Hunting Gear List
Alaska hunters are passionate about their gear, and rightly so. When gear does not perform as advertised in other parts of the world, it might be a minor inconvenience. But in Alaska it can spell disaster. A lacerated tent can mean enduring hypothermic conditions for days until help arrives. A broken backpack strap or busted frame weld can mean that you have no practical means of getting those heavy moose quarters to camp. A shorted-out flashlight may mean an inability to see that bear that wandered into your camp after nightfall. Good gear is essential.
This page contains gear lists which have been compiled over several decades of hunting in Alaska. They have been reviewed and modified by many hunters and professional hunting guides, and represent the distilled essence of what you need for your Alaska hunt. Each list contains stripped-down minimalist versions for hunts where air charter loads must be ultra-ight. Finally we are including species-specific add-ons where applicable.
The Word on Camouflage
At this writing Alaska has no blaze-orange requirement for hunters. In other words, hunters are not required to wear an orange hat or vest while hunting. Some hunters opt for the additional safety afforded by blaze orange when hunting in crowded areas, however most Alaskans wear either muted, natural colors, or camouflage. For early spring bear hunts when snow is still on the ground, go with snow camo patterns such as Realtree'sSnow Camouflage pattern or the Predator Winter pattern. Spring bear hunts in Prince William Sound or in Southeast Alaska, after the leaves and grass are out require patterns with more green in them, such as Mothwing's Spring Mimicry or Mossy Oak's Obsession. For fall hunts stick with patterns on the brown, tan or gray ends of the color spectrum, such as Mossy Oak's Infinity, Bill Jordan's Advantage Timber, or Fall Sniper Brown. Choose large angular patterns overlaid with detailed patterns; these break up your outline at a distance and offer you excellent concealment up close.
The alternative to camouflage is to simply go with muted colors. Keep in mind that every layer you wear could potentially become an outer layer, depending on the temperature where you are hunting. So choose your tee shirts, thermal underwear, shirts, pants, jackets and raingear with this in mind. Avoid blue, black, or (except in snow conditions) white. These colors stand out. Instead go with browns, grays, or tan colors.
Most experienced Alaska hunters use three boxes of ammunition for a hunt. The first is expended at the range and the other two go on the hunt. If you're shooting factory loads, check the lot number that is stamped on the box. Factory ammunition is loaded in batches, with each lot number stamped on the box. Choose ammunition that has all the same lot number stamped on the flap, for the best in accuracy. In the field, one box of ammunition will remain in camp for backup, while the other will go with you in the field, split between your pack, the cartridge carrier on your belt, and the magazine of your rifle. Most experienced Alaska hunters don't hunt with a round in the chamber for safety reasons. There is always time to chamber a round just prior to firing at an animal.
Not sure what caliber / load combination to use for your Alaska hunt? Read through our Alaska Shooting Forums for some ideas and the chance to discuss the topic with Alaskans who know their stuff.
Backpack Stove, Fuel
Any time you leave camp there is a chance you could end up spending the night away from your gear. Bring your backpack every time you leave camp, and load it with the essentials you'll need, including a lightweight backpack stove and fuel bottle. There are many styles of stoves available, but the following models are highly recommended, having gone through rigorous testing in Alaska. They don't require special fuel canisters you can't find in remote villages, and burn just about any type of fuel. They offer the ultimate in flexibility.
It's no secret that top-quality optical gear saves you hours of walking to confirm what you should have known by looking through the glass. Spend as much as you can afford and you'll never regret it. The two most popular lens configurations for an Alaska binocular are 8x32 and 10x42. Though the magnification difference between an 8x and a 10x binocular is unremarkable, the field of view and light-gathering ability of the larger lens gives the user a significant advantage in low light conditions. It's worth carrying the extra weight. Here are some popular brands.
Whatever binocular you decide to purchase, you must consider that you will wear the unit around your neck for your entire hunt. Choose a strap that is comfortable for you. Most binocular straps are narrow and will dig into your neck after several hours. Instead, go with a neoprene strap. Butler Creekmakes a neoprene strap with clips at each end, which allows you to release one end and slide the strap out from under your jacket hood. This means you don't have to put your hood up to remove it. Very convenient.
Educate yourself on optics by reading John Barnsess's "Optics for the Hunter", arguably the best book ever written on binoculars, spotting scopes, rangefinders and rifle scopes for hunting.
Cameras have advanced in a phenomenal way in the last few years. The advent of light-weight digital cameras that take high-definition still and video shots has been a huge windfall for hunters who often depend on rugged, light-weight gear. Whatever you choose, make a list of your accessories so you don't forget critical items. Here are some examples:
- Spare batteries
- Spare memory cards
- Waterproof housing
- Tripod adaptor
- Flash or lighting unit
- Special lenses and attachments
The variety of cameras available is astonishing. Rather than go into a long list of acceptable brands, let's skim the top brands that offer a variety of options you can use on your hunt:
- GoPro Hero HD Camera. This camera is specifically designed to let the world see your hunt through your eyes. Available with headband, tripod, clamp-on, glue-on mounts of all types and sizes, this camera can be either hand-held or secured to something (including your body) to take some amazing HD video and stills, including time-lapse photos. Don't forget the accessories!
- Canon Powershot SX40 HS. An easy-to-use point-and-shoot camera that takes very high resolution stills and full HD 1080p video in stereo sound. This is an ideal hunting camera because it lets you capture stills and video, it's compact, and is simple to use.
Though you'll carry some rounds in the magazine of your rifle, you still need easy access to a few spare rounds. Typically those are carried in a cartridge carrier on your belt. Avoid the carriers that leave the bullets or cartridge casings exposed. It's too easy to lose rounds out of these carriers, they snag on tight brush, the bullet tips can become damaged and the metallic glare of the exposed cartridge casings in sunlight can give away your position. Instead, go with something that encloses the cartridges completely.
Cleaning Rod, Brush
There's always a risk of poking your rifle barrel into the mud or having a malfunction with a cartridge that leaves an obstruction in the breech. A cleaning rod is a must-have on an Alaska hunt. Bring a collapsable rod and brush (sized appropriately for your bore), and keep it in your pack while you are hunting. Most problems that occur happen while you are carrying or using the rifle; a cleaning rod left in camp cannot clear an obstruction in the field.
- Otis Technology. These folks carry a variety of cleaning accessories, incuding the "Kit and Caboodle", a compact cleaning kit that's great for hunts where weight and bulk are critical factors.
With the advent of GPS units, many hunters are losing their skills with a compass. GPS units can fail, batteries can die, and a person who is dependant on the unit telling them where they are could be in real trouble if a failure occurs. Bring a good compass and know how to use it.
- Silva makes some of the best compasses on the market.
- "Wilderness Navigation" by Bob and Mike Burns provides the basic knowledge of compass use and navigation techniques that could save your life.
External Frame Pack
Internal frame packs lack the space and support needed for carrying heavy loads of game meat out of the field. Go with a sturdy frame and bag that's designed for Alaska conditions. The Moose Pack by Barney's Sport Chalet is the perfect choice. Read our review of the pack AT THIS LINK. If you're on a tight budget, at least purchase the frame. It comes with a shelf used for supporting heavy loads. You can add the bag to the frame later.
First Aid Kit
Most first-aid kits are incomplete for use on an Alaska hunting expedition. Purchase a comprehensive kit and supplement it with additional items you require. Review our First Aid Kit list for details on items you may want to bring in the field. Keep in mind that if the weather goes down it may be impossible for rescue personnel to get to you for several days. You must be self-contained. Even though it is impossible to prepare for every scenario, you should make sure that your medical kit is adequate to meet most emergencies you might encounter in the field.
- Adventure Medical Kits offers a wide variety of medical kits and supplemental items.
An Alaska hunt requires a great deal of flexibility in the field. It's entirely possible that you might make a late afternoon stalk on an animal late in the day, which may result in needing to remain in the field overnight without returning to camp. Pack some light-weight food items in your pack for such possibilities and you won't go hungry! Here is a partial list, supplement as you need to. While you're at it, toss in some hot drink mixes too; nothing warms up your core temperature like hot cocoa or even soup. And preparing it gives you something to do when the nights get long and cold.
A GPS is a great tool for field navigation, and performance and features have come a long way since they were introduced. A few words of caution, though: First, bring paper maps in addition to the GPS unit. Batteries can fail, GPS units can take a dip in the river or fall overboard, and other issues can occur that would render the device useless. Always have paper maps with you! Second, ensure the datum on your GPS is set to the same datum as your paper maps, in order to ensure that your coordinates in both sources match. Here are some excellent choices when it comes to GPS units:
Gun and Reel Cloth
Bring a gun and reel cloth with you and leave it in your gear in camp. If it's been raining you can wipe your rifle down with a dry cloth and use the gun and reel cloth to apply a lightweight coating of silicone oil to prevent rust. Here are a couple of reliable brands:
Whether you're clambering through the alders with a load of meat on your back, hiking back to camp after hours, rummaging through your dry bag or just laying in the sack reading a book while the wind and rain beat against your tent, a headlamp is practically worth its weight in gold on an Alaska hunt. Choose one with both high and low settings; these offer superior battery life on the low setting, yet plenty of light when you really need it. Of course your headlamp must also be waterproof, and it is recommended that you choose one that uses AA batteries, as long as your other electronic gear (cameras, GPS, radios and the like) use the same. This allows you to swap batteries as needed. Here are some brands that have worked well in Alaska.
- Petzl Tikka XP2 Headlamp. A very rugged, super lightweight LED headlamp.
- Mammut Lucido X-Zoom Headlamp. Incorporates a battery pack for extended battery life.
Make up a Poor Man's Dry Bag for your salt, and another for your cotton game bags. In the bag with the game bags in it, also toss in your citric acid powder, spray bottle, rope, meat pole tarp, ulu, extra parachute cord and meat thermometer. On float hunts both of these bags can be loaded toward the bottom of your load, as you won't need them until you have an animal down.
Clothing: The Basics
- Bandannas (2). Cotton bandannas are great for keeping sweat out of your eyes while packing meat, and work well for blotting raindrops or condensation from binocular or rifle scope lenses.
- Coat. A four-in-one jacket offers the best in layering versatility. Zip out the liner and wear it alone, wear the shell alone, or wear both together as needed. Other features to consider are zippered pockets (to keep from losing small items), drawcord hood, drawcord waist, and a draw cord at the bottom, to reduce heat loss.
Float Hunting Gear