How To Remember Everything: An Exhaustive Alaska Expedition Packing List

I've convinced myself so many times that my memory was so good that I would remember everything I need to pack, every time—it all seems so obvious when you are in the thick of it. Turns out…not so. So a couple of years back, while freezing through some seriously cold Alaskan conditions, my buddies and I wrote it all down. The list can be used for most Alaskan expeditions from fly-in base camp set-ups to trips up the West Buttress and as a template to create your own list for lighter weight adventures in any cold weather range.

For this spring's trip I'm heading back to the same area we wrote the list in, the Hayes Range in the Eastern Alaska Range. This time, one of the teammates no longer lives close by, so a kitchen table, some beer and some hand-written notes won't cut it for organization. Instead, we got the list up on a Google Spreadsheet and can easily edit and share it online. You can access a blank version of it for your team to use and make your own. Here is a link to the list. And here are a few of the most easily forgettable items that make a can make a big difference:

Stove Board and Pot Rest
These are two of the easiest things to not have, but also some of the worst. Maybe not as catastrophic as forgetting the rope, but you would never do that…right? I always hated carrying a thin plywood board for cooking and, if don't have anything, you're constantly chasing your stove into the glacier. Instead, I use a piece of old foam sleeping pad cut to shape and covered in muffler tape. Another similar, but smaller pot rest is key as a hot pot put in the snow will melt into the kitchen counter and will cover the bottom of the pot in a layer of snow. That snow will melt, then extinguish your stove next time you use it.

Dippy Cup
Unless you're a seasoned Denali guide, well practiced in the subtleties of pouring hot liquid into Nalgene bottles, a little plastic dippy cup is key. If you only use it on boiling water, it's very easy to keep clean and much more hygienic than dipping your nasty water bottle in the group water supply.

Ski Leashes and Pack Leashes
If you ever take a crevasse fall, you want to keep these important items attached to you. A ski leash can be a store-bought set up, or a piece of thin cord tied prudently from the ski binding to your ankle. When making a pack leash, I tend to weave a piece of 6 mm cord through the shoulder straps and center loop, and then clip a single strand of it off to my harness's belay loop. It can hang from there as you ascend the rope in the unfortunate event of a crevasse.

Sled Brake
Skiing or snowshoeing downhill and getting taken out by a 60-pound sled sucks. A sled brake is a simple solution. Take a roughly 6-foot piece of 6-8 mm cord and tie knots in it every 8 inches. Attach either end in a loose loop to the front end of your sled and clip it up and out of the way for most traveling. To deploy it on a steep downhill, simply unclip it and let it hang below the sled. It will offer enough friction to hold you and your skis at a comfortable speed while straight lining Ski Hill. This is a simple and better alternative to complicated PVC pole arrangements.

Two Quiet Stoves
Melting snow in a big pot, 4 liters or more, is really efficient—especially if you have two stoves. The loud stoves like the Dragonfly and XGK are always tempting because they supposedly have more output, but get old fast. A couple of MSR Whisperlites are the way to go if you want to keep it civilized.

Closable Bowl
Leftovers are a prized commodity, and they can be easily saved in a 16-oz. Nalgene jar. I make a little foam insulator for it, too, so when I finally get to my Ramen it's still warm. If your buddy has one and you don't, you'll be bummed.

Hot Sauce
It can be a great escape.

GROUP GEAR

Base Camp

  • 3 mm cord: tons.
  • 1 Shovel each
  • snow saw
  • cook tent (Megamid-style)
  • curtain rod for cook tent (2)
  • Books  (2 per person = 6 books for a team of 3 people!)
  • solar charger
  • music source (phone or iPod)
  • charger cable for music source
  • speakers
  • basecamp tent—3-person tents are great for two people over the long haul, but not a necessity
  • tent anchors for each shelter (parachutes, a bunch of sticks, etc.), this is where you really burn up the P-cord 

Med Kit: Necessary Staples Listed

  • GI Antibiotic
  • pain killer, both prescription strength and over-the-counter (ibuprofen, etc)
  • general antibiotic
  • Sam Splint
  • roll of tape

Base Camp Kitchen Set-Up

  • stove board
  • pot rest
  • big thermos
  • 2 stoves
  • big pot (with lid)
  • small pot (with lid)
  • fry pan (with lid)
  • 2 pot grips
  • cutting board
  • personal bowl (Nalgene 16 oz jar w/ lid)
  • dippy cup(s)
  • Leatherman multitool
  • personal mug
  • coffee filters
  • coffee
  • 2 pumps each stove
  • stove repair kit
  • sponge
  • soap
  • ziplock bags
  • spice kit
  • hot sauce (cock sauce)
  • extra duffel for food
  • 3 lighters
  • spatula
  • flexible stir thing
  • stuff sack or duffel for pots, stoves, etc.
  • fuel
  • contractor trash bags or trash compactor bags

Other

  • light weight route tent
  • rack for terrain
  • tethers
  • extra belay device
  • kick wax for skis
  • good bottle(s) bourbon
  • glacier travel kit (see below)
  • 4 sets batteries (lithium ion for GPS, alkaline for avy beacon)
  • Sat Phone
  • mini camera tripod

 
Repair Kit

  • seam grip
  • pole section repair
  • TONS of parachute cord
  • bailing wire
  • thimble
  • needle and thread
  • Speedy Stitcher
  • duct tape
  • spare set of crampons, or parts
  • nylon repair kit
  • basket for ski pole
  • Leatherman multitool
  • buckles/tri glides
  • flat webbing matching size of buckles
  • stretchy parachute cord
  • lighter

PERSONAL GEAR

  • Glacier Travel: for our system a total 6 non-locking biners and 2 lockers each
  • 60m rope
  • 2 prusiks (Sterling Rope's Hollow Block grabs on really skinny ropes)
  • 2 locking carabiners
  • foot stirrup with carabiner (I use a 4' sewn sling coiled up on a 2' shoulder sling that I can clip to a pre-tied
  • prussik)
  • 2-foot sewn shoulder sling for racking
  • slings (for connecting prusiks to harness, depending on system used)
  • cordelette w/ locking carabiner
  • 2 extra carabiners
  • ski leashes
  • pack leash with carabiner (for big pack)
  • picket (1 per person, maybe 2)
  • ice axe with adze
  • wands
  • sleds
  • flat webbing for sled haul w/ carabiner - tied around pack, just above hip belt
  • roughly 25 feet of 6 mil cord for sled rein - often woven through holes on edge of sled for security, not just tied
  • to front
  • roughly 15 feet of 6 mil for sled tie-down, woven in an "X" or "Z" pattern over load
  • light weight duffel for sled bag
  • carabiner to attached back of sled to rope to help with traverses and crevasse falls
  • sled brake and carabiner - 6' piece of 6-8 mil cord with knots tied every 8"
  • skis/poles/skins or snowshoes
  • crampons
  • ice axe with adze
  • GPS w/ topo maps
  • paper maps
  • compass
  • hat or visor
  • glacier glasses
  • sunblock
  • crampons
  • avalanche beacon if appropriate
  • shovel
  • probe

General

  • 2 Nalgene bottles
  • 2 Nalgene cozies
  • 2 headlamps for early season, none needed for late May/June-July
  • camera with extra batteries
  • WARM basecamp sleeping bag
  • route sleeping bag if doing a technical route
  • 3 foam pads, for real, bring 'em
  • 1 or 2 inflatable pads
  • 2 pair glacier glasses, with tether
  • goggles
  • 2-3 pair liner gloves for cooking etc.
  • gloves with removable liners (2 pairs)
  • mittens
  • Ice axes, one hammer and one adze!
  • stuff sacks (many)
  • handi wipes
  • Gold Bond
  • handkerchief
  • toothbrush/paste
  • floss
  • notepad/writing tool
  • Sharpie

Clothes

Miscellaneous

  • notebook
  • pens
  • extra stuff sacks
  • 2-3 mil cord, a personal stash is key.
  • flask full of good bourbon
  • boot laces (replacement lace for La Sportiva Spantiks is available)

Back in Town

  • Leave a pair of clean, dry socks in town.
  • Think head-to-toe cotton post glacier.
  • Slipping into some flip flops for a beer and a burger is heavenly.