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The stuff you'll need...
On a backpacking trip in Alaska, you'll need the right stuff. Here is a quick guide to the necessary objects.
Rule No. 1: Be kind to your feet. A really good pair of hiking boots is an absolute must, and water-repellant wool socks wouldn't hurt, either. You should also bring a rain jacket, and you may want rubber boots for crossing rivers and tramping through wet forests. Other must-haves: a first aid kit and a compass for backcountry hiking. Topographical maps are available at ranger stations.
Get the right backpack for you. They come in all shapes and sizes, so it's up to you to find the fit that will allow you to carry your entire life-support system (shelter, food, etc) for the length of your trip. For example, women can get backpacks designed to fit the form of a woman's body more comfortably.
When filling that pack, always keep weight in mind. As far as tents go, lighter is always better, but the kind of tent you select also will depend on what's comfortable to you and how much you can carry on your back. You'll also need a waterproof sleeping bag that will keep you warm. Optional sleeping gear include a camping pillow and a thin, roll-up air mattress.
After rest, you first thought will probably be of food. Your cooking equipment should include a camping pot for cooking and heating water, a lightweight plastic plate from which to eat, a lightweight coffee cup and -- unless you want to eat with your heads -- a fork, knife and spoon. Small, single unit camp stoves can be brought along easily (don't forget your matches). If you don't want to cook, bring things like beef jerky, cheese, tortilla shells, granola bars, nuts and trail mix. Freeze-dried food, which is available at any outdoor store, also needs a minimum of preparation. You just add water.
When you're cheek-to-cheek with Mother Nature, keeping clean also can be a challenge. Don't forget your soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo and hairbrush. Bring things in miniature bottles, and take along a plastic bag for storing them. For washing clothes along the way, you could bring along a small container of powdered laundry detergent. (It's lighter than liquid).
Here are some miscellaneous things likely to come in handy:
Extra plastic bags, which you'll need for storing things. Anything with a scent must be stored away so it doesn't attract animals. (Bring bags that seal).
A Swiss army knife also can be an invaluable tool. It can be used as a bottle opener, can opener and for many other purposes.
Bring mosquito repellant. There are lots of the pesky bugs in Alaska.
Another tip: Before you go, get out your backpack and all your gear so that you can make sure you have everything you need. It's also a good idea to make a trial run with your tent. Set it up in your living room or your backyard.
For more information on choosing gear, check out GORP's Gear, Gizmos & Garb page. (GORP stands for Great Outdoor Recreation Pages).
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