Alaska Fishing Trip Gear and Clothing Advice
In the following, we attempt to clarify and/or explain some of the items on our SAFARI camp gear list for your upcoming Alaska fishing adventure. We’ll discuss some of the trade-offs, and we’ll offer some specific recommendations for your consideration. But please don’t feel limited to our suggestions below, as there are many good options out there… we offer these ideas as a good starting point for your research. After all… preparing for your Alaska fishing trip can be half the fun!
We included the items on our gear list that receive the most questions from our guests. (If we missed something that generates any confusion, please let us know and we’ll add it to the list.)
POLAR FLEECE VEST
Great for layering around camp or while on the water, some fishermen prefer a vest over a jacket since there are no sleeves to get wet when you are landing or handling fish. Windstopper vests can add an extra element of warmth.
- Suggestions: Patagonia Synchilla Vest (we have some logo vests for sale)
- Other brands: Simms, The North Face, Mountain Hardware, Marmot
POLAR FLEECE PULLOVER
Great if you’re cold natured, or fishing in Alaska mid to late June or late August through September. Wet sleeve cuffs are a drawback when handling fish in water. Windstopper pullovers can add an extra element of warmth.
- Suggestions: Simms Fleece Hoody or Jacket, Patagonia R2 Jacket, Patagonia R3 Hi-Loft Jacket
- Other brands: The North Face, Mountain Hardware, Marmot
QUICK DRY LONG SLEEVE SHIRT
This is the typical quick dry, non-cotton, long sleeve button down fishing shirt you see from Alaska to the Bahamas. Good for everyday use while fishing or traveling. Generally, you will layer a quick dry short sleeve t-shirt (or a light long sleeve baselayer) underneath your long sleeve fishing shirt. You can also use a thin pullover instead of a long sleeve fishing shirt (see alternate suggestions below).
- Suggestions: Simms and Patagonia offer numerous options
- Other Brands: Columbia, REI
- Alternate Suggestions: Simms Waderwick Fleece Top, Patagonia Capilene 3 Mid-weight Zip Neck
QUICK DRY T-SHIRT
Used as an undershirt to keep your outer shirt cleaner and smelling better, a quick dry t-shirt adds a light layering effect, plus they are easy to handwash if needed and dry quickly. Long sleeve versions work fine, too.
- Suggestions: Patagonia Capilene 1 Silkweight, Patagonia Capilene 2 Lightweight, Simms Tech Tee
- Other brands: Under Armor, REI
MID-WEIGHT POLAR FLEECE OR QUICK DRY PANTS
While fishing in Gore-tex waders, most summertime fishermen in Alaska wear either (1) a light to mid-weight polar fleece pant or (2) a quick dry pant with light to mid-weight long underwear underneath. Either configuration works fine at our fishing camps, but you should consider your own thermometer and the time of year you are fishing in Alaska.
If you want something you can wear casually around town or while traveling, then opt for quick dry pants and long underwear. If you’re not concerned with being fashionable, it’s hard to beat the warmth and comfort of polar fleece pants.
The quick dry pant with long underwear inherently offers more layering flexibility while fishing. If it’s “warm” outside, you can choose the pant or long underwear. If it’s cooler, than you can wear both together.
September fishing in Alaska can be cool to cold, so you may want to bring the warmer mid-weight polar fleece pants, or use mid-weight long underwear under your quick dry pants.
- Suggestions for Quick Dry: The North Face Paramount Peak Convertible Pant, Simms Guide Pant
- Other options: REI Sahara Convertible Pant
- Suggestions for Mid-weight Polar Fleece: Simms Waderwick Fleece Pant, Simms Rivertek Bottom
QUALITY GORE-TEX RAINGEAR
A must have for any Alaska fishing trip! On our gear list, the “raingear top” can mean 1 of 2 things – either a traditional Gore-tex rain jacket or a Gore-tex wading jacket.
Most fishermen prefer a gore-tex “wading jacket” instead of a traditional rain jacket. A wading jacket is shorter in torso length to help keep the lower portion out of the water – especially the pockets, which may fill up with water during deep water crossings. Plus, a wading jacket generally has oversized pockets for fly boxes, plus hand warmer pockets.
Whether you decide on a traditional jacket or a wading jacket, do not skimp – buy good raingear! This is one of your most important pieces of gear on any Alaskan fishing trip.
Waterproof rain paints are important for hanging around camp in rainy weather before and after your day of fishing. Do not forget them, but they are not as critical as the jacket.
- Suggestions for Wading Jackets: Simms Guide Jacket, Simms G3 Guide Jacket, Patagonia SST Jacket
- Other brands of traditional non-wading jackets: Patagonia, Marmot
LIGHT-WEIGHT RAINGEAR TOP
It is a good idea to also bring a light-weight rain jacket as a backup in case your primary rain jacket gets soaked, plus it can be used as a wind breaker for around camp. This item is not as critical as your primary rain (or wading) jacket, so you don’t have to invest quite as much money. Look for jackets that are light, packable and compressible.
- Suggestions: Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket
- Other brands: Marmot, REI, Columbia
SLIP-ON WATER PROOF CAMP SHOES
You’ll need some kind of water proof shoe for hanging around camp. Lace up hikers will work, but there is an extra level of convenience with slip-on shoes. You are more likely to slip them off before entering your sleeping shelter, which will help keep it cleaner.
It will most likely rain sometime during your week, and if it rains heavy, the trails around camp can become rather sloppy. This is why water proof or water resistant shoes are important. “Crocs” are convenient, light and affordable, but they just don’t work well when the trails are sloppy.
If you don’t plan on any day hiking during your week of fishing, leave your hiking boots at home. Slip-on camp shoes are perfect for camp life.
- Suggestions: Merrel – Jungle Mocs, Muck – Camp Shoe, SUV Hiker or Edgewater Camp Shoe, L.L. Bean – Rubber Mocs, Gumshoe, or Pull-on Boot, RedHead – Twin-Gore Boot
QUICK DRY CAMP TOWEL
In our wet and coastal Alaska Peninsula environment, cotton towels will never completely dry during a rainy or foggy week. A synthetic “camp” towel, which is reminiscent of a car shammy, works best.
You can usually find these at your local outdoor and camping store, but you may have to order them online. Don’t worry too much about the brand.
- Suggestions: Sea to Summit, MSR, REI
BUZZ OFF BANDANAS
“Buzz Off” is a general term used for clothing that has been chemically treated with permethrin to help deter biting insects. Around SAFARI camp in July and August, a buzz off bandana is helpful in keeping biting or swarming insects away from your face. At OUTPOST camp this type of bandana is helpful all weeks.
You can take it to another level and buy Buzz Off shirts and pants, which is very useful at our OUTPOST camp (shirts only at SAFARI camp in July and August). Or, you can buy a bottle of permethrin and treat your bandanas (or clothes) yourself for a lot less money.
- Suggestions: ExOfficio Buzz Off Bandana
- Suggestion for do-it-yourself: Sawyer Spray-on Permethrin
GORE-TEX WAIST OR CHEST WADERS
Hippers, waders that come up only to your crotch, are too short for our Alaska fishing trips. Water in your waders is inevitable. Waist-highs are the minimum practical height of waders that are required. They are cooler than chest waders when hiking, easier to take on/off, and they make it easier to relieve yourself. But chest waders offer the most warmth and protection from the elements, and you can even buy them with zippers (that actually work) for the best of all worlds.
Whatever option you choose, buy stockingfoot waders not bootfoot waders. Stockingfoot waders have a sewn in neoprene bootie and require a separate wading boot. Assuming you buy the correct wading boot, stockingfoot waders are infinitely more comfortable than bootfoot waders, which tend to be heavy and clunky.
Simms offers high-quality waders with the most options in a wide range of price points. Patagonia offers a very solid product, too, in fewer options.
- Suggestions: Simms Freestone Stockingfoot, Simms G3 Convertible, Simms G4 Zipper
Starting in 2012, felt soled wading boots are banned in Alaska. Now you need a wading boot, while fishing in Alaska, with a “sticky” rubber sole. Several companies offer rubber sticky rubber soles. We are partial to the Simms StreamTread sole, but there are several other options out there.
If you buy a studded wading boot, make sure they are removable so they don’t thrash up our tent floors at camp.
FYI, we reviewed the Simms RiverTek BOA wading boot in detail, but a traditional lace up wading boot has worked well for years.
- Suggestions: Simms Headwaters Boot, Simms Freestone.
We strongly suggest bringing a day pack on your Alaska fishing trip. They are far more versatile than just a hip or chest pack for storing water bottles and extra layers when you don’t need them. A waterproof or nearly waterproof pack is ideal (but more expensive). If you opt for a non-waterproof pack, bring Ziplocs for important items.
A few companies have hybrid packs that have been optimized for fishermen with larger storage compartments on the back (think extra layers and water bottles) and small storage areas on the front (think fly boxes and fishing gadgets).
- Suggestions: Umpqua Tongass 1800, Simms Dry Creek, Simms Dry Creek Z, Patagonia Stormfront, Patagonia Stormfront Roll Top, William Joseph Exodus pack, Sea to Summit Dry Packs, and many more….
TRAVEL DUFFEL BAGS
A soft-sided, weather-resistant duffel with built in backpack straps are the best bet for your remote Alaska fishing trip. While the larger roller bags are convenient for urban airports, they are definitely less than ideal for the small charter aircraft to/from camp – they just don’t cram into the nooks and crannies of Alaska bush aircraft. Generally, 2 medium bags (in the 70 to 75 liter range each) is better than 1 giant bag.
- Suggestions: Patagonia Black Hole Duffel (our favorite remote Alaska bag), Simms Dry Creek Duffel