Items you need on the trail
Hiking in Alaska can be tricky business.
It might be a hot, sun-shining clear day when you start up a trail, a great day to travel light and just leave the pack in the car. Then, halfway up a trail on, say, Lazy Mountain, everything will change. Suddenly thick clouds waft in, a chill wind escalates and sleet falls—in June!
Here’s a list of what you can wear or bring on a hike that will keep you comfortable and might even save your life. »
1. Comfortable shoes appropriate for the terrain: Tackling a long, steep, uneven, rocky or slippery trail requires a shoe or boot with deeper tread and more support around the foot and ankle.
2. Non-cotton layers you can add or subtract as needed—thin long underwear, shirt and pants (shorts aren’t a great idea because many of the trails in our area are rimmed with irritating or prickly plants like devil’s club and cow parsnip), lightweight fleece, rain-jacket and pants. A windproof layer is easily
tucked into a pack. Bring a wool or polyester hat and gloves.
3. An appropriately sized backpack with a properly fitting hip belt and chest buckle.
4. A fully charged cell (or a satellite phone, if you’ll be out on a longer trip in remote areas).
5. First-aid supplies, in a waterproof container.
6. Plenty of water: You can bring water in bottles or reservoir bags. NEVER drink from a stream, lake or other body of water without purifying the water with a filter, iodine, purifier tablets or by boiling.
7. Food: Pack things like sandwiches, trail mix, fruit, Clif (or similar) bars and/or smoked salmon strips, in containers that keep the food from being mashed to mush inside your pack.
8. Topographic map and compass or a GPS: Learn how to use them properly before relying on them in the field!
9. Mosquito repellent with DEET: Don’t apply to the hands of very young children.
10. Toilet paper, in a Ziploc plastic bag.
12. Sunscreen: Use a high-SPF product and reapply it throughout the day. Also use lip balm with sunscreen.
13. Bear spray/bear bells/weapon (if you’re well-trained in how to carry and
use one safely).
14. Cap: To help keep the sun off your face and the sun out of your eyes.
15. Whistle: Can be useful in case a child or someone else gets separated from the group.
16. Small garbage bags: Use these for garbage, slide one over your backpack if it starts to rain, sit on one if the ground is sloppy, or toss your muddy, sweaty boots and clothes inside one after you’re finished hiking.
17. Diapers, child snacks and other things you might need if you’re bringing kids too small to carry their own pack.
18. Parking pass sticker, or money to pay parking fees, as well as a pen for filling out the envelope for the parks-pass fee.
19. Bandana: Wrap your lunch in one of these, blow your nose with it, shield your nose and mouth from dust or create a makeshift hat if the sun gets intense.
20. Hiking poles: Terrific for helping you safely descend steep terrain, reducing the punishment knees receive during an outing, helping children cross streams or hike down from steep places.
Tracy Kalytiak is senior editor of Alaska magazine. She lives in Palmer and enjoys hiking steep trails.