The DeHavens had a summer for the ages (to put it lightly). With their kids out of school, they loaded up their customized Toyota Tundra and off-road Turtleback Trailer and set off to drive from Baja to the Arctic Circle. An odyssey of this magnitude (5,000+ miles and over four months long) is impossible to complete without racking up a truckload of unexpected stories, useful life lessons, overlanding pro tips, and priceless memories. Here’s their first-hand insights from the journey.
Meet the DeHaven's: Christine, Evan, their two boys, Miles, Ash, and Charlie (dog).
This family of four and their loyal chocolate lab, have been traveling full-time for the last year and a half with the goal of experiencing as much of life as possible.
We’ve always been avid explorers and we’d had our share of off-roading, camping and backpacking before we set off on this adventure, but truth be told, our first ‘overland’ (by definition) trip was the day we set off into the unknown over 18 months ago. We haven’t looked back. Overlanding has introduced us to so many amazing people and places.
Taking life slower than they had in the past, they prioritized connecting with each other and exploring new places.
Sometimes, we move too fast. For the Alaska trip we wanted to ensure we took time in each location and enjoyed the surroundings. (We may have also really really wanted to catch some killer Salmon and see some amazing wildlife.)
Spoiler alert: Four months later, they pulled it off, arriving home in time for Miles and Ash to attend the first day of school. And everyone lived happily ever after, right?
Well, we still had questions: What does it look like to prep for a 5,000+ mile overlanding trip with four people, including two kids? What was Alaska like—any surprises? What camp meals became recurring staples? And what advice can they offer other overlanders?
We recently caught up with the DeHaven’s to get their answers to these questions, and to check their pulse after the family overlanding trip of a lifetime.
What did trip prep look like? Your annotated Google Map is a sight to behold. Was the planning process intensive? What recommendations would you have for other overlanders planning a multi-month trip?
This trip has been on our minds forever. I mean it's ALASKA. We talked about it with so many people we met along the way and got some great tips from other travelers. We also met a few locals when we were in Baja! Beyond that it was a lot of Google searches and studying satellite imagery. We save spots we want to visit regardless of location. Once that is done, we step back and look at the best path to hit as many of our saved spots as we think we can.
We also take in account the time of year we’ll be going. The 4-month long trip looks very different starting in May and ending in September as compared to other times of the year. We also adjusted en route based on the weather. Sometimes we leave locations early because of rain or stay longer because of sunshine. Ideally a longer adventure should also give you the freedom to be flexible. Want to pull over and explore that dirt trail? Sure! Feel like you want to cut out early to avoid storms. Easy.
What “reality of the road” became immediately apparent? (Something you realized you’d have to adjust to.)
The reality of the road is different traveling as a family with a dog. There are a lot of places and adventures you may want to do but having a dog limits you. Do we love Charlie? YES, but we have to make a few extra plans or skip some experiences due to our furry family member. We normally travel in warmer climates and leaving her in our car for hours on end is just not fair to her. We did make some adjustments like getting an airbnb/hotel for her to relax in while we went out on our adventure or just looked for other options that we could keep her included in.
Beyond dog stuff, the reality of gas prices when you are in remote northern areas hit us fairly quickly. There isn’t much to do to avoid it. They paid a pretty penny to get it there and you are just glad you have a place to fill your tank. Most of the time we would have to map out options for gas as we launched out for the day, always having cash on us because some places don’t have service to run cards.
How was it planning, and traveling with the kids? Any words of wisdom for those who maybe see their kids as a barrier to doing a trip like this? Pro tips for keeping the troops happy?
Traveling with kids has been way more fulfilling than we could have imagined. The kids flourished on the road. They have seen life outside their bubble and have seen us figure out solutions to problems in real time. I may never have smiled more than when our oldest son learned Spanish in Baja, proudly talking to a local, or when my youngest reeled in his first Salmon ever. There are so many reasons to take your children traveling.
Is it alway easy? No. Some things we did to make the crowd happy include setting expectations. Not like, we expect you to behave. More like, today is going to be a 4 hour car ride, let us know when you want to stop and stretch. We talk about where we are going and how long we plan on staying. We also ask them where they might want to explore. It helps if they feel like they have a say. Also, SNACKS. Always.
Most places we travel don’t have service, so we also make sure that the kids have stuff to do/play on their devices that's downloaded. I think we forget how much we depend on cellular connection until you spend a long time without it.
We also still play the license plate game. We are only missing Delaware ;)
You must have perfected your camp-chef game during the trip. Were any meals instant classics, or family favorites? If you can, include a short list of ingredients and super-basic cooking instructions.
Meals on the road are a specific art. You need to adjust based on location. Some areas have great access to food. Others, it can be a struggle to find fresh food. We’ve figured out a few meals that always win. One of the upgrades that made the biggest lifestyle change for us was our Snomaster 85L fridge/freezer. Prior, we had no freezer and a smaller fridge. Now I’m able to freeze proteins and stay off-grid longer.
Some of our best meals hinge on flavorful proteins and easy to make sides. We find that if we have stronger flavored proteins and add in veg and rice, we’re happy. Italian Sausage, Chorizo, Garlic Lemon Chicken, Teriyaki Steak are all on the list and add in a fresh steamed veg or a can of beans and you are set. We always have cans of black beans, garbanzo beans and corn. We need a treat now and then and we make cinnamon and sugar donuts when the craving calls. Tortillas are a must because you can fold anything up in there and call it a meal, plus they can double as a pizza crust if needed. We also added a stove to our camping setup and have made lasagna and baked brownies. That is a treat on the trail if there’s ever been one.
- Can of biscuits
- Vegetable oil
- Cinnamon & sugar
- Open biscuits and peel them in half. We like to cut a circle in the top to make them feel more like donuts. But it isn’t necessary.
- Heat oil
- Fry, flipping half way through cooking.
- Combine Cinnamon and Sugar in a bowl and toss donuts as they come out of the oil
You hear a lot about Alaska—it’s massive, lots of mosquitoes, abundant wildlife, daylight for 20+ hours in summer, etc. What about Alaska surprised you? Anything you’d add to the common refrains about The Last Frontier?
Alaska surprised us in so many ways. We thought we would really struggle with the 20 hours of light in the summer but it may have been one of our favorite things ever. We didn’t have to worry about when we got to camp or if we would have light to set up when we got there. It was amazing to be able to travel and see all the beauty all the time.
Overall we were most surprised by the beauty of Northern Canada. Everywhere we turned it was amazing. From the Northwest Territories down to the bottom of British Columbia it was just stunning location after stunning location. We can’t wait to return.
Finally, when finding places to camp in Alaska it was a lot harder than we had been used to in the lower 48. BLM sites were not as easy to come by and so much land was marked “Private” you really have to dig to find more off grid camping or drive a good distance.
What gear stands out in retrospect as the most used, most useful, or unexpectedly awesome? Why?
For Alaska, Hands down bug repellent was the most useful item. We used a few different types that helped. Especially the kind we used to douse our gear and tents in. You just have to reapply every 6 weeks but we did it more often because Alaska bugs are just different. We obviously used classic bug spray on ourselves and then to top it off we added Thermacell Rechargeable Mosquito repellers. They last forever and work SO well. These were a game changer and when all three were used together we could survive out there.
How did the COMBAR make a difference during your trip? What were its most common uses for you? Also, where did you store it in the rig?—we’ve found there are limitless ways people find for stashing their COMBAR in their rig, from the simple to the intricate.
We found many uses for the COMBAR, both around camp and on hikes. It’s nice to have such a compact and easy to carry multi-tool with you when exploring the backcountry. We used it for digging holes on hikes (use your imagination), cutting firewood, leveling ground for our rigs and much more.
We stored the COMBAR in our GFC Camper and strapped it to a beam for easy to access.
What 1-2 pieces of advice would you give to overlanders out there? (Could be specific to longer trips, family trips, or just overlanding in general.)
I think the biggest thing we want people to know is that it doesn’t matter how far you travel for an adventure, you just have to get out. Sometimes just hitting the trail an hour away for the weekend is just what you need. There is so much out there on social media and sometimes people feel like unless it is epic it isn’t worth it. Just get out there and enjoy the beauty.
Did you achieve your goal(s) for the trip?
Every adventure to us is a success, but to accomplish a dream trip like the Alaska adventure would classify as more than a success, a real dream come true! We got to see so many places we have looked at online and so many more we didn’t even know about. We slowed down when we wanted to and lingered when we felt we needed it. We actually stopped for two solid weeks at one point to breathe. The miles we put in to get there are no joke. It can be exhausting. I think that taking that time and slowing the pace really helped to experience what was in front of us.
What’s next for you? What trips, pursuits, or projects are percolating?
We are headed down to Baja Mexico again. We loved it so much that we are excited to spend more time in some areas that captured our hearts last year. After that we have a trip to Havasupai Falls which we secured reservations for 3 years ago but has been delayed due to COVID, we are beyond excited to finally get to experience this epic place!
Follow the DeHaven's on Instagram (@family.overland.adventure) for awesome overlanding content.
Looking for more trip inspiration? Check out Overlanding from LA to Alaska.
Looking for overlanding pro tips? Check out On Mastering the Art of Overlanding, and Overlanding? Keep These 5 Essential Items In Your Emergency Kit.
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