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Wilderness Road Trip Planner

Are you planning to drive the Dempster Highway and other Northern Roads? If this is the case, my Road Trip Planner is for you.

Essential Gear To Travel The Canadian Northwest

A road trip into the Canadian wilderness requires some serious planning. The risks and hazards depend on various factors; the route you choose, the vehicle you drive, the amount of money and the amount of time you have available, and whether you travel SOLO or not. Therefore, no road trip planner and gear lists are the same.

Driving gravel roads and highways up in the Northern parts of the country means camping on the way. This all is great fun and an amazing adventure when all goes well.

What happens if you take a wrong turn and your car breaks down? You are far from civilization with no cell phone connections; no batteries left on your GPS and you don’t have a clue where you are. Suddenly your great adventure is turning into a frightening experience.

The weather could turn on you and you could get you stuck in the middle of nowhere.  In this situation, sleeping in a tent in this fast northern wilderness would not be wise; stretching out inside the car is your only option. This could become a rough night, tossing and turning to the “comforting” sounds of wild animals.

If you are not prepared for the risks, these situations can turn into nightmares. That’s why it is important to be well prepared for this kind of a road trip and to carry all the essential survival gear.

That’s exactly what I do before venturing on any northern road trip. The Wilderness Road Trip Planner helps reduce the planning stress and gives me a peace of mind.

Road Trip - Gear

My Road Trip Planner

  • Air Compressor: A 12 V portable air compressor is a must-have road companion for any backcountry road tripper.
  • Windshield fluid, Antifreeze and a bottle of motor oil: Just in case.
  • Bottle jack: A small bottle jack is much easier to use than most jacks vehicles are equipped with.
  • Toolbox: Factory tool kit, jumper cable, rags, extra fuses, wire, electrical tape, screwdrivers, adjustable wrench, wrench set, extendable ratchet (I’m not a mechanic at all so this will do for me).
  • Spare tire(s): If you drive lots of gravel roads and far off the beaten track, a spare tire is a must. With gas stations far apart I take two spares for my trip north.
  • Jerry cans: One or two jerry cans to fill up with spare gasoline when you get further north.
  • Neck pillow: Your body will thank you for that.
  • Tent: My North Face 4 men tent feels like a luxury. Travelling by car, weight is not an issue so the small backpacking tent stays at home.
  • Sleeping bag, sheet and pillow: Whether you sleep in the car or tent, cozy bedding is important for a restful sleep.
  • Foamy: I like to take a good quality, thick foamy to sleep on.
  • Backpacks: Essential for any road trip. I always take along a day pack for day hikes and my backpack in case I venture on an overnight hike.
  • A folding chair: The luxury of car travel, why not – that’s why I invested in a car rack.
  • Camping stove and fuel: My old two burner stove burns on propane and is ideal to prepare camping meals quickly when campfire cooking is not an option.
  • Camping pot and pan, Dutch oven: Campfire cooking with a Dutch oven is a great outdoor experience if there is no fire ban on.
  • Camping dishes and kitchen necessities: Plates, bowl, cup, can opener, bottle opener, cutlery, tea towel, dishwashing soap, a bucket to do dishes, garbage bags, sealable plastic bags, rags etc.
  • Bear spray: Bears and wild animals are a normal sight up in the Yukon. I have lived in bear country for years and have come across many. The bear spray will be on me all the time and I will bring an air horn for noise as well as bear bangers.
  • Duct tape: Never leave for the wilderness without a roll of duct tape. Use it to mend clothing and shoes, to make a splint or bandage, to build a shelter or make a bug trap.
  • Flashlight: Starlit backcountry skies may be beautiful, but the moon and stars aren’t going to light up your path sufficiently. A flashlight is a must for any wilderness trip. Spending the night alone in the wilderness will make you appreciate the little light. A flashlight can also be used to chase away wild animals lurking nearby. Don’t forget to bring extra batteries.
  • Candles: Whether they are intended for a flashlight backup or to illuminate the tent, candles are always on my road trip planner list.
  • Matches, lighter:  Whatever kind of situation you’re in, a fire may be crucial to your survival. Whether you need to make a fire for cooking purposes or to keep warm during a chilling night in the wilderness, you should never be without matches and a backup lighter. Waterproof matches are best, kept them in a sealable plastic bag. A lighter can also be used to sanitize equipment if you have to tend to wounds.
  • Steel wool: Steel wool is a handy form of kindling. It can be ignited by only a spark, even when wet.
  • Bug repellent: I take both non-toxic and toxic repellent on my trip as well as mosquito coils. In the Yukon, expect mosquitoes to be out in June, July and August, black flies appear in late August and September. Numbers of both pests tend to increase after a rain. Most Yukon communities have control programs to manage mosquito populations. When you’re out in the wild, bugs can be a nuisance – especially in low-lying, marshy areas without a breeze. Pack along repellent and a bug jacket, just in case.
  • Mosquito net: There is nothing worse than being attacked by mosquitoes at night. A mosquito net can be a lifesaver and is a MUST on my road trip planner list. I will also take screening material along to block off the open window if I have to sleep in the car.
  • Rope: For any camping trip bring along ropes. The use of rope is endless. Making a clothesline to hang wet clothes, create a sling for injuries, hang up bags in the trees to be bear safe, build a trip wire around your night camp, make a fishing pole. Binder twine always comes handy, and a paracord survival bracelet is a great way to bring along a rope on a hike.
  • A large axe, a small shovel and a camping saw: Whether I have to get a tree off the road or dig a hole for an outdoor toilette, these tools have to come along and are priorities on my road trip planner. Territorial Parks offer free firewood, which you have to split. This is hard to do with a mini axe.
  • Pocket knife: Keep your pocket knife with you at all times when you’re in the wilderness. My choice is a Leatherman, which saved me in various situations out in the wilderness. A Leatherman cuts nearly everything, even wire. That’s why it’s known as a multi-tool.
  • Navigation: Compass and Maps and knowing how to use them are important for a wilderness road trip. It’s easy to lose track of your direction in the backcountry. A handheld GPS is a great additional navigation tool, but it doesn’t replace a compass.
  • Cell phone: Cell signals in the wilderness are often non-existent. Outside of cities and large towns you can’t rely on a connection. Nevertheless, I highly suggest taking a cell phone along in case of an emergency. You might just be lucky and get a cell signal right when you need it.
  • Laptop or tablet: These devices were non-existent during my early travel years. Now, since I joined the world of blogging, my laptop comes long. Wi-Fi is only available in cities.
  • Camera Gear: Camera, tripod, cables and all gear you need to record your trip.
  • USB car charger: A USB car charger is an important item on my road trip planner list and is especially useful if it has dual ports. I keep one in my camera bag and one in my car ready to be used.
  • Hiking boots and runners: Investing in a pair of quality waterproof hiking boots is a good investment. Make sure the boots are worn in before your trip. Runners are comfortable when driving and are also used to cross rivers during hiking trips.
  • Muck boots: I never go camping without taking my Muck boots along. My first Muck boots I got when I  looked for a pair of winter riding boots, but ended up with a pair of Muck boots instead. Since then, these are the only boots I wear at the ranch all year round, my Muck’s. I remember the early mornings in the Chilcotin mountains when we had to catch our horses early morning and walk through and hike wet, knee-high grass. I was the only person not getting wet feet. Check on Kids size Muck boots if you have a small shoe size; they are much cheaper than the adult ones.
  • Extra Clothes: Rain jacket and pants, hat, sunglasses, socks, underwear, a fleece hoodie, a weatherproof jacket. Keep extra gloves in your survival kit at all times.
  • First Aid Kit: A first aid kit may very well save your life. You can find many resources both online and in books that tell you what to include in your first aid kit. Common contents are bandages, cotton swabs, thermometer, antibiotic ointments, saline, alcohol swabs, burn cream, aspirin, sunscreen, gauze, adhesive tape, tweezers, rubber gloves, a compact sewing kit, and personal prescription, if necessary.
  • Hand sanitizer: Cleanliness is important when you travel in the wilderness and many illnesses can be avoided if you keep your hands clean. Hand sanitizer belongs on every road trip planer list.
  • Toilet paper: Toilet paper will act as a luxury item and will make your wilderness experience more comfortable, don’t leave home without it.
  • Chewing gum and candy: In survival situations, food is often scarce. Chewing gum or hard candy will keep your mouth occupied, which will decrease hunger. The sugar also prevents hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, which is often a result of a lack of food. Consider also packing chocolate, which will doubtless boost your spirits.
  • Canned and nonperishable food: Canned meats, fruits and vegetables will provide you with necessary nutrients without the risk of spoiling. Don’t forget to pack a can opener. I am a Vegetarian and I pack lots of nuts, seeds and dried fruit for my trip.
  • Water: Water is the most important item to take along. A five-gallon water bottle goes a long way.
  • Water purification tablets or water filter:  I’m used to fresh BC spring water and I drink water from rivers when I travel and on hikes. To be safe, use purification tablets or a water filter when you’re in the wilderness.
  • My fishing rod: The Yukon is known for excellent fishing, where even an inexperienced fisherman like me can catch a fish.
  • Travel books: Take your LONELY PLANET Guidebook along. Lonely Planet guide British Columbia & the Canadian Rockies Guidebook helped me on the way up to the Yukon. This guide even has a chapter on the Yukon Territory. The MILEPOST Travel planner is your travel bible once I cross the Yukon border. Pick up additional guides at local Visitor Centres.
  • Notebook and pen: The notebook is an important item on my road trip planner list. Used as my diary, it’s also useful for general notes, write down information, impressions, and memories.
  • Thermomix TM5: Whenever possible, my Thermomix comes along. All I need is a power source for my to cook delicious meals.

My Buddy Trooper

This road trip planner has been put together according to my personal road trip experience and is meant as a basic guide only. If you find it useful, please share on social media and leave a comment below.

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Yrene Dee

Yrene lives in Lumby British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover. I write about things I love. Mostely.

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