Driving in Alberta
Photo Credit: Canadian Tourism Commission

Road Tripping 101

North to Alaska - Road Tripping 101

You’ve planned your driving route north to Alaska and chosen where to stop and what to do to make it the vacation of a lifetime. But wait, another key step remains. It’s time to pack.

Whether you pack mindfully or not can mean the difference between a rewarding, successful adventure…or a memorable-for-all-the-wrong-reasons vacation. You don’t want to turn to the back seat to look for your camera or dig to the bottom of your bag in search of gloves, only to realize you forgot them at home. Yet there’s a fine line between being prepared for all things and overpacking. So we asked some experts in Alaska and western Canada’s provinces about what to bring so that you won’t have to think twice about what you need or don’t. While they were at it, they shared a few road safety tips to keep you prepared and ahead of the game.

Don’t fret, even if you’re embarking on your trip in T-minus two days, here’s what you need for the road trip you’ve been dreaming about.

Mountain scenery in Alaska on a road trip
Photo Credit: Travel Alaska, Ben Prescott


When packing for your road trip through British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon, and Alaska, there are certain essentials that are a must. Joss Penny, executive director of the BC Lodging and Campgrounds Association, shared a packing list, including:

  • Hiking boots
  • Wool socks
  • Short and long sleeve shirts
  • Windbreaker and/or waterproof jacket
  • Hat with brim
  • Rain gear
  • Swimwear
  • Backpack
  • Blankets
  • Bug spray
  • Extra water
  • All weather tires – as weather can change suddenly even in the summer
  • Tire chains for winter
  • Check spare tire(s) is fully inflated
  • Tool kit
  • Flashlights and batteries

Annie Ibbitson of the Klondike Visitors Association also warns, “given the remote nature of the area, a reliable GPS or map is crucial.”

But what about a day pack for your adventures away from your vehicle? “Always pack layers: a light rain jacket, rain pants, light hat, and gloves in your day bag. Bring a small travel-size first aid kit too. Snacks! And a filled, reusable water bottle (buy stickers along the way to remember your adventures!),” Salmon Berry Tours Owner Mandy Garcia said. “Lastly, I always carry an Alaska berry book to ensure the trailside snacks I find are edible!”

Last but certainly not least, Cameron Mahler, campaign and partnerships specialist for Tourism Jasper, reminds travelers to always pack their cameras! “Wildlife can frequent the sides of roadways and the scenery is some of the best in the world.”

Caribou in BC on the drive North to Alaska
Photo Credit: Destination BC, Albert Normandin

Road Safety

Whether you’re traveling along the Gold Rush Route, Inside Passage Route, or Rockies Route, safety should always be top of mind. A shared sentiment amongst locals is the importance for travelers to be aware of the ever-changing weather and road conditions. “Watch for sudden weather changes with strong crosswinds and intense thunderstorms, which suddenly develop over the mountain ranges. It is advisable for RVs to pull over and wait out the storm,” Penny says.

RV driving in the Yukon
Photo Credit: Government of Yukon

A majority of the regions including Alberta, Alaska, British Columbia and the Yukon offer a highway advisory resource for travelers, which provides real-time updates about various circumstances that can occur along the way.

Additionally, with more of the remote routes, it’s important to note that there can be limited cell service when traveling throughout the mountains. While we noted packing a map or reliable GPS, Garcia recommends a few outdoor adventure apps to download: “AllTrails and OuterSpacial are great to have and provide subscribers access to trail information and reviews.”

Mountain scenery along the road in Alberta
Alberta, Photo Credit: Mountain Madness Tours

Ibbitson emphasizes the importance of keeping “your gas tank topped up whenever you have the chance, as some stretches of the highway can be quite remote.”

One of the most valuable tips would be for travelers to make sure they effectively plan all stops and accommodations in advance, even if they plan on camping. Penny says, “Most national, provincial, and regional parks offer campgrounds with toilets, showers and many with sani-dumps. These campgrounds are typically open from late spring but some, especially those further north, close after Labor Day weekend.”

If you’ve got all that down, there’s only one more tip to keep in mind: Add additional hours to your travel plans to ensure that you have time to check out the beautiful scenery you are sure to encounter along the way. And ultimately, have fun!

To learn more about what to expect in each region, visit Travel Alberta, Hello BC, Travel Alaska, and Travel Yukon.