Monday, May 27, 2024

10 for Alaskan Winter

You might already be living in warm but things are still thawing out in Alaska.  Our daughter, Hadley, who has been living there since last spring, is following up her "10 for Alaskan Summer Camp" with a ten piece gear layout of the things that helped get her through the winter.  Oh, and she included a stellar playlist to listen to as you read through this gear review piece by piece.

As a dad, who's been writing this website since Hadley was three years old, it's neat to show off her experiences and writing as an eighteen year old adult on T.F.M.  Thanks for reading...

As Alaska's midnight sun started its winter hibernation, I turned to gear that made my everyday life more manageable, even enjoyable.  Each of these items were put to the test, whether it was exposed to the elements or just everyday use.  My "10 for Alaskan Winter" is composed of my “comfort gear”, many of which have lived several lives before my first real Alaskan winter.

For several months, my dad had been offering to buy me a pair of Carhartt overalls, but I always refused because I was sure I could buy them second hand. Neither of us really believed that I'd actually be able to find a pair but back in November I happened upon not one, but two pairs of Carhartt overalls at my local Goodwill.  It was fate.  I quickly threw these lightly used overalls into my cart and dashed to the checkout line as if someone was about to yank them out of my hands.  Immediately after leaving the store I called my dad to brag.  While I figured they would be a useful piece to have in my closet, I completely underestimated how much I would come to love them. Throughout the entire winter and into this spring, I have thrown my overalls on over my Patagonia thermal layers, sweatpants, or sometimes my pajamas to go to town, work, and even wore them up in Nome for the finish of the Idiarod. 

Yes, I bought both pairs for the price of one but, now knowing how much I love them, I will absolutely pay full price for another pair whenever mine are no longer wearable.  Even though they smell a little like snow machine exhaust, have mud splattered on the legs, and probably need a good wash, I know I'll wear these until they fall off.


When I was thirteen years old, my dad gifted me my first pair of Give'r gloves with my initials branded into them.  Although my father hoped I would wear them to work outside, they have mostly been used in a camp setting.  Whether I’m building a fire, cooking a meal on my MSR stove, or chopping wood, I’m wearing my Give’r gloves. 

To step it up for the frigid winter, I borrowed my dad’s leather Give’r Frontier Mittens. They immediately became my go-to mittens for walking the dog, watching the start of Iron Dog, and cleaning the snow off my car in the mornings.  On days that were -20 degrees, I was able to wear hand warmers or even a lighter pair of gloves under these mittens to insure that my hands would not get cold.

To add to my admiration for these mittens, the personalized touch of my father's initials made them extra special.  Even though at some points throughout the winter we were over 7,000 miles away from each other, looking down and seeing his branded initials never failed to make me feel sentimental.  Since I cannot keep my dad’s gloves forever, I look forward to investing in these durable mittens that I know will last me for years to come.

I'm going to say from the start that I cannot be held responsible for the danger this blanket poses.  I have even questioned mentioning this item on my list because of its possible threat but I love it too much not to.

A big box from Kammok arrived last spring for my dad for testing, which included a Mountain Blanket, and I immediately stole it.  I had to give it back since I kept falling asleep under it while studying for my senior year finals.  After I graduated (and several wonderful naps later) I knew I had to bring this blanket with me to Alaska.  Since then, it has followed me all over Alaska and is something I sleep under every night.

BE is addictive.  I am embarrassed to admit how many times I have accidentally fallen asleep under the Mountain Blanket and woken up not knowing what day it is or how long I have slept.

One of its best features is the center hole (which can be snapped closed) in the middle of the blanket that allows you to wear it like a poncho. It is truly an incredible invention.  I have already given these blankets to two of my friends, and both of who love them almost as much as I do.

Although it is indirectly responsible for almost making me late several times, this blanket continues to be extremely comfortable whether I take it camping or am rotting under it on the couch.  

When I decided to go to college in Michigan, I knew I would need some good winter boots. Growing up in South Carolina, I had not the slightest clue about the snow boots I should purchase.

For Christmas 2022, my parents surprised me with my Korkers Chelsea Boots.  Originally I was pretty indifferent about them because I knew it would be almost a year before I'd actually get to wear them.  With my change of plans and my first Alaskan winter fast approaching, everyone here was questioning if I had warm boots.  I quickly found out that my Korkers are not only warm but are also comfortable, versatile and even stylish. 

I've practically lived in my Korkers since last November.  They saved me from slipping while crossing frozen parking lots, kept my feet dry while snowshoeing and snow machining, and insulated my feet as I stood out in -20 degree weather to watch the end of the Iditarod in Nome. 

While you do have the option to change out the bottoms of the shoes, I found that the TRAILTRAC Sole worked like a charm all winter.  I must also mention that they are one of the more stylish snow boots I have seen, which only matters because they are backed up by their incredible warmth.  Korker boots gets my stamp of approval as an aspiring Alaskan!

Whenever my bird-nerd of a dad gifted my brother and I both Maven Binoculars for Christmas, we weren't exactly thrilled.  At the ages of ten and six, we were both too young to appreciate the value of these binoculars so we didn't think twice about running through the woods with them around our necks. We would toss in our packs whenever we went out to play outside, fish in the pond, and explore state and national parks. They even came with us on my first trip to Alaska eight years ago. 

As I have matured, I have learned to take much better care of these binoculars in hopes that they will last me for many years to come.  I am not as much of a nerd as my dad but I have thoroughly enjoyed using these binoculars to watch ravens and bald eagles, spy on moose, and keep an eye out for bears.  When hiking through the woods, my binoculars are more often around my neck rather than in my pack because I want to be able to inspect the rustle in the trees or the bird soaring above me at a moment's notice.

Knowing how my brother and I treated our binoculars, I probably would not buy these for a kid, but they have proven their ability to withstand rough wear and still deliver clear views.

We all know and love Top Ramen but they are being challenged by a new bowl of noodles.  A few months ago, my parents sent me a care package with a few packs of Momofuku Noodles to try and they immediately became my go-to dinner.  They taste just as good at the summit of a tough hike as they do at home after a long day at work.  Adding a soft yolk egg and/or some broccoli takes this meal to the next level. 

With several different flavors to choose from, there are two that I keep coming back to. To play it safe there's the classic Scallion and Soy flavor but if you like a little bite, try the Spicy Soy flavor.

My family jokes that Momofuku Noodles are just boujee ramen but really they are an elevated version of a food we all enjoy.  Several nights a week.  Sometimes for lunch too.  Don't judge until you've tried them.

To reward myself for braving the winter weather on snowshoeing treks or afternoon hikes, I made a habit of bringing along my MSR burner and Snow Peak gear to make a hot bowl of ramen. 

I have been curating my perfect solo meal kit for the past several years.  It all started with the purchase of my MSR stove that I bought five years ago at an REI in Colorado.  On family camping trips, my dad would teach me how to use my push-start ignition single burner to make the perfect bowl of ramen, something we are both passionate about. 

Venturing out on my own now, I get excited to use my little stove with any opportunity I get.  Since I only have to cook for myself or a few friends, this burner is the perfect size.  It is big enough to quickly heat up water but also to be thrown into my backpack.  Its small size also makes it convenient to take on shorter hikes. 

If it barely weighs anything then why wouldn't I bring it with me?  Larger camp stoves can be intimidating for younger or inexperienced users but the MSR Pocket Rocket is a great starter stove that will still last for many years if properly cared for.
It is only right to start by proclaiming my love for my Patagonia Better Sweater.  For over a decade, I have been sporting different Better Sweaters.  As a child I had a pink zip up and then a gray quarter zip.  Three winters ago my dad bought a forest green Better Sweater that I immediately stole despite it being several sizes too big.  After agreeing to “twin” with him, my own green quarter zip was ordered and promptly worn for family Christmas pictures. 

It is one of the many pieces I brought up to Alaska with me last June that I have worn countless times in the past months.  I appreciate the versatility of the Better Sweater as it can be dressed up for semi formal outings or thrown on to go hiking in.  Mine currently smells of campfire after a weekend backpacking trip where I wore it three days straight.  But after a quick wash it will be thrown back into my rotation of work clothes.  This fleece sweater is a great staple that proved its warmth this winter but will also transition into my spring wardrobe.

Back in June I loaded all of my summer gear into my dad’s Patagonia Duffel that he assured me I should use as opposed to my beloved Patagonia MLC.  Although parting with my long time favorite travel bag was tough, I quickly grew to love this duffel.

Upon my arrival in Alaska, my bag was thrown onto the back of a boat as heavy rain drenched us and our luggage.  As I watched everyone else complain about their soggy bags, I tried to hide my relief when I found that all of my clothes had stayed dry, despite the rain and waves. 

After the summer ended my duffel got a well deserved break before I started lugging it around again on weekend trips when I was too lazy to pack light, for house sitting jobs when I wanted to bring all my junk with me or on my trip to Nome when I needed to bring all of my warm layers and gear with me.  This incredibly sturdy bag has survived all of my Alaskan adventures, not to mention all of the trips it's been on with my dad in the past.


I have a vague memory of my brother and I receiving Snow Peak Titanium Sporks in our stockings for Christmas many years ago.  Together, our colorful set of sporks were used so often that eventually all of their anodized color faded.  Now, over a decade later, I still use my spork as one of my everyday utensils as well as my designated camp utensil. 

Being a longtime fan of Snow Peak's Titanium Spork, I felt like investing in their Titanium Cookset would serve me well.  I have been growing my camping equipment collection, which is almost exclusively all Snow Peak gear, including their Titanium Chopsticks.  Mountain top ramen is quite the luxury but it is not something that your back has to suffer for.  My ramen cookset is usually the lightest thing in my day trip pack. 

Just when I thought my Snow Peak collection was completed, my parents sent me the French Press, for my most recent birthday. Although its intended purpose is for making coffee while camping or backpacking, I use my french press almost every morning.

As I plan for a backpacking trip in June, I am glad that I can trust that my Snow Peak gear will be reliable and lightweight.  My obsession with Snow Peak has only grown with each new purchase and I remain loyal to their gear because the quality never disappoints.
Well, that's it but as an extra for this gear review, here's ten songs that have gone a long way on getting me through my first Alaskan winter...

CLAY PIGEONS - Micheal Cera
I'll be in Alaska for another month before returning home to South Carolina for the summer and then up to Michigan for college in the fall.  I have a lot planned here over the next four weeks which will likely mean at least one more "10 for..." gear review.  Thanks for reading. 

1 comment:

Bigdryfly said...

Hadley, great review! Nice job breaking down how each item of gear worked for what you needed, and nice addition of the songs that helped you through the winter!