Alaska is the perfect place to go for a hike. Everywhere you look, wildflowers cover the landscape, mountains dominate the sky, and pristine forests hide curious wildlife. But before you walk into the woods unprepared, make sure you have all the essentials for hiking in Alaska.
We’re going to assume you already know you need water for any hikes and a tent and stove for overnight treks. Our brief list provides the essentials that you may not realize you need in the gorgeous and untamed Alaska wilderness. We’ve sectioned the items into things you’ll need for all hikes (regardless of distance), day hikes, and multi-day treks.
- Sturdy hiking boots. Many tourists assume that for a day hike in Alaska, running shoes will suffice. However, aside from the moose and bear scat (that’s poop) and multiple creek crossings that will make you pine for your sturdy boots, running shoes lack the ankle support needed when your foot just misses the rock and your joint slips.
- A buddy. Whether you’re hiking one mile or 100, a hiking partner is a safety net you don’t want to leave behind. Especially in Alaska. Hiking with a friend reduces your chance of an unwelcome wildlife encounter (hiking partners tend to scare the bears away) and helps broaden your perspective: more eyes on the landscape means you’re more likely to see that Bald Eagle’s nest.
- Emergency Blanket and First Aid Kit. Even on a short day hike, taking precautionary measures is always a good idea. If you sprain your ankle or fall in an icy cold river, you’ll want provisions that help you get back to town safely. It’s also wise to read up on wilderness survival tips before your hike, so you know what to do with the first aid kit if you ever do crack it open.
- Bear Spray. Bear attacks are rare, and if you listen to our advice and take a buddy, your chances are even lower. However, should you happen upon an eight-foot scary version of Smokey Bear, simply spray this unwanted “cologne” and the offender is certain to run back to his cave. When you do carry the spray, be sure you know exactly how it works and that it’s easily accessible.
- Crampons and an Ice Pick. You’re in Alaska, where there’s lots of snow and ice. Our glaciers are breathtaking to look at but can be a bit slippery to walk on. Even snowfields don’t show up on your terrain map, they can pop up unexpectedly. Even a mere 20-foot wide snowfield can be dangerous.
Use crampons (sharp cleats you strap on to your boots to help you grip the ice) and carry an ice pick when crossing any slope of snow or ice. If you slip, don’t panic. Just pierce the surface of the ice with your pick, dragging it behind you to slow you down until you stop. Then use the pick and your crampons to dig into the slope as you carefully climb to the other side.
- A Bear Bag and Rope. Smokey Bear is hungry and loves the granola bars you brought. A bear bag or odor-resistant container is necessary to keep all your delicious-smelling items overnight. In addition to your snacks and meals, you should also put drink powder, deodorant, toothpaste, and any other smelly stuff in the sack. So where do you keep all these tasty morsels? High up and as far away from you as possible.
When hanging your food, choose a tree branch at least 50 yards away from your campsite, and hang the bear bag and all your goodies up high. Keep in mind that bears can climb trees, so you want the bag far enough out on a branch that they won’t want to risk life and furry limb for your toothpaste.
Now that you have a better idea of what you need, get out there and enjoy the untamed beauty of our Alaska wilderness. Did we forget caribou jerky, glacier goggles, or another favorite must-have for your nature hike? Let us know in the comments below.