Some of my favorite places to camp in Alaska are Denali National Park, the White Mountain Recreational area, and along the Denali highway. I just become all kinds of excited when preparing for a hiking and camping trip. I pore through my backcountry camping recipes for new ideas and camping gear is strewn across the floor to assist in the decision-making process of what goes this time and what doesn’t.
Certain items, however, simply must be packed. The tent and sleeping bag are a must. The mosquitoes in Alaska have a very bad reputation for picking people up and carrying them off in their sleep and the weather here can change in minutes. Definitely not a place to sleep out in the open sans cover. Camera and binoculars also must be packed. One never wants to pass up a chance to see the multitude of wildlife that is often at a distance (and many times, preferably at a distance) such as bear, caribou, sheep, wolves, moose and the occasional lynx. There are amazing photo opportunities everywhere you look, from the tundra under your feet to the birds overhead. In fact, if photography is a passion, I can think of no better place to live than Alaska.
Unless you are completely self-sufficient and know how to live off the land, I highly suggest bringing food and some sort of water purification system with you. Into The Wild was a great story and movie, but I don’t suggest one follow in that young man’s footsteps – look how he ended up. There are backcountry cookbooks with wonderfully tasty recipes that you can prepare ahead of time and pack for your trip as well as some yummy freeze-dried meals stocked by various camping outlets. Long gone are the days that freeze-dried meant tasteless, these prepared meals are very good and usually only require hot water to prepare. Your water purification system can consist of filters, iodine tablets, or simply boiling your water. I don’t suggest boiling water though, it takes time and precious fuel. Do not ever assume rivers and ponds are safe to drink from without taking precautions.
When it comes to hot water and cooking without worrying about finding wood to start a fire with, my absolute favorite piece of equipment to carry is my little cooker. It essentially is a heat safe, insulated mug with an igniter and little container of white gas made specifically for it. Attach the igniter to the gas container, sit the mug on top of the setup and click the igniter. A knob on the side of the igniter allows you to control the flame. Boil the water, turn off the igniter, add your dried food, mix and there is dinner. You can eat and drink right out of the cup. When finished, simply boil some water again, wash and dry your cup, and put away. It takes away the need for a bulky Coleman stove or the little setups requiring separate bottles of fuel and separate eating containers.
Now, suppose it is a cold, drizzly day, or it is evening and you are comfortably ensconced in your tent with absolutely no desire whatsoever to go outside. Unfortunately you have to go to the bathroom. Now what? Brave the cold and dark? Who wants to do that? Portable urinals to the rescue! This is another handy-dandy item that I absolutely must pack when going camping. It is disposable and turns urine into gel. The package has no odor, does not leak, and is completely self-contained. I consider it an essential when I camp.
So, my suggested essentials are a tent, sleeping bag, camera, binoculars, food, water purification system, compact cook stove and disposable urinals. Take these and have a totally marvelous camping trip. Happy Trails!