Exploring new trails in Alaska can be a lot of fun yet very unpredictable. In addition to having proper footwear and notifying someone where you are going and when you plan to be back there are a few key items that every safe and prepared hiker should have in their pack for a day hike in Alaska.
- First Aid / Emergency Kit: While you may not always need it, you’ll be glad you have it when you do. In addition to a basic first aid kit, it is important to add these items to your first aid/ emergency supply kit: iodine pills for purifying water, a flashlight, waterproof matches, multi purpose tool, parachute cord, insect repellant and sunscreen. It may also be wise to include a small compactable heat blanket, extra prescription medications, canine first aid manual, and an epinephrine auto injector (Epipen). If you are traveling with another person or canine companion, be sure to include enough supplies for everyone going on the hike.
- Plenty of Water: Water is key to any hike; many people underestimate the human body’s constant need for hydration, especially when exercising. The constant question is how much water to pack for the particular hike you are going on. A general rule of thumb is to bring about three quarts of water per person, per day hike. But that amount can vary depending on the hikers physical fitness/health, the type of hike and the weather. So basically, bring as much water as you can comfortably carry because you can never really have too much while exercising in the wilderness. Additionally, it is wise to have 1-2 gallons of water in your car so that you can top off your water bottles before setting out on the hike, and have plenty to drink when you return.
- Snacks: Bring the food you plan to eat throughout the day on your hike, then bring a bit extra in the form of a couple of protein bars and some powdered drinks you can add to your water. Be sure to pack a trash bag so that you can clean up after yourself. In case of an emergency and you end up spending the night on trail, use your parachute cord to tie your food and trash up in a tree far away from where you plan to sleep to help deter predators such as bears and coyotes.
- Compass: While you may not think you need it because you know the trail well, or someone you are with knows where to go, it is wise to include a compass in your pack just in case you get lost during your hike. Be sure you know how to read a compass and have spent time studying a map of the area you are hiking to prepare yourself as much as possible.
- Map: It never hurts to have a detailed map tucked in your pack, it weighs basically nothing and takes up very little room. Again this is an item you may never use, but one day when you are lost you’ll be more than grateful you have it tucked away in your pack. Used with your compass and knowledge of the area, it should help you find your way.
- Bear Spray/ Bear Bells: This item is a must for Alaska hikers. Bear Spray needs to be on your belt loop, attached to your pack strap or in your back pocket ready to use at a moment’s notice. Having this item at the bottom of your pack won’t help you at all when you need it. Additionally, bear bells are a good safety item to have for yourself and your dog to help alert natures forest dwellers of your presence.
- Extra Layers of clothing: Layers are very important for any day in Alaska because the weather changes constantly. Wear a long-sleeved shirt over your regular one, then add a rain coat on top of that. Once you get too warm, you can take them off and tie them around your waist or to your pack. Packing extra layers on your hike is something you will never regret, and will almost always use.