Tech Tip – Ultralight Backpacking Tips & Tricks that Work in Alaska

In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about going Ultralight in the Alaska backpacking world. In fact, a lot of folks who join us on a Multi-Day Trek call to ask about gear and how they can make their pack as light as possible. And the bitter truth is, you really can’t! There are a few tips from the Ultralight movement that our guides use, but many don’t translate to backpacking in Alaska. So, where can you save some ounces, and what weight is a must? 

One of our personal favorites is to use a durable trash bag as a waterproof liner for your backpack. It’s not uncommon to be unexpectedly caught in a rainstorm (or slip into a stream), and knowing your bag is already waterproofed can give you peace of mind. It’s important to know that after prolonged treks in the rain, traditional rain covers can become saturated with water and when they reach this point of saturation, they’ll start to let water in. And don’t get us started on bushwhacking in the rain! A sure-fire way to be drenched from head to toe is walking through wet brush. It’s also extremely likely that the brush will snag your rain cover, causing it to rip or to be pulled off your pack – exposing your bag and its contents to the rain.

Leave your tent stakes behind and secure your tent using rocks. Not only does this save you weight, but a lot of the Alaskan terrain is not conducive to using tent stakes (i.e. glacier camping), and there’s a good chance you’ll end up using rocks anyway. Keep ‘Leave No Trace’ principles in mind if you use this trick, and be sure to scatter the rocks and return the landscape to the way you found it. 

Fill up your water bottles straight from the source! Water in Alaska is plentiful, and being able to fill up straight from a source periodically along your hike can save you a lot of weight. When you join us on a trek, you’ll find that your guide will know where the best water sources are, allowing you to fill up when you need water rather than carrying full bottles of water for your whole trip. 

Reliable temperate weather usually allows hikers to leave some extra layers behind and even bring a lighter or more minimalist-style tent. But Alaska is not known for its reliable temperate weather. We’re home to unpredictable extreme weather conditions, where even in July it can rain for eight days in a row and not get above 30 degrees. You do not want to be caught unprepared while backpacking in Alaska, so pack those extra layers and bring a sturdier 3-season tent – rainfly and all. 

Alaska is known for its beautiful landscapes and part of that lies in rocky mountain passes, fast-flowing rivers, and wide expansive glaciers – all of which you’ll need to navigate if you’re hoping to make it from point A to point B. To trek through all of that successfully, you’ll need the right gear – and trust us, it’s not light. You’ll want to opt for a sturdier, waterproof, high-ankle hiking boot along with crampons to get yourself across glaciers. 

Did we mention the bears?! Where bears are involved, you’ll want to make sure you have bear spray on you at all times. You’re also required to carry and store your food in a bear can in many areas of Alaska, including Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve. 

If you’d like to read our full equipment list for backpacking adventures, you can find it by clicking this link. You can also find more equipment lists for all of our adventures, from day hikes to rafting trips, by clicking here. And if you haven’t joined us for an adventure yet, we hope to see you soon!

Keep on adventuring!

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