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Wrangell St Elias Gear List:
Be Prepared To Be Prepared

By Diane Spicer

In a hurry?

Here's your bullet point Wrangell St Elias gear list!

Use this backcountry hiking gear list from Hiking For Her for planning your next backpacking adventure. It got me to Wrangell St Elias and back again, so it will work for you, too!

You're here for the Hiking For Her Wrangell St. Elias gear list, aren't you!

You must be a fanatical list maker.

At least you should be, particularly when you are headed somewhere as wild and scenic as Wrangell St Elias National Park and Preserve in southeast Alaska.

So please feel free to use my Wrangell St Elias gear list to double check your own list if you're headed into the wilds of this park.

  • The last chance to purchase most backpacking and backcountry gear items is Anchorage, and you'll be a long, long way from Anchorage when you get started hiking!

This gear list is also helpful as a general resource for backpacking and base camping excursions into the backcountry.

If you'd like to read about hiking in this national park before you tackle the gear list, go here first.

Hiking For Her's Wrangell St Elias gear list basic approach

When I sit down to plan a hiking trip, I chunk my gear into 3 big categories:

  • survival items such as shelter, food & water storage, communication devices, and bear deterrents
  • hiking fundamentals, such as footwear, clothing and trekking poles
  • comfort and happiness items

So let's use that approach here to build a comprehensive gear list that will maximize your chances of a great hiking trip.

This list got me to Wrangell St Elias, fully prepared and confident that I could handle weather, predators, navigation and all of the wonderful little surprises Mother Nature had in store for me.

So it should work for you as well.

Wrangell St Elias gear list:

Ever notice how vulnerable you feel under the wide open sky?

And how that feeling of vulnerability increases when a cold wind blows and the skies open up to deliver copious amounts of precipitation upon your head?

I recommend channelling that "I'm so small in this vast wilderness" feeling as you think about how you're going to keep yourself alive and healthy on your trip.


Most of my hiking is done where it's cold and wet, yet with a hopeful possibility of warm and dry weather.

Keeping the human body warm and dry through nasty weather is a challenge, but it's a winnable one with the right preparation and gear.

A rain fly covered tent over a fitted footprint gives you double walled protection against moisture and wind.

  • Never underestimate the power of this combination, especially if you're camping at higher elevation in an exposed area like this one.
Exposed high alpine terrain at Wolverine, Wrangell St Elias, Alaska

Look for a tent which is rated as reliable in these more extreme conditions.

  • A snapped tent pole guarantees you a miserable (possibly dangerous) experience.

I was pleased that my MSR Hubba Hubba tent stood up to 12 hours of disgustingly strong gusts of wind when I was in this high alpine area (Wolverine).

Food & water storage:
important Wrangell St Elias gear list items

The National Park Service mandates bear deterrence for your food, using bear canisters and Ursacks.

This is for the bear's protection as well as yours, because a hungry bear (an oxymoron) which discovers that your food is much easier to acquire than hers will spell trouble for all involved.

  • The Park Service will rent you a bear vault, so you really have no excuse for not using one.

Another issue is finding, and storing, potable water.

There were two things that really helped with water storage and transport on my Wrangell St Elias hiking trip:

Tip: Never listen to someone who says "We can fill up at the next creek". Always have some water with you. You never know what will occur with weather, health or navigation so a filled water bottle is a safeguard to preserve your hydration status.

Communication with the outside world

Cell phones won't work, so you need to step up your technology to enable your communications with bush plane schedulers, emergency medical teams, etc.

It's good policy to carry two forms of communication devices, because as NASA learned from space flight programs, redundancy is always a good thing.

Tip: If your hiking group splits up for any reason, each of the groups should have a way to be located quickly and to summon help in an emergency.

Bear deterrents

Your food should be stored away from the cooking area, and far away from your tent, in the canisters and sacks as noted above.

  • These approaches will protect your precious food cache from chewing rodents, too.

There are two other bear deterrents you should have with you if you're hiking in Alaska:

  • a can of bear spray for each person, and the knowledge of how and when to deploy it;
  • an arsenal of common sense behaviors (because your brain deserves a spot on any Wrangell St Elias gear list)

Hiking where very large carnivores live should cause you to pay attention to your behavior, because frankly my dear, they don't give a damn.

A short list of how to change your behavior
in bear country

  • At the end of your hiking day, empty your pockets of everything with an odor and store it all in your food containers.
  • Keep a clean camp kitchen, which means picking up food scraps and not wiping your greasy hands on your clothing.
  • Scan for bears as you hike if at all possible: use the zoom lens on a video camera, or lightweight binoculars.
  • If you're down in the brush or hiking along noisy water features, you need to be singing and talking so the bears can clear out.
  • Avoid fresh bear scat and signs (gouged open hillsides, tracks, and flattened grasses) when locating your camp.
  • Don't automatically freak out if you spot a bear at a distance. Watch and size up the behavior, move away quietly, don't run.
  • If you encounter a bear suddenly at close range, grab your bear spray and prepare to use it (safety off, nozzle pointed at bear, good grip on your fear).

Wrangell St Elias gear list:

As a hiker, you have favorite footwear and clothing in whatever areas you routinely hike.

For this Alaskan hiking adventure, you'll need to consider a few specific items.

For example, I routinely hike in a ball cap or a sun hat which shields my face and ears from sunlight.

In Wrangell St Elias, with constant exposure to daylight and wind, I brought an extra protective hat with a back flap and chin strap.

  • It not only kept UV rays out of my eyes and off my skin, but the 7 inch back veil protected my neck from annoying biting insects.

I would also recommend a fleece hat as you eat breakfast on cool mornings, or to sleep in if you're a cold sleeper.

  • So much easier to stay warm than to get warm!

For water crossings (and there will be many) I learned a new trick: a lightweight pair of crocs made the swift, cold water with rocky or muddy bottoms much easier to navigate.

Female backpacker crossing a fast moving mountain stream using trekking poles and foot protectionCold water, tricky footing and a heavy pack: you need crocs on your feet!

Full disclosure: I used to make fun of these shoes, calling them ugly and clunky. But now I'm a fan of how well they stayed on my feet yet drained quickly with each step.

  • Be sure to get the type I had, with removable back straps. These slip on and off quickly, and can be used around camp with socks (to protect your feet from injury and insects) when you move the strap forward.

More safe water crossings tips here.

Wrangell St Elias gear list:
comfort and happiness items

Don't underestimate the toll a long hiking trip will take on you. If you're not used to constant exposure to the elements, sleeping on the ground, and a different diet than usual, your body will feel depleted.

I can only guess at what your comfort and happiness additions to a hiking gear list might be, but I know what keeps me happy in the backcountry:

  • Clean soft clothing to sleep in, like this silk long underwear. And in a pinch, they can be pressed into service to keep me warm during a cold snap because they retain heat while wicking moisture.
  • A warm sleep system. Include a clean pair of socks that are only worn to bed.
  • An inflatable backpacking pillow like this one.
  • A small backpacking hygiene kit. Be sure to include lightweight nail clippers to mend ragged cuticles before dirt and bacteria can enter your bloodstream.
  • Super lightweight space (i.e. shiny emergency mylar thermal) blankets to line my tent, creating an extra layer of protection and warmth when the ground is wet or rocky. They also ride along in my survival kit and first aid kit, because they weigh nothing yet provide an extra edge for an injured or delayed hiker.
  • Lip balm for UV protection and to get my mind off my dried, chapped lips and instead stay bear aware!
  • A fully charged Kindle to read when I can't leave the tent. Kindle hiking, in other words.
  • An indestructible double walled bottle for hot water and/or tea. I am a fiend for green and herbal teas when I'm on a long trip, and sipping tea at rest breaks or while enjoying a hard earned vista like this one feels heavenly. Tip: This piece of gear also encourages good hydration habits. Sometimes plain old water isn't as appealing as a cup of tea in the backcountry!
Russell Glacier with snow capped mountains in the background, Skolai, Wrangell St Elias in AlaskaThis vista of the Russell Glacier and snowy backdrop is a stunning place to enjoy a hot cup of tea!

What you can leave behind if you head
into this part of the world!

These are things you won't find on my Wrangell St Elias gear list.

Leave your shorts and tank tops behind.

  • Daytime temperatures might swing into the "warmer" range, but the bugs and challenging terrain will discourage you from baring your tender skin.

Don't bring a head lamp.

  • It never gets dark in high summer.

There's no need for a sleeping bag liner in high summer.

  • Temperatures won't dip into the range where you are going to shiver in your sleeping bag.
  • Hiking in June or August? You might need one! I always carry one, just because.

Stash your cell phone and give your social media habits a break, because there's no coverage. Ever.

What I brought but never used

Over many decades of practice, I've whittled my backpacking clothing list down to the essentials.

Yet I found myself with a few extra, unused items of hiking clothing on this trip.

We had an amazingly long stretch of warm, dry weather, so I could have left my down vest behind.

  • However, I used it as a pillow so it did have a purpose in my pack.

I also brought my Seattle Sombrero hat, to give myself a less claustrophobic feeling when I don my rain jacket.

  • Again, no rain on this trip, so no need for the hat. But you just never know! I would have been happy to see it on a rainy day.

Wrangell St Elias gear list regrets:
what I wish I had brought along

Wrangell Peaks Steamboat Hills AlaskaIn Alaska, hikers need to be prepared for any and all weather, all the time

There were a few things I yearned for.

  • Which just goes to show that a seasoned hiker is always learning some new tricks on every trip!

It would have been really pleasant to have these things:

  • a small inflatable cushion to do exactly that for my bottom, providing an escape from the brutality of the polycarbonate bear canister used as a chair during meals;
  • black out sleep eye mask to make falling asleep in the bright Arctic evening a whole lot easier;
  • extra hiking snacks, to keep my hangry hiker persona at bay. Hour after hour of hiking through challenging terrain burned enough calories to return home five pounds lighter!

Need this Wrangell St Elias gear list
for your own planning?

Well, what do you know!

I created a pdf list, just for you.

  • No explanations, just the list.
  • Plus a few hiking tips.

Please contact me if you've got questions or concerns about what's on this Wrangell St Elias gear list, and we can bounce some ideas around.

Because I want you to melt into the backcountry with confidence, knowing that you're fully prepared to be prepared to face anything Mother Nature cooks up for you!

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Wrangell St Elias Gear List

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