Packrafting the Alatna

The Gear

In organising this trip, by far the most testing experience was trying to figure out exactly what we needed to bring with us. Both John and I were completely new to paddling trips, and definitely new to doing a trip that was so remote and off the grid. I hope that our final list of gear that we took with us may help other people in our position trying to make this trip happen!

REI was a great resource for a lot of clothing and the more expensive camping items. It’s well worth the money to become a member and then check out the member-only garage sales that they have regularly. I saved a bunch of money by planning ahead and taking advantage of sales.

I took a chance on and was able to purchase my tent at a huge discount. I had no problems with the site and the item was on my doorstep within 2 days. Definitely check this site out too.

For a lot of the smaller items (head nets/deet/matches, etc.) I used a combination of Amazon and Walmart’s online store. Most items can be purchased with free 2-day shipping and the prices are very competitive.

Items that made the final cut:

  • Down sleeping bag (20F)
    I went with the REI Co-op Igneo 17 which I was able to pick up on sale for cheap.
  • Sleeping mat
    You lose a lot of heat through the ground so being insulated is important. Because of that I spent a bit more money here and went for the Thermarest Ultralight. I slept better on this than I do at home.
  • Tent
    You’ll want a lightweight tent with enough room to keep your gear dry during the constant rains. I bought a Nemo Hornet 2P off of campsaver and got it at a steal.
  • Footprint for Tent
  • Inflatable camp pillow
  • 70L backpack
  • Waterproof pack cover
  • Garmin Inreach Explorer+
    This was one of the best items we brought on the trip. Justin at Fairbanks Satellite Phones hooked us up, and this was a cheaper and better option for us than renting a satellite phone and emergency beacon individually.
  • iPhone
    If you don’t want to spend the money on a GPS, there are apps for your iPhone that will do the same thing, though we found it a little slow on our trip. Avenza Maps is a great option for this.
  • Detailed topography map
  • 65L dry bag
    I purchased this Sea to Summit dry bag and was able to fit my whole pack into it while we floated. The little lash-loops on either side also make it much easier to tie down to your raft.
  • 25L dry bag
    Another Sea to Summit product, these dry bags were much more lightweight. We ended up with more holes in ours than Swiss cheese but I think that’s more of a testament to how we treated them rather than the product itself. Regardless, be careful with lightweight dry bag options. And bring tape for on-the-go patch jobs!
  • MSR burner top and gas cans
    Brooks Range Aviation sell them at a reasonable price in Bettles. We took two medium cans with us and that seemed about right.  
  • Pot and lid
  • Bowl
  • Camp spoon and fork
    If you’re sharing food, bring the biggest spoon – lesson learnt.
  • Thermal mug
    For coffee, hot chocolate, and ramen. These GSI Backpacker Mugs are cheap and worked a charm.
  • Firestarters
    It’s pretty tough to get a fire going towards the start of the trip. Firestarters made the process A LOT easier.
  • 2L hydro pack
  • 1L water bottle
  • Water purification tablets
    We used these religiously at the start, but towards the end of the trip, we would just drink straight from the creeks.
  • Pocket knife
    Handy for everything
  • 4 x carabiners
    Bring a million.
  • Bear spray
    We bought ours in Fairbanks and found it to be a cheaper option than Bettles. You can fly it just fine with Wright Air.
  • Fishing gear
    Very little advice here as we lost our line and hooks before we could make use of them, but we were going to attempt to catch some Arctic Grayling. They have small mouths so use small hooks. Spinners and dry flies seemed to be the go.
  • Lighters
  • Toilet paper
  • Toothpaste/Toothbrush
  • Eyemask for sleeping
  • 50ft of rope
  • Small tarp
  • Deet
    Nasty stuff but it’s an absolute lifesaver. Avoid spraying directly on to your skin. I sprayed my tent down and this stuff stripped some of the colour out of it.
  • Mosquito head net
    Didn’t see any mosquitoes until we reached Arrigetch Creek but they were quite bad in spots, especially the Takahula Lake pickup. I mostly opted for deet over the head net option.
  • Emergency blanket
  • Sunscreen
  • Lipbalm
  • Waterproof watch
  • First aid kit (Hydro-cortisone, alcohol wipes, antibiotic cream, band-aids/bandages)
  • 3 x portable chargers
  • 1 small bar of soap
    Not a necessity but man does it feel good to have a wash.

Packrafting the Alatna

Gates of the Arctic Natl Park, USA

Patagonia O-Trek

Torres del Paine Natl Park, Chile

The Goat Trail

Wrangell St Elias Natl Park, USA

Leave a Reply