New Gear & Prep for Alaska

While I’ve spent some time on rivers, including a great 18-day trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, I have yet to experience an Arctic River like the Kongakut. I leave for that trip on 19 June and we’ll be on the river for 15 days or so. Follow the adventure LIVE (starting 22 June or so) via the SPOT Tracker I’m borrowing from my friend Rob who I was in Peru with.

I’ve had to invest in some new gear to ensure I survive this. First and foremost is a dry suit. My friend Jeff Hoeben from my mountain search and rescue days was a kayak guide for Anacortes Kayaks a few years ago and swore by his Kokatat Meridian dry suit. He wore that thing nearly every day while sharing the splendor of Puget Sound.

I also picked up a PFD from Kokatat. I opted for the Guide rescue vest because after 15 years of rescue work, I can’t help but have all the options available with me to support whatever situation arises while out on a trip. It has a great pocket for my radio and to hold my waterproof point-and-shoot camera.

Also new on this trip is the GoPro helmet camera. I bought this used from a friend who wanted to upgrade to the GoPro HD. I didn’t know if I wanted to spend that kind of money yet, so this will be a good test run. It needed a firmware upgrade, and when that had some glitches the GoPro service department did a great job working me through it. Here’s hoping that firmware update solved the “blinking” auto-exposure problem it was having as they claimed it would.

I’ve also had to invest in some dry bags. On past trips, I’ve been with outfits that had dry bags, but this being a trip with friends, we all need to supply our own gear. I’ve opted for some new ultra-light drybags from Outdoor Research.

On a river trip, a boat would prove useful and as recommended by my fellow adventurer and photographer, Nathaniel Wilder, I’m using a Yukon Yak packraft made by Alpaka Rafts. These were beyond the budget to invest in, so I found an outfit in Anchorage, Packraft Alaska, where I could rent one for the trip.

Finally, while it’s not really a piece of rafting gear, I have not had a pair of trail shoes for a while and I picked up a pair of TrekSta Evolution trail runners. My friend Dave Egan recommended them and let me try on a pair and it was undoubtedly the most amazing first impression a shoe has ever made for me. The insole is designed to totally match the contours of your foot and with my high arch I found this very comfortable. I have to admit, it felt a little funny at first, because the insole is pre-shaped, but once my foot settled in the shoe it felt right. Read up on TrekSta’s NestFIT Technology to learn more about it. I’ve not worn these shoes much yet, but will take them to Alaska with me and I will be writing full reviews on each of these new pieces of gear when I get back.

Other than that, I’ll be using much of my tried and true gear: Ibex Longjohns & insulation layers, Marmot shell and pants (when not on the river), Marmot sleeping bag (prob my Pinnacle 15F),  Canon 5D DSLR camera, Pentax waterproof camera w/ movie mode, Gorilla-pod tripod, Slik Pro carbon fiber tripod (full length) and more. Stay tuned!

Here’s a satellite map of the area with the river route marked:

View Kongakut River in a larger map

About the author

Adventure Correspondent Cameron L. Martindell is a freelance adventure travel and expedition writer, photographer and filmmaker who founded in 2000. He has contributed to Elevation Outdoors Magazine, The Gear Junkie, National Geographic, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Outside, Backpacker, Wired, Australian Geographic, and others. He has been to all seven continents and lived on five of them, including a four-month stint at the South Pole. Cameron has more than 10 years of mountain search and rescue experience, is an Eagle Scout, has been an Australian bush firefighter, competes in sailing regattas, plans national and international youth programs, guides Oregon rafting trips and Australian bush backpacking trips.

Talk it up