by Diane Spicer
In a hurry?
Hikers are fanatical list makers.
At least they should be, particularly when they 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.
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.
When I sit down to plan a hiking trip, I chunk my gear into 3 big categories:
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.
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.
Look for a tent which is rated as reliable in these more extreme conditions.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Your food should be stored away from the cooking area, and far away from your tent, in the canisters and sacks as noted above.
There are two other bear deterrents you should have with you if you're hiking in Alaska:
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.
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.
I would also recommend a fleece hat as you eat breakfast on cool mornings, or to sleep in if you're a cold sleeper.
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.
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:
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!
These are things you won't find on my Wrangell St Elias gear list.
Leave your shorts and tank tops behind.
Don't bring a head lamp.
There's no need for a sleeping bag liner in high summer.
Stash your cell phone and give your social media habits a break, because there's no coverage. Ever.
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.
I also brought my Seattle Sombrero hat, to give myself a less claustrophobic feeling when I don my rain jacket.
There were a few things I yearned for.
It would have been really pleasant to have these things:
Well, what do you know!
I created a pdf list, just for you.
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!
Wrangell St Elias Gear List
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