Post Summary: An honest recap of driving and sleeping in a VW Westfalia around Alaska in April.
As the weather gets better and better, Berty and I have noticed more #vanlife pictures popping up on our Instagram feed and more of our friends opting to sleep in their car on adventures.
Personally, we LOVE this kind of travel and think that everyone should experience taking a big Alaska road trip this way! It gives you a sense of freedom and adventure that you can’t obtain any other way!
That’s why when we were planning our two-week trip to Alaska, we knew we wanted to spend our time exploring its huge mountains and diverse landscape by – you guessed it – an epic road trip!
In this post, we’re sharing our experience driving around Alaska in a vintage VW Westfalia!
What It’s Like Camping In A Vintage VW Westfalia In Alaska
After extensive research, we discovered a company called Last Frontier Westys that rents vintage VW vans for awesome trips through the Last Frontier. Berty and I knew immediately that we had to learn more!
We have been thinking really hard about buying a van of our own and outfitting the inside, so this was an awesome way to experience what life would really be like living in a van.
In this post, we’re sharing our experience of the good, not so good, and adventurous things that happen when driving a vintage VW Westfalia bus around Alaska!
Read More: 9 Lessons We Learned While Living In A Van On The Pacific Coast
A little about Last Frontier Westys:
Last Frontier Westys is the first company to rent out vintage VW vans to explore in Alaska.
They keep their vans in their original form, though they did deck out Poly (the van we drove) with Bluetooth so we could play our music and talk hands-free while driving (#necessary).
The van comes with all the things you’ll need for a trip, including cookware, sheets, pillows, a van broom, and down blankets for cold nights! Poly is also equipped with a propane-powered heater, which means she can be rented earlier and/or later in the season during colder weather. We were so grateful for that heater!
Last Frontier Westys also creates custom itineraries with places to see and things to do, restaurant recommendations, campgrounds, and so much more. They will even make a personalized Google Map with clickable links and easy directions to each place.
It was extremely helpful for us to reference this during our trip! Berty and I believe recommendations made by locals like Last Frontier Westys are always the best way to go when exploring a new place.
Read More: What To Pack For An Adventurous Alaska Road Trip
So what does a typical day look like in the VW Westfalia van?
*Here’s a general schedule of how things went day-by-day when traveling in Alaska…
*Close the top by rolling the canvas together and clicking the top back in place. Set the seat back into a riding position. Move our gear and load it into the back of the car.
*Berty drove (he was the only one who knew how to drive a stick shift), so our friend Jeffrey was our resident DJ while I sat in the back and wrote blog articles.
*Take pictures from the back of the car. (The views outside our windows were always insane!)
*Stop somewhere to take pictures and cook food for lunch. Usually, it was a quick lunch like Cup of Noodles or PB&J. Find more car camping recipes here!
*Spend the afternoon hiking or photographing a new location.
*Drive to a campground and park for the night. (Find safe places to sleep here!) OR find your own free sites using The Dyrt! We use this campground finding app on nearly all of our road trips. The pro membership unlocks BLM and national forest maps, and assistance in planning your custom road trip route. Try their pro membership free for 30-days when using our code MANDAGIES!
*Pop the top, cook dinner, visit with one another. Take photos around the area.
*Set up for bed. Move our bags from the back into the front seats to make room for sleeping bags. Close the van curtains to make it darker. (The sun doesn’t set until VERY late here!)
*Do it all over again!
Read More: Car Camping 101: How To Sleep Anywhere In Your Car
Highlights of a VW Westfalia Camper Van:
We loved so many things about driving a VW Westfalia. Here are some of our favorite quirks and features of the van!
*Working propane stove. After using our Jetboil for the majority of our Utah road trip, we felt like we were living in luxury with a 2 burner gas stove!
*Cabinets for your gear. Most of the items we needed were supplied by Last Frontier Westys, but it was nice to store our extra food and gear in the cabinets. Not only did this make it an easier and more functional space, but it made it feel like our own little home for two weeks!
*Swivel chairs. Having three people in the car, it was nice to cook a meal and be able to eat it together in front of the extended table in the van. Which brings me to my next point…
*Moveable tray table. There is a little tray table that tucks into extra countertop space, and it pulls out so that we could all eat together in the van.
*Sleeps 4. VW vans are unique in the sense that they can take four people (maybe even 5 with an extra seat) on an adventure! This is the perfect option for families or groups of friends if they want to explore Alaska together.
*They just look so dang GOOD! Driving a VW Westfalia van, it was SO easy to pull over and get awesome photos. There’s something about the vintage interior and quirky features that make it so fun to photograph.
Read More: 101 Fun And Random Road Trip Questions To Ask Your Friends
Challenges with a Vintage VW Westfalia Camper Van:
There aren’t that many downsides to exploring in a VW van. However, when renting (or borrowing one… or owning one…) you should be aware of the following:
*Gas mileage. Only gets ~16 miles to the gallon, so you’ll be filling up often. But that’s okay – it gives you more time to stop, take it slow, and enjoy what’s around you! It’s actually perfect for using Anchorage as a home-base and taking day trips from Anchorage. Just budget for a lot of gas. (Which you should anyway for long road trips in Alaska. Find out how to budget for gas here!)
*The van fridge. We were told that VW fridges are notorious for not working, so we didn’t set our expectations too high. The owners told us to think of it as a glorified cooler and to buy food every few days or so instead of packing it full for the entire trip.
*Being the old beauty that it is, you must take extra care with some features. The curtains stick, you might have to slam things for them to be fully shut, or carefully pack the cupboards so dishes don’t bang around. It’s not a Tesla, so you’ll have to be okay with dealing with a little inconvenience every once in a while.
Read More: 20 Brilliant Car Camping Hacks For Your Best Trip Yet
We had a fun roller-coaster of a few weeks while here in Alaska. We had to change our plans a lot because winter activities were closed, and summer ones had yet to open.
This resulted in extended hikes (trailheads were closed), last-minute adventures, and dealing with all sorts of weather! Through it all, we were so fortunate to drive this VW Westfalia van and see Alaska during the shoulder season!
Part of the adventure with a van is changing plans on a whim, and we believe we got the true Alaskan road trip experience these few weeks!
Have you ever had the chance to road trip in a vintage VW Westfalia Camper Van? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below!
Thank you Last Frontier Westys for letting up borrow Poly for our 10 days in Alaska! Please visit Last Frontier Westys if you’d like to hear about renting your own van in Alaska. This post also contains some affiliate links, which is of no cost to you and allow this blog to stay up and running – thank you!
Read More Road Trip Posts
20 Brilliant Car Camping Hacks You Have To Try
30 Necessary Road Trip Essentials You Need To Be Packing
Car Camping 101: The Complete Guide To Sleeping In Your Car
What To Pack For An Alaska Road Trip Adventure
10 Insanely Useful Road Trip Planner Tools and Apps
101 Road Trip Questions To Ask Your Friends
9 Lessons We Learned Living In A Van For 10 Days
Want more VW Westfalia inspiration? Follow our Road Trip board on Pinterest for more epic ideas!
8 thoughts on “A Peek At Camping In A Vintage VW Westfalia In Alaska”
Oh my GOD! I grew up taking SO MANY camping and road trips with my dad in a Westfalia VW van that this post made my nostalgia meter go haywire. Ours was yellow and the sleeping area up top was nice and moldy from using in the rain, so yours looks a tad nicer than what I grew up with 🙂 I’m so glad I never had to drive it, besides the stick it also had no power steering and was torture on the shoulders!
WOW – what a stunning trip! #goals for sure!!
I’m totally inspired to try camping in a VW now! 😀
I’ve road-tripped in a VW Westphalia pop-top a few times. In fact when I was younger, in my fifties, I lived in a ’78 “Campmobile” for five years. Roamed around the Southwest and the Baja, keeping track on a calendar of how much I spent for camping each night with a goal of zero because those were frugal times. I ate out of an icebox and cans, so necessarily became a vegetarian. Not so bad. Somebody asked me once: Isn’t it cold out there? Isn’t it hot?. . .Yes, yes.
The bodily functions weren’t mentioned on the article, but they are simple. A large juice bottle for me, a male, and there are even such female devices. For larger use, a GI shovel with a roll of TP slid down on the handle, and head for the woods or hills if in a remote area (usual). . . Might not work in Alaska.
I had all I owned inside, with even a couple inflatable boats, one a sailboat. Stayed at some beautiful places and enjoyed my freedom (especially from rent). I became adept in finding free camp spots and water sources.
One meets some wonderful people roaming around. A German guy I met (Germans are everywhere) said the upper bed was for children, but that’s always where I slept, with three screen windows to enjoy the views. Down below I built storage shelves for my cans and books.
VW’s can be pesky things, so sitting beside a lonely road in the Baja (Mexico) was not unknown to me. But I always made out eventually, because Mexicans are wonderfully hospitable and helpful, and they can make anything work. Plus one does what one has to do. Difficult situations activate the brain cells and inspire action. Like the time the steering went out, due to my carelessness, in a remote rocky dry river bed. . .etc.
More recently my wife and I went down to mainland Mexico several times and enjoyed that, but now in our eighties the VW is for sale and we’re having a Ford Transit van converted to a camper, with a composting toilet!! Wow. The old VeeDub is too slow for US traffic now, and we’ll enjoy other creature comforts like heat and AC.
P.S: That’s Smedley Butler in the photo, not me.
Wow, thanks for the amazing comment! I loved reading your story and slightly jealous of your free rent situation too. haha Berty and I hope someday to explore and live in a van for a chunk of time and it was awesome to get a little taste of what it could be like through your story!
Love this. I grew up with a family of 5 sleeping/road-tripping in one of these babies, and it broke down all the time.. 🙂 But alas, that’s the beauty of owning a “vintage” mobile! Fun adventures for sure!
Haha love it!! They require a little more TLC that’s for sure – but man, it was so fun for these two weeks! I can’t imagine what it was like to pack 5 in a vna – sounds like an adventure in itself!
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