|This list is broken into two parts. The first includes gear used on the backpacking part of my
hike and paddle across Alaska. It focuses on quality, lightweight gear. The second lists additional items I had during the river portion of my journey. I was not sponsored by manufacturers. These are honest reviews.
The Big Three
The Big Three in backpacking are your shelter, backpack and sleeping bag. That combination may weigh anywhere from 4 to 25 lbs or more. I like to go light in backpacking. Chosen wisely and used correctly, lightweight gear makes backpacking more fun. A light pack is simply more enjoyable to carry. It is also much easier on your body and can help reduce the chances of injury. Lighter packs allow a hiker to cover more miles in a day and so carry less food for a given distance.
I had several bear-proof caches along the way. In these I had expendables like food, Aqua Mira, batteries for my GPS, bug dope, vitamins, medicines, toilet paper, plastic bags, maps of the stretch ahead, blank tapes, etc.
Gear evaluations are always subjective. What works great for one person sometimes works poorly for another, and vice versa. It always pays to do your own research and testing before heading afield with new gear.
If you see anything you think needs to be changed, please let me know. Thanks!
See links above for other gear lists I used on the Pacific Crest Trail and Desert Trail, and also other lists.
|Henry Shire’s Tarptent: Squall (Original)
w/floor, stakes, etc.
|Great shelter. Light and roomy.I slept dry and bug free every night. With tarptents and tarps it’s important to find a site protected from high winds and with good drainage.(My current favorite ultralight, bug-proof, one-person shelter is the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo.) Also outstanding is the Tarptent Moment.
|This was a good pack with weak fabric. Golite customer service was outstanding and they happily replaced it with a Golite Pinnacle which I used on the CDT and PCT. I now favor ULA backpacks.
|Feathered Friends Rock Wren
|800 fill down. A quality bag with a PTFE shell (not really needed on this trip) that kept me toasty every night. Stored in a plastic bag inside a stuff sack inside my pack. I had no trouble keeping it dry. Compressible and light. Excellent!
|Trash Compactor Bag
|My sleeping bag went inside one of these and then inside a stuff sack. Turkey roasting bags are lighter, but I was going to be so far in the boonies I chose the tougher trash compactor bags.
|REI Four Winds
|An adjustable hiking staff (trekking pole) that I used for the front pole of my shelter. Fairly light and strong. I rarely used the camera mount beneath the grip. Instead, I used my mini-tripod I carried. Compass failed immediately. Two poles would be better.
|Too small leaked. Many like them, I didn’t. The manufacturer stood behind this pad 100% and replaced it upon my return. A Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus is a better choice for me.
|Antacids, antibiotics, antibiotic cream, Ibubrofin, vitamins, moleskin, glucosomine (for my oncoming arthritis,) Immodium, lip balm, sunscreen. Duct tape is good at protecting hot spots on feet if you catch them early. Clean and dry your foot first. Even better is Leukotape P
|Patagonia Micro Puff Jacket
|A warm, lightweight, comfortable jacket. A very good design with a good hood and pockets. One of the very best items I carried.
|50 oz. (pair)
|My toughest decision. They weren’t up to the wet, rough hike and eventually leaked. Danner gets an “outstanding” for replacing them without fuss. I have used the replacement boots extensively since on fall trips and they’ve performed well. If I were to do this same trip I might just “hike wet” wearing trail running shoes.
|Red Ledge Thunderlight Parka
|Inexpensive, fairly light, a good design and they’ve worked well for me. I used one on the Appalachian Trail and the CDT. They’ve gotten heavier and I now favor the lighter jackets, like the Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Jacket
|Red Ledge Thunderlight full-zip pants
|Another great value in a light, effective garment. I like the full side zip for getting on over boots and for venting as necessary.
|Columbia Titanium Nylon Convertible
|Another great article of clothing. Mosquito proof, fast drying, lightweight and comfortable. I only zipped off the legs and wore them as shorts once due to mosquitoes, rain, cold, or a combination of the three!
|REI Sahara Tech Shirt
|Like the pants, these were light, bug-proof, comfortable and fast drying. The pockets were perfect for a pencil, spoon, my small bottle of mosquito repellant, my compass, toothbrush, a small lighter, etc.
|Long Underwear Top
|Patagonia Midweight Capilene Zip-Neck
|Worked perfectly. Cheaper brands will work fine if you’re on a budget, but Capilene is top-of-the-line.
|Long Underwear Bottom
|Patagonia Midweight Capilene
|Worked perfectly. See above.
|Patagonia Capilene and Generic
|I have since found Under Armour Boxerjock with 6″ legs are really hard to beat for reducing chafing.
|Smartwool Trekking Heavy Crew
|4 oz per pair
|I usually carried 4 pair. I like to keep one clean, dry pair just for sleeping. I’m also a huge fan of Darn Tough socks.
|Generic, thin polypro.
|2 oz per pair
|I wore one pair and washed/dried the second. I think liner socks are a good idea, especially for wet walking.
|Perhaps the best warmth to weight ratio of any item you carry.
|Good for keeping the sun off my face and the rain and sun out of my eyes. I used a (gasp) cotton cap. When it was raining I had my rain parka hood up.
|Mountain Hardwear Fleece
|Good gloves. As long as they fit, I can’t get too excited about one brand over another.
|I used these a lot, most importantly for tightly blousing my rain pants around the tops of my boots for stream crossings. Really helped keep my feet dry on some days.
|I carried two small, 1 fluid oz. bottles of 100% DEET between supply caches. Nothing beats DEET and contrary to popular belief appears to be safe if used correctly. Normally 30% DEET is sufficient. I chose 100% and used it very sparingly. Bring a head-net too if you like.
|18 oz. w/ battery and tape.
|This is a great camera. It takes high quality stills and very good digital video. Ten power optical zoom for both. Now long obsolete! Shop for a better camera.
|Extra batteries, tapes, remote, telephoto lens, filters, manual, cleaning cloth, carrying pouch (usually carried on my pack chest strap for fast and easy access,) heavy-duty “ziplocs” to protect camera.
|I used this tripod a lot and was very pleased with it. Usually I’d just set my camera and tripod on a rock or my pack. If I need more height, I’d often wedge my hiking pole against my pack and then velcro this tripod to the top of the pole.
|Brunton Solaris 12
|13 with case.
|Compact, light, no babying required. Folds up to 5″ X 9.”
|This includes the cords to plug my satellite phone to the solar panel, and my camera battery charger and cord. Rated “Good” despite the fact that I had to repair (and later replace) my Impact brand charger cord. It was a good and lightweight charger other than that, though.
|Motorola 9505 Iridium
|14.4 with battery
|Iridium is the only service that covers all Alaska and the globe. Worked every place I tried it except one steep canyon. I bought a prepaid card from Roadpost. Friendly folks but not great at answering questions. The new model phone is the Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone
|Lock & Lock
|Looks like a “Tupperware” container but better snaps. Lasted all summer, light and inexpensive. Kept things dry. Stored my satellite phone, cords, tapes, camera charger and extra battery, etc.
|Repair Kit, Possibles bag
|Included duct tape (wrapped around my water bottle) a small tube of super glue, safety pins, P-38 can opener, 3 small cable ties, Classic Swiss Army knife, needle (dental floss for thread,) fine copper wire, tiny filter straw for drinking water, rubber bands, a length of fly line with leader material and a several flies and spinners, a spare book of matches, candle stub, 20′ parachute cord, etc. Smallest items stored in an empty floss box. Duct tape was wrapped around water bottle.
|Leatherman Juice S-2
|A good, small, lightweight multi-tool which includes important items like pliers, scissors and knife.
|I had two pairs of prescription eyeglasses. Always good to have a back up. This pair were polarized sunglasses. One of the few things I wish I had brought but didn’t was a hard lightweight case to carry them in.
|When I started I was carrying about 2 1/2 pounds per day. After the first cache I was only carrying about 2 lbs. a day and starting each segment of my hike with about 8 days of food. Naturally the food weight would decrease to nearly nothing as I neared the next cache. I had a good variety of dry, energy rich foods that I enjoy.
|I carried two mini lighters. One of them with my stove and one separately in my shirt pocket.
|Lightweight, strong. I didn’t carry a fork and my Leatherman had a knife.
|MSR Titan Kettle
|.85 liters. Titanium is great but expensive. Its main advantage compared to aluminum is strength. Had this pot been available in aluminum at half the price, I would have gone that route. Excellent design overall. It has a tight fitting lid, vent hole, pour spout and plastic covered lid handle. Handles can get hot so watch out.
|Brasslite Turbo F
|< 1 oz
|I like alcohol stoves for solo trips. I don’t cook a lot, and only boil about a quart of water per day average. A good wind screen is important for alcohol stoves such as the setup I used on the Appalachian Trail: an MSR windscreen skewered with two tent stakes at the proper height to form a pot stand. I didn’t have one on this trip and it was my biggest packing mistake. I now favor the Caldera Cone system.
|Denatured Alcohol or HEET
|The amount and type of fuel I carried varied depending on which cache I had just picked up. One 20 oz. soda bottle full of denatured alcohol or HEET was plenty for a week or more. Since alcohol only weighs about .8 oz per FLUID oz., the total weight is about 17 oz.
|About 1 ounce for three sacks. I bought these to do some “freezer bag cooking” which is basically putting your fast cook rice or noodles in a plastic bag, pouring in water, sealing it up and letting it steep. These bags were said to be super tough and odor proof. I poured boiling water in the first one. It leaked. Same with the second one. I didn’t bother trying the third. I got by with just my cooking pot and regular zipper bags, no problem. Someone at Watchful Eye Designs came close to calling me a liar when I told them the new bags leaked. In the end they refunded all of my money, and gave me some free samples.
|Because of all the topography, my GPS and maps, I rarely had to use my compass, but had one in my shirt pocket at all times. The mirror could have been used to signal aircraft and it was interesting to watch my gray beard grow!
|Garmin Geko 301
|Worked well. Now I use a mapping GPS the Garmin eTrex Legend HCx It’s great being able to see exactly where you are on a topo map!
|I carried 1:250,000 series topographic maps. I’d planned my route and drew it out on the maps with highlighter before the trip, except for some stretches between Anaktuvuk Pass and the Noatak River where I had a general idea. I carried FAA Sectional maps for “the big picture” and to make it easier to plot my coordinates I was getting from my GPS. I had also downloaded and printed detailed topo maps of difficult passes. I used the backs of the topo maps to keep a daily log of my trip.
|Very light and compact. The water tastes great. Simple to use. No pump handles to break. Comes in two bottles. Mix a few drops from each in the cap. The only drawback is that you have to wait 15-30 minutes to drink.
|Generic 1 Quart
with duct tape
|I like tough, cheap, light plastic bottles. I had about 20 feet of duct tape wrapped around the bottle for various repairs, and used every bit. (Pack repair, sleeping pad repair, etc.)
|I am a big fan of heavy duty bags of the Ziploc design. Choose the freezer bag style or whatever is the thickest (check to see how many mils they are.) I use these for sorting out small items, keeping toilet paper dry, I use gallon-size ones for maps, “freezer-bag-cooking” (see Cooking Bags above) etc. I don’t like to carry a lot of extra stuff backpacking, but always carry some extra zipper bags.
|Stored in a zipper bag. Properly chosen tundra works well, too!
|I sawed the handle of my toothbrush off halfway. Smallest tube of toothpaste I could find. Floss also served as sewing thread.
|Casio Databank 150
|Even though I was in the middle of nowhere it was still nice to have a watch. It’s easy to lose track of the day of the week and date without one. On cloudy days it’s nice to know what time of day it is, too. This watch also stores numbers and has a calculator which I found handy when figuring mileages, averages and the like.
|Twice during my trek I had opportunities to purchase supplies: at Anaktuvuk Pass and Noatak. Plus, you just never know. I should have carried my debit card, too, for when I got to Kotzebue at the end and I needed some more greenbacks. (Didn’t know my CC PIN!)
|State of Alaska
|I did some fishing all along the trip. I had my hunting license in case I decided to bag a caribou on the Noatak. I also always carry the applicable regulations (fishing regs only until I got to the boat on the Noatak) as there is always some law I need to check in the field.
|I always carry a few of these thin, light plastic bags. I use them for trash, to carry wet socks in on a rainy day, etc.; I even used them as a vapor barrier between soaked boots and my dry socks/feet.
|I had a sleeping bag stuff sack and two stuff sacks I used for my shelter, extra clothes, and the like. These latter stuff sacks went in the side pockets of my pack.
Gear I picked up and used when I reached the Noatak River.
|Soar Pro Pioneer
|Larry Bartlett was kind enough to loan me this boat. It’s about 16′ long and 4′ wide, more of a narrow raft than a canoe. It was a very good boat: much lighter and more compact than my conventional raft, easier to row, better in the wind and much more stable than a conventional canoe, with a rated capacity of 1,500 lbs.
|11 lbs. with straps
|This was a real eye-opener for me. My conventional frame works great, but it is big, bulky and heavy. The Oar Saddles fit like a saddle over each tube. They are more compact and lighter than a conventional frame with very little sacrifice in performance. For a wilderness trip like this where weight and bulk matter, they were perfect.
|7 1/2′ Carlisle
|9 lbs. (two oars)
|Worked well. I’d consider 7′ oars on my next trip, though, because the Noatak was a piece of cake for his setup, and shorter oars would be slightly easier to hold in the “rest” position. Also, I foolishly didn’t bring a spare oar although luckily I didn’t need one!
|Sevylor Riverboat Pump
|1 lb. 11 oz.
|The Pro Pioneer held air well so I didn’t need to use this pump too much, but when I did it worked great.
|+- 1 lb.
|Comes with the basic repair kit items, plus 8-oz supply Clifton Adhesive, industrial sewing needle and repair thread, spare material, compact screw driver, Gator Clamps, permanent marker, spare air valve, zip-ties, and spare air valve/hose adapter. A good kit is priceless if you need it!
|+- 2 lbs
|A basic life vest. Wore it all the time on the river, but the only time I really used it was as a sleeping pad.
|Cabela’s Ankle Fit
|I’ve had these boots for a long time and have gotten great use out of them. I should have replaced them before this trip, though as they were just starting to crack. Good thing I had repair materials. Rated outstanding because they have served well for many years.
|Bear Barrels w/Wrench
|+- 60 lbs
|I got a one-time exemption from the good folks at Gates of the Arctic National Park to cache my gear briefly at the headwaters of the river. To protect if from bears, I bought a 55 gallon drum and borrowed a smaller steel food storage drum from the NPS and stowed everything except my oars inside. If I had dropped it off myself I probably would have used an electric bear fence.
|Stainless Ruger 30-06 w/ Leupold VX-3 2.5-8x
scope and scope cover
|8 lbs total.
|Much to the horror of most folks, I didn’t have a firearm until the Noatak. Ended up not firing a shot the whole trip. Rated Outstanding because I know this is a great setup and this gun got rained on, a lot, with no ill effects.
|30 rounds Federal Fusion 165 gr.
|I was considering taking a caribou along the river. This is not the best grizzly ammunition, but still has 2850 foot pounds at the muzzle, which is about where the bear would be if I had to shoot one!
|License, Hunting Regs, Harvest Tickets
|State of Alaska
|Ended up not using them, but I wanted the option. I always carry the regulations.
|T.A.G. Bags, Pristine Ventures
|2 lbs for six 28″ x 60″ bags
|I’ve never used these but have heard good things.
|Leupold 7 x 25
|These are old, veteran green armored binos. Light and handy.
|3, Various Manufacturers
|NRS Bill’s Dry Bag
is a good value.
|Brought this one for the river segment. Ended up just using Aqua Mira. I rated it “Good” from prior experience, but much prefer the Aquamira Water Drops.
|Aluminum Foil, salt, pepper, margarine, etc.
|On the river I had a few extra luxuries, like more spices and foil for cooking fish. I FOUND a folding grill though, which worked great for cooking fish over hot coals. I’d split them in half, first.
|Great mittens, warm, durable.
|Gore-Tex Mitten Shells
|Should have replaced these before the trip because they leaked.
|1 lb 9 oz.
|After hiking most of the summer with one pair of footwear it was a real treat to have camp shoes. The rating is for the idea of camp shoes, not the particular model.
|Patagonia, Full Side Zip
|Warm and easy to get on and off.
|Don’t know the exact model, but Patagonia makes great (if somewhat overpriced) fleece jackets. This one has PEF breathable windstopper in it.
|2 lb. 9 oz.
|This is an old, loyal down parka. Not the lightest, but very warm. You cannot be dressed too warmly on a cold windy day on a river in Alaska! Good instead of outstanding because of the weight compared to better down.
|These are the 8 1/2′ by 9 1/2′ reinforced blanket. Very useful for emergency bivouacs, signaling your air taxi, covering gear, etc. (Do NOT rely on the thin space blankets that tear easily.)
|On river trips it’s nice to have a good tarp. This one is about 10 X 12 with good reinforced grommets along the side. Good for covering game, gear, your boat, as a cooking area in rainy weather, etc.
|Eagle Claw & Generic
|I brought one old Eagle Claw combination fly/spin rod that I’ve had for 25 years, and one fly rod. One day my fly rod inexplicably broke in half while casting. I must have stepped on it while landing a fish. Incredibly, my old Eagle Claw also broke about one half hour later! After experimenting, I repaired both rods successfully by overlapping the broken ends, splinting them with tent stakes, then wrapping them tightly with duct tape. Looked ugly, but I landed dozens of big char and salmon after that with them! I give them a good because of many years of good service.
|Generic, 2 Spinning and one Fly Reel
|I had a spare spinning reel although I ended up not needing it.
|Lures and Flies
|Green and orange pixies with brass and silver blades, Mepps and Vibrax spinners of various sizes For flies I did the best with large green flies with brass heads of the wooly bugger family, and orange flies such as Polar shrimp. I pinched all hook barbs. Treble hooks should be replaced with new, single hooks (cutting off hooks leave sharp edges that injure fish.)
|Leaders, extra line, sinkers, hemostat, measuring tape, vest, fly boxes, regulations, etc.
|Nothing special, the usual fishing stuff.
|Camera Dry Box
|While backpacking I used ziplocks to keep my camera dry. On the river, where weight wasn’t a big issue, I used this dry box. It made my camera fast to access and was very effective.
|Books and Magazines
|Jack London, etc
|It was a luxury having lots of reading materials on the river.
|Wenger Microlight Esquire
Swiss Army Knife
|< 1 oz.
|A good, tiny backup knife that includes a blade, tweezers, scissors, an LED light and more.
|Information and Notes
|I researched out hunting, fishing, hiking and river information well before my trip. I condensed and printed out this information. It included a map of Kotzebue, phone numbers, etc.
|It was light out 24 hours a day until late August. For the end of the trip, I had an old Petzl headlamp. Still a good light (I’m a big fan of headlamps instead of flashlights so I can keep my hands free) but the new LED headlamps are the way to go for light weight and long battery life.
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Running time, 90 Minutes