Overlanding North America
adventure gear review
Polychrome Mountains, Alaska Range


This fall I finished an overland expedition across North America from Maine to Alaska and back. It was a trip of ~13,000 miles that spanned almost every imaginable road surface a truck can be driven over from asphalt to permafrost. This post is a recap of the trip and hopefully a helpful resource for anyone else attempting a similar journey.


Overlanding refers to self-reliant mechanized travel to remote destinations where the journey is the primary goal. I wanted to overland across North America as a means to explore the continent without a predefined itinerary. This approach gave me a lot of flexibility and freedom to travel wherever I wanted to go because I kept my food, water, and shelter on board my vehicle. Overlanding provided a means to stay at interesting places longer or to leave areas that weren’t as fun. This allowed me to take advantage of favorable weather for hiking, local advice about the best hot springs, and the timing of salmon runs for fishing.

I had no predefined route for this trip, but I had a rough idea of where I wanted to go. I traveled north by northwest out of Maine and traversed across the great igneous plains of the Laurentian Plateau on my way toward the Pacific Cordillera. Once there, I traveled north into the Yukon where I connected together a patchwork of dirt roads and jeep trails which allowed me to make my way to Alaska. I then used these thoroughfares to circumnavigate as much of the state as I could before needing to head south due to the encroaching winter. On my return leg, I hugged the Pacific to take advantage of warmer weather and navigated through British Columbia and down through the Rocky Mountains along the Continental Divide. My final push took me across the Great Plains on my way back to the Atlantic Coast. All told, this route allowed me to see 13 National Parks and countless other amazing places.

Overlanding through the Yukon on the way to Pelly River.


I did a fair amount of planning for this trip focused mostly on researching regions I intended to visit. I used DEVONthink for the Mac as my primary research tool to capture places I wanted to visit and catalog accessory information that I would need while traveling. DEVONthink helped me stay organized so I could plan refueling points, understand where rivers might cause flooding issues, view topo maps, and access scanned information from guide books. The app worked very well for planning, organizing, and then later accessing the information I needed.

The DEVONthink To Go iOS app was the primary tool I used while traveling to access my research. Offline access was especially important while overlanding because I often had limited internet access. In the DEVONthink iOS app, I could quickly navigate to whatever I needed or find data through the app’s excellent text search. It also allowed me to capture additional information such as pictures of maps, napkin drawings, and local advice from people I met along the way.

I populated DEVONthink with information from a lot of different resources. Some of the most practical information I found for my trip came from the venerable Milepost. The Milepost is considered to be the bible of information for traveling though Alaska and surrounding regions. It’s published yearly and contains up to date information on where to find gas, food, and other resources along most of the major highways. It is used extensively by most people traveling through the area. I always kept the Milepost close at hand and recorded some of the most pertinent information in DEVONthink for quick retrieval and for easier search.

Another useful resource for my trip was freecampsites.net, a crowd-sourced database of free places to camp in North America. This resource was a great help as it allowed me to boondock for free almost every night. The site provides a lot of helpful information about sites including pictures of different areas and additional information other users found useful about particular sites.

When I wasn’t driving, much of my time was spent hiking and exploring areas along the route. To help make some of the hiking logistics easier, I checked out a number of guide books in advance from the library and scanned pertinent information into DEVONthink using OCR. This worked out great as I could cross-reference a lot of helpful trail maps once I arrived at a particular region.

Navigating with offline maps in DEVONThink.


Gear selection was critical for my trip because I had limited storage space and I wanted to keep the weight of my truck to a minimum. I tried to select items that were either good at doing something specific that I planned to do frequently or items that were multi-functional and useful in a lot of different scenarios.

A critical piece of gear for this trip that did one thing well was my shelter, the stalwart AutoHome Maggiolina roof top tent. Having shelter onboard was one of the biggest advantages of overlanding because it allowed me to sleep almost anywhere from Walmart parking lots to the shores of glacial tarns at any time of day or night. The Maggiolina has been used in countless safaris and other overlanding scenarios because it’s quick to set up, comfortable, and is an ideal shelter for areas where large apex predators can be a problem due to its elevated position.

For additional shelter, I paired my Maggiolina with a screened-in awning system. Awnings are invaluable while overlanding because they are useful in many scenarios. They provide a sheltered area against sun, precipitation, and insects. Having some cover to work under for unexpected repairs, setup fishing rigging, or to prepare dinner is really nice. Anyone who thinks an awning isn’t an essential item hasn’t spent enough time with the mosquitos in the Alaskan bush.

Autohome and awning setup.

With shelter taken care of, I next turned my attention to power. A lot of the gear I took on my trip was dedicated to items that could generate and store power. Much of my equipment needed batteries, so it was important to have ways to recharge in the field and have methods to deal with power failures. Of prime importance was my vehicle’s battery system. I carried the excellent Micro Start XP1 Battery system as an additional backup method to jump my truck and additional electronics like my phone. It was extremely useful because it could charge many different devices. Finally, I took a few packs of standard AAA and AA batteries for miscellaneous electronics like my headlamp and two power inverters for charging things like camera batteries.

Documentation was also an important aspect to the trip, so I took a dedicated camera setup to capture the experience. My setup consisted of a mirrorless Fuji XT1 (now updated to the XT2) and several lenses. I like the Fuji mirrorless system because it produces excellent image quality while being lightweight, compact, and weatherproof, which I find perfect for hiking or casual street photography. For lenses, I took 3 zooms and 1 prime—the Fuji 10-24mm, the Fuji 18-55mm, the Fuji 55-200mm, and the Fuji 35mm. The zooms covered a 35mm equivalent of 15mm to 300mm, which gave me a lot of flexibility in my compositions without having to haul a lot of heavy gear. The lone prime I took was a compact and weatherproof f/2, which was among my most used lens. I took very little additional camera accessories, only a Manfrotto PIXI tripod, a larger Manfrotto BeFree tripod, a Luma Loop strap, a few spare batteries, SD cards, and lens cleaning equipment.

Camera setup.

Another area I dedicated a lot of gear toward was tire care. Tires are probably the single most susceptible component on a vehicle to failure. Being stranded in remote areas because of tire issues could be a serious problem, so it was important that I take measures that allowed me to recover from failure situations. I took a full set of chains along with ample repair equipment. In addition to having a full spare, I brought a portable compressor that allowed me to easily air my tires up and down depending on terrain. An added advantage of a compressor is that it can be used along with a tire repair kit to salvage a punctured tire so that the spare can be saved for more serious problems.1

Traveling through fall necessitated a wide range of clothing needs as the weather varied considerably from week to week and place to place. Overlanding in remote places for extended periods of time also required some special gear because it’s sometimes difficult to find a shower. I tried to pack as much wool as I could, for its excellent odor resistance along with some addition synthetics embedded with Polygiene. Both materials worked out surprisingly well in the odor control department. Much of the reminder of my clothing and outerwear gear on this trip was similar to what I took on The Death March.

My trip aligned well with the late summer and fall salmon runs, so I also planned to fly fish for salmon, trout, and artic grayling wherever I could. I took two fly rods to cover everything from 25 pound Silver Salmon to 1 pound grayling. I used a 8 weight spey rod for larger rivers and a ligher 4 weight trout rod for smaller streams for tight casting situations. A few fly patterns worked incredibly well. I would highly recommend taking some Dolly LLama Black and White #2, Kilowatt Black & Blue 1/0, and Articulated Hareball Leech Pink 1/0 for larger salmon along with some egg/flesh patterns along and some Muddler Minnow and Sculpzilla patterns for trout.

Silver salmon fishing in the Russian and Kenai River confluence.


I thought it might be useful to summarize some of my favorite places and things to see during the journey to help future overlanders with their plans. This list is by no means complete, but just a few places I especially enjoyed. In no particular order:

  • Denali National Park
    No list of North American destinations would be complete without Denali. Home of the tallest mountain in North America and much of the Alaska Range, Denali is not to be missed. Rather than try to describe it, just go and experience it for yourself.

    A rare shot of Denali at sunrise on a clear day from 60 miles away.

  • Hot Springs
    With a little research it’s quite easy to find a number of spectacular hot springs all throughout Alaska, Western Canada, and in the American West. Many require a little effort to find because they’re not widely advertised, but the reward is well worth it. In several places we had an entire hot spring all to ourselves. A good soak is the perfect way to relax after a long day.

  • Western Larch in the Valley of Ten Peaks
    Thoughout the Rockies in late fall the Western Larch put on a spectacular show of color as their leaves turn neon yellow before falling to the ground. One of the most spectacular places to witness this transformation is in the Valley of the Ten Peaks in Banff National Park.

    Western Larch in color below the 10 Peaks.

  • Riding Mountain National Park
    I had never heard of this National Park until I looked at a map after crossing into Manitoba on the Trans-Canada Highway and decided to make an impromptu visit. Riding Mountain is a veritable oasis amid the surrounding prairie. It sits atop the Pembina Escarpment at a point where 3 ecosystems—the grasslands, upland boreal forests, and eastern deciduous forests converge. Wolves, elk, and bison all live here. Early in the morning I could here the elk bugling.

    Campsite at Riding Mountain.

  • Rock Flour
    A defining trait of many alpine lakes in the Canadian Rockies is their striking milky turquoise hue. This incredible color is produced from glaciers grinding together against surrounding rock, which produces a fine silt suspension in standing water. Sunlight hits this colloid and the water combined with the silt absorbs most of the visible spectrum. The light reflected back is mostly green and blue, which produces the memorable turquoise color.

    Rock flour in Peyto Lake.

  • Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
    The Wrangell Mountains are an uninhabited volcanic massif larger than Switzerland and home to many of the largest glaciers and tallest volcanos in North America including Mount St. Elias. There are only 2 roads into the park and very few ways to access the interior other than via bush plane. Both roads offer excellent jumping off points to sample what the Wrangells have to offer, but a quick flight into the interior to see the ice fields is the way to go.

    The Root Glacier.

  • Kenai Fjords
    This is yet another Alaskan National Park not to be missed. Over half of the entire park is glaciated, including the impressive Harding Ice Field. The juxtaposition of ocean next to steep fjords produces some spectacular vistas.

    A vista overlooking the terminus of the Exit Glacier in early fall.

  • The Badlands
    I’ve been to the Badlands a handful of times, but their rugged beauty never ceases to impress me. A 100 mile spine of eroded buttes cutting through the surrounding prairie is an impressive sight.

    The Wall at sunrise.

  1. By some stroke of cosmic luck, I experienced no tire problems on my trip. In fact, I experienced no vehicle issues what so ever with the exception of knocking loose a heat shield.