Backpack Equipment List

Please follow this equipment list and do not bring extra gear.

Packing for a backpacking trip is a balancing act. Too much weight and you are miserable carrying your pack; missing essential items and you are uncomfortable in camp or worse.

By carefully following this list, you can keep your personal gear, including the weight of the backpack itself, to 35 pounds and you’ll have what you need to thrive in the Arctic. Depending on the party size and duration of a trip, we’ll give you from 15-25 pounds of food, fuel, and community gear to carry. Expect to start an 8-day trip with around 50 pounds on your back.

This checklist has been developed from years and years of Brooks Range experience. These are proven items. That said, personal clothing is indeed personal. Bring what you know to be comfortable and practical. All garments should be synthetic polypropylene or wool because they are light, fast drying, and warmer when wet. Leave your cotton clothes at home.

This is the Arctic, and it snows every month of the year! You should have 5 layers for your top and 4 for the bottom. For example, on top: a short sleeve thermal shirt, one heavier long sleeve thermal shirt, one fleece jacket, one down vest or parka and a Gortex shell over everything. On the bottom: two pairs long johns, one pair hiking pants and Gore-Tex rain pants on top. With a warm hat and a neck gaiter you’re cozy even when the north wind howls.

Previous backpacking experience is required for most of our routes. Though the mileages we travel daily might seem meager, hiking in the arctic is an off-trail experience. Six miles can be as tough as ten elsewhere. We frequently use streams as our highways (as the animals do), crossing back and forth, utilizing the best hiking terrain. Expect to have wet boots much of the time while backpacking–- the scenery alone is worth it!

Conditioning for backpack trips: The better shape you’re in, the more you will enjoy backpacking. Even if you are very athletic, we recommend walking as often as possible with 25- 30 pounds in your backpack, wearing the boots you plan to hike in. A couple weeks before your trip, add weight until your pack weighs 40-45 pounds. You can alternate this with other cardiovascular & strength routines. Balance is critical on rough ground. Whatever you can do to improve your balance will pay big dividends.

We have a selection of camping equipment that we can lend you during your trip. If you have your own equipment you may prefer to bring it. If you do want to borrow ours please fill out our Equipment Request Form at least 30 days prior to your trip. Items which we can provide for you are denoted with “AW” below.

We suggest that you use this as a literal checklist. When all the boxes are checked, you are done. Anything not on the list doesn’t belong.

Having trouble keeping your personal gear within limits? Please contact us.

Backpack: Your backpack needs to be large enough to carry all of your personal gear, plus the food, fuel, and community gear we will give you at trip’s start. Packs should be at least 5,000 cubic inches (80 liters).


Tent: A 3- or 4-season tent able to withstand strong winds and medium snow load. The stakes you bring must hold in gravel. We highly recommend yellow, plastic 9” “Power Pegs.”  We offer MSR tents to use for backpacking trips.


Sleeping bag with stuff sack: Your sleeping bag should keep you comfortable to 15 to 20 F. The stuff sack should be lined with a plastic bag or placed in a waterproof stuff sack. Women often sleep colder than men, and a sleeping bag liner is a good way to add warmth and versatility.


Sleeping pad: Thermarest makes some really light ones if you want to invest in comfort. Ours aren’t quite that plush.

Hiking boots: There are no constructed trails in the Brooks Range. We hike cross-country, on soft, wet tundra and across streams. Your feet may be wet much of the time. Wear Goretex boots or leather ones that have been treated with sealant. Make sure your boots fit well and are broken-in.

Waterproof Socks: Use these over heavy socks for day hiking to keep your feet as dry as possible. Sealskinz are a good choice. 2 pairs would not be too many.

Camp shoes: Your hiking boots can fill this need if you are a minimalist. If you want something to change into at day’s end, light sneakers or Crocs are fine.

Stuff sacks: For packing gear and clothes. Line them with a plastic bag as an extra precaution or purchase waterproof stuff sacks from Sea to Summit or similar.

Day pack: For layover days. Bring a light one or use the top pocket or your main pack.

Trash compactor bags: For lining stuff sacks. This ensures that your clothes and sleeping bag will be dry. Try and find unscented ones. These are not necessary if you have waterproof stuff sacks.

Pack cover: Make sure it is large enough to fit over your loaded pack. If you put everything in waterproof stuff-sacks, you will not need a pack cover.

Socks: 4 pairs, heavy polypropylene or wool. Don’t skimp on this.

T-shirt and shorts: Sometimes it is hot. Really! At least in June and July.

Light weight long johns: 1 – 2 pair tops.

Light weight long johns: 1 – 2 pair bottoms.

Heavyweight long johns: 1 set of bottoms. Fleece pants are good too.

Rain Suit: Good quality, truly waterproof rain jacket and rain pants. Don’t skimp on these. Multi-layer Goretex or similar is good, and the newer the better. Patagonia has some good options.

Warm layers: Fleece jacket, wool shirt, and down sweater. You need to have 5 layers including long johns on your upper body. They should be sized so they can be worn together.  A cozy configuration could be 2 long-john shirts, one down puffy, one fleece jacket and a down vest. Your rain gear should be able to fit on top of everything.

Parka: This is for the really cold, bitter days or for the Arctic Coast. Marmot makes one that is both light and WARM.

Hiking pants: Synthetic, lightweight, and fast drying. Make sure these fit over long johns and fleece pants and under your rain gear.

Warm hat: A nice warm comfortable winter hat. Many guides prefer 2 hats. One thick one for the day and a thinner one for sleeping.

Neck gaiter: a.k.a. dickie, cowl, or neck warmer. A fleece or wool tube to wear around your neck or to augment your hat. A scarf works too. Buff makes some stylish ones.

Brimmed hat: Whether a ball cap or a wrap-around brim, you’ll need something for the intense, ‘round the clock arctic sunlight.

Gloves: 1 pair wind-stopper fleece or wool gloves.

Quart water bottle: Or 2 if you want.

Personal toiletries: Scale down… e.g. you won’t need a 6-oz. tube of toothpaste.

Toilet paper: Place the roll in a quart-size Ziploc bag.

Lighter: For burning toilet paper. You can bring this on your airline flight as carry-on or purchase when you get to Alaska.

Flashlight/headlamp: August and September trips only. Really!

Mosquito head net: You hope you won’t need it, but you’ll be so glad you have it.

Mosquito repellent: 35% DEET – put in a plastic bag.

Emergency Kit: Band-Aids, aspirin, Moleskin, sewing kit. We carry a full medical kit, but a few personal things come in handy.

Medications: Inform the guide of your medications and bring a backup supply of essential medications for the guide to carry.

Glasses or contacts: Bring an extra pair.

Sunscreen: 24 hour sun!


Lip balm, and hand cream: High quality cream will help prevent splits and cracks in your hands.


Highly Recommended

Trekking poles: While theoretically optional, they can be essential on stream crossings and on tussocks (rough ground).


Binoculars: Though these are technically optional, we strongly recommend that you bring binoculars. You miss a lot without quality optics. Vortex makes a nice entry level pair as does Maven.

Identification and Credit Card: In theory you won’t need any money or an ID on the trip. But sometimes plans change and planes get re-routed. An unexpected night in a village is possible. You might as well bring ID and a card just in case.