Stories From the Road Brandon’s Guide on How to Chase the Aurora by RV
The Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon that everyone should see at least once in their life. It can be difficult to see depending on where you live, and it’s never guaranteed, which is why we’ve compiled these tips to help you have the best chance of seeing it. RVing is one of the best ways to embark on an Aurora trip because you’ll have an accessible bed and kitchen no matter where you go. Before you plan your trip, it’s important to understand the science behind the Aurora to increase your chance of seeing it, as well as the necessary precautions while operating an RV in the winter season. Aurora chasing isn’t the only thing you can do on your journey. There are a lot of activities you can try during the day while you wait for the stars to dance. We share our route, the lessons we learned and our best tips to help you have the most successful experience while Aurora Chasing with an RV.
This year, Cody, Danielle, Chris and I tried aurora chasing by RV through the Northwest Territories. Using a mobile home helped us stay comfortable. I can’t think of a better way to travel around the northern regions of Canada. Take it from us, the Aurora Borealis is something you’ve never seen before. Watch this video as I share me best tips on how to watch the stars dance, and scroll down this page to learn more about where we stayed and how we prepared for our trip. You can check out our tips on how to winter RV safely here!
Nothing can stop the adventure or the chase for this beautiful phenomenon. Chasing the Aurora Borealis is an adventure of a lifetime and something you’ve never experienced before.
Download the SpaceWeatherLive App. Make sure to open SWL so you can follow along. This app will give you the most accurate live data about the aurora. When you open the app it may look intimidating at first, but there are a couple of key points that will make it easier to understand.
When choosing a location it’s important to consider how far north you are, as it gives you a higher chance of seeing the aurora. This is measured by what’s called a Kp index. The Kp index is a scale used to characterize the magnitude of geomagnetic disturbances. Basically, the higher the Kp value, the farther south the aurora can be seen. A geomagnetic storm starts at Kp5 after which the G-scale is also used. Kp6 is a G2 storm, Kp7 is a G3, and so on. The Kp Index ranges from Kp0-Kp9. It’s worth trying to see if they’re predicting Kp5 or higher for a beautiful aurora.
Light pollution dims the intensity of the Aurora and makes it harder to see. The further away you can get from city lights, the better odds you have of seeing the Aurora. Our eyes take about 10 minutes to adjust in darkness, so you’re best to find a location with almost no light pollution and try not to use any lights. You can google light pollution maps and find the darkest locations nearest to you.
Weather also plays a huge part when choosing your location. If it’s cloudy, you won’t be able to see the aurora. The Astropheric app measures which areas will have cloud coverage. However, this may not always be 100% accurate, and sometimes you have to go out and hope for the best. Once my team and I drove 2 hours east of Calgary to see mostly clouds and decided to drive another 2 hours west where there were fewer clouds, and we ended up getting an unforgettable night. It’s always worth exploring around a bit if the data is strong.
There’s a lot of false information about when you can see the Aurora, and the truth is they can be seen all year round. The problem is during the summer months, our days are longer, therefore, you have less darkness overnight. You’re very unlikely to see the aurora from May-September, so you’ll always have better odds in the winter months.
It takes over an hour to get completely dark after sunset, so keep that in mind before heading out each night. The lights can be seen over 200 times per year in the Northwest Territories, so if you want the best chance of seeing them, plan a trip somewhere far north between December-April.
Make sure you’re always checking the weather. You don’t want to get stuck in a blizzard at 2 am or put yourself in any kind of danger. That’s why having an RV is the best way to do this, you won’t have to worry about driving home after.
Aurora chasing has grown exponentially in popularity because of the pandemic. The Alberta Aurora Chasers group on Facebook grew from 20,000 in November 2020 to over 130,000 now. It’s great to find a community in your area that can provide photos, tips, and live updates. One of the best ways to find your community is through social media platforms, like Facebook. If you’ve planned your trip and know your location, try looking up groups in that community and joining them.
When you are out viewing, be considerate of others. This means driving safe, not stopping in dangerous places, watching the road, and turning off your headlights when you approach a spot. A lot of people are trying to take photos or get away from light in order to see the aurora, so try to keep any lights to a minimum. There are times when people may sit in their vehicles to stay warm and leave their headlights on, disturbing other viewers. This is another great example of why an RV is the best way to Aurora Chase, as you can stay warm without disturbing others.
Taking an RV trip during the colder months varies drastically from the warmer months, so planning your route is an effective way to ensure the safety of yourself as well as the unit. Some key points to take note of when planning are:
The first three stops on the list are crucial to your RV trip. Gas stations will keep you on the road, but you also need to be aware of which ones are able to provide you with propane. To ensure the safety of yourself and the RV, you need to stay full of propane at all times. This keeps the heat running which will prevent freezing to aspects of the unit such as the water pipes.
As you make your way further up north, the distance between stops will increase. A good practice is to never pass a gas station so that you never run out of gas or propane and require an emergency supply. Taking note of campgrounds is important because it will provide you with a space for hookups, as well as a place to safely and legally park. With that being said, campgrounds can be few and far between the further up north you head, especially in the Northwest Territories. However, there are some options for you.
A small and quiet RV Park based in Peace River, Rendez-Vous RV Park is an excellent stop as you make your way further and further up north. Complete with wifi, amenities, heated bathrooms with showers, a dumping station and a park store, it also offers year-round full hookups for your RV to give you as much comfort as possible.
When you find yourself up north, 2 Seasons Adventures is a must-stop in Hay River for anyone looking to have the best winter experience of their life. Fraser Pike runs this excellent spot, right on Great Slave Lake, with a hookup for electricity and a location close to town for anything and everything you need. The small town of Hay River has a huge variety of things you can do to make sure you have the best time possible. For more information, reach out to Fraser Pike at 2 Seasons Adventures.
When it comes to taking a trip in an RV during the winter, there is one piece of equipment that is absolutely non-negotiable and a necessity for a proper, safe trip; a winterized RV. A winterized RV is like your typical RV unit, but it has been outfitted to better deal with the harsh winter conditions for your safety and the safety of the unit itself. A few things that distinguish units include but are not limited to: heating pads for the holding tanks, insulated piping, winter tires, chains for your tires, and indoor covers to trap in the heat and keep the cold out. Dealers will often mark the unit with a sticker noting that it has been winterized and fit for the conditions you expect to experience. Another key thing that is typically provided or already put in the unit is plumbing antifreeze. This is another necessity for the winterized RV as it prevents pipes from cracking or bursting due to freezing and unfreezing. This is the most common issue when it comes to RVing during the wintertime, so it’s important to stay on top of it.
Now that you have the most important piece of equipment, we’ve put together a list of things you’ll want to bring for your personal comfort, as well as some backup safety measures for peace of mind.
Now that you have your route and equipment sorted, it’s time to look at a backup plan to make sure you cover all your bases when it comes to safety. The best practice when creating a backup plan comes through planning your route with hotels where you plan to stop. Be sure to take a look at available options for hotels and lodging in the places you plan on staying with the RV, should anything happen that would make the RV no longer a safe, viable option.
No adventure is complete without a great group of friends or family to come along with you to share the winter RV experience. Taking on this sort of adventure alone is certainly doable, but when you find yourself spending time in places you’ve never been and traveling long distances, having some good people by your side will clear up any stress. It goes without saying, but it will also provide an extra layer of safety and security when you find yourself in some unfamiliar places. Above all, it will simply allow you to enjoy your time that much more!
Now that you have your winter RV and the tips on staying safe and comfortable, you are ready to get out on a crazy adventure to chase the Aurora with Go RVing Canada. Have fun, and enjoy chasing one of the most spectacular experiences you will ever see in your life! To find a dealer near you and start planning your own adventure, click here.
The philosophy of Wildhood is borne of the notion that we, as humans, have a fundamental desire to connect with one another, and connect with the natural world. We are curious. We are moved by wanderlust. Our most powerful memories are of moments we share with the ones we love, or of places that ﬁll us with awe and wonder. Preferably both at the same time. These are the moments of magic: big or small, they are the moments that enrich our lives. Wildhood is then, not a construct, but an expression of who we are and a recognition of what gives us joy.
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