Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

Backpacking, hiking and photography gear. And kayaking gear, and showshoeing, skiing, mountain biking, and all things gear related. Maybe even computer gear.

Holiday stockings and Seasons’ Greetings

Sunday, December 25th, 2011
Holiday greetings, from Expeditions Alaska

Holiday greetings, from Expeditions Alaska

Hey Folks,

How was your festive season? I finally got around to putting up my stocking just yesterday. Mine’s the one in the middle

Happy holidays folks. Have a great day.

Cheers

Carl

Hiking Poles

Monday, December 5th, 2011
Backpacker with Hiking Pole, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Hiker backpacking with hiking pole, Iceberg Lake to Bremner Mines route, Seven Pass route, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

One question I receive at least a few times every year concerns hiking poles, or trekking poles, so I thought it might be a good choice to write about here on the blog.

In short, I can’t recommend hiking poles enough for anyone interested in doing some backpacking here in Alaska. I use one, a Leki Makalu that I’ve had for more years than I care to think about. And I bring it every time I’m backpacking in Alaska; every time.

Most folks, of course, use 2, and I think that’s probably a sound way to go. I use one, and that’s what works for me. But 2 is probably a good call.

Hiking poles benefit you so much hiking off trail, which is what most Alaska backcountry travel is. Science Daily had a great article recently about this. — “trekking-poles help hikers maintain muscle function while significantly reducing soreness in the days following a hike”. (more…)

Cold Weather Photography Clothing

Monday, November 21st, 2011
Snowshoeing, McCarthy, Alaska.

Snowshoeing on snow machine trail on Kennicott River, winter, McCarthy, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

The cold in Alaska, in the winter, is incredible. Its stillness, its silence, its depth, and the intimacy of really feeling alone in the frozen north woods is an experience like no other. it’s It’s almost as if the cold is some thing, some being itself, a tangible reality rather than a temperature. It’s a unique experience, and it’s not at all entirely bad – in fact, I love it. But I don’t love freezing my tail off. My friend Patrick Endres, longtime Alaska resident and a fantastic photographer says it best, “I like being in the cold, but I don’t like being cold”. It’s really an extraordinary experience, and I do look forward to the winter. But I don’t want to be cold; I want to be bundled up and cozy, and enjoy the cold from inside my insulation.

Photography in the cold is a tough gig; snowshoeing or skiing is rough when the mercury falls beneath minus 20, but doesn’t come close to trying to photograph in similar conditions, in my opinion. I haven’t found any activity that compares to photography; standing around, not moving much, trying to operate fiddly, frozen camera controls and tripods with fingers that refuse to move. I’ve crosscountry skied 10 miles and more at 45below, and I’ll take that any day over futzing with my camera at 30 below. When those mitts come off and my fingertips touch frozen metal, it burns like, well, like I don’t like it at all. So, if you’re headed to Alaska for some winter photography, such as for the Iditarod or to photograph the aurora borealis, hopefully this page might provide you some use.

Your winter clothing should align with the Three L’s: “Loft, Loose, and Lots” of it. That’s the key to warmth here. Big puffy down jackets, loose, not tight fit, and lots of clothes, head to toe = warm. Don’t skimp.

A good basic rule for cold weather clothing (and I mean, crazy, Alaska-winter cold, not 45 degrees F chilly) is a simple one; looser fits = better. Tighter fits, especially with footwear and handwear, are colder = NOT better. So keep that in mind when you order your boots, socks and gloves.

Comfort isn’t the bottom line here; at 40 below, comfort means warm. So buy your gear a little bigger than usual – a half size or so, if possible. Don’t go crazy, but don’t go with that sleek, skin-tight muscle shirt and form fitting, skin tight lycra pants you prance around in during the summer. Trust me. 🙂

The specific items list below is not meant to suggest these items are what you need, or even that these are what I think is best; it’s simply a look at what I have, or what I wish I had. Most of it works pretty well, and I’ve noted any items here that I think might not be the best choice. So, for now, my cold weather photography (i.e., not backcountry-travel) clothing goes a little something like this: (more…)

Pack your sleeping bag

Saturday, April 9th, 2011
Backcountry campsite, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska

A snowy campsite on the high alpine tundra of Wrangell - St. Elias National Park. Termination dust covers the ground, or fresh fall snow, and Mt Jarvis (13 421') of the Wrangell Mountains stands dominating behind. Backcountry campsite, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. On a backpacking trip in September. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey folks

A lot of people heading to Alaska inquire about the “best” sleeping bag to bring; i.e., what temperature rating to bring. My recommendation has always been for a warmer bag than many people typically expect. My advice for a summer bag in Alaska is 20deg F, (about -6deg C) and no warmer.

That is, 20deg Fahrenheit minimum! don’t bring a 32deg F bag (0deg C).

Surely it’s not going to be below freezing in July, I hear folks respond?

Well, hopefully not. But it certainly can be, especially if we hike up in the high country at all (which we typically do, because that’s where the views are, and where the brush isn’t). And the altitude needn’t be that high; 5000 feet is alpine country in Alaska.

But the reasons for a warm bag go beyond merely snow and cold. Some folks will say they’d rather bring a warmer bag, like a 32deg F bag, as it’s lighter weight, and they can always wear extra clothes to bed if need be. They’ll be bringing warm clothes along anyway, right? Sometimes, this is true. But there can easily be times when it is not true. How about your fleece jacket is wet? Or you lose it (yes, I’ve seen that happen)?  (more…)

Why bring a tarp?

Monday, November 15th, 2010
Breakfast under the tarp.

Coffee and breakfast one frosty morning, after a cold, wet and snow evening. The Siltarp 2 is an awesome piece of gear. Click the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

One of the questions I received via email after I recently posted my backpacking gear list concerned the tarp I carry.

  • 1 Integral Designs sylnylon  8?x10? tarp and MSR Groundhog stakes

Why, if I’m carrying a tent, do I also carry a tarp?  Good question.

Travels in bear country, and particularly grizzly bear country, means not eating inside a tent. Not ever. We cook, eat, do dishes and store all food quite a distance from where our tents are; the standard distance is 100 yards, but that can vary with the circumstances, IMO. Safe to say that’s a good distance to maintain. The further the better.

When the weather’s bad, the tarp feels like  a life saver. That tiny little shelter makes the world of difference when you get to camp. I can get changed out of any wet hiking gear, put on all my dry, warm layers (including some nice warm, dry socks!!! 🙂 ), to go cook and eat comfortably, warm and dry rather than wet and cold and rained on. It’s particularly nice in the morning, knowing I can get up from my tent and go make coffee under the tarp. I wouldn’t go backpacking without a tarp (or similar).

I find 2 hiking poles, or sometimes 4, works well to build a nice shelter to eat under. This is one of the reasons I like the full-size hiking poles, those that max up to 140cm. Many of the more compact lighterweight poles aren’t really long enough to do effective double duty under the tarp – they’re too short. Headroom matters! (more…)

Backpacking Gear: A List

Sunday, October 24th, 2010
Hiking along the lateral moraine of Kennicott Glacier, near Mount Blackburn, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Hiking along the lateral moraine of Kennicott Glacier, near Mount Blackburn, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Now THAT'S an ultra-light backpacking system. 🙂 Please click on the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

OK, here’s a list of my backpacking gear I thought I might put together, and have taken WAY too long to get it online. I would like to preface this post with a comment about gear; backpacking is NOT about gear, and I’m not a big advocate of the all too common push to make it about that.

Backpacking is about being ‘there‘. The gear can help facilitate doing that comfortably, but don’t think that this piece of gear or that piece of gear will magically turn a disastrous trip into a glorious one. And don’t think your pack will suddenly become unbelievably light because you buy an expensive down sleeping bag, and that you’ll now start prancing up over those mountains. Everything is part of a SYSTEM, and learning how to manage that system (including carrying it) is integral to having a good kit.

That said, here it is; hopefully, this list might be useful to someone wanting to look at what gear I use, or what backpacking gear they might want to look into if they’re heading to Alaska. It’s not at all a list of ALL the gear I have/use, but a general list of the gear I typically bring on a trip. (more…)

Backcountry Photography

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Shower Camp Camera Cover from Expeditions Alaska on Vimeo.

Hey Folks

I thought this video might be both entertaining and useful to visitors to the website. Here, Andy Seeger shows off his fashion-sense and creative ingenuity with ‘Shower Cap Hat’ – a cheap workable solution to protecting your camera gear from bad weather on backpacking trips. Backpacking is ALL about compromise; weight, bulk and space, durability, multi-use, etc … these are things to consider when packing for your trip.

Rather than carry an expensive and heavier camera rain cover, a cheap plastic shower cap fits perfectly. it’s lightweight, packable, durable, light and easily available. What’s more, as Andy says, you can even get water with it. 🙂 (more…)

Choosing Your Backcountry Campsite

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
Backcountry campsite in the Chugach mountains, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve. From the Iceberg Lake to Bremner Mines trip.

Backcountry campsite in the Chugach mountains, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve. From the Iceberg Lake to Bremner Mines trip.

Hey Folks

Here’s a short post with some tips for you on picking a campsite in the backcountry.  Why a post about picking a campsite? I think it’s useful because many folks overlook this part of a trip, as most people are (typically) so used to backpacking and hiking on trails in the Lower 48 states that it doesn’t really occur to them until it’s time to set up a tent. And by then, it’s too late.

Your campsite is your home, albeit ever so temporarily, and it’s well worth taking a couple of steps toward setting up home for the evening in a setting that you enjoy. Backpacking all day with a heavy load through rugged but beautiful mountains is hard work, and an important part of the trip, to us, is enjoying a great campsite. What makes a great campsite?

Firstly, it needs to be “low impact.” Essentially, low impact campsites are those that don’t leave undue stress on the landscape, or on other visitors to the park, both while you’re camped there and after you’re gone. There are a number of elements that are important, and I’ll stress a few of them here (this is not a comprehensive list). (more…)

I’m Done With Fleece – Insulation

Friday, October 23rd, 2009
Sporting a Montbell Thermawrap synthetic fill jacket in Powerline Pass, with friends

Sporting a Montbell Thermawrap synthetic fill jacket in Powerline Pass, with friends

Hey folks,

I thought I’d write a quick post about insulation for hiking. This year, I made the switch from a pile fleece jacket to a synthetic fill jacket. The jacket that I virtually lived in all backpacking season long, (on plenty of day hikes as well, including this walk up to Powerline Pass near Anchorage with Keba and Musa) was the Montbell Thermawrap. At under 9oz, it’s hard to beat for weight savings. It’s certainly MUCH lighter than any of my fleece jackets, and far more stuffable. Packed into its little stuff sack, it takes up no space in the backpack at all. And it’s insanely warm for something so tiny. It definitely is warmer than either my 200 weight or 300 weight polartec fleece jackets, and is also extremely windproof. (more…)

Spring Gear Sales

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Backpacking in the Chugach mountains, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Summer’s rolling around the corner, and now’s a good time to grab some gear if you need it. A few sales are on that might save a little cash.
Mammoth Gear are selling some a bunch of items cheap – I just bought a winter bag for super cheap!
Backcountry are also having a Memorial Day sale – up to 30% off.
REI Outlet have some stuff on sale too which might be worth browsing, depending on what you need.

I’ve dealt with all these retailers, and recommend them all. No hassle, reputable folks.

Good shopping, and don’t go overboard – remember, after you buy it, you still gotta carry it!

Cheers

Carl

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Owner and guide Carl Donohue.

 

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