Thoughts from the Crest of the Alaska Range

On this last trip into the Alaska Range, I didn't bring a hat. A visor to shade the sun, but no hat. Not a light one, not a warm one. Instead, I used the hoods on my lightweight wool longsleeve baselayer hoody, wind jacket, insulated puff jacket, and rain jacket to keep my head warm and dry. It is super convenient because a hat needs to be either worn or stowed, while a hood is flipped on or off and is always there. Never once did I wish I had brought any sort of hat.

While I brought two trekking poles, I found myself carrying them the majority of the time and only using both for brief periods (uphill) or a specific instance, like stream crossing. In fact, they aggravated me more than anything, having to carry them for miles to have them ready if I wished, instead of stowing them in my pack. If I'm just going to pack them away, why not just leave them at home? When I did use the poles, I found one pole to be more than sufficient and actually preferable to two poles. The only time two were actually useful is when I was hiking very steep uphills and using the poles to catapult across streams. Maybe I'll just become a better hiker and guess what? My feet were already wet, so why bother trying to keep them dry? One pole. Decision made.

In heavy rains, a solid rain jacket is well worth its weight for comfort and dryness, although a super light shell that is truly waterproof and breathable can serve double duty as a shell and wind jacket, plus bug protection.

No matter what, bring two pair of wool socks. My one pair stayed wet for three days straight and neoprene river socks are not comfortable to sleep in.

Instead of bringing camp footwear, bring bread bags to slip over sleep socks to keep them dry when running out to pee in already wet shoes.

One shared sleeping bag is plenty large enough for a couple to share. I'd like to make a lightweight synthetic quilt for summer use. If sharing, use a bag rated to the temperatures you'll experience, as there is some inefficiency in sharing a bag versus zipping up and cinching down to blow hole size.

I cut the foam back support out of my GoLite Pinnacle, since I already use my light sleeping pad as back support. Turns out, it was a great idea. Weight saved and still just as comfortable.

Here's a thought... I've tried to cut nearly every single ounce off my hiking gear that is practical and still comfortable. Then, I throw in TEN POUNDS of packrafting gear. Hmmm... Maybe more thought regarding floating or crossing rivers for the route is necessary.

The denatured alcohol stove I made from a Fancy Feast cat food can boils two cups of water in five minutes or less and weighs almost nothing at 0.3 oz. Super simple and nothing to break. Thank you, Andrew Skurka!

A pair of super light long underwear bottoms is nice for sleeping and wearing if it's cold during the day and while packrafting on rainy days.

The long sleeves with thumb holes on my wool hoody worked well in keeping my hands warm in cool, damp, & windy weather, since I didn't bring gloves, either.

Loksaks are great for anything needing to stay dry, including TP, and are the lightest, reliable option.

Sharing is a great way to save weight and after having a group member lose a $100 knife and realizing I never even pulled mine out of my hipbelt pocket, it makes sense to share things between group members - like one knife.

The GoLite Hex 3 floorless shelter is great - in winds, rain, some bugs, etc. It's a little difficult to set up the hexagonal shape perfectly, but it offers a lot of interior space for spreading out gear and hanging out with the entire group in nasty weather. I've also yet to have any problems with mosquitoes in the floorless shelter, as they tend to stay up in the peak, where all the heat (and carbon dioxide concentration?) is. It can even be carefully set up with two paddles (shown above), allowing utilization of the entire area inside the shelter.

I use short Outdoor Research Flex-Tex gaiters to keep debris out of my sneakers. I see them as a necessity.

Beefy, durable trekking pants that can take abuse are so nice for bushwhacking and hiking in rocks, plus they tend to be wind resistant, coupling well with a wind jacket or double-duty light shell.

Spoons kick spork ass anyday. Period. Those teeth just don't clean up pots very well.

One large, main dry bag is all that's necessary for keeping gear dry, instead of messing with multiple bags and playing Tetris to fit them in to your backpack.

Using a superlight bivy helps keep your sleeping bag dry and allows a person to use a slightly lighter bag for the current temperatures and helps protect the sleeping bag from dirt, water, and physical abuse.

Last, but not least, nothing is better than a Nutty Bar covered in creamy peanut butter and Nutella. Not a Snickers, Whatchamacallit, or a Sindawg. Nothing.

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