Gear Kits

What to Pack for a Kayaking Trip in Alaska's Backcountry

Stay dry, safe, and comfortable in some fo the most remote waters in North America.

Curated by Sonja Saxe

Kayaking through Alaska’s Glacier Bay was high on my adventure list for quite awhile but everything about it took so much extra planning and preparation. My gear list was no exception! I’ve been on many backcountry trips but packing for a kayaking trip required a little bit of a different approach since all of my selections were centralized around keeping my gear and me as dry as possible. To make a similar trip easier for you I put together a list of the gear I found most useful!

Keeping all of your gear dry is of utmost importance on a kayaking trip since wet gear can be an inconvenience at best and life-threatening at worst. We ensured that all our gear stayed nice and dry by using SealLine dry bags. I recommend buying multiple sizes so you can strategically pack the smaller bags deep into the bow and stern of your boat.

I’ve been using this Platypus filter for many trips now and I love it. Not only does it filter 4 liters of water in less than ten minutes without you needing to do anything but fill up the “dirty” pouch, but the clean water pouch can also be used to store an additional 4L of water if necessary.

Getting in and out of your kayak will require you to wade through cold water. These XTRATUF boots are a staple for Alaskans and it’s easy to see why: They work.

Chances are if you are planning an extended trip into Alaska’s backcountry you are going to experience rain at one point or another. If you’re lucky it will only be a day or two. If you bring a rubberized, waterproof (not just water resistant) jacket you will prepared for even the most inclement weather.

Rain pants are necessary for the same reason as a rain jacket!

This lightweight, easy to set up tent has seen me through some of the nastiest conditions. I’ve used it for 3 years now (50+ nights spent in it) and it’s withstood gale force winds, 24 hours of unrelenting rain (in Alaska, of course), and even an unexpected snow storm!

Choosing a synthetic sleeping bag over down is vital to keeping your bag dry in a rainy and wet climate such as southeastern Alaska. Down becomes much less effective when it’s wet whereas a synthetic bag will hold up better in the off chance it gets wet.

Summer days in Alaska are long, which is great because you have more hours to paddle but you also have more hours you need to protect yourself from the sun. The best way to protect your face is by physically covering it. I wrapped my Buff around my face, covering my mouth, chin, and cheeks and it kept my skin much more protected than in the past when I relied on sunscreen alone.

Paddling gloves will help protect your hands from blisters and the cold katabatic winds when you spend long days on the water.

Like I mentioned previously, the Alaskan sun is strong! I wore sunglasses for almost the entire duration of my trip, even on overcast days and even in the tent! These polarized Sunski glasses are my favorite and I love all the different colors.

If you drop your sunglasses while hiking you can pick them up, but if you drop them while kayaking you say goodbye to them forever. These floating retainers will allow you to keep your sunglasses if you drop them!

Another protective measure against the sun because you really can’t have enough sun protection!

I wear this watch on all my adventures and I especially like that it has a setting for paddling. Not only can I keep track of my mileage, I can also keep track of my 500m pace and stroke rate!

This is a great way to send messages in the depths of the backcountry where cell service is zilch. You can create preset messages that you can send out (along with a location) to a person of your choosing in civilization. It also has an SOS button in case of emergencies, this is especially helpful when you’re in a remote place like Alaska. It also acts as a typical GPS device with topo maps. This piece of gear is expensive and it requires a monthly service fee on top of its retail price but if you regularly head out into the backcountry and you have loved ones that sit up all night because they're worried sick about your well-bein,g it's worth it for their (and your) peace of mind.