Camps, meals and the number of kayaks vary according to the trip we take you on. We do try to provide the most comfortable sleeping accommodations possible, as one can not enjoy any trip without a good nights sleep, good food and quality kayaks that are comfortable.
Naturally remote fly in camps to the Arctic have weight consideration to help keep the cost of logistics down. AAARFF has a wide range of gear to pick from when putting a trip together, as we go to different areas. I have chosen quality 3 season tents with several types I can chose from when putting a trip together.
With long days of sunlight it’s important to get ventilation on sunny days in the Arctic where there are not trees. The tents also have to also provide wind resistance. All tent models have full a full rain fly to keep out excess breeze, but to keep you and you personal gear dry. I usually provide 3 person tents for 2 people on Arctic, or a 2 person if you book alone and there is not another unaccompanied person of the same sex. With only 40 pounds of gear per person there is enough room for your gear. Some trips will see 2 people to a 4 person tent, like the Coastal Glacier Schools. It often depends on what type of planes used to get us to the destination and potential campsites.
While most “float trip” companies require customers to bring their own tent and properly rated sleeping bag “or rent them”, AAARFF does not like that idea, as we want to be assured you have a tent designed for the area we will be in. It’s the same for the sleeping bag because if you are not warm, you are not going to get the rest you need. We provide a rooky sleeping bag rated for the temperatures we will encounter and a clean Egyptian cotton liner or polar fleece.
You are welcome to bring your own sleeping bag, but it does count against the weight of your personal gear pound limit for fly in trips, as I will bring a bag for you anyway, since there is no way to know if your personal bag will keep you warm enough. I have seen more than a few people who come to Alaska with bags that are not designed for the temperature and they do not sleep the entire time they are in the field. This was first encountered on my first moose hunting float trip by my hunting partner.
We also have lightweight cots with an air mattress so you stay up off the cold rocky ground. We also have an electric bear fence to keep nosy critters away, including moose and caribou. Often even they will want to wander into camp. Again on my first moose float trip we were awakened by a couple moose walking across the stream headed at our tents.
Camp gear is also chosen for the trip and again AAARFF has a wide range to suit our needs to provide good meals, toilet facility and possibly even a shower. Sometimes remote trips might see a few days between such a sometimes luxury, but we can always heat some water for a “quick Clean up”. Since we are sometimes under FWS or National Park rules, sometimes we can not have excess soapy water from showers. Another consideration with soaps and such on the tundra is that it can attract grizzlies with their keen sense of smell.
Ironically to us humans who are conditioned to smell “squeaky clean”, grizzlies don’t like the smell of humans. It’s better to get a quick wash-up in the bush than smell like a bowl of fruit in some areas, especially the high Arctic. Grizzlies have even been seen crossing 1 mile of tundra to sniff where a hiker had spit out toothpaste. I bring baking soda for that purpose, as it was good enough for grandma. That is another reason for the electric bear fence.
When you reserve any trip we send you information specific for the trip which includes what to bring, along with a pamphlet on Bear safety, which we will go over again at camp, along with water craft safety. We carry shotgun and pistol, but that shouldn’t be needed with the electric bear fence. Some trips you might have bear spray, like on the Coastal Glacier trips, as some bears there are less afraid of people, due to some feeding them. You shouldn’t have to worry about them as you will either be in camp or out in the water fishing and have an excellent chance to get good photos. In the 2 decades I have spent in the wilds of Alaska, I have seen more bears around the cities than in the bush, as wild bears tend to stay away from people.
We also have a satellite phone if an emergency should arise and someone needs to get in touch with you or if we need to get aid while in camp. If a situation arises and you have to leave early for an emergency, you are responsible for air taxi costs out. Battery life is limited and if you really need to stay in touch, you should rent one, but we ask that you do not bring one to disturb others. Also there should be no need for your cell phone and please leave ipods and other things packed in your bag so you do not ruin other guests remote wilderness adventure.
About our Meals
Since I am half Cajun and half German, I enjoy good food and also a fairly good chef. One of the first jobs I had when going to school was as a cook at a national hotel chain. While my foods have spices and herbs added, it is not “Cajun” hot, as that is not what real Cajun food is all about, as TV chefs tend to make you think. Many of the meals as possible might contain ingredients from Helga’s pesticide free and half organic garden, such as frozen snow peas, sauces with homegrown tomatoes or broccoli, fresh or dried, dried carrots. Of course if you like some fire on your plate, I will have some of Helga's dried and powdered jalapeno peppers you are free to sprinkle on yourself, along with red and green Tabasco sauces.
Meals also will vary according to the trip, again due to weight requirements along with bear requirements in areas such as in the Gates of the Arctic National Park, since all food there has to be in bear proof containers, other areas with meals will be more substantial. Where possible I try to bring frozen pre-cooked, vacuum packed main courses made with beef, chicken, turkey, turkey ham, turkey bacon and maybe frozen wild Alaskan salmon to poach.
Some of the recipes might be beef stir fry or tarragon chicken, both with homegrown snow peas, thick turkey gumbo over rice, or turkey breast with gravy, sliced beef steak with gravy over noodles or homemade spaghetti sauce with Italian sausage over angel hair pasta to name a few entrees. Of course there will be home smoked beef jerky.
Since we are a short distance from the farms in Delta, we can buy quality meat at the local markets. Fairbanks also has a good fish distributor, so wild Alaska salmon is always available. You will likely even see home made breakfast sausage or Italian sausage made with only 10% beef fat instead of pork. I do not use pork for two reasons. First I think pork isn’t as healthful with the heavy fats and many people these days avoid it and second even if I did I wouldn’t bring it into the wilds because of the heavy fats and smells it puts off to attract bears and also needing to pack out the fat with the trash in “no trace” camping that we practice.
I do try to stay away from all highly processed food, so where the need for lighter weight food is required, we prefer to make our own mixtures with homegrown vegetables from Helga’s garden, as well from suppliers of bulk dried foods. We can easily make better meals with adding these to things such as pastas or rice compared to the store bought freeze dried rations.
I put up canned quality, no fat ground beef (no pink slime) to add, or buy quality canned roast beef or chicken for trips where we can’t take too much frozen meats due to logistics. Logistics also limit carrying in a lot of cooking fuels on remote trips, no fires are often the rules, so remote trips are made much nicer if one doesn’t have to eat store bought packs of what I consider cardboard. Some trips like the Coastal schools and Rainbow Trout Lake you will see steaks.
Breakfasts will see oatmeal with fruit, pancakes, turkey bacon or ham, hash browns and even an omelet on remote trips. These are now possible with real egg powders if you have some dried green peppers. Some trips I will have my camp ovens for some fresh biscuits.
Lunches are usually hot and might be some asparagus soup, cheese, smoked salmon dip and crackers on up to beef, bean and cheese burritos smothered in salsa. Snacks will vary from trail mix, nut mix to jerky, summer sausage, dried fruit and where logistics allow, fresh fruit. You will likely also see some home baked cakes and treats.
We filter water even where there are no beaver, as the cysts can still exist carried there on the feet of migrating birds and incubated from small baitfish and snails. We have sugar free powders to add to water, black tea, green tea, coffees and hot cocoa.
You will be given a form with your reservation for preferences, such as if you are a certain type of vegetarian or allergy and will see if we can accommodate you to both of our satisfaction. Sometimes it might mean adding some freeze dried foods to substitute some of the planned meals or complete change of plans on my part if the whole group were to vegetarians.
You are welcome to bring some of your own foods, only let me know. ALSO DO NOT plan store it in your gear or tent during the trip. It will have to be in with AAARFF’s food. Even in Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, and across Canada and Alaska grizzlies (and black bears) have swiped into closed tents trying to get foods like candy bars boy scouts had with them in their sleeping bag or other foods.
About our Kayaks
Many Americans are familiar with the less than adequate and I consider unsafe, and at the least hard to paddle and very uncomfortable inflatable kayaks most stores sells. Some are not suited for back yard swimming pools let alone remote areas, while the others simply are not comfortable for over an hour or two or tiring trying to paddle in a straight line in a breeze.
Most inflatable are either cheap very thin PVC coated fabric or a fabric with cheap air bladders. The first will tear after just the lightest use, the second have bad valves and the fabric covering will mold and stink after a few uses unless one can clean and has days to dry in the sun before they repack them. Even some of the more expensive pack rafts do not compare those AAARFF uses. While the fabric might be tougher than most, they are totally uncomfortable unless one simply wants to go down some water during a hike and then pack.
I use tough PVC coated 1100 denier with a drop stitched air floor which gives the best floatation and makes the kayak almost as rigid as an injection molded model. The can also be cleaned of fish odors easily, rather than fabric covered models, so I don’t have to worry about the stink that will attract bears or bother your nose. The fabric is actually thicker than most of the highest priced inflatable kayaks that do not even have a drop stitched floor.
These kayaks were originally made for sale here in the U.S. for Stearns by Sevylor (both are owned by Coleman now) a company famous for likely the cheapest inflatable boats ever made. They never took off in the U.S. but sell great in the tougher European market. I still find it unbelievable that the manufacture actually made such high quality watercraft. They didn’t last long in stores due to the American consumers’ knowledge of the very cheap Sevylor inflatable models. I came across them after extensive research, read dozens of reviews from kayak forum and review sites and ordered the first one to see for myself. I now own four different models for use, all bought at discount close out prices.
I use four different models of these tough 1100 denier kayaks. Three models have a self bailing feature that I don’t use unless going down streams where water can splash in or in real windy conditions on a lake or in Prince William Sound along Alaska’s Coast. This style is designed for, and has been used in Class III whitewater and the ocean and I have one person, two people and one 17 foot long model that is even rated for 3 people.
On our trips for Alaska fly fishing we usually fish one person out of the 2 smaller smaller models and 2 out of the 17 foot kayak. The fourth model was designed to carry 2 people and a trolling motor or 4hp, a feature I don’t use and we wil often fish just one person out of these. We will fish 2 people out of them on the ANWR trip to Peters - Schrader Lakes trip to make in water release of fish easier. That was part of the agreement with the FWS director to even be able to bring people in. All of these models are very easy to paddle and much faster than other models on the market, even in a breeze making them a great investment and well suited for fly fishing.
Normally with inflatable kayaks one sits right on the floor, which is great for going down Class III whitewater where one wants a lower center of gravity. It is also better suited for warmer areas, as the cold water here will keep your butt rather cool if sitting in it all day. Sitting that way all day and casting does get uncomfortable and since I have experience working with PVC and hypalon since the early 80s I modify them by adding seat about 4-6 inches up from the floor.
I’m also thinking of possibly adding out riggers to the first ones and another flotation chamber across the rear of the model that was designed for the motor to make them better for stream usage. All of these models are also rated for a higher weight limit than the more expense models you can buy that do not have the drop stitched air floor which make AAARF's more rigid and stable in the water.
If you have neve used a kayak before, they are easy to get used to on the lakes and coastal waters we will fish this year. Next year I'll add river float trips but keep those to Class I & II which are virtually flat water with a slight flow. We have added neoprene drip gaurds for the kayak paddles which are far better than the stock rubber ones that come with kayaks to keep you legs dry. We also have 1.5 pound folding anchors you can drop to hold the kayak in position to cast over fish feeding in areas such as inlets and outlets of streams into the lake or in the waters of Prince William Sound on the glacial trips.
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