Tao of the Garbage Bag

Alaska glacier hikingBy Ethan Moorhead

There is no greater single issue facing outdoorsmen, irrespective of where on earth they play, than how to keep their dry things dry. An unanticipated storm or slip during a creek crossing can leave feet clammy, sleeping bags useless, and the whole trip ruined. Be it boots or rain jackets, the gear industry is constantly striving to find newer and better ways to keep us away from the elements and more comfortable. But the good news is that they found a solution for many of these problems years ago: the black garbage bag.

Guiding in Alaska drives home the importance of dryness on a daily basis. Our frequent days of slow but constant rain will seep through even the best hardshell layers and Gore-Tex boots. Momentary stops on glaciers will soak through the bottom of a pack, and our creeks run fast and cold. But despite all this moisture constantly trying to get us down, a black garbage bag will save the day.

Rather than buying an expensive pack-cover (that will likely not fit if you have an ice axe or other gear strapped to the outside of your pack) simply line your whole pack with one black bag and you are set! Sure, your pack will get wet, but it will not soak through to your gear, and it costs practically nothing. Stuffing your sleeping bag and clothes inside their own secondary trash bags makes a system that will keep your gear dry even if submerged.

These lightweight and very compressible multitaskers are worth shoving in your pockets to use for other odd-jobs too! Got a leaky tent or ground cloth? Lay the bags under or over your sleeping bag to keep it dry all night. Need an emergency raincoat? Cut holes for your head and arms and enjoy the newest fashion. They are indispensable as layers in a hypothermia kit if someone gets too cold and you can even fill them with your trash at the end of the trip!

Don’t get me wrong, I love Gore-Tex as much as the next guide, but when it comes to keeping my backpack and gear dry, I shirk the expensive dry-bags and go straight for plain black garbage bags. However you use them, their low cost, low weight, compressibility, and complete waterproofness all prove that one man’s trash bag is a backpackers treasure.

Posted in Tech Tips

2016 Season Photo Collage

As September progresses, both the temperatures and the leaves are falling, and St. Elias Alpine Guides and Copper Oar Rafting are wrapping up a fun-filled 2016 season. Tomorrow marks our last day of operation for the year, and it’s time to look back fondly on our summer adventures. Thank you to all who traveled out to McCarthy this summer and contributed to another amazing season! Here’s a photo collage of some of our favorite memories from the summer. Enjoy!

alaska mountain climbers

Our guides are full of energy as they climb Mt. Bona on our preseason training trip!


graduate on alaska summit

Guide Robin celebrates his college graduation on the summit of Mt. Bona!


glacier ice climber

Client Oscar celebrates two successful mountaineering trips by ice climbing in a moulin on the Root Glacier!


alaska ice cave explore

SEAG Guides enjoy a day off exploring ice caves under the Kennicott Glacier.


alaska wilderness rafting

Guide Jonny navigates the rapids of the Kennicott River on our day rafting trip.

alaska mountain climbing

Client Jen enjoys the view on her way to the summit of Mt. Blackburn.


alaska guides hiking

Guides Cody and Kelly horsing around on their backpacking training trip.


alaska remote backpacking

Backpackers celebrate reaching Skolai Pass on our newest backpacking trip, the High Pass Odyssey!


alaska river rafting

Client Thai rowing the Copper River (unfortunately he’s much shorter than our guide Hunter, so his feet couldn’t reach the floor!)

alaska mountaineering success

All smiles on the summit of Mt. Bona on this year’s trip!


cute alaska hiking baby

The newest addition to the SEAG family, Raven, guides her family on a hike in her official guide uniform.


alaska glacier climbing

All smiles while ice climbing on the beautiful Root Glacier!


pack rafting in alaska

Clients Connie and Brian giving packrafting a try out at the Fan Glacier in the Chugach Mountains.


happy hikers in alaska

Despite the rain, these backpackers are all smiles on our popular Glacier and Tundra backpacking trip!


alaska climbing happiness

Guide Derek reveling in the beauty of the Wrangell Mountains, after a successful climb out at Chitistone Pass.


alaska mountain hikers

Clients Dave and Molly on the saddle of Donoho Peak in the Kennicott Valley, right before pushing onward to the summit!


happy alaska guide

Guide Bryan basking in the beautiful Alaska sunshine while leading a climbing trip in the Chugach Mountains.


2016 st elias alpine guides

Thanks for an amazing 2016 season!


Posted in Spotlight on Adventure

Guide Spotlight – Kelly Glascott

alaska mountain guide

If you’re out on a backpacking trip with us, and find an unreasonable amount of ketchup in your bear canister, then Kelly Glascott is probably your guide. In addition to his insatiable desire for ketchup (catsup?), he has an unmatched enthusiasm for the outdoors, and loves sharing it with others. Kelly currently holds the SEAG speed-record for eating breakfast burritos, and is ahead by a large margin. Hailing from upstate New York, Kelly grew up playing in the Adirondack Mountains, and was quickly drawn up to the mountains of Alaska after college.

In the outdoors, Kelly will join you for almost any adventure, and spends his days off exploring the Wrangell Mountains by hiking, climbing, running, and packrafting the backcountry. An accomplished ice climber, Kelly leads a mean Ice Climbing trip for SEAG, and is always happy to share his “tips and tricks” of the sport. Whatever you do with Kelly, you’ll be sure to have a great time! (Just make sure you pack plenty of ketchup).

Click here to meet more of the SEAG crew!

Posted in Guide Spotlights

Glacier and Tundra Backpacking!

alaska glacier hiking

We’d like to take a minute to share some excitement about our Glacier and Tundra backpacking trip. Combining a bush plane flight, travel over glaciers and tundra (hence the name), and stunning views of the Kennicott Valley, this trip epitomizes Alaska backpacking. The route is extremely flexible, so you and your guide can discuss your goals for the trip, and choose a route to maximize your experience. Want lots of glacier travel? No problem. Like to bag a peak? Can do!

Another great aspect of this trip is that it only requires one bush plane flight – you can hike right back into town! The beauty of spending the last night on a “peninsula” of land surrounded by glaciers, as you look across the valley to the lights of the Kennecott “ghost town,” is a great way to cap off your trip. Check out the itinerary here, and contact us for more details!

Posted in Spotlight on Adventure

Tech Tip – Packing Food for your Expedition

In the backcountry, how you pack your food is just as important as how you cook it! Our guides put their heads together to create this list of recommendations for packing food. Try these pro-tips on your next outing for easy cooking and cleanup!

  • Use the “meal-in-a-bag” approach, and have all ingredients for a meal in the same gallon-sized Ziploc bag so you can just grab that bag at dinner time, and not be searching for that missing spice or ingredient you need. The gallon-sized Ziploc bag can then be used to store the trash from that meal.

  • Package different ingredients in smaller Ziploc baggies, all inside that one larger bag.

  • Repackaging your food (taking it out of the boxes and cartons) reduces the amount of waste you need to haul out of the backcountry. Don’t forget to include any recipe instructions that were on the original packaging so you know what to do.

  • Label things with a permanent marker so it’s easy to find (Day 1 Dinner, Day 3 Breakfast, etc.) Also label quantities so you know how much water to use.

  • Have each person carry a bag of their personal snacks. Keep it easy to access for when you get hungry on the trail.

  • Since food will be one of the heavier items in your pack, place it around shoulder-height and close to the body, for better balance while hiking.

Now get out there and get cookin’! Everything seems to taste better when you’re out in the mountains!

alaska backpacking dinner

Posted in Tech Tips