Essential Alaska Camping Gear

By Ryan Wilson

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alaska camping gear

An Alaskan camping trip is a fabulous way to explore the state. Camping in the state is not all that different from camping elsewhere. But, there are some unique aspects to Alaska, such as its remoteness and bears, that require some specific Alaska camping gear.

I have been camping for over 30 years, and have camped in Alaska for nearly 20 years, so I have experienced a lot of different conditions that you might encounter when camping in Alaska.

It’s through these experiences that I have developed the list below of what I view as essential Alaska camping gear. Some of the items of Alaska camping gear I list are just to increase your comfort (e.g., mosquito gear), whereas others are pretty important for your safety (e.g., bear spray).

I don’t dive into all of the gear you need for camping as I expect you know normal gear you need to camp (e.g., tent, sleeping bag). I also don’t focus on essential Alaska camping gear for backpacking or other camping trips that are not on Alaska’s road network.

Below I provide 10 items I view as essential for an enjoyable and safe camping trip in Alaska and why I believe you need them on your next camping trip in our beautiful state.



Essential Alaska Camping Gear

1. Bear Spray

bear spray

Bear spray is something I ALWAYS have with me while camping and recreating outdoors in Alaska. Even when I go for a walk along the trails in my neighborhood in Anchorage, I always bring bear spray. Bears are present almost everywhere in Alaska, and are particularly drawn to Alaskan campgrounds because of food odors, poor campsite cleanliness, and dumpsters!

You just can’t be too careful when you’re in bear country. While bear attacks are rare in Alaska, they do occur every year. Bear spray has been shown to be VERY effective at stopping bears before they attack and for preventing human fatalities. One study found that 98% of people carrying bear spray were uninjured during close encounters with bears.

That is why bear spray is my number one essential item for your Alaska camping gear.

Important Note!: You cannot fly with bear spray. So, it’s probably best to wait until you get to Alaska to buy it. Most hardware and outdoor stores carry it throughout the state.


2. Garmin inReach

inReach

A Garmin inReach might seem a little overboard for an Alaskan camping trip, especially if you’ll be camping in establish campgrounds, but you must remember how remote Alaska is. Even along “major” highways in the state, there can be long stretches with limited to no cell phone coverage. The Garmin inReach is a satellite communication device that allows you to communicate with an emergency dispatch operator (via text on the device) if you need help or rescue.

If you are in an accident while driving to campground, or have a medical emergency anywhere in the state where your cell phone doesn’t work, if can be the difference between life and death!

I carry a Garmin inReach with me anytime I am driving in the state, or while I’m hiking, backpacking, fishing, or doing anything where cell coverage is likely to be limited. The Garmin inReach is a pricey accessory, but it can be a really important tool if you’re traveling to remote areas of the state, which is MOST of the state!


3. Mosquito Repellent

mosquito repellent

It goes without saying, Alaska is known for it’s abundant an oversized mosquitos. So much so that people jokingly call them the state bird! For any outdoor adventure in Alaska it’s a good idea to carry mosquito repellent. You’ll have a much more enjoyable camping trip. I promise!


4. Electric Mosquito Swatter

mosquito zapper

I bought an electric mosquito swatter of these last summer, and since then I’ve bought an additional two. These are great for swatting bugs away while sitting around in camp, or while fishing along a buggy shore. They are inexpensive and quite cathartic every time you hear a mosquito get zapped.


5. Mosquito Tent

mosquito tent

Sometimes in Alaska, mosquito repellent and a mosquito zapper are just not enough to keep the bugs at bay. That’s why I always bring a mosquito tent with me when camping in Alaska. They allow you to stay outside your tent or camper even if the bugs are horrible. Who wants to go on Alaskan camping trip only to be stuck inside the entire time?


6. First Aid Kit

first aid kit

Alaska is a huge state and you can literally be hours away from the nearest hospital. It could even take days to reach medical attention depending on where you are camping and what the weather conditions are like. Thus, you need to be prepared to take care of basic (and even moderate) injuries.

As a Certified Wilderness First Responder, I always carry a robust first aid kit every time I camp. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have used something from my first aid kit during every single time I go camping with my family


7. Sunscreen

sunscreen

It might seem ironic that a place that receives hardly any sunlight in winter would require sunscreen in the summer, but that’s Alaska for you! Even though the summer temperatures aren’t as high as in the lower 48, the sun can be intense and last nearly all day.

Sunburns are a real thing up here, so it’s best to carry sunscreen with you, especially if you’re planning on being on the water all day, or hiking in the alpine tundra.


8. Collapsible Salmon Fishing Rod

fishingrod

So many Alaskan campgrounds are close to world class salmon fish. So, if you want to try your hand at fishing, it’s a good idea to carry a fishing pole capable to catching salmon in fresh and saltwater.

Sure, some places offer them for rent, but you’ll honestly end up paying more renting a fishing pole for the day than buying a nice collapsible one for your trip.

Alaska has some very specific rules on when, where, and what types of salmon you can fish for, so be sure to check fishing regulations before you cast your first hook. And be sure to get your fishing license too!


9. Eye Mask

eyemask

When you’re camping under the midnight sun, sometimes it’s hard to sleep! If you have trouble sleeping when it’s not pitch black, then you probably want an eye mask to help you sleep. This is especially true the further north you go in the state during summer.

If you’re camping above the Arctic Circle, chances are you will never see the night sky and will have the sun above the horizon the entire time! So if you’re the least bit worried about sleeping while the sun is out, an eye mask is a good option.


10. Cash

cash

I know, it’s silly to think of cash as being “essential” Alaska gear for camping, but many of the campgrounds around the state do not have electronic payment kiosks, given their remoteness. I’ve noticed a steady increase in the number of State-run campgrounds that now have kiosks that you can pay with credit cards. But you never know which will have them and which won’t.

And while you can reserve many campgrounds online and pay with credit cards there, most of the campgrounds on federal lands in Alaska don’t have an electronic payment kiosk on site.

So, it’s always a good idea to carry some cash or checks (yes, most still accept checks) when camping in Alaska to cover campground fees.


Summary

Alaska is a diverse and beautiful state. But don’t let its beauty deceive you. Without proper planning, a quick and easy camping trip could become quite miserable or dangerous without the right gear.

You certainly don’t need every piece of Alaska camping gear I list above, but you should consider each item to see if you think a trip without them would be comfortable and safe.

There are two pieces of Alaska camping gear on the list that I think everyone should have while camping in Alaska: bear spray and a robust first aid kit. But I honestly bring every single item on my list during my Alaskan camping adventures!

Regardless of what Alaska camping gear you choose to bring, just be smart and don’t underestimate Alaska’s ruggedness, remoteness, and unique challenges you might face when planning your trip.

Interested in learning more about camping opportunities in Alaska? Check out our page reviewing campground and camping opportunities throughout the state.

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Author

Ryan is an avid outdoorsman who loves camping, hiking, and backpacking. He was initially reluctant to join the camper world, but after his first camping trip in one, he became a convert. He especially loves how camper ownership extends the camping season and makes it easier to be more adventurous with young kids. When not enjoying his free time, he works as a professional wildlife biologist studying the ecology and conservation of large mammals in Alaska.