Walking in Brooks Range. What footwear and backpack?

6:37 a.m. on May 7, 2012 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
2 forum posts

Good morning! First post from me! Going to walk in the Brooks range and would like some advice on footwear. What would be most appropriate combination for walking, scrambling and crossing rivers. i am considering from Wellingtons to Kevlar Boots +/- Vibram 5 fingers.

 

Also best way to ford the rivers on the North slope? Just get a waterproof pack and swim it across? What recommendations for pack?

Has anyone tried to make soup out of mosquitoes? Sedriously.

 

Thank you! Grace and Peace!

 

Lukas

8:03 a.m. on May 7, 2012 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
1,771 reviewer rep
1,309 forum posts

Well for starters, Welcome to Trailspace! Glad to see new members. Trailspace is a wonderful resouce of people and information.

Ok footwear. That seems to be the main question for a backpacker, and realistically it comes down to your own personal preference. You need a boot/shoe that fits you well, is comfortable, and meets your needs/expectations. That being said, what fits me well might not fit you well as everyones feet are different.

In regards to frequent or major river crossings and footwear there seem to be 3 distinct schools of thought on the matter. 1)just trudge through in your boots, 2) Take off your boots and put on water crossing shoes, 3) Take off boots and just go barefoot or sock only and trudge on through.

I tend to just trudge through if I am wearing my trail runners, however if I have my nice zamerlan leather boots on I will stop and take them off if I know I will be getting wet as they can take a while to completely dry.

So my advice on footwear would be one of these two options 1) buy a pair of trail runners or mesh boots 2) Buy a nice leather or waterproof hiking boot and also buy a cheapo pair of crocs, water shoes etc to cross water in. I personally like the water shoes as they are cheap, light, and stay on about 1000x better than crocs. Bottom line is find something that fits you well and ios comfortable and dont focus so much on the water crossing part.

Water crossings: This is a very important subject.

Water crossings can be fun, challenging, dangerous, or even down right deadly. It is esential that you weigh your options and evaluate the risks before attempting a major water crossing.

Some basic things to consider before ever entering the water.

1)Where to cross? You want to find the shallowest, slowest moving section.

2)Hazards in the water? Are there any downed trees, rapids, etc downstream from your potential crossing point. If you lose your footing and get swept down stream you don't want to get caught in debris than can pull you under or otherwise trap you.

3) What is your escape/bail point? If something goes wrong during the crossing what point on the bank are you going to shoot for, and what obstacles are there.

After you answer those questions its time to prepare yourself for a crossing. 1)If your going to be crossing in your boots then take out the insoles, this will allow them to dry much faster afterwards.

2) Ideally pack the inside of your pack with a dry bag or a liner that is sealed well at the top so that your pack will float.

3)Loosen all straps on your pack, and unbuckle the hipbelt and sternum strap. If you have to bail or get knocked over it is dramatically easier to get out of your pack this way and may save your life.

4) Wear sunglasses, they will allow you to better see into the water to spot potential hazards.

5) Face upstream when at all possible.

6) Use a treking pole etc to assit with balance while crossing

7) Securely plant one foot before moving the next while in the water.

OK, so you have evaluated the crossing, and its not going to be a crossing its going to be a swim. This is extremely dangerous if you don't know what your doing. Have you ever tried to swim with clothing on, boots on, not to mention a pack? Its extremely difficult even without a pack. I highly recommend taking off all clothing and footwear(if not aqua shoes) if your going to have to swim it. If you packed your pack so that it floats this will become much easier. A trick we learned in the military was to use your pack like a buoy and place it in front of you in the water, put your arms and upper chest on it and jsut use your legs to kick. It is best to swim at an angle downstream towards the opposite bank, a 45deg angle or so is fine.

Ok, so you cant figure out how to pack your pack so that it floats. Is the opposite bank close enough at any point where you can throw your pack across? Or throw a rope across? No? Well, STOP, because you will probably drown trying to proceed further.

And lastly NEVER TIE A ROPE TO YOUR BODY FOR ANY REASON DURING A CROSSING. It is ok to hold a rope in your hand only.

Hope some of this helps, and I'm not trying to be the party pooper, but it really can be a dangerous situation.

8:30 a.m. on May 7, 2012 (EDT)
102 reviewer rep
2,285 forum posts

I would bring hiking boots with a duty rating similar to what you would use on other venues for off trail trekking, with the pack weight you intend to haul.  I did some pipe line work north of there in the 1970s, and explored the area both before and after the work season (winter).  When the area was still snow covered I skied mostly, but also used double boots and crampons when going up the mountains.  When the ground was exposed I used heavy leather hiking boots with steel shank soles.  Depending on your route and season, you can be hiking across ice, snow, cobble, bog, or gravel river beaches.  I found it easier getting around by choosing routes up off the valley bottoms, as the valleys tended to be very muddy in places.  Try to find your way along animal paths; they know the easiest ways around.  Beware of quicksand!  It can take hours to extricate yourself if you get mired.


I first tried using separate foot ware for water crossings in late spring/early fall (mud season), but soon realized my feet were soaked anyway, due to ground conditions and prevailing weather.  You can keep you feet drier on snow, but in the warm season you will find such terrain difficult to use for traveling the length of a valley.  Whatever you choose for river crossing footwear, make sure it has a solid sole and good support; the river beds are rugged.

While dedicated foot ware for water crossings seemed useless to me, I did find having dry foot ware for camp a great aid in preventing foot problems that arise when your feet are wet for long periods.  Light shoes that can dry quickly are best suited for this purpose, but also bring a pair of sandals you can wear around camp in the rain.  I would not suggest five finger style foot ware; they do not breath well enough for camp wear, and offer insufficient sole protection from river bottoms.

I would suggest an internal frame pack that keeps the load close to your back; therefore stay away from Osprey brand packs and similar designs that position the load away from your back.  Keeping the load close to your back will facilitate better balance and agility when scrambling over rough terrain.  Position heavy items low in the pack, centered over and close to your spine.  Protect items in your pack from emersion while crossing rivers by placing gear in dry sacks similar to what kayakers use.

River crossings in the north are always a big challenge.  Attempt to obtain local knowledge whenever possible.  The rivers will often be a true hazard for stretches, but the locals will know the location of potential fording points.  Sometimes you can hire locals to get you across the rivers too.  If you must cross a risky water way, avoid doing so above rapids or places where branches or submerged debris may snag a passing body.  Undo your hip belt before crossing.  Face upstream when crossing.  Use a staff and your feet to form a tripod.  Always have two points of the tripod anchored while advancing the third point.  If you lose your footing, un-sling your pack and ride it like a float mat, or keep it on and face downstream, with your feet leading the way.  Paddle like hell!  That water is horribly cold, and you will have only about 90 seconds to three minutes of good strength in you; after that the cold saps a significant amount of your strength, and you’ll be able to do little more than drift with the current.  Do not use a rope to attach you to your pack or another person.  Do not use a rope when crossing unless you have specific training in fast water rescue.  Personally I would suggest you avoid crossings that require swimming, or any crossing involving fast water deeper than knee high.  It isn’t worth gambling your life for a little adventure.

Lastly I found the southern Brooks more scenic than the North Slope; is there a reason you insist on the North Slope?  As for the mosquitoes, the question isn’t how do they taste good – you’re the one who is on the menu!

Ed

9:57 a.m. on May 9, 2012 (EDT)
TRAILSPACE STAFF
410 reviewer rep
1,047 forum posts

Welcome to Trailspace Lukas! My only Alaska trekking has been in much drier, less challenging areas.  I have a friend who has walked quite a bit in the brooks range who recommended a trail shoe with an aggressive tread, coupled with a waterproof sock.  He said this combination kept his feet warm, despite the constant wetness, and offered good traction during crossings.  I haven't personally used this combo, though, so I can't provide any useful personal feedback.

4:46 p.m. on May 9, 2012 (EDT)
1,357 reviewer rep
1,339 forum posts

+1 to Seth's idea. I know an old professional hiking guide who wore neoprene socks and didn't even bother taking his boots off when he crossed a river. He preferred the traction and foot protection, and with the waterproof socks, the water wasn't a problem.

But the points made by TheRambler and whomeworry are more important. If you've ever tried crossing a mountains stream, even if it's only knee deep, you'll know how very hard and dangerous it can be. Once you lose your footing, you're pretty much screwed.

Hint: Wrap your gear in an orange garbage bag. it will keep it dry and let the pack float, and you can also use the bag for an emergency bivy or for signalling for rescue.

9:42 p.m. on May 10, 2012 (EDT)
245 reviewer rep
1,469 forum posts

Lukas Cornelius said:

Good morning! First post from me! Going to walk in the Brooks range and would like some advice on footwear. What would be most appropriate combination for walking, scrambling and crossing rivers. i am considering from Wellingtons to Kevlar Boots +/- Vibram 5 fingers.

 

Also best way to ford the rivers on the North slope? Just get a waterproof pack and swim it across? What recommendations for pack?

Has anyone tried to make soup out of mosquitoes? Sedriously.

 

Thank you! Grace and Peace!

 

Lukas

 Lightweight boots for the hiking.

5 fingers for crossing rivers.

roll top H2O proof back pack with some external mesh pockets

Mosquitoes, you have got to be kidding

9:42 p.m. on May 10, 2012 (EDT)
245 reviewer rep
1,469 forum posts

Oh and welcome

2:41 p.m. on May 11, 2012 (EDT)
1,357 reviewer rep
1,339 forum posts

Not sure about mosquito soup (too much risk of blood borne pathogens), but bee soup might be good. Especially honey bees. Yum!

10:12 p.m. on May 11, 2012 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
910 forum posts

Careful with the bees. On one of the threads that had to do with GiftofGab's Everest base camp trip, somebody mentioned to beware of the fried bees because they can cause an allergic reaction.   

As for mosquito soup I would enjoy boiling the little buggers, which should do away with blood borne pathogens.

11:20 p.m. on May 16, 2012 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
3 forum posts

I believe in never getting boots wet when crossing streams and small rivers and carying extra shoes can be too much extra weight.  I made what I call "wets" out of heavy gauge plastic bags and duct tape for the soles of the feet. Cut them high enough to reach the upper thigh.  They are light and reusable if they don't get snagged.  They have worked well for me three or four times. 

12:01 a.m. on May 17, 2012 (EDT)
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts

whomeworry said:

I would suggest an internal frame pack that keeps the load close to your back; therefore stay away from Osprey brand packs and similar designs that position the load away from your back. 

Ed

Ed, I have to disagree with ya in regards too Osprey's packs as a whole pushing the load away from ones back. 

This is a model specific trait and not a over-all manufacturer thing. 

Just to give you a sense of what I mean here. 

When I am doing winter treks with my Argon 85 and I blow air into my bladder to clear the feed line so it doesn't freeze I can feel the bladder inflate on my back.

LHHT-January-2012-022.jpg

If you look on the pack in the above photo(Argon 85 previously mentioned) you will see the brownish fabric in between my back and the pack body. This may leave one to believe that the pack is really pushing the load away from the back. 

This is not the case. The brownish colored fabric(Cordura) is actually part of the pack body.

If it was truly forcing the load away from my body I surely wouldn't be able to feel the bladder inflate as I have stated above. 

This thing of their packs pushing the load away from one's back would also be specific to the backpanel ventilation system that is implemented into the model such as the AirSpeed backpanel on my Stratos as seen in the photo below(for clarification)

Stratos-Review-005.jpg

Just wanted to touch on that a bit. 

8:37 a.m. on May 17, 2012 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
3 forum posts

If I may...

I think you are both right.  No pack fits everyone the same.  I have a Xenon 70 that I bought because I am short from the shoulder to the hip and it's a smaller frame.  The pack sits on my shoulders and hips and I can slide a hand between the backpad and the arch of my back but I've never felt like the pack holds the load away from my body.  I do, however, think that the backpad would ride closer to a heavier person. 

5:04 p.m. on May 17, 2012 (EDT)
102 reviewer rep
2,285 forum posts

Rick-Pittsburgh said:

Ed, I have to disagree with ya in regards too Osprey's packs as a whole pushing the load away from ones back. 

This is a model specific trait and not a over-all manufacturer thing...

..Just wanted to touch on that a bit. 

Sorry to misinform.  I have only seen the Osprey models where the suspension system creates an air space between the load and wearer's back.  

I would add to my original post most internal frame packs would be better suited for this trip than external frame packs, because external frame packs also don't facilitate control and balance as well as most internal frame packs.

Ed

8:34 a.m. on May 18, 2012 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
3 forum posts

Lukas,

I made it to the Arctic Circle a few years ago on the truckers road that goes from Fairbanks to Prudoe Bay. The Brooks Range is in the background in several photos and I now wish I had gone the extra miles to experience them.  Please share your photos when you get back. 

10:02 a.m. on May 18, 2012 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
2 forum posts

Thank you very much. This is very helpful.

 

How do you manage the mosquitoes in theBrooks Range? DEET, Bug jackets? Walk by "night"

 

Thanks again!

 

Lukas

6:00 p.m. on May 18, 2012 (EDT)
102 reviewer rep
2,285 forum posts

I lived under bug nets.  Chemicals reduce the biting, but they still will light on you, and prove very distracting.  Bring ear plugs if you think bugs buzzing in your ears will disrupt your sleep.

7:55 p.m. on May 18, 2012 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
1,195 reviewer rep
1,064 forum posts

Lukas: Long-sleeved clothes treated with soaked-in permethrin, Ultrathon (an oil-based lotion instead of a water-based liquid; developed by 3M for the US military; actual, honest-to-goodness 8-hour protection), a full-brim hat under a head net (attach a couple pieces of elastic cord to the head net, through which you'll slip your arms, to keep a good seal around the neck/shoulders), and eat at least a clove of garlic every day...Dewey swears by a brand of clothing which integrates bug netting into some kind of hooded shirt; search his previous posts to find out the name, as my memory is currently failing me...

1:20 a.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
10 forum posts

I just posted this video on river crossing technique and you might want to check it out because I have used this technique in Denali National Park and outside of Bettles, Alaska, at the foot of the Brooks Range, where I worked as a forest firefighter in the seventies.

Overall, you are walking in muskeg land up there which is very challenging and dangerous. It's really easy to slip off the top of the muskegs because they are like mushrooms - solid in the center but fragile along the edges. It's really easy to catch an ankle and twist or break it.  

I think the best boot for this terrain is a high-top LL Bean Boot. Leather top and rubber bottom. A soft boot like this works best in muskeg terrain and Bean boots excel in mixed dry and boggy landscape like you'll experience in the Brooks Range. Leave the flashlight at home you won't need it!! 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XbRRD6zewk

August 31, 2014
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

 
More Topics
This forum: Older: what would you take if you had to run for it? Newer: And you're worried about bears?
All forums: Older: Meet our Backcountry Gear Haiku Winners — Worth $500 to Backcountry.com Newer: Heading to the NC mountains in a few hours.