Machete’s Guide Gear Talk – Clothes, Fleece & Rain Gear
As May comes to an end and the official start of summer begins, I think of what a huge departure this season has ushered in. Normally these would be the final weeks on the home-front before setting off on another season of guiding in the remote Alaska wilderness.
Let’s talk about some of the gear that I would consider essential for a guide or a client to consider when planning to spend time with us at one of our remote wilderness camps.
For me one of the things that has felt most disruptive is the sudden absence of what has become the pre-season ritual of preparing to spend a quarter of the year on the rugged Alaska Peninsula. May is the time of preparation and inventory. A true taking stock of what supplies are needed to both guide and live in a remote fly fishing camp.
There is a list. An official one that Rus provides to every guide before each season begins. It’s intimidating, or at least that’s how it felt the first time I remember laying eyes on it my first year guiding in Alaska. There’s everything on there from bandanas to bug spray. First aid, extra warm wool socks, two pairs of sunglasses and absolutely under no circumstances whatsoever are you to bring anything made out of cotton. There’s much more of course.
You’d be surprised how much room two pairs of waders, one pair of wading boots and two good Gore-tex jackets can take up in a duffel. And in the end once it’s all been sorted through and checked off the list, you look at it all packed up and bundled in your dry duffels and think; there it is, all of my worldly possessions for the next four months of my life.
The Right Clothes for the Wrong Weather
The first essential is having the right clothes. This seems like it would be an easy thing to gloss over, especially if you’re a potential client. It’s only a week after all of being on the ground. What’s the worst that could happen right? Wrong. The weather on the Alaska Peninsula is not only formidable, but also extremely unpredictable. You can see anything from swelteringly humid day time highs to lows in the 40’s and 30’s, especially in late September. The takeaway? Have realistic expectations and expect the unexpected – not every day is a brochure day.
Pack a range of clothes that will be appropriate for a litany of weather conditions. A few must haves would include some lightweight fishing shirts, especially ones with built in vents for cooling off if the mercury starts rising. Utilizing zip-off pants can go a long way. This cuts down on packing an additional pair of shorts for lounging around camp. A pair of insulated pants is definitely not a bad addition. This is especially nice to have on underneath your waders for those cold wet days on the water.
Fleece is Mandatory
One of my all time favorite materials for the myriad of weather and conditions at our two locations is Polar fleece. A synthetic blend, it’s lightweight, warm, wicks away moisture, insulates and is super comfortable to wear. I’d recommend it over heavier wool clothing because it’s easier to clean and doesn’t seem to keep the dampness as long as wool clothing can when wet. I go big when I fleece up for camp. One of my favorite pieces of outdoor clothing is my classic Synchilla Snap T pullover from Patagonia. Now it seems like all outdoor clothing companies offer some iteration of this design and I could not recommend it enough. A good fleece beanie is also a must, and if you’ve spent any time fishing with us up north then you know we all wear our black EPIC fleece beanie pretty much 24/7 while we’re in camp and on the water.
Don’t Skimp on Rain Gear
You’ll want to make sure to take your rain gear seriously. I’ve seen a lot of weeks at camp where someone turned the faucet on and forgot to shut it off. You’re going to live in the rain gear you brought with you day in and day out. Better make sure it’s up to the test. A good Gore-Tex jacket, or something equivalent is a must have. It’s one of the most indispensable pieces of equipment for a successful fishing trip (or season) in remote Alaska.
I can speak from experience. As a guide we are required to bring two rain proof jackets. One to work in and one to guide in. My first season I thought I’d make due with an old North Face jacket that had been hanging around in the closet for years. It was technically waterproof, but it was no match for what the Bering Sea and Northern Pacific had in store. Long story short, at the end of my second season I ended up throwing it in the burn barrel with the rest of the burnable garbage.
Don’t Forget a Face Buff
One last piece of attire that I’d tell everyone to bring is a Buff (sometimes called a Sun Gaiter). I’d bring one for hot weather and cold weather, e.g., one lightweight synthetic Buff and one with a wool blend for keeping the chill off. It’s easily glossed over when you’re packing your gear back at home, but I’ve seen enough crispy necks back in camp to call this one essential. It’s a surprisingly versatile piece of equipment in the field. I can remember a day during my first season when I was taking a couple on a pretty arduous hike to find a waterfall (we never made it to the waterfall). We’d gone a good clip under a relentless high noon sun when we all started to overheat. We quickly took our Buffs off from around our necks, dunked them in the cold creek water we were hiking up, and put them over our heads to cool us off. It worked like a charm. Then it started hailing. That’s Alaska weather for you in a nutshell.
……to be continued
(For more gear information and discussion, see a previous blog, Alaska Fishing Trip Gear.)
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