Day hikes are a classic adventure here in Alaska. Weekend and longer trips can be intimidating and are usually large time commitments but getting outside for the day is something anyone can do on a day off for a mental break out in the woods. Here is all you need to pack and prepare for your hike, in this Alaska Day Hike Preparation Guide. Please be aware that seasons in Alaska greatly affect your preparation needs, and these are summer recommendation.
First, you need a backpack. Ideally a backpack between 10 and 25 Liters is perfect for a day hike. If you don’t know how large your backpack is, think just a bit larger than a drawstring bag and smaller than a backpacking bag. If you don’t have anything that size, work with what you have. Inside this backpack, here are a few things to pack:
- Water. Depending on the length of your hike, you will need to pack accordingly. Generally, it is good practice to bring 1 Liter of water for about every two hours you will be out. People generally hike at about 2mph (probably slower on steep Alaskan trails!), so do the math on how much to bring. 1 Liter of water is about 2 standard plastic bottles. If you don’t have a Nalgene or hard plastic bottle, my favorite is to pack lightweight, refillable, Smartwater bottles from the store.
- Snacks. It is important to balance what types of fuel you bring. Think healthy fats (nuts), protein (jerky, protein bars) and carbs (sugars, bready items). Your body will crave a mix of salt and sugar, so make sure to bring some of both to satisfy your cravings. My personal favorites to take out are nut mixes, gold fish, and gummy bears.
- Map. It’s important to know where you are going, and it’s easy to get lost in Alaska’s vast wilderness. Bringing a hard copy of a map is always a good idea, but make sure you know how to read it and can find where you are. Other great map resources include cellphone apps such as Hiking Project, AllTrails, and Guia. Make sure your phone is fully charged and use Airplane mode while you hike to conserve battery. You probably won’t have much cellphone service out there anyways.
- Sunglasses and sunscreen. The sun is intense here in Alaska, and it can really hurt to leave these items behind.
- Layers. Typically, you will be pretty warm while you hike and even more so if it is a strenuous hike. Don’t wear your extra layers if you don’t feel cold. Even on warm days, you should be ready for it to cool down in case you get injured and stranded somewhere where you can’t be moving to warm yourself up. Typically, you want to wear as little cotton as possible while out on a hike. Great items to bring are puffy and fleece jackets.
- Rain Jacket. Its Alaska, you never know what will happen out there. It would put a damper on an otherwise awesome trip to get caught in a storm without a rain jacket.
- Emergency Gear. I always hike with a first aid kit, lighter, headlamp, and bear spray just in case things do not go as planned. Always prepare for any situation that can arise. Some outdoor stores sell pre-made first aid kits but be sure to know what is in it before you have to use it. If you don’t have a headlamp, a charged cellphone or regular flashlight can work in a pinch. Lastly, make sure you know how to use your bear spray before there is a Grizzly running in your direction.
With these things packed in your bag, you will be ready for just about anything Alaska can throw your way. None of these things have to be particularly expensive, but they are all important for Alaska Day Hike Preparation. Throw these things in a bag and head out there for a great day out in the woods!