In my last post we talked about data plans for Smartphones. I promised I’d tell you about useful Apps for vandwellers but I’m going to postpone that so I can have a little more time to research and test them and then give you my best report. Instead, today I want to tell you about my friend Greg’s Alaskan Camper.
He is very close to being able to retire so he’s thinking about what he wants to do with his life next. Like many people, he feels the call for the mobile life but he’s not sure if he wants to do it part-time or full-time. Either way, he’s sure he’s going to travel…a lot! In preparation he’s bought an almost new 4×4 Chevy 1 ton truck and and an Alaskan Camper. He is going to turn into an adventurer in his Golden Years and this is the perfect rig for it!
If you aren’t familiar with them, Alaska Campers have been around for a long time–since 1953! They were originally designed for workers going to Alaska on the very rugged Alaska Highway. They demanded a quality product that could handle the abuse Alaska would throw at them and the Alaskan Camper was the rig of choice! I can remember seeing them and hearing about them when I was a little boy growing up in Alaska. I assumed they were made in Alaska so I was surprised when I learned they were made in Chehalis, Washington.
To be honest with you, I didn’t even know they were still in business so I was surprised when Greg dropped into my camp with an Alaskan Camper on his truck. The reason you don’t see many of them is because they are such high quality that they are expensive, that limits the number of them on the road. They are rare enough I’ve never known anybody with one or been inside one. I was so excited to see Greg’s, I immediately asked him if I could do a story on it and he graciously agreed. Here is their website: http://alaskancamper.com/sitemap.htm and also here: http://www.alaskancamper.net/index2.html
Here are the advantages they offer:
- The top drops down for better gas mileage and raises for comfort.
- They are high quality and designed to last for generations: old world craftsmanship.
- They are expensive, but they hold their value extremely well.
- Most campers feel very crowded, but this one feels very open and spacious.
- They are very comfortable but small, light and strong enough to take off-road.
- True to their name, they are well insulated and will keep you warm in the winter.
- They aren’t top-heavy like nearly all campers. That is much more important than it sounds when you are getting beaten up on the freeway by a strong crosswind or are on a steep side-hill in the back-country.
Here are the weights and prices of both the Cabover and Non-Cabover models:
Those advantages may sound like they aren’t worth the very high price of an Alaskan Camper, but let me tell you another friends story. This friend bought a very large Arctic Fox slide-in camper. It was beautiful and extremely comfortable, and Arctic Fox has a good reputation as a quality product. But as soon as he drove it off the lot it started to fall apart. He had it back to the factory several times in the first year for major structural failures and they did half-ass repairs, just enough to get him out the door but not really solve the problem. He had it for 5 years and it was one constant problem after another. Essentially he rebuilt it until it was basically usable and then he got rid of. Why? Because it was so big and cumbersome he couldn’t take it into the back-country. He had put it on a 4×4 truck and wanted it to go into remote areas on adventures, but it was so huge it couldn’t do it!
A few years ago I invited him to visit me in my camp in the Sierra NF, I told him I thought he could make it in alright. But when he got there I met him at the beginning of the rough part and guided him in. His camper was so huge that we had to walk along and watch for tree branches at the top of the roof. Many times we had to stop and he climbed up and cut off dozens of branches that would have torn up the camper. At one point we had to cut down a small tree that wouldn’t let him make a corner. Eventually we got him almost into camp but when I pointed out the best campsite he tried to get to it but he simply could not, the camper was too big. With this Alaskan Camper, it would have been easy-peasy, no muss, no fuss!!
I’m telling you all that to point out why an Alaskan Camper is worth the money. First, it’s not going to fall apart when you drive it off the showroom floor because it’s top quality and made by people who take pride in what they do. Second, with the low top it can can go into tight, narrow forest trails with no problem. Third, while it’s smaller it’s just as comfortable as the huge campers but I think it has better storage than any other camper I’ve seen. Fourth, because of it’s far superior aerodynamics and lighter weight, it gets much better MPG.
I know some of you will be thinking that a pop-up camper would be a better choice because they’re even lighter, smaller and much cheaper! But I do NOT recommended pop-ups for full-timers because they have too many disadvantages:
- They’re cold! In the winter you will be very sorry that you don’t have any insulation. And if the wind blows, which it does a lot in the desert, you’ll be miserable! The Alaskan is very well insulated!
- They offer little security against intruders, either two or four-legged. The Alaskan is like Fort Knox!
- Eventually they will mold, mildew, rot or rip. It’s not a matter of “if’, only “when.” You can give this Alaskan Camper to your grandkids!
- Their a hassle to set-up and take-down for every trip. Of course the Alaskan Camper has to be set up every time as well, but because it has automatic hydraulic lifters, it’s not a hassle to set-up, you just flip a switch. See pictures below….
Let me tell you a story about another friend. This friend retired and bought a pop-up camper on a truck. He lived in it for one year in the Arizona desert and the next spring he sold it and bought a hard-sided camper. He just found it too cold and and the constant wind made it extremely uncomfortable. Their few advantages can’t make up for the extreme disadvantages.
I think the Alaskan Camper is just about an ideal home for anyone who is looking for adventure in the back-country, but the newer ones are so expensive many of us can’t afford them. Fortunately, they are so well built that there are still many older ones on the road for pretty reasonable prices. If you are interested go to this page on the Alaskan website and see many Alaskans for sale from as far back as the 60’s, and as cheap as $850 and several from the 70’s for around $2500. I couldn’t get the link to work for the page. so instead go to this page and on the left you’ll see a list of menu buttons. Click on the “Classified Ads” button.
So here is how you get the top raised:
Here is a list of standard features for the base model that I gave you the prices above: