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 sometimes necessary to reach the put-in or takeout, and then there’s also the daily loading and unloading of the boats. Too many 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 can provide both the 115 liter river bag and the 20 liter day bag for you if you don’t have your own.

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 parka and a Goretex 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 doesn’t necessarily need to fit over it. On the bottom: two pairs long johns, one pair of hiking pants and Goretex 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 from day to day and year to year.

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

Canoe Trips: We choose moderate rivers for canoe trips and there is usually little splashing from the river. Rubberized rain bibs and waders are not necessary, but good quality rain gear and rubber boots are critical.

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 60 days prior to your trip. Items we can provide for you are denoted with “AW” below.

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, LL 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. The stakes you bring must be able to hold in sand and gravel. We highly recommend yellow plastic 9” “Power Pegs.” There are lots of great tents on the market including Hilleberg and North Face. We offer Alps Outfitter Extreme tents.


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. Women often sleep colder than men, and a sleeping bag liner is a good way to add warmth and versatility.


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 can provide XtraTuf boots. A brand called MuckBoots are also popular.

Boot insoles or footbeds: Even if (especially if) you are using our boots, 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, but not for canoe trips. If you have Goretex chest waders with a wading belt, they are a good alternative on most rafting trips. We can provide Helly Hansen brand bibs. Stearns and others make similar “rubber” bibs.

Rain Jacket: We recommend 3 layer Goretex or similar. Good quality rain gear is absolutely essential. Patagonia makes a nice coat that fits the bill.

Rain pants: Unlike the bibs above, these are lighter weight, and not necessarily rubberized. We recommend newer Goretex or Goretex knock-offs. These are the rain pants you will take on a day-hike. On a canoe trip these will be your only rain pants, so should be sturdy.

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

Lightweight hiking boots: Lightweight hiking boots 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 or purchase waterproof stuff sacks from Sea to Summit or similar.

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 neccesary if you have waterproof stuff sacks.

Socks: 4 -5 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 and Marmot both make good parkas. Go BIG.

Warm layers: Fleece jacket, wool shirt, or down hoody. You need a total of 5 layers on your torso including long-johns but not including your big parka. They should be sized so they can be worn together.  A cozy configuration could be 2 long-john shirts, one down sweater, one fleece jacket, and a down vest. If in doubt, bring all your choices to the pre-trip meeting and we will help you choose.

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 hats. 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 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 – 2 pairs of pile or wool gloves for around camp

Overmitts or paddling gloves: Overmitts go over your warm gloves when paddling for a waterproof layer. Outdoor Research (OR) makes some nice ones. Another option is a rubber fishing glove, the Atlas 282. Neoprene mittens, or just oversized rubber dish gloves also work.

Quart water bottle: or two if you’re the thirsty type.

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

Toilet paper: Place in a quart-size Ziploc bag. We find people like to have their own.

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.

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.

Not recommended

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 optics.


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.