River Trip Equipment List – Arctic Alaska

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

Space is limited in the airplanes and boats we use. You’ll have to carry this stuff a lot: portages are often necessary to reach the put-in or takeout, and then there’s the daily loading and unloading of the boats. Having lots of unnecessary items only makes packing and unpacking cumbersome.

All your gear must fit in one large, waterproof ‘river bag’ and a small ‘day bag.’ We will issue you a day bag at the pre-trip meeting, and we have river bags available for rent. There are some items that we consider optional, but awfully nice to have at times. By carefully following this list you can keep your personal gear under 50 pounds.

This checklist has been developed from decades of 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.

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. If you have a really nice big ski jacket (and you should if you are headed to the arctic coast), your rain-shell need not fit over it. On the bottom: two pairs long johns, one pair hiking pants and Gortex rain pants on top. With a warm hat and a neck gaiter you’re cozy even when the north wind howls.

It can also be really hot, especially in late June or early July. Adequate protection from intense sun, heat and bugs is also important. The weather is extremely variable daily and yearly.

Rafting Trips: Our rafts are remarkable stable and safe but we do frequently get splashed. Rubberized rain-pants, with solid rubber boots or quality Gore-Tex wading bibs keep your lower body warm and dry.

Canoe Trips: We choose moderate rivers for canoe trips and there is usually little splashing. Rubber rain gear and waders are not necessary. Good quality rain gear and boots are still critical.

If you would like to rent any equipment from us please make note on your Rental Request Form. Items for “Rent” are indicated on the checklist below. There is no charge for Rentals on our Custom Trips but we still need the form.

Please 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 the 50 pound limit? Please contact us


Waterproof river bag: This is the bag that will hold the bulk of your gear. A good bag is Cascade Design’s Black Canyon Boundary 115. Suppliers like REI, NRS, L.L. Bean, and others carry these and similar bags. A bag with shoulder straps is essential. 115 liters is ideal but you can combine a couple smaller bags if you prefer.


Tent: A 3- or 4-season tent, able to withstand strong winds and medium snow-load. Make sure your tent is seam sealed either by you or at the factory. Bring a ground cloth (“footprint”). The stakes you bring must hold in gravel. We highly recommend yellow, plastic 9” “Power Pegs.” There are lots of great tents on the market. We favor Alps and Hilleberg.


Sleeping bag with stuff sack: Your sleeping bag should keep you comfortable to 15 to 20F. The stuff sack should be lined with a plastic bag.


Sleeping pad: Thermarests are the warmest


Rubber boots: These boots should come up to just below the knee and have room for insoles and heavy socks. Make sure they are comfortable, as you will spend many hours in them. We rent Xtra-Tuff boots. A brand called MuckBoots are also popular.

Boot insoles or footbeds: Even if you are renting boots from us, you should bring your own. Quick drying is important. Superfeet is a good brand.


Heavy-duty rain pants: Heavy-duty, extra-tall bib style rain pants like Grundens brand are all but required for use on rafting trips. If you have Gore-Tex chest waders with a wading belt, they are a suitable alternative on most rivers. We rent Helly Hansen brand. Stearns and others make similar “rubber” bibs.

Rain Jacket: We recommend 3 layer Goretex or similar. Good quality raingear is a must.

Rain pants: This is lighter weight, and not necessarily rubberized. We recommend Goretex or Goretex knock-offs. These are the rain pants you will take on a day-hike.

Day pack: Big enough for raingear, water-bottle, camera and an extra layer.

Lightweight hiking boots: Lightweight hiking boots are adequate for day-hiking.

Camp shoes: Your lightweight hiking boots can fill this need. Or bring a pair of lightweight shoes like Crocs, sneakers or sport-sandals.

Stuff sacks: For packing gear and clothes. Line them with a plastic bag as an extra precaution.

Trash compactor bags: For lining stuff sacks. This ensures that your clothes and sleeping bag will be dry. Try and find unscented ones.

Socks: 3-4 pair heavy polypropylene or wool

Light weight long johns: 1 – 2 pair tops.

Light weight long johns: 1 – 2 pair bottoms.

Heavy weight long johns: 1 pair bottoms.

Hiking/ camp pants: Synthetic, fast drying.

Heavy pants: Wool or fleece for the cold.

Big puffy parka/ ski jacket: This is for the really cold, bitter days. Down and synthetic are both fine. Hooded is best. Patagonia makes a good parka.

Fleece jackets/ sweaters and or wool shirts: You need a total of 5 layers on your torso including long-johns but not including your big parka. A cozy configuration could be 2 long-john shirts, one wool shirt, one fleece jacket and a down vest.

Shorts and T-shirt: Sometimes it is really hot, even in the arctic. Really!

Sun Shirt: Tightly woven, lightweight shirt to protect arms from sun and bugs.

Warm hat: A nice warm comfortable winter hat. Do not skimp here. 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 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 – 2 pairs of pile or wool gloves

Overmitts: These go over your gloves when paddling for a waterproof layer. Outdoor Research (“OR”) makes some nice ones. It’s a good idea on any Alaska river, but we really insist on them for the arctic rivers. Neoprene mittens, or just oversized rubber dish gloves also work well.

Quart water bottle: or two

Personal toiletries: Scale down. For instance, you will not need a 6-oz. tube of toothpaste.

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

Flashlight/headlamp: After August 1st only. Really. You won’t need it.

Mosquito head net: Hopefully you won’t need it but you will be really glad you have it if you do. Outdoor Research  makes a nice light one.

Mosquito repellent: Keep in plastic bags. 35% DEET is adequate.

Emergency Kit: Band-Aids, aspirin, moleskin, sewing kit. We carry a full medical kit, but having a few common items of your own is convenient.

Special medications: Inform the guide of your special medications and consider bringing a backup supply for the guide to carry.

Glasses or contacts: Bring an extra pair.

Sunglasses and croakies (Strings that hold sunglasses on).

Sun screen, lip balm, and hand cream: Cracked hands and sunburn can be a real problem for some people. Bring good quality hand salve like Bag Balm if you are prone.


“Bug shirt”: A very good idea during late June and July. Original Bug Shirt Company is a good brand.


Pocket knife


Goretex socks: Use these over heavy socks for day hiking to keep your feet as dry as possible


Cell phone: It won’t work.


Watch: Best to leave it behind with the cell phone and your other worries.

Don't Bring

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.


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


Camera: Bring lots of spare batteries and memory cards. A long lens and tripod are nice in our wide open landscapes. Pack in a waterproof, durable case.


Binoculars: Though these are technically optional, we strongly recommend that you bring binoculars. You miss a lot without quality binoculars.


Bird book/nature guide: We carry a small library of natural history titles and field guides. Ask your guide at the pre-trip meeting about the contents so we don’t duplicate.


Reading material, journal, and pen


Chair: We usually pack three-legged stools for your use. If you prefer a Crazy Creek chair or have another chair of your own, let your guide know and we won’t lug the extra stool


Small towel/wash cloth


Lighter: For burning toilet paper. We have some but you might want your own.


Fishing pole: A small, folding backpack rod is sufficient. Pack in rigid container.


Fishing reel: Doesn’t have to be fancy. 6-12# test line is sufficient for most trips. Fly fishers will, of course, want to bring a fly reel.


Fishing lures: The fish aren’t really picky. Spinners with orange dots like Mepps work fine. Bright colors are good when the water is murky. Grayling like flies. Char seem to like pink pixies.

Required if fishing

Fishing license: Fishing licenses can be obtained at many stores in Fairbanks or online. You may not fish anywhere in Alaska without a valid Alaska fishing license.