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Camping in Alaska: 5 Tips for First-timers

photo: The MILEPOST

Thank you to Sharon Nault, Senior Field Editor for The MILEPOST for these VERY helpful tips!

Camping in Alaska can be a memorable experience, thanks to both the grandeur of the scenery and the challenges of the Great Land. I love to camp, and have camped all over the state. Part of the attraction of camping is to break away from the norm and get out of the house and closer to nature. Camping often allows us to challenge ourselves to do–or even endure–things we never experienced before.

Here are 5 tips for first-timers (and reminders for others) on how to have a successful camping trip in our 49th state based on some of my challenges and experiences over the years.

1. Bring mosquito repellent, bug nets and your ingenuity. Once when I was going to drive my car up the Dalton Highway to the Arctic Ocean, I became very concerned about how I was going to deal with
mosquitos. The weather had been very hot and it was obvious I was going to have to leave some of the windows down all night in order to sleep in my car. Before departing, I bought some light, fine screen and velcro, figuring I could put something together if the mosquitos happened to be a problem. Well, they arrived in clouds and my jury-rigged window coverings didn’t work.

While I was fighting mosquitos, I watched another lady traveler pull up with a car like mine and throw a big tent over her entire car. She had found the tent in a thrift store. It had fine screen sides and she had cut the floor out of the tent. It covered her car clear down to the ground and then some. She slept; I didn’t.

photo: The MILEPOST

2. Store food properly to avoid bear problems. Recently, I heard about a tenter whose friends left food out on the picnic table. When she woke up, her feet had slipped out of her sleeping bag and a bear was licking them!

Use bear-proof food containers if available. If not, store food away from your camp and hide all food smells. Don’t fry bacon or put any good food smells in the air when camping where bears are a problem.

3. Take along your tried and true gear. You don’t want to be trying to put up a new tent at night in ill-fitting clothes while a cloud of mosquitoes attacks you. Make sure the clothes you take camping are already some of your old tried and true friends, clothes that you have already spent some comfortable miles wearing.

I was out on some Alaska islands once where the items of clothing we could take were limited. One man brought along a very nice pair of new long pants he had never worn. They were a little tight and the pants rubbed until he had painful sores on the inside of his legs, nearly ending his adventure.

photo: The MILEPOST

4. Choose your campsite carefully. Even if it is dry where I plan to camp, if it is raining in the mountains around me I will
make sure not to camp along a stream or river or in any low wash or low ground. Flood waters from the mountains can come roaring down unexpectedly even into areas where not a drop of rain has fallen.

Also, if I am camping in any kind of vehicle, I like to park facing out, or in any position where I can make a quick getaway if I have to.

5. Be prepared for any kind of weather. I never count on the weather being what they predict it is going to be. If they say it is going to be blisteringly hot, I still bring something warm and something waterproof, and I usually include a tiny little package that contains my tightly rolled up winter underwear. In my Alaska travels, I bring along my bibbed waterproof rain pants, hip boots and my waterproof raincoat. I can fish all day and never notice the rain.

I also never go camping without a bathing suit. I do not want to come upon a hot spring or a good swimming hole and not be able to get in. To me, that would be a disaster!

Alaska-style camping ranges from rustic to RV parks with full hookups and hot showers. Whether you are a full-time RVer or a first-time tent camper, you’ll find camping in Alaska a fun and safe way to see the state, whatever your age, whether you are traveling solo, with a family or in a caravan. Just be smart and do your homework with The MILEPOST!
The MILEPOST is available in bookstores and retail outlets; online at shop.themilepost.com and online retailers like Amazon.com; and by phone at 1-800-726-4707. A free digital edition of The MILEPOST is available to those who purchase the print edition. The editors also maintain a Facebook page, and will be blogging their travels at www.themilepost.com this summer. Check out what I experience this year by following the blog.

Happy Camping!
Ms. Sharon Nault is a senior field editor for The MILEPOST.

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