Forget the usual clothes packing list.  I’m focusing on what you need to bring to make the most of the Alaskan outdoors.  One of the many perks to driving your motorhome to Alaska is having the space to bring plenty of sporting goods.

You probably have some of these already in your garage!

  • Binoculars:  You don’t know how many people we talk to who say “I didn’t see any wildlife on my way up here”.  We usually ask if they even stopped to look for any….  Yes, you occasionally see wildlife on the side of the road.  But in reality, it’s not a zoo and you are have to stop and look for it.  These straps are also really handy for keeping your binoculars controlled.
Glassing the hills for caribou on a hunting trip.
Glassing the hills for caribou on a hunting trip.
  • Fishing Rods and Reels:  The serious angler will need choices for each kind of fishing.

Small Fish:  Start off with a light action spinning rod and reel spooled with 4#-6# test, this will cover fishing for trout, grayling, and dolly varden.  I like a rod in the 4’6″ to 5’0″ range, they are easy to manage when fishing near bushes.  There are countless small rivers and lakes to fish and they are your most abundant fishing opportunity.

Trout, Grayling, and Dolly Varden are all fun to catch.
Trout, Grayling, and Dolly Varden are all fun to catch in Alaska.

Salmon:  Next you will need a medium-heavy rod and reel to fish for salmon in the rivers.  I prefer mine spooled with 50# braided line.  The braided line has no stretch and is tough enough to handle almost any salmon.  I have a favorite Ugly Stick rod that’s been whacking fish for a decade and my braided line lasts for over 4 years.  I fish hard and often, I also tear up reels every few years.  I maintain my gear and no matter what the price the reels are always the weakest link.  That’s why I get mid-priced reels knowing they only last for a few years.  

Fly Fishing:  I recommend a 3 weight for the smaller fish and a 7-8 weight for silver and sockeye salmon in the rivers.  Alaska’s rivers also hold trophy rainbow trout, a 7 weight rod will work just fine.  Fly fishing is an art and very personal.  If you are new to the sport I’d suggest going to your local fly shop and testing out a few set-ups.  If you are experienced, you probably already know what you want to bring.

A trophy rainbow caught with a 7 wt rod on an articulated leach.
A trophy rainbow caught on a 7 wt rod with an articulated leach.
  • Fishing Tackle:  I don’t use the traditional tackle box, I’m a tackle bag kind of man.  A tackle bag with boxes for each kind of fishing is far more versatile than carrying around a clunky box.  I have several boxes set up for each kind of fishing.  Most times I leave the bag at camp and stick the appropriate box in my backpack.

Small Rivers and Lakes:  This box is set up for trout, graying, and dollys.  All of these fish love shiny lures and spinners.  I would suggest Kastmasters, Panther Martin spinners, and some of your favorite lures from home.

Salmon:  Now we’re talking about a strong  fish that will snap a light action rod like a twig.  Most of the silvers and sockeye you will catch are in the 5-15 pound range.  If I only had one lure to fish for salmon it would be a chartreuse Blue Fox Vibrax #5.  You should also pick up some Blue Fox Pixies and some flies for flossing sockeye salmon.   If you want to fish for kings a few spin-n-glos and the larger #6 or #7 Vibrax will work.  I would also recommend having several sizes of hooks, leader material, and bobbers for bait fishing with roe.  Alaska Department of Fish and Game provides regulation books detailing the rules in each fishery, be prepared for fisheries that do not allow treble hooks, barbs, or bait.  You will also need to pay attention to Emergency Orders.    *If you really want to catch a king salmon I strongly recommend taking a fishing charter, which will supply the tackle.

Miscellaneous Tackle:  A strong stringer, small trout net, and salmon net will also be helpful.  I usually try to beach salmon instead of using a net but if the conditions are not favorable you will need a net.

  • Polarized Sunglasses:  If you’re driving or fishing you need a quality pair of sunglasses.  Remember you’re in the land of the midnight sun.  I wear glasses and have become a huge fan of Smith Optics.  They have prescription sunglasses that don’t look like prescription sunglasses.  They also offer discounts if you are an outdoor professional such as a fishing guide.
  • Waders:  If you’re a serious angler you MUST have chest waders.  I prefer the breathable style that require wader pants and wader boots.  Felt sole wader boots are not allowed in Alaska to prevent invasive species in our waters.  I work my waders hard and my honest opinion is that the Cabela’s Dry Plus Series is the best wader for the money in the $160 range.  I’ve spent $600 on waders before and they’ll start leaking halfway through a summer of guiding.  But I have a pair of Cabela’s Dry Plus Waders that just keep on going…  I would also be lying if I said these Simms G4’s don’t get me a little excited.

    Along with a great king salmon you can see the difference between chest waders and hip boots.
    Along with a great king salmon you can see the difference between chest waders and hip boots.
  • Boots:  I’m not talking about hiking boots but a nice pair of Mucks will take you a long ways.  Not having to worry about crossing a mud puddle or getting fish blood on your footwear is a good thing.
  • Knives:  When in the outdoors most Alaskans carry a good pocket knife.  A quality multi-tool will come in handy on many occasions.  If you plan on fishing, I would recommend bringing a fillet knife.

    Filleting a halibut.
    Filleting a halibut.
  • Back Pack:  If you’re going to do any outdoor activity you need something to carry your gear.  Look for a pack that’s comfortable, water resistant, holds a water bottle, and preferably has a waist strap.
  • Recommended Reading:  Highway Angler is a great introductory book for fishing the road system of Alaska.  We keep a copy in our motorhome for a quick fishing briefing on an area before we head out.

I hope this helps you get ready for your trip to Alaska.  If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.

 

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