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Backpacking gear recommendations for Alaska in August - Denali and Kenai Peninsula
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Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Backpacking gear recommendations for Alaska in August - Denali and Kenai Peninsula on 01/20/2011 12:31:48 MST Print View

Kindly provide gear recommendations for backpacking in Denali and the Kenai Peninsula in Aug. Some articles I read imply I will need bombproof tents, heavy gore-tex raingear, heavy boots, etc.

Can I use my usual two-to-three season lightweight gear: silnylon tarp plus bug tent, 1.1 oz ripstop wind suits, lightweight raingear and/or umbrella, lightweight low hiking shoes, quilt good to 32 degrees, etc?

I've never been to Alaska before, so any and all information will be appreciated. We will be hiking mainly in the lowlands.


Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Backpacking gear recommendations for Alaska in August - Denali and Kenai Peninsula on 01/20/2011 12:57:21 MST Print View

First, you might want to read up on how to deal with wildlife, like grizzlies.

Second, learn how to deal with rain and the standard mosquito population.


Cassie Thomas
(Kesugi) - F

Locale: Anchorage
It will be colder than you think! on 01/20/2011 16:13:37 MST Print View

August can be rainy in Southcentral Alaska and the Alaska range. You will likely be hiking and camping above treeline much of the time, especially in Denali. (Treeline up here is around 2000' depending on aspect and latitude.) I've used a tarp tent and 0F WM down bag in Denali State Park at 3000' in early July and, even with a very short night, still been pretty cold. Think low 40s and windy, with no real shelter from either. It could also snow and frost at night, especially in Denali in late August. No way would I use an umbrella. I take a full set of 200-300 weight fleece plus fleece gloves and hat, plus Marmot Precip jacket and pants, for wearing in camp (and wear all the other layers I have with me, too). If you are anywhere near a glacier, catabatic winds will make it colder still. If you have access to a single-wall expedition tent that might be the best alternative, since condensation is not usually a big problem here. Air temps are too low and it seldom rains hard for hours at a time. Cloud ceiling is low, though, so you are in the clouds a lot getting damp and chilled.

It could be sunny part of the time, of course. Bugs are really not a big deal anywhere you'll be hiking or camping. I seldom use DEET. Bring long nylon or softshell pants and a light-colored nylon shirt -- latter will provide some wind protection and also keep the bugs off your arms if you have to pump water in a boggy spot.

Take something to wear on your feet during river crossings. Water will be glacial melt. Learn safe crossing techniques. I use cheap and lightweight plastic shoes that are like enclosed Crocs with Velcro. With socks on they double as camp shoes.

You are required to carry all your food and toiletries in a bear resistant barrel while in DENA -- make sure it fits inside your pack as they are hard to secure to the outside and doing this is terrible for your center of gravity.

Hope this helps, and enjoy our beautiful state!

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Some thoughts on Alaska gear on 01/21/2011 01:42:09 MST Print View

As usual, gear choices are highly subjective, and how you use gear is likely more important than the exact gear you use.

Alaska can often be rainier and windier than some places many of us are accustomed to, and the consequences of getting too cold and wet are more serious because bail-out options aren't as readily available.

My standard gear for August in Alaska includes a Lunar Solo or a Tarptent. I'm careful about where I set up, and those shelters have always worked well for me. If you have a lot of experience and will have access to wind sheltered areas (I commonly camp in openings in willow thickets or spruce trees) light shelters should work fine for you.

My standard sleeping bag is a 20 degree down bag which I'm careful to keep dry and has always kept me warm. A 32 degree quilt might work, but will be marginal, at best, if you are tired, wet and chilled. You know how it is with temperature ratings: major subjectivity.

I use standard breathable rain/wind gear. Personally, I absolutely would not choose an umbrella for Alaska hiking as it wouldn't mix well with wind and/or brush.

The ground will be wet a lot in many places. I usually use light, broken-in, high top leather Gore-tex boots. If there's a perfect type of Alaska backpacking footwear, I have yet to find it. Often I can keep my feet dry (at least for a while!) in wet conditions by blousing my rain pants over the tops of my boots with rubber bands to keep water from splashing in. It can even work for a few steps in barely-over-the-boot-top water. Sometimes.

Late August tends to run much cooler and less buggy than early August of course. A good rule of thumb in Alaska is to always carry DEET except in the winter. I have run across bad bugs in Alaska in August many times.

I was in Washington on the PCT in September this year (think wet and chilly weather a lot,) and would be perfectly comfortable using that same gear in Alaska in August.

FWIW, here's my gear list from my Alaska traverse.

This looks like another well thought-out list.

Cassie Thomas
(Kesugi) - F

Locale: Anchorage
Forgot to mention: you will be bushwhacking in Denali on 01/21/2011 13:21:11 MST Print View

There are no trails in Denali's backcountry units. In almost every unit, you will have to bushwhack to get out of river valleys and up onto tundra. The willow and alder can be rain soaked and over your head. I would not take low boots for this reason, and I would want sturdy rain gear. See for a recommended gear list and other info.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Forgot to mention: you will be bushwhacking in Denali on 01/21/2011 13:27:45 MST Print View

What Cassie just stated is very true. Last July I found the willow thickets in Denali to be almost impenetratable and 7-8 feet high. When you first head out walking across the tundra, it is almost better to jump in the first big water puddle that you see and get the "wet feet" problem over with, because your feet will get wet anyway, sooner or later.


Dan Magdoff
(highsierraguy) - F

Locale: Northern California
Alaska in August on 01/22/2011 23:53:32 MST Print View

So I am doing my first trip to Alaska this summer as well, but I am going to be going out of Juneau, and more towards the beginning/ middle of August.

For that time and area, would you recommend the same general gear, or would you change things?

I want to get a new rain jacket before I go. I would be using it for both backpacking, and to wear when I do the kayaking portion of my trip. Is there any jackets that you would recommend?


Edited by highsierraguy on 01/23/2011 03:24:08 MST.

Cassie Thomas
(Kesugi) - F

Locale: Anchorage
Juneau/SE Alaska is in a temperate rain forest on 01/24/2011 16:21:35 MST Print View

Southeast Alaska might as well be in a different state from the rest of AK! E.g. while we only get 15-16" of precip/year here in Anchorage, Juneau gets 4X this, and that's measured at sea level. The higher you go, the higher the precip. Staying dry and warm can be a challenge. My only experience backpacking down there was on the Chilkoot Trail, the first half of which, on the US side, on the wet side of the divide. I was clammy but dry in my Marmot Precip pants and jacket, and glad there were cooking shelters. Be aware that laminated rain gear will wet through after days of exposure. If you are going to be sitting in a sea kayak in driving rain, you might want something more robust. Personally I would take a Goretex paddle jacket/dry top. If you are kayaking anywhere near glaciers the air and water will be cold and you will appreciate several layers of polypro under a truly waterproof top.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Yeah, a .44 magnum minimum... on 01/25/2011 00:39:14 MST Print View

I'd prefer my nice .300 Winchester Magnum Browning A Bolt or better yet one of the larger calibers. And no scope, just a "hunter's" peep sight for fast target aquisition.

But Tarus makes a very light .44 magnum revolver made partially from - you guessed it - titanium. A 4 inch barrel is the minimum for proper velocity. Then PRACTICE with it.

And a Bible downloaded onto your I-Pod for worst case scenarios. :)