I spend more than 100 days in the bush of Alaska each year. Given the remoteness of my hunts and the use of lightweight airplanes, I am forced to keep my gear to an absolute minimum. To ensure safety, success, and overall enjoyment, I can only afford to use the best. Here is my personal Alaska hunting gear list:
- 1 set- First Lite’s “SEAK” jacket and pants are very good and relatively inexpensive. I use this for hunt where I know I will be sitting a lot. When sheep hunting, or when weight is critical, I use First Lite “Boundary Stormtight” pants and First Lite “Vapor Stormlight” jacket. Sitka raingear also works well, but is quite expensive.
- 1 or 2 sets – I use and highly recommend Crispi boots. I use the “Hunter GTX” and the “Guide GTX” for every hunting I guide in Alaska. That said, what works for one person may not work for another, so when you find a boot that works for you, stick with it. The steeper and rougher the terrain you hunt, the stiffer/higher quality boot you will need. Meindl, Scarpa, Lowa, Kennetrek, Zamberlan, and Hanwag are good brands. A good after market insole is also recommended. I use “Foot Levelers” custom foot beds. You can get impressions for these at a local chiropractor. When I’m not spiked-out, if at all possible, I bring 2 sets of boots. Wet, cold feet are no fun. If you allow yourself one “luxury item” make it a second pair of boots. An extra set of insoles is useful if you don’t bring 2 pair. 200-400 grams of insulation is good for all-around use.
- 1 - I use First Lite’s “Uncompahgre” jacket on all my Alaska hunts. It packs down and is very lightweight. A must have item.
- 1 – First Lite’s “Cirrus Ultralight Puffy” is a great insulator and it dries very quickly. It works well under the Uncompahgre when it’s very cold.
- 2 pairs- I like lightweight hunting pants. First Lite “Corrugate Guide” pants are very durable, fast drying, and great all-around. I also bring a pair of First Lite Uncompahgre insulated pants. They zip all the way on and off on the side of the leg. When I get to my glassing location I am able to zip them on over my regular pants and boots. When it is time to leave or go on a quick stalk I simply zip off each leg, stuffs the pants in my pack, and take off. A must have for an Alaskan hunt.
- 1 – The “Uncompahgre” vest by First Lite is fantastic. The weight-to-warmth ratio makes this a must have.
- 1 – The “Halstead Fleece” by First Lite is great.
- 2 – First Lite merino wool “Llano SS” is great. I also like First Lite’s “Minaret Aerowool”. Trust me: this wool won’t itch your skin. For years companies have poured money in to advertising cheaper synthetics, which do work well in some applications, but for all next-to-skin layer I prefer First Lite’s merino wool.
LONG SLEEVE THERMAL SHIRT
- 2 - Bring one First Lite “Llano Crew”, one First Lite “Chama QZ”, or one of the “LS Minaret Aerowool”. These may weigh a bit more than synthetic shirts, but they are worth the weight. Use the thumbholes on the cold days. All First Lite wool is very durable and machine washable.
- 3 – First Lite “Red Desert” or “Aerowool” Boxer Shorts are must haves. Of all garments next to skin, this one is most important.
- 2 – “Allegheny” by First Lite. I like the standard weight, but if you tend to get cold buy one set of the heavier, “EXP”, version.
- 2 - 1 baseball type and 1 stocking hat. I prefer a stocking hat that completely covers my ears. Most of todays’ models seemed designed more for looks than function, and don’t set very low on the head, especially down on the ears. I like First Lite’s “Tag Cuff Beanie”.
- 1 – First Lite’s wool Neck Gaiter is a must have for any cold weather hunt.
- I have had good luck with my First Lite “Brambler” gaiters.
- 2 – First Lite “Grizzly Cold Weather” gloves are great for cold, wet weather (order a size larger than normal). With one set of those, a hunter should also have 1 pair of light leather gloves and, or 1 pair of light-medium weight rag wool (like the “Talus” fingerless by First Lite), or cotton glove for all-around/light use. In my opinion, most of the “designer” hunting gloves on the market are a waste of money. Stick with the basics.
- 5 – First Lite and Darn Tough are good. I bring 3 heavy pairs and 3 light/med. pairs, along with 2-3 pairs of sock liners.
- Montbell is the best I have found by a landslide. The spiral stitch design allows for maximum comfort and movement in the bag. I prefer down to save on weight and space. A 20 degree bag for warm weather/backpack hunts, a 0 degree bag for colder hunts where and extra pound or two isn’t a concern.
- I use a Thermarest “NEO-Air”. It is relatively lightweight and twice as thick as most pads. Quality rest is critical. Another must have.
- A stainless synthetic model is a good idea for Alaska, but above all else, use a weapon that you are comfortable and familiar with. I would rather have a client use a rifle they know than buy a new magnum caliber that they are scared to shoot or unfamiliar with. A .243 is a minimum for caribou and sheep. A .300 or .338 magnum is good for moose and grizzly. A .338 is a minimum for big brown bears, with a .375 being preferred. A 3-9X or higher variable high power scopes is good for all ungulates. For bear bring no more than 2-7X, preferably 1.5-6X.
- When shot out of a .375 H+H, 300 grain Barnes Triple Shock is the ultimate ammo for moose and bear. For sheep and caribou, or all-around ammunition, I have seen great results with Nosler Partition. 20 rounds is sufficient.
- Leica, Swarovski, and Zeiss are the best. A quality pair of 10 power binoculars is required. Guided hunters should contact their outfitter if they need a rangefinder or spotting scope. If your guide has quality gear, I would tend to leave the latter at home.
- Leki is a good brand. I use trekking poles in some capacity on all my hunts. They are lightweight, collapsible, and a tremendous aid for climbing mountains and packing heavy loads.
- Stone Glacier packs are worth every cent. They are very durable and lightweight. These packs are a must for the guided hunter of any species. A 4500 cubic inch bag is a minimum for any wilderness hunt conducted on foot. If you are DIY for caribou or moose you may prefer to use an external frame pack.
- It is nice to take your boots off when you get back to camp. A pair of Merrell slip-on shoes are nice. Crocs with no holes also work. Xtra Tuf neoprene knee boots are very lightweight and can be used for everyday-use on bear, caribou, and moose hunts.
- La Crosse ankle fit with Air Bob soles are the best. All hip boots are heavy and don’t breath, but on some moose, caribou, and bear hunts they are required. Wiggy’s over-boot waders are very popular and work well for an occasional creek crossing, but will only standup to a handful of uses. Many guides use breathable waders. While they are louder and don’t have the durability of hip boots, they are much more comfortable to use on hunts where you know you will frequently be wading in water.
- I like a 1-liter bottle. I typically don’t use a filtering water bottle, but Katadyn is a good brand. Check with your outfitter if your water will need to be filtered.
- Bring a Leatherman or similar tool, and maybe one small skinning knife.
- extra insoles for boots
- small, inflatable pillow. Sea-To-Summit makes a good one.
- Personal kit - medications, toothbrush and paste, floss etc. No scented colognes or deodorants
- spare batteries for all electronics
- small roll of electrical tape for your rifle muzzle and other uses that may arise
- lens cleaning tool
- lip balm
- ear plugs if you or your partner snore, they also help on windy nights
- 2 small/med. waterproof stuff sacks for your gear
- a fifth of firewater if you’re a drinking man
- journal and pen
- Emergen-C drink packets, Wilderness Athlete drink mix, vitamins, favorite snack food
- 2 small packs of baby wipes
- leather belt case for ammo
- book for weather days in the tent
- you may wish to bring your own satellite phone or DeLorme inReach
*Buy a quality “double rifle” case for travel. Remove the foam inserts. Pack clothing around your rifle, and you will easily fit everything you need for your hunt in 2 checked bags and one small carry-on.
Like anything, you get what you pay for. The above-mentioned items easily sustain me for over 100 days in the bush each season. If you buy the proper gear you don’t need much of it and you will enjoy the use of it for years to come. If you have inferior equipment, sooner or later, the Alaskan elements will exploit it and you will not be able to enjoy your experience. Trust me, when you experience some real Alaskan weather, you will not regret one penny spent on your gear.