Please follow this equipment list and do not bring extra gear.
Packing for a backpacking and packrafting 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 30 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. Add on top of that the 10 – 15 pounds of the packraft, paddle and life jacket and you realize how important it is to pack carefully and limit what you bring. At trips start your pack will weigh between 55 and 65 pounds. If you can’t handle a pack of that size, please consider an alternate trip.
You will be floating and paddling much of the trip but there will be some hiking with a heavy load. With the exception of warm clothing, when in doubt, leave it behind.
This checklist has been developed from years and years of wilderness 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 or wool because they are light, fast drying, and warmer when wet. Please leave your cotton clothes at home.
When packrafting you will want to be waterproof from the tips of your toes to your neck. Arctic Wild will provide a dry-suit for your use.
This is Alaska, 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.
Some of our packrafting trips have long backpacking sections other trips have shorter hikes with heavy packs. Some of the trips are on challenging rivers some are easier. Please call us to discuss the particulars of your trip if you are unsure. Previous backpacking experience is highly recommended. Paddling experience is essential on some trips and very helpful on all packrafting trips. We can teach most inexperienced people to be safe on many rivers but taking a packrafting or kayaking course prior is a great idea.
Conditioning for packrafting trips: The better shape you’re in, the more you will enjoy the trip. 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. You can alternate this with other cardiovascular and strength and balance routines. Be sure to build your upper body too, especially working on the strength and flexibility of your shoulders. Packrafting trips are difficult, and worth it!
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, packraft, paddle, dry-suit, PFD, and community gear we will give you at trip’s start. Packs should not be smaller than 5,000 cubic inches (80 liters). Choosing a light pack that you can stow easily.
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.
Lightweight Dry-suit: You will paddle in a dry-suit to keep you comfortable and increase safety margins. If you have your own dry-suit, bring it.
We provide semi-dry suits from Kokatat and Stohlquist. These dry-suits have attached bootie-socks. You will need to bring shoes to be worn over the dry-suit socks.
Stuff sacks: For packing gear and clothes. Waterproof stuff sacks from Sea to Summit or similar are essential both while backpacking and to keep gear dry when stowed inside the packraft. 3 or 4 bags of different sizes is enough.
Hiking boots: There are no constructed trails in the Brooks Range. We hike cross-country, on soft, wet tundra and across streams. Make sure your boots fit well and are broken in.
Camp/ River Shoes: Many packrafters just bring hiking boots to keep packs light. But a pair of light tennies or crocs make decent camp shoes and can be worn over your dry-suit on the river too. You will wear either your camp shoes, or your hiking boots over your dry-suit.
2 Pairs Waterproof Socks: Use these over heavy socks inside your boots and over your dry-suit socks to protect them from abrasion. Sealskinz are a good choice.
Rain Jacket: Good quality, truly waterproof rain jacket. Don’t skimp here. Multi-layer Goretex or similar is good. Newer the better. Patagonia has some good jackets. When the weather is really bad you might even wear this on the river over your dry-suit.
Rain pants: In theory, your dry-suit can function as rain pants and jacket in one. But they are far from ideal, nearly unworkable.
Bring a simple pair of rain pants in addition to the dry-suit.
Socks: 3 or 4 pairs, synthetic or wool.
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.
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 and fast drying. Make sure these fit over long johns or fleece pants and under your wading pants.
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 little tube of fleece or wool to wear around your neck or to augment your hat. A scarf works too. Buff makes some stylish ones.
Brimmed hat: You will need something for the intense, ‘round the clock sun.
Paddling Gloves: 1 pair of river gloves. Another option is a rubber fishing glove, the Atlas 282 is excellent.
Fleece gloves: Wind-stopper fleece gloves for around camp.
Quart water bottle: 1 should be enough.
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 with a lighter.
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.
Sunglasses and croakies (strings that hold sunglasses on).
Binoculars: Though optional, we strongly recommend bringing binoculars.
Gaiters: These help keep water and debris out of your boots when backpacking
“Bug shirt”: A very good idea during late June and July. The Original Bug Shirt Company is a good brand.
Straps: For attaching things to your pack. If your pack is less than 80 liters bring extras.
Lighter: For burning toilet paper. You can bring this on your airline flight as carry-on or purchase when you get to Alaska.
Cell phone: It won’t work.
Watch: Leave it at home with the cell phone and other worries.
Satellite Phone, InReach, Spot Tracker or other satellite communication device: We carry a satellite phone for emergencies. Unplugging from communications is a valuable part of our trips. Call us if you want to discuss.
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.
Trekking poles: While theoretically optional, they can be essential on stream crossings and on tussocks (rough ground) but they are hard to pack in a packraft.
Camera, extra cards, spare batteries: in a waterproof case.
Fishing rod, reel and lures: Pack in rigid container. A small, folding backpack rod is ideal. Keep it light and simple.
Required if fishing
Fishing license: Fishing licenses can be obtained at many stores around Alaska or online. You may not fish anywhere in Alaska without a valid Alaska fishing license.