Camp Stoves

AK tested tough stamp green copyWhen you're camping out in the bush or on the roadside, there's almost nothing more important than having a stove that will light—every time. Hot food and drink go a long way when trying to stay warm and hydrated. You'll undoubtedly be bound for an uncomfortable, hungry night if your stove doesn't light when car camping. But that's not the worst of it: If you're hundreds of miles from the nearest road and your stove doesn't work, you won't get to eat—and if you're on a glacier, you can't melt snow for water to drink. It's hard to overemphasize the importance of owning a quality camp stove in Alaska.

That's why our team of Alaskan field testers took out the best camp stoves available—new and tried-and-true— and put them through the paces, from the back of their trucks, to climbing in the Wrangell and Alaska Ranges, and even kayaking in Kenai Fjords. These five came out on top.

 

MSR WLU LiquidFuel PRTN copy copy copyEDITOR'S CHOICE: MSR WhisperLite Universal

The apex of stove reliability in the field, the WhisperLite Universal consistently lit in every weather condition—from high altitude mountain blizzards to temperate rainforest downpours. Compact and lightweight (1 lb. 3.4 oz.), this dual fuel stove easily switches between mixed canister fuel—allowing for easy lighting and simmering at lower altitudes and warmer temperatures—and liquid fuels for longer trips, colder temps, and harsher weather. Bonus: the fuel jet self-cleans with a simple shake. $140, cascadedesigns.com

Buffalo Plaid MiniMo copy copy

 

Jetboil MiniMo

Perfect for solo or two-person backpacking trips, the MiniMo's compact and lightweight (14.6 oz.) design also sported an easy, button-push ignition and stayed operational down to 20° F. There's no need to pack an extra pot—the MiniMo comes with an insulated one designed to accommodate the stove for easy packing. Bonus: It can be converted into a coffee press with a separately sold accessory. $130, jetboil.com

 

 

BioLiteBioLiteCampStoveSM11112201V2 copy

When below tree line, our testers appreciated the convenience and simplicity of the BioLite stove. Operating off good old-fashioned wood-burning technology with a new twist (read: hyper-efficient), the BioLite allowed our testers freedom from carrying fuel—and worrying about running out of it. They were also pleasantly surprised by the fact that they could actually get a liter of water boiling in less than five minutes with only a couple handfuls of twigs. Bonus: You can also charge your USB compatible electronic devices with it (seriously). $130, biolitestove.com

2000007502 Hero copy copyColeman Classic 2-Burner

Classic for a reason, Coleman's Classic 2-Burner stove is ideal for campers that don't have to worry about the weight or size of their stove—say, if you're car camping, or on a river trip. Operating on white gas, this simple yet effective base camp-style stove will light no matter how cold it is. Our testers also loved the fact it has two burners, allowing you cook two things at once. Bonus: The 2.5-pint fuel tank can operate the stove for 2.5 hours without needing to be refueled. $140, coleman.com

353093 EtaExpressStove copyBEST BARGAIN: Primus ETA Express

Easy to start with a push of a button and extremely lightweight (15.8 oz.), the compact ETA Express offers all of the features you could possibly want in a 1-2 person backpacking stove, at price that's simply hard to beat. It includes a minimalist one-liter pot that the stove is designed to fit inside for easy packing, and a magnetic metal windscreen to keep the stove lit and cooking, even in glacial katabatic winds. Bonus: The pot's BPA-free plastic lid has a built in colander for straining, so you don't have to worry about dumping your dinner in the dirt. $115, primuscamping.com

Midweight Insulating Jackets

AK tested tough stamp green copyAn insulating midlayer is one of the most often used pieces of apparel in any Alaskan's closet, year-round. Especially come October. As snow begins to fall higher in the mountains, and daylight wanes, Alaskans (and visitors) need a warm jacket to take them through the next seven months—even in Southeast. The good news is you won't need a heavy down parka most of that time (unless you're on the North Slope). Pack some layers, along with one of these midweight insulating jackets, and you'll cut the wind and keep warm (without roasting) while you work and play outside through the fall, winter, and spring.

Our team of Alaskan testers spent several months trying out the best midweight insulating jackets on the market by hiking and climbing in the Chugach and Alaska ranges, fishing on the Gulf of Alaska, cross-country skiing, and mountain biking, and doing just about everything else we could think of with 'em. These five came out on top.

HellyHansen FW14 OdinInsulatorJacket copyEDITOR'S CHOICE: Helly Hansen Odin Insulator

The warmest of the midweight insulating jackets we tested, the light (14 oz.) Odin Insulator proved to be the most versatile in a variety of weather conditions. Its dense, ripstop nylon shell effectively blocked all but the strongest glacial winds, so our testers typically only needed to don a shell over the jacket in heavy rain and wet snow. Our testers also enjoyed its high, wind-blocking collar, cinchable hem, and fleece-lined hand warming pockets. Bonus: It compresses down to the size of a cantaloupe. $300, hellyhansen.com

 

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Hiking Boots Fit for Alaska

AK tested tough stamp green copyAny Alaskan will tell you: If you're going to invest in one piece of outdoor gear, get a solid pair of boots, because if your feet aren't comfortable here, you won't be either. The trick is keeping your toes content while bumbling through uneven tundra, up and down steep scree slopes, or slogging through the rainforest, usually carrying a pack. You simply need a quality, well-designed pair of hiking boots to explore all of what Alaska has to offer—most of which is off-trail. The good news is you have plenty of great options.

Our local experts put some of the best all-around hiking boots on the market to the test for three months hiking in the Chugach and Kenai Mountains—looking for which boots kept their feet the most comfortable (and dry) from the day they took them out of the box. These five came out on top.

 

Gear DannerCraterRim silo copyEDITOR'S CHOICE: Danner Crater Rim

Hand-made in Portland, Ore., and worn by the American Special Forces in Afghanistan, Danner's Crater Rim boots were exactly what our testers expected—tough as a bull's horn. Weighing in at an, admittedly, hefty 3.6 lbs., they're ostensibly designed to take a beating, fit comfortably, and—most importantly— protect your feet; all key attributes when hiking anywhere in Alaska. Along with being 100% waterproof, the boots have a high-cut, full rubber "rand" that wraps the boot's leather upper (protecting it) and is stitched and glued on
(not just glued). Meaning: You can stub your toes on as many rocks as you like and it won't peel off. Bonus: The Crater Rim's simple construction lends itself to being easily repaired by any cobbler, and comes in half sizes and a range of widths, so you can ensure a proper fit. $300, danner.com

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Rainwear for the Last Frontier

AK tested tough stamp green copyRain and sun are both certainties in Alaska. The 49th state is home to the world's largest temperate rain forest and the midnight sun. You're likely to experience both; occasionally, several times in the same day. A good hardshell (read: rain jacket)—one that will keep the water out no matter what, while not making you feel like you're wearing a plastic bag—comes highly recommended in Alaska, winter or summer. And good news: You don't have to wear (or carry around) heavy waxed canvas anymore. Modern, lightweight synthetic materials are waterproof, breathable, and pack-friendly.

Our local experts put some of the best rainwear available to the test for two months, hiking, camping, skiing, and fishing—rain, snow, or sun—looking for what kept them driest when it was raining (or snowing), and packed the easiest when the sun was shining. These five came out on top.

 

Gear M Kichatna JacketEDITOR'S CHOICE: The North Face Kichatna

Named after an Alaska mountain range known for its terrible weather, the Kichatna Jacket kept our testers completely dry in heavy rain and wet snow, no matter what. With fully taped seams, burly two-layer Gore-Tex, and polyurethane-coated zippers, this jacket is built for years of abuse. Our testers particularly liked the smartly designed helmet-compatible hood and removable powder skirt, making it a great option for backcountry skiing. It's a true four-season shell without the bulk. Bonus: It comes

with a lifetime warranty.

$600, 1 lb. 4 oz.; thenorthface.com

 

 

 

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Backpacks

BACKPACKS: Tested Tough by Alaska magazine

From our June, 2014 Issue

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