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6 Quick Alaska Survival Tips for the Novice Outdoorsman

photo of a woman smiling from a tent in Glacier Bay, Alaska

Camping in Alaska — it’s certainly a thrilling experience — but you gotta be prepared when it comes to hanging out in the wilderness.

We at Creekwood Inn want to offer you a few outdoorsy pointers so you can enjoy yourself the fullest without getting hurt, lost or embarrassed:

Protection

Bear warning sign in Alaska

Don’t let it get this far.

There are many predators in the Alaskan woods, and bears top the list. Bears are extremely active (very hungry) during the summer season, so always be bear aware and keep food, garbage and waste properly secured.

You’ll need a way to protect yourself when you’re hiking, camping or venturing into the great outdoors. A shotgun is the best option, and bear mace is a great alternative if you’re not comfortable (or able to obtain) a firearm.

Doing your business outdoors

A real outhouse as seen in Denali National Park

A real outhouse as seen in Denali National Park

If you are hiking in a secluded spot without an outhouse, be sure to scoot at least 200 feet away from any body of water, trail or campsite before relieving yourself. This simple rule prevents water contamination as well as unwanted attention from animals.

Water

photo of a guy drinking from a river using a Lifestraw

Lifestraw: Get One

Whatever you do, never drink from any water source without purifying it first, unless the water is clearly marked “potable” by the state. Drinking untreated water could lead to three weeks of giardia, a miserable condition which includes fever, vomiting and, shall we say, accelerated bowel movements.

Buy a LifeStraw if you plan to hike longer than you can enough fresh water — they’re good for up to 1,000 liters of water. The LifeStraw lets you drink directly from any unpolluted water source by sipping through the straw itself, and they’re easy to find at most outdoor stores at about $12-$15 each.

Fire

Woman cooking salami over a campfire while camping in Alaska

Campfires are a must when you’re camping in Alaska, but just follow “the rules.”

What’s camping without fire, right? Fires are fun to build, fun to watch and they’re obviously helpful when it comes to cooking and staying warm. Fires also keep insects away, especially those world-famous Alaska mosquitos.

When building your fire, take note of any warnings or “no fires” signs. Be sure to also bring waterproof matches and a lighter.

If you don’t have firewood, use bark from the birch tree for kindling— it’s usually everywhere in Alaska. You can also use dry paper or dry branches from nearby willow and alder trees.

Food

Photo of edible fiddlehead ferns

Fiddlehead ferns are a fine forest treat.

Alaska has an abundance of wild plant edibles. The rule of thumb is do not eat a plant if it has any of the following attributes:

  • Milky or discolored sap
  • Beans, bulbs or seeds inside pods
  • Bitter or soapy taste
  • Spines, fine hairs or thorns
  • Dill, carrot, parsnip or parsley-like foliage
  • Almond scent in woody parts and leaves
  • Grain heads with pink, purplish or black spur
  • Three-leafed growth pattern
photo of bee balm

Bee Balm

Medicine

If you get sick in the woods and don’t have traditional medicine handy, Mother Nature offers some options.

The red or purple flowers of the Bee Balm can be brewed into an “Oswego tea,” which can alleviate fever.

Yarrow helps slow bleeding when you don’t have a bandage or tourniquet — just make a poultice by chewing a few of the leaves and applying them to the wound.

To learn more about Alaska’s healing plants, download the free PDF book Medicinal Flora of the Alaska Natives by Ann Garibaldi.

Northern Yarrow in Alaska

Northern Yarrow

Now go have fun and enjoy what Alaska has to offer!

Photo credits: Tim Vo, Matt Zimmerman, Joseph 1 2, Christopher Griner, Christian Yves Ocampo, Lifestraw, Launa