Travel Basics:

What to Pack When Visiting Southeast Alaska

Much of Southeast Alaska is part of the Tongass National Forest, the nation's largest temperate rain forest. You should expect and plan for rain.

Clothing

You'll want to bring clothing that reflects the local climate. In the summer, you could see sunny days with temperatures in the 70s. Otherwise, expect temperatures in the 50s or 60s. In the winter, temperatures can range from in the 30s to below zero. Precipitation is possible, so raingear and waterproof footwear will help keep you comfortable. Make sure to check out the individual community pages for more information on local weather.

Provisions

Services including supplies, lodging, fuel, food, charters, and medical services are located to varying degrees in SEAtrails Communities but not along the trails, so stock up before traveling into the backcountry. Wild foods like fish and berries can supplement what you carry in:

  • Fishing - Many people hike Southeast's trails summer and winter to fish. Be sure to obtain a license and read the regulations for the area. Regulations can be picked up at the ferry terminals and visitor center in Haines, in sporting goods stores, and State of Alaska Fish and Game offices. Also, cook and store all fish products far away from your tent and camp area so as not to attract bears.
  • Edible Plants - There are many edible plants in Southeast Alaska, but the most obvious are the plentiful berries that can be gathered from late June through October. Blueberries and salmonberries are the most common, although you can find huckleberries, thimbleberries, and high bush cranberries as well. Other edible plants include succulent beach greens found close to, or below the high tide level such as the sea-beach sandwort (sea-purslane) and goose tongue. Strawberries are also often seen among the beach rocks.

Communications

Communications in Southeast are limited to cell and phone coverage near major communities, and FM radio station broadcasts of listener personals or "muskeg messages" over the air as a public service to those without a phone (KRBD serves Ketchikan and many Prince of Wales Island communities; KSTK Wrangell; KFSK Petersburg; KCAW Sitka, Angoon, and Kake; KTOO Juneau, Hoonah, and Gustavus; and KHNS Haines, Klukwan, and Skagway).

In emergencies, a VHF radio may reach passing boats on a line of sight basis. In a dire emergency, the use of an EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon) may be your only avenue of communication.

Cameras

Always keep camera, binoculars, and maps in strong ziplock bags, or any waterproof container. Do not leave an unprotected camera in the bottom of a boat or tent. If the camera gets properly submersed, take out the film and batteries. Place the film into its container with fresh water and let the developers know what has happened. If possible, separate the lens from the body and wrap the parts in warmed towels to draw out the moisture. If still wet, seal them in Ziploc bags, squeezing out as much air as possible. Keep it sealed until delivering them to the repair shop. If the camera lands in sea water, rinse it first in fresh water, then follow the same procedure.