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Thread: New to backcountry, where to start?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2015

    Default New to backcountry, where to start?

    Hi everyone,

    During my youth, I've always been quite the fan of hiking and being outdoors. With my family, we had a standard trip to the Alps (I'm from Belgium, by the way) every year until I turned 16 or something, where we had some amazing trips. Because of my parents' divorce, these kinds of trips finally ceased but recently (I'm now 29, coming on 30), I went back there and had an amazing time. I did a load of one day hikes, with one semiclimb (no vertical, just no path and a lot of very steep rocks ending in a ledge of 100m that was way too narrow for my liking) that was, because of my mild fear of hights, pretty nerve wrecking but amazing at the same time.

    Either way, that holiday adventure refueled my enthousiasm for these types of trips and while doing some internet research, I stumbled upon this amazing adventure of four guys who did a 33 day backcountry trip through the Alaskan (is that a word?) wilderness. For the record, I'm not looking for something exactly similar as I can't afford to be away from work for over a month and don't have the necessary experience.

    I have two friends who are also very keen in joining me on these trips, so I'm happy to not have to go alone. The question is though, how do you start with all of this? Especially in my case, Since I'm not from North America, I'm kind of limited in ways to build up experience. I've got a 3 day trip planned to northern France to do a test run for some things like setting up tents, cooking our own food, handling your own waste, hiking with a 'heavy' backpack, etc... Somewhere next year, we have the Scottish Highlands on our list and the next trip we would make would be to northern Sweden. Both countries allow wild camping (with some regulation obviously) without being too desolate.

    I'm wondering if the above trips would be enough to prepare us for our final goal, which would be 10-14 days out in Alaska. Any tips, tricks or general advice in regards would be very welcome.

    Thanks in advance, and apologies for any potential spelling errors since English is not my native language.

  2. #2
    Member Roger45's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Palmer, AK


    You have two separate issues as I see it. What do I use for backpacking as well as how to use the equipment. Then, what's it like to hike/trek in Alaska.

    As to the first part, finding a proper backpack is paramount as it will be the one constant that not only carries all your survival gear, it will be on your back more than any other item. What you put in this pack is also critical as you want to go as lightweight as possible, yet carry essential items. There are a lot of "list" where people tell you what they think are Must Have items, but going out on your euro trips will help you sort out what is important to you. Absolute must include a shelter to keep you dry at nights and out of the rain. A ground mat as our ground is too cold to sleep on without an insulation barrier. A sleeping bag that will keep you warm even when wet (you have to plan on a lot of rain here). Your clothing options should avoid anything cotton as it will never dry once wet here. You need to make sure you can keep your feet dry too. These are just a few things to get you to start thinking.

    As to the actual trekking here...make sure your euro hikes includes a lot of climbing up and down steep slopes and crossing water (streams) as many times as you can. Getting your feet wet and knowing how to get your boots and feet dry over and over again is important so it's done without thinking. Another thing you also need to educate yourself on is bear protection...I would suggest that you learn about bear spray and how to use it properly and there are many classes to teach you. There are tons more things to know, but it will all depend on which part of the State you plan to go to for your adventure. Many other people will add to this once you give us a better idea where you plan to go.

    I would also recommend that you go to a couple other forums on this Outdoor Directory site. There are two rafting forums that are exclusively about remote Alaskan adventures. Even if you don't plan on going by raft, they have a ton of information on what equipment works best in very remote places across the State. They may even have recommendations on where you might have the most adventure with your personal abilities/limitations. Above all, have a great time preparing this summer and make it fun :-)
    "...and then Jack chopped down the beanstock, adding murder and ecological vandalism to the theft, enticement and vandalism charges already mentioned, but he got away with it and lived happily ever after without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done. Which proves that you can be excused just about anything if you're a hero, because no one asks the inconvenient questions." Terry Pratchett's The Hogfather

  3. #3


    I like hiking very much,when I have time,I will go hiking with my friends.If we go hiking nearby,we won't bring anything.But if we go hiking a big far,we will bring many things,sleeping bag,hiking shoes,tent,Ultralight Foldable Camping Stove,waterproof backpack,Alpenstock,cookware and pot and so on.With this equipment,we will have a happy travel and don't afraid of hungry.

  4. #4
    Member 4merguide's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Kenai Peninsula, Alaska


    Quote Originally Posted by Klaas View Post

    I'm wondering if the above trips would be enough to prepare us for our final goal, which would be 10-14 days out in Alaska....
    I don't know why they wouldn't be....

    As what was mentioned, staying dry, or getting dry quickly, should be a major objective. People die from hypothermia here in the middle of summer quite often. But from what I've seen I would image the same to be true in some places in Norway or Sweden?

    Also mentioned, bear spray, as well as a bear fence may be something to consider.

    Other than that, just deciding where to go will probably be the hardest thing to figure out..... in a state the size of Alaska the options are endless. I'd have to say that if it were me, and I was in your shoes, I'd probably opt for a stint in Denali Nat Park, or up into the Brooks Range somewhere. But that's just me and the kind of country (and wildlife) I like. You could also venture into Southeast Alaska, and probably be a little more into environments close to what (I think) you'd find in the Scottish Highlands. I know there is a lot of land above the arctic circle in Sweden, so if that's the kind of country you'd like to see then you'd definitely want to go up into Northern Alaska.

    Good luck on your choice and let us know what you decide....
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!


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