosing an rv

We love all the custom van builds out there, honestly, they are gorgeous and mostly what got us thinking about van dwelling in the first place. That being said neither of us is particularly handy or mechanically inclined so building out our own van didn’t seem like the right fit.

Our initial idea was a Volkswagon Rialta. we liked that they were a little roomier than a Westfalia, and had a kitchen and wet bath. Mechanical issues, costs, and standing room for Logan ended up being the main reasons we kept up our search.

We found a used Roadtrek 210 Popular online and really liked the look and features of it. So we figured going and seeing one couldn’t hurt. We drove 2.5 hours to O’Connor and went window shopping. Holy cow, RVs are insane, the dealership had everything from vans, to little $5000 trailers, all the way up to the massive half million dollar busses that are arguably nicer than any house we will ever own (leather furniture, a bar, a fireplace, two TVs) really. If you have never gone and walked around and checked out RVs it’s actually a really fun experience.

Choosing a van

Back to the vans. We still knew very little about Roadtrek at this point. We saw the Popular models on Chevy chassis. We also got to check out the E-trek, and Adventurous models on the Mercedes chassis.

When you order a new Roadtrek you chose the chassis, and then the features to be included in your van. We did not order our van, so there are definitely things we would change. But the van was 2 years old but never owned so we were able to get a great deal on it.

Choosing a van roadtrek

When we found our Zion we loved it almost instantly.

Let’s start with the exterior the granite metallic paint job was actually our favorite of the available colors. (Though now we would be curious for the temperature to see how a white or silver van compares).

Choosing a van Roadtrek

The ProMaster 3500 has a 3.6L, gas V6 engine, with front wheel drive. We may consider diesel and 4×4 in the future but again the base cost was a big factor in choosing a van. Another thing we considered and appreciate, is that we can take this van to any Dodge dealership so, along the way, we have never had an issue getting in for service. Mechanical issues are a headache, but in our minds easier to negotiate than with say a Mercedes.

Choosing a van

The side sliding door has a Thule power step that can be locked out when we camp, otherwise it slides out when the door is opened.

There is a backup camera which is helpful. We had never used one before so it took some getting used to. We typically leave our rear windows covered so this is definitely handy.

Choosing a van roadtrek

Our van had the Continental Package. Our spare tire is hitch mounted on the rear of the van. For access to the spare this is great, but given the option, we would choose the standard under mounted spare tire. We have to lower the spare tire to access the rear driver side door. It’s a double-edged sword, we feel like its a little extra security and a buffer to protect our bumper…but it’s a hassle loading and unloading.

We have a full sized 12′ power awning. We didn’t use this much at first but now we use it often. It gives us shade on the passenger side of the van which really helps with temperature control. Easy to set up and take down. When it comes to being stealthy, awnings and air conditioners are a dead giveaway that its a camper van. But we would keep the awning its been really useful.

There is a roof mounted 11,000 BTU Dometic air conditioner. We have a love-hate relationship with this. One it puts the height restriction of the van over 9’5. Its noisy as all get out and it is right above the bed, so using it is not always fun, and at night it’s hard to ignore the sound. The draw of the ac will kill our fully charged battery in an hour. We have been in some crazy hot spots like Palm Springs, or Key West in Florida where we really needed the ac to help keep the van livable for us and Holly. We have the ability to plug in if we need to run the ac a lot.

We have Roadtreks proprietary Ecotrek power module. This now includes 2, 200 amp lithium batteries mounted under the van (there is a lot of debate in Roadtrek land about AGM vs Lithium.) We started out with one battery and Roadtrek upgraded us to two. We are almost always off-grid, so we rarely plugin, and have rarely had any issues managing our power.

We have a 280amp under the hood generator. This is essentially like a second alternator that allows us to charge our house batteries automatically when we drive.

The van has full plumbing, so we have a 36.5-gallon fresh water tank, a 23.5-gallon gray tank, and a 9.6-gallon black tank. Filling fresh water is easy, the intake is just inside the driver side door. We can also connect to city water through a valve on the rear passenger side of the van (we have never needed to).

There is a 25L7 gallon propane tank mounted under the rear of the van. We have put propane in 3 times in 10 months and we have never run out of propane. (This feeds, hot water, stove, and furnace).

We also have our outdoor shower. We have actually only used this twice, but it’s definitely handy to have.

Since we have a black tank the van comes equipped with a 12V macerator sewage dump as well as gravity dump. We have always used the macerator, we are able to dump our tanks and hit the road in about 3 minutes. We have had the cover for this area replaced twice. We aren’t sure what the answer is, but hopefully, we can find a more durable solution.

We have 2, 100-watt solar panels on the roof. This is actually only enough power to trickle charge our battery management system, so we would love to upgrade this, to power more than our batteries. Roadtreks can come with significantly more solar when you order them.

Stepping into our van the standing room is listed at 6’2 but Logan is able to stand upright with his head grazing the ceiling so this was a pretty good physical fit for us.

Choosing a van

The cabinets are oak and the floors are laminate in ebony, and countertops are granite.

The front chairs swivel so we use the passenger seat facing back pretty much any time we are parked. There is a small table that can be installed between these seats. Though we have only used it once.

Our control panel sits right above the sliding door, we can monitor our batteries, tanks (though they are never accurate), our inverter, patio lights, and awning are all controlled here as well.

There are 6 USB ports, 6 12V DC outlets, and 8 110V outlets throughout the van.

We have a fully enclosed bathroom. Its tiny, but it works for us. Having your own toilet when traveling is so nice (no more nasty outhouses). We do use the shower. We are always surprised to hear that some people don’t but to each their own. We try to limit our water use when we are off-grid, but being able to wash off after a long hike and not going to bed dirty and sweaty is a treat. We do have wipes, but nothing beats soap and water.

Our Fantastic Fan is probably our most used appliance. It is remote control operated and has a rain sensor. This fan creates awesome airflow to help keep the van cool, and also works as our exhaust fan for cooking and showering.

Our kitchen includes a small sink, we don’t love the fold-down faucet but it allows more prep space for us to cover the sink, there is a fold up counter to extend the kitchen space. Stainless steel backsplash so cleanup is easy. There is also a 2 burner propane stove. Given the way our battery system works, I am glad to have propane vs induction. We have never run out of propane or had any issues with the stove. Though we may be interested in buying a small induction unit to try.

The storage capacity in our van is actually huge. Roadtrek did a good job of using the space well. We have food and kitchen supplies stored in the two cabinets under the sink and stove (and we stock so much food like we are Costco shoppers). The slide-out pantry is great, though we did have an extra latch installed to secure it so it doesn’t pop open while we’re driving. The large drawer under the fridge has been a pots and pans drawer, a clothes drawer, and now its an everything drawer (laptop, Dyson, first aid, sunscreen, towels, doggy bags, you name it) our closet is also used for food and coffee brewer storage.

Our fridge was another selling feature, it’s a 5 cubic foot NoreCold fridge which is pretty big by van standards (food storage is a biggy for us). We like that it sits high in the van, so we can see what’s in it, and don’t have to bend down to grab things from it. The fridge runs on 11012v so it requires the battery to operate. There is a small icebox, we would love more freezer space but we make the most of it!

Fridge cleaning day…

We have a 16000 BTU Suburban furnace with a programmable thermostat. We have used this on a few cold nights and it’s worked pretty well to keep us comfortable.

The valves for our water are tucked in a small cabinet under the fridge. We have a Girard hot water on demand system. There are some good and some bad to it. There is no reservoir like in other water heaters, so less space. It’s a heat exchanger, so you have to pass a lot of water through to get the hot water (not great when you are trying to conserve water and gray tank space).

Our 2000 watt Microgreen inverter is stored in a cabinet under the rear driver side bench seat. This allows us to run our 12V appliances and the ac.

The rear cabinets are also pretty spacious they run all the way to the rear of the van. We store all our clothes in the rear cabinets and we have a lot of clothes!! Our solar control panel is stashed up here. We also use one cabinet as an electrical supplies cabinet. Our remotes, Weboost Drive 4G X, and our antenna receiver for the tv is in here.

Our van came with a Samsung 24″ flat screen tv on a swivel mount as well as a Panasonic blue ray player. We mostly use our own external hard drive for movies, or we stream Netflix.

Our lighting in the van is LED, each light is controlled separately like a push button.

All of the window coverings and upholstery come standard in the van. It would be nice to have more options to make them a little cuter. That being said we visited the factory we met the man who makes most of it, and he does very good work. We may eventually do some DIY projects to make it feel a little more “us” in here, but really we don’t mind black and gray.

Lastly our bed. So our King sized bed is actually three pieces. The Zion comes in different configurations. Ours had the front facing power sofa (also two more seatbelts so passengers are possible). The front-facing sofa slides flat, and the two seats easily transition to cushions for the bed. The wooden panel that is used to bridge the gap under the bed is actually not big enough (we feel the hole in the middle or a sag at the foot of the bed). We will be cutting a new piece to fit it properly. We also have a 3-inch memory foam topper that we will be replacing. We leave our bed down like a bed all the time. There is ample storage under the bed, but it requires raising the bed to access it. If we were choosing or building custom, we would likely have a fixed bed and have it raised to make access easier.

So why Roadtrek?

  • This a Canadian based company, their factory is in Kitchener, Ontario. They have been building Class B campervans for decades.
  • Roadtrek offers a pretty amazing 6-year transferrable warranty. This covers all the RV components. This warranty has already replaced a cabinet, our fantastic fan motor, a macerator dump hose, and more.

The downsides:

  • Roadtreks proprietary Battery Management System is definitely great, but if you do run into problems, you need someone certified to fix it. There is a shortage of great RV repair technicians, and we were lucky enough to find one of the best in servicing Roadtreks, but not everyone is so lucky. Turn around time and back and forth with the factory leaves a lot of owners frustrated. That being said if you can book in at the factory in Kitchener, the service is incredible.
  • Customization is not what they are about. You have a lot of options to chose from when you order a new Roadtrek, but they are not in the business of customizing. With the growing popularity of vanlife, Class B vans, and Roadtreks in general that factory is pumping out more vans than ever. They won’t be adding in features just for you. There are the standards that they offer, and that’s it.
  • The price tag is high. The website lists the base MSP for a new Zion at $96,022 USD. Financing options are available at most dealerships, which is good because most people don’t have this kind of cash. These vans really are gorgeous and are built well. We think the higher price has been worth it for us so far with the warranty alone.
  • In our van specifically, the low clearance is the price we pay for the holding tanks, plumbing, propane, and batteries. Having a van with higher clearance would be nice for the kind of traveling we do. But we have made it work.

If you have any questions about our van or van life just let us know!

5 Tips To Help Stick To Your Budget While Travelling Full Time

We set a monthly budget for ourselves when we were getting ready to hit the road. While we can’t say we nail it every month. We have done pretty well overall. Here are 5 things that have helped us stick to budget on the road:

We set a monthly budget for ourselves when we were getting ready to hit the road. While we can’t say we nail it every month. We have done pretty well overall. Here are 5 things that have helped us stick to our budget on the road:

1. Stock up:
Meal planning and knowing what you need before you head out will go a long way in your budget. Groceries and supplies are often at a premium in remote places.

so if you stock up, it can save you some serious bucks in the long run. Also preparing your own food and coffee is much more budget friendly than grabbing food on the go.

And of course, never go shopping on an empty stomach! Planning ahead keeps random snack purchases to a minimum.

2. Boondocking:

Technically this refers to being out in the “boonies”, but these days it’s usually associated with free camping.  We do pay to camp pretty regularly as well, but we have gone a month or more at a time without paying to camp, and that really helped our budget. There are several apps out there like Ioverlander, Wikicamps, Park Advisor and websites like freecampsites.net. These are user fed with comments, photos and info about free spots. You are getting peoples honest opinions, for better or worse. We love BLM land while travelling in the U.S many areas allow free dry camping for up to 14 days. Remember this is typically dry or wild camping so there likely won’t be facilities, pack it in, pack it out. I will mention Walmarts here as well, many do offer free overnight parking for RV’s, I did say many, not all. We see folks ignoring the signs for overnight parking pretty regularly. If you need to overnight at a Walmart or any  other business and you aren’t sure about their rules, check with them first (this may save you from a knock on your door in the middle of the night asking you to move)

3. Passes:
Are you into exploring National Parks and visiting National Historic Sites? Our America the Beautiful National Parks Pass paid for itself in Utah alone. The cost of admission to most National Parks is around $30. This pass cost us $80. It has more than paid for itself in 22 National Parks, dozens of National Historic Sites, and National Monuments. We bought the Parks Canada Pass as well, and the price tag is a little higher, but with the number of National Parks, and Historic Site visits it has also more than paid for itself.

4. Points Cards and Memberships:
We have points cards for groceries, gas, and drugstores. The points we earn through our regular purchases have gained us free groceries, supplies and gas. We are members at MEC and REI, and have used those memberships for gear along the way. We also stay in RV parks from time to time, so our Membership to Passport America and Good Sam have earned us discounts that more than covered the cost of membership.

5. GasBuddy!
The biggest single expense in our travels has been fuel. We have spent more than one third of our budget on gas! So we do the best we can by using the GasBuddy website and app to find the cheapest gas on our trips. At least we can plan ahead and avoid overpaying for gas. Every penny we save adds up when it comes to fuel. Gas prices are often super inconsistent and vary a lot from station to station and town to town. Our second piece in fuel savings is fuel economy. We aim for the sweet spot and use cruise control whenever we can, we have contests to see who is the more “efficient” driver.

If you have tips for saving on the road, we would love to hear them!

5 Tips To Help Stick To Your Budget While Traveling Full-time

We set a monthly budget for ourselves when we were getting ready to hit the road. While we can’t say we nail it every month. We have done pretty well overall. Here are 5 things that have helped us stick to budget on the road:

We set a monthly budget for ourselves when we were getting ready to hit the road. While we can’t say we nail it every month. We have done pretty well overall. Here are 5 things that have helped us stick to our budget on the road:

1. Stock up:
Meal planning and knowing what you need before you head out will go a long way in your budget. Groceries and supplies are often at a premium in remote places.

so if you stock up, it can save you some serious bucks in the long run. Also preparing your own food and coffee is much more budget friendly than grabbing food on the go.

And of course, never go shopping on an empty stomach! Planning ahead keeps random snack purchases to a minimum.

2. Boondocking:

Boondocking, travel tips, vanlife, budget travel, frugal travel, living in a van, free camping

Technically this refers to being out in the “boonies”, but these days it’s usually associated with free camping. We do pay to camp pretty regularly as well, but we have gone a month or more at a time without paying to camp, and that really helped our budget. There are several apps out there like Ioverlander, Wikicamps, Park Advisor and websites like freecampsites.net. These are user fed with comments, photos and info about free spots. You are getting peoples honest opinions, for better or worse. We love BLM land while travelling in the U.S many areas allow free dry camping for up to 14 days. Remember this is typically dry or wild camping so there likely won’t be facilities, pack it in, pack it out. I will mention Walmarts here as well, many do offer free overnight parking for RV’s, I did say many, not all. We see folks ignoring the signs for overnight parking pretty regularly. If you need to overnight at a Walmart or any other business and you aren’t sure about their rules, check with them first (this may save you from a knock on your door in the middle of the night asking you to move)

3. Passes:
Are you into exploring National Parks and visiting National Historic Sites? Our America the Beautiful National Parks Pass paid for itself in Utah alone. The cost of admission to most National Parks is around $30. This pass cost us $80. It has more than paid for itself in 22 National Parks, dozens of National Historic Sites, and National Monuments. We bought the Parks Canada Pass as well, and the price tag is a little higher, but with the number of National Parks, and Historic Site visits it has also more than paid for itself.

4. Points Cards and Memberships:
We have points cards for groceries, gas, and drugstores. The points we earn through our regular purchases have gained us free groceries, supplies and gas. We are members at MEC and REI, and have used those memberships for gear along the way. We also stay in RV parks from time to time, so our Membership to Passport America and Good Sam have earned us discounts that more than covered the cost of membership.

5. GasBuddy!
The biggest single expense in our travels has been fuel. We have spent more than one third of our budget on gas! So we do the best we can by using the GasBuddy website and app to find the cheapest gas on our trips. At least we can plan ahead and avoid overpaying for gas. Every penny we save adds up when it comes to fuel. Gas prices are often super inconsistent and vary a lot from station to station and town to town. Our second piece in fuel savings is fuel economy. We aim for the sweet spot and use cruise control whenever we can, we have contests to see who is the more “efficient” driver.

If you have tips for saving on the road, we would love to hear them!

Don’t forget to check out our tips for staying connected on the road!

Our experience driving the Dempster Highway and the road to Tuktoyaktuk

We survived the Dempster Highway, and so can you! We are sharing all the details of our adventure in the Dempster here…

We have all heard the horror stories of the Dempster Highway. 740km one way of nasty gravel roads. The road so rough it sounds like the most dramatic story teller made it up… Well the horror stories are true. But we made it up and back and so can you.

The start of the Dempster Highway is 40km outside of Dawson City, Yukon. We stocked up on a few more groceries, dumped our tanks, and filled our fresh water before heading out. We also fueled up at the cardlock on our way out of town, for the cheapest gas.

It is recommended that you bring a jerrycan with extra fuel when you attempt the Dempster. We didn’t, but we can see the reasons. Fuel is pretty limited along the way.

Our first stop on the Dempster was Tombstone Territorial Park. Take some time here, the hikes out to Tombstone or in any direction from the park are really stunning. In the Yukon, Territorial parks are $12/night and this includes free firewood! The park is dry but did have water available, though boil notices were posted. We checked in at the parks visitor centre for our last updates on the road. We also recommend picking up the Dempster Highway Guide while you’re there. It includes towns, stops, points of interest, and information on the areas you will be driving through.

It rained for two days while we waited out the weather at Tombstone. The rain caused two mudslides between 220-346km marks. This shut the road down for two days. They started allowing traffic through while cleaning up the last mudslide. We were reminded that 4×4 could be the way to go on this drive (but really not necessary if the road is dry)

On the third day we were waved through, and made it past the mudslides. The road otherwise was not too bad to this point. Gravel, some loose and some packed, and pot holes but the road was wide and manageable.

With the stress of the road closures out of the way, we took our time pulling over constantly to take pictures, hike to the top of little mountains and dip in creeks.

We reached the Ogilvie Ridge View Point and that’s when things got interesting. The road and our views were changing. The Richardson Mountains looked incredible to the East of the road. The road itself got a whole lot worse. The paths that were packed gravel and not huge potholes got narrower and the shoulders got soft. So we slowed down, basically after the mudslide we barely approached the speed limit again.

Next stop Eagle Plains! At 370km there is fuel, camping and a restaurant here. We heard mixed reviews about the service from a few different people. We topped up our fuel, gas was actually not too crazy about $0.10-0.15/L more than in Dawson⛽.

The road is packed and pure potholes for the foreseeable future from this point. We saw several spots to boondock, but without 4×4 and not having cell service📵 made us a little weary of going too far off the beaten path.

We crossed the Arctic Circle! The roads were kind of ridiculous around this point, not great condition but wide enough to navigate around most potholes. We saw signs warning that the road doubles as an emergency airstrip🛩. It turns out this is no laughing matter, one day behind us a motorcycle accident had the driver air lifted out.

The landscape changed again. Rolling hills, less trees, and the ones that were there were tiny. Creeks were low, and there was still snow on the ground in some places. This stretch is where Grizzlies🐻 and Caribou🐂 often get spotted so keep your eyes peeled.

We camped out at Rock River another Territorial Park. It was quiet and surprisingly not too busy. It looked like a great spot to fish and a couple sites backed right on to the water🎣. The mosquitos were terrible so we didn’t spend much time outside.

The road changes again when we cross into Northwest Territories. You also cross the Continental Divide here! I’m not sure why the Yukon side is so bad, but the change was instant. Actually we have a theory, if you are driving the Dempster you are leaving the Yukon, so maybe they just don’t care? To be fair though the roads are an uphill battle to maintain because permafrost dictates what they can and cannot do. But wider, smoother gravel roads were a great relief after days of driving those crazy stretches!!

We took two free ferries on this drive: Fort Mcpherson and Tsiigehtchic. The loading area changes based on the shore line of the rivers⛴. We saw other RVs bottom out loading and unloading. But luckily we didn’t fully. We did discover when we stopped for lunch that we had rubbed our fresh water valve, turning it to open, and it dumped about 1/3 of our fresh water while we were driving😒.

We rallied and opted to finish out the drive to Inuvik, although there were some pretty nice looking spots to stop along the way. Overlanders were a common site on this trip, and they pretty much seemed to camp wherever they wanted.

Inuvik was a cute town, the girls at the Visitor Center were awesome. They gave us their honest opinion from their experience driving to Tuk, finally, more than just “you should have 4×4 and spare tires”. We again did a little stock up stayed at Happy Valley Territorial Park ($22/night with power). It rained again, so we did laundry (yes they have laundry facilities and nice showers in the park!!!) laid low and waited for the road to dry up again.

When the weather cleared we topped up on gas, again cheaper at the cardlock on the way out of town. We headed out on the 138km road to Tuktoyaktuk. The road to Tuk was only finished in November 2017, so this is the first summer it was open!

The scenery changed again, less and less trees until their were basically none. No more mountains, but soooo much water and Pingos in the distance. A Pingo is basically a hill that is built up by groundwater being pushed up by permafrost. And seriously look at a map of this area, there is water everywhere🏞.

There were a few stretches of the road that were not great, jagged rocks instead of gravel (its all trucked in so they use what they can get) soft shoulders, so “pullouts” were not really an option for us. A shocking number of gravel trucks hauling down this road⛟🚛…some slow down when passing, some don’t, so error on the side of slowing down to avoid rock chips. The thing we appreciated about this stretch of road, is that they seem to be constantly working on it. Again we slowed down, had a scary moment in the last 20km to Tuk, they were doing roadwork, and this meant deep loose clay and sand😕.

But we made it, and really the road to Tuk isn’t technically the Dempster but it was the best of the gravel roads on the trip.

The first thing you see on the edge of town, sadly is the dump. It is not buried, so the rubbish is visible. Thanks again to the permafrost. But a good reminder to try to pack out whatever you bring.

Finally! We made it to the Arctic Ocean! The end of the road (litterally)

This was a pretty special experience and it wasn’t lost on us that we were so lucky.
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Lucky to visit Tuktoyaktuk in the first year that the new road is open. Prior to this, the Dempster went as far as Inuvik, so Tuk was only accessible by ice road in the winter, and by plane or boat.

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Lucky that our van made the trip. Slowly but without high clearance, or 4×4, or heavy duty tires. We were dusty, and our nerves were tested but it was worth it.⠀

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Lucky that the village is unchanged. There is a humble visitors centre, free dry camping at the end of the road on the water, and the locals are interested in the new visitors. Not too often would they have seen RVs rolling into town.

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Lucky to have met more travelling friends, we loved sharing the experience with them. It may not last that locals want to meet you, invite you back to their place for coffee to tell you about their lives, and hear about yours. Being offered muktuk (beluga) and fresh or smoked fish. Or trying a muskox burger prepared in a canvas tent outside the local store.

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We stayed up way too late, and watched one of the last nights that the sun did not set below the horizon (3:30am, it never set). We took a dip in the Arctic, and admired the Pingos from a distance.

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We don’t know if or when we will get to come back, but we expect that things will change.

We met Claudia and Jann from Switzerland while trying the Muskox burgers in Tuk🍔. We really hit it off with them. Our second couple of Swiss friends, and we are taking it as a sign that we are meant to go to Switzerland next year while we travel Europe🇨🇭.

We camped out together in Tuk, then in Rock River on the way back down the Dempster, and then once again we boondocked on a hillside outside Tombstone🏕. It was the first time we saw the moon in over a month🌛, I almost cried! We decided to carry on and casually roadtrip with Jann and Claudia into Alaska!

We made it back to the start of the Dempster and wanted to kiss the ground when we got back to paved highway🛣. We posed with the van (who really deserved a big hug after all she’s been through) and Holly🐶 who has developed a new fear of gravel roads after driving them for the better part of a month. We collected our certificates along the way: swimming in the arctic, completing the Dempster Highway and crossing the Arctic Circle.

So why did I talk so much here about the road? Well, in the days leading up to this trip, we weren’t sure we would go. All we heard was horror stories but no one could tell us where or why the road was such a nightmare. Every day on the trip we just said “we will go as far as we can”. I hope that given the chance to go, you will take it.

Pack a spare tire, we didn’t need one but honestly some of that is just plain luck, and our tires look a little worse for the wear after all this time on gravel.

Drive slow, so much slower than you think. No normal vehicles are immuned to damage, and the posted speed limits seem absurd in some parts; trucks, RV’s of all sizes: motorhomes, trailers and 5th wheel, vans, motorcycles, cars, jeeps, you name it, they got flats, flipped, lost parts, broken axles, cracked windshields and even went off the road. Overlanders may be an exception but most of them were leisurely taking their time too. (Also note that long rigs are not recommended on this drive.)

We took 10 days up and back, and I would strongly reccomend at least a week to 10 days. We would have loved to stay longer in Tuk and Inuvik, and stop in some of the small towns along the way. We met a guy who did almost a month on the Dempster all in all, and his stories were incredible.⠀

This drive was definitely the craziest thing we have done in 40,000km of being on the road, it’s a bucket list trip for sure. We are so glad we did it, we made it out and back with minimal issues.

What we did get out of it was some incredible memories, a better understanding of the Inuvialuit people who live in the Northern most parts of Canada, a million pictures, and some new life long friends.

Driving the Dempster Highway and the road to Tuktoyaktuk

We survived the Dempster Highway, and so can you! We are sharing all the details of our adventure in the Dempster here…

We have all heard the horror stories of the Dempster Highway. 740km one way of nasty gravel roads. The road so rough it sounds like the most dramatic story teller made it up… Well the horror stories are true. But we made it up and back and so can you.

Dempster Highway, driving to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, travel guide, vanlife travel, full time travel, off the beaten trail, epic roadtrips

The start of the Dempster Highway is 40km outside of Dawson City, Yukon. We stocked up on a few more groceries, dumped our tanks, and filled our fresh water before heading out. We also fueled up at the cardlock on our way out of town, for the cheapest gas.

It is recommended that you bring a jerrycan with extra fuel when you attempt the Dempster. We didn’t, but we can see the reasons. Fuel is pretty limited along the way.

Our first stop on the Dempster was Tombstone Territorial Park. Take some time here, the hikes out to Tombstone or in any direction from the park are really stunning. In the Yukon, Territorial parks are $12/night and this includes free firewood! The park is dry but did have water available, though boil notices were posted. We checked in at the parks visitor centre for our last updates on the road. We also recommend picking up the Dempster Highway Guide while you’re there. It includes towns, stops, points of interest, and information on the areas you will be driving through.

It rained for two days while we waited out the weather at Tombstone. The rain caused two mudslides between 220-346km marks. This shut the road down for two days. They started allowing traffic through while cleaning up the last mudslide. We were reminded that 4×4 could be the way to go on this drive (but really not necessary if the road is dry)

On the third day we were waved through, and made it past the mudslides. The road otherwise was not too bad to this point. Gravel, some loose and some packed, and pot holes but the road was wide and manageable.

With the stress of the road closures out of the way, we took our time pulling over constantly to take pictures, hike to the top of little mountains and dip in creeks.

We reached the Ogilvie Ridge View Point and that’s when things got interesting. The road and our views were changing. The Richardson Mountains looked incredible to the East of the road. The road itself got a whole lot worse. The paths that were packed gravel and not huge potholes got narrower and the shoulders got soft. So we slowed down, basically after the mudslide we barely approached the speed limit again.

Next stop Eagle Plains! At 370km there is fuel, camping and a restaurant here. We heard mixed reviews about the service from a few different people. We topped up our fuel, gas was actually not too crazy about $0.10-0.15/L more than in Dawson⛽.

The road is packed and pure potholes for the foreseeable future from this point. We saw several spots to boondock, but without 4×4 and not having cell service📵 made us a little weary of going too far off the beaten path.

We crossed the Arctic Circle! The roads were kind of ridiculous around this point, not great condition but wide enough to navigate around most potholes. We saw signs warning that the road doubles as an emergency airstrip🛩. It turns out this is no laughing matter, one day behind us a motorcycle accident had the driver air lifted out.

The landscape changed again. Rolling hills, less trees, and the ones that were there were tiny. Creeks were low, and there was still snow on the ground in some places. This stretch is where Grizzlies🐻 and Caribou🐂 often get spotted so keep your eyes peeled.

We camped out at Rock River another Territorial Park. It was quiet and surprisingly not too busy. It looked like a great spot to fish and a couple sites backed right on to the water🎣. The mosquitos were terrible so we didn’t spend much time outside.

The road changes again when we cross into Northwest Territories. You also cross the Continental Divide here! I’m not sure why the Yukon side is so bad, but the change was instant. Actually we have a theory, if you are driving the Dempster you are leaving the Yukon, so maybe they just don’t care? To be fair though the roads are an uphill battle to maintain because permafrost dictates what they can and cannot do. But wider, smoother gravel roads were a great relief after days of driving those crazy stretches!!

We took two free ferries on this drive: Fort Mcpherson and Tsiigehtchic. The loading area changes based on the shore line of the rivers⛴. We saw other RVs bottom out loading and unloading. But luckily we didn’t fully. We did discover when we stopped for lunch that we had rubbed our fresh water valve, turning it to open, and it dumped about 1/3 of our fresh water while we were driving😒.

We rallied and opted to finish out the drive to Inuvik, although there were some pretty nice looking spots to stop along the way. Overlanders were a common site on this trip, and they pretty much seemed to camp wherever they wanted.

Inuvik was a cute town, the girls at the Visitor Center were awesome. They gave us their honest opinion from their experience driving to Tuk, finally, more than just “you should have 4×4 and spare tires”. We again did a little stock up stayed at Happy Valley Territorial Park ($22/night with power). It rained again, so we did laundry (yes they have laundry facilities and nice showers in the park!!!) laid low and waited for the road to dry up again.

When the weather cleared we topped up on gas, again cheaper at the cardlock on the way out of town. We headed out on the 138km road to Tuktoyaktuk. The road to Tuk was only finished in November 2017, so this is the first summer it was open!

The scenery changed again, less and less trees until their were basically none. No more mountains, but soooo much water and Pingos in the distance. A Pingo is basically a hill that is built up by groundwater being pushed up by permafrost. And seriously look at a map of this area, there is water everywhere🏞.

There were a few stretches of the road that were not great, jagged rocks instead of gravel (its all trucked in so they use what they can get) soft shoulders, so “pullouts” were not really an option for us. A shocking number of gravel trucks hauling down this road⛟🚛…some slow down when passing, some don’t, so error on the side of slowing down to avoid rock chips. The thing we appreciated about this stretch of road, is that they seem to be constantly working on it. Again we slowed down, had a scary moment in the last 20km to Tuk, they were doing roadwork, and this meant deep loose clay and sand😕.

But we made it, and really the road to Tuk isn’t technically the Dempster but it was the best of the gravel roads on the trip.

The first thing you see on the edge of town, sadly is the dump. It is not buried, so the rubbish is visible. Thanks again to the permafrost. But a good reminder to try to pack out whatever you bring.

Finally! We made it to the Arctic Ocean! The end of the road (litterally)

This was a pretty special experience and it wasn’t lost on us that we were so lucky.
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Lucky to visit Tuktoyaktuk in the first year that the new road is open. Prior to this, the Dempster went as far as Inuvik, so Tuk was only accessible by ice road in the winter, and by plane or boat.

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Lucky that our van made the trip. Slowly but without high clearance, or 4×4, or heavy duty tires. We were dusty, and our nerves were tested but it was worth it.⠀

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Lucky that the village is unchanged. There is a humble visitors centre, free dry camping at the end of the road on the water, and the locals are interested in the new visitors. Not too often would they have seen RVs rolling into town.

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Lucky to have met more travelling friends, we loved sharing the experience with them. It may not last that locals want to meet you, invite you back to their place for coffee to tell you about their lives, and hear about yours. Being offered muktuk (beluga) and fresh or smoked fish. Or trying a muskox burger prepared in a canvas tent outside the local store.

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We stayed up way too late, and watched one of the last nights that the sun did not set below the horizon (3:30am, it never set). We took a dip in the Arctic, and admired the Pingos from a distance.

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We don’t know if or when we will get to come back, but we expect that things will change.

We met Claudia and Jann from Switzerland while trying the Muskox burgers in Tuk🍔. We really hit it off with them. Our second couple of Swiss friends, and we are taking it as a sign that we are meant to go to Switzerland next year while we travel Europe🇨🇭.

We camped out together in Tuk, then in Rock River on the way back down the Dempster, and then once again we boondocked on a hillside outside Tombstone🏕. It was the first time we saw the moon in over a month🌛, I almost cried! We decided to carry on and casually roadtrip with Jann and Claudia into Alaska!

We made it back to the start of the Dempster and wanted to kiss the ground when we got back to paved highway🛣. We posed with the van (who really deserved a big hug after all she’s been through) and Holly🐶 who has developed a new fear of gravel roads after driving them for the better part of a month. We collected our certificates along the way: swimming in the arctic, completing the Dempster Highway and crossing the Arctic Circle.

So why did I talk so much here about the road? Well, in the days leading up to this trip, we weren’t sure we would go. All we heard was horror stories but no one could tell us where or why the road was such a nightmare. Every day on the trip we just said “we will go as far as we can”. I hope that given the chance to go, you will take it.

Pack a spare tire, we didn’t need one but honestly some of that is just plain luck, and our tires look a little worse for the wear after all this time on gravel.

Drive slow, so much slower than you think. No normal vehicles are immuned to damage, and the posted speed limits seem absurd in some parts; trucks, RV’s of all sizes: motorhomes, trailers and 5th wheel, vans, motorcycles, cars, jeeps, you name it, they got flats, flipped, lost parts, broken axles, cracked windshields and even went off the road. Overlanders may be an exception but most of them were leisurely taking their time too. (Also note that long rigs are not recommended on this drive.)

We took 10 days up and back, and I would strongly reccomend at least a week to 10 days. We would have loved to stay longer in Tuk and Inuvik, and stop in some of the small towns along the way. We met a guy who did almost a month on the Dempster all in all, and his stories were incredible.⠀

This drive was definitely the craziest thing we have done in 40,000km of being on the road, it’s a bucket list trip for sure. We are so glad we did it, we made it out and back with minimal issues.

What we did get out of it was some incredible memories, a better understanding of the Inuvialuit people who live in the Northern most parts of Canada, a million pictures, and some new life long friends.

Thanks for checking out this guide to driving the Dempster Highway, visit our guide to getting off the beaten trail in Louisiana