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What gear to bring?

And other words of wisdom to help you get to Alaska without losing your sanity
BY CHRISTOPHER BATIN
With the big items such as pre- and postconference tours addressed in previous columns, here are the answers to a few basic travel and destination questions.
What types of clothing I should pack for late August and early September?Will it be cold?
Interior weather can be unpredictable this time of year, ranging from the upper 70s to snow or rain. On most of my Interior moose hunts in early September, I hunt in a T-shirt during the day. But there are times when a cold front has me pulling on a fleece jacket.
What you’ll be wearing during conference depends on your tolerance to cold: remember, most of our public gatherings will be in tents and outdoor structures. Space heaters are available if needed, but expect cold spots, especially while seated during evening meals. Based on historical weather data, plan on it being in the 50s to 60s during the day and 40s in the evening. Wear what you would wear on an October deer stand or early spring turkey hunt in the northern states (not southern states), where you’d be expected to sit without moving for an hour or two.
Thermal jeans from Wrangler are great for this time of year. Forget the flats shirts and Bermuda shorts; bring ‘em if you want, but remember, while mosquitoes are winding down, the biting gnats might find you walking the trails. Pack lightweight clothing for Breakout Day or if we get a bout of Indian Summer and the weather reaches the 70s. Do bring your swim wear for the hot springs, as it would be a shame to not take a dip. During the evening or on cloudy day outings, packable down or fleece jackets are good along with a fleece hat, lightweight gloves and insulated socks. Fashion wise, fleece clothing works really well, looks great, is colorful and is warmer than thin nylon fabrics. Also, if you are going to be taking photos of the northern lights at 1 a.m., it is often windy on the ridges overlooking Chena. You’ll want to bring warm gloves, a headlamp, fleece hat, and buy some handwarmers in Fairbanks. I’ve had TSA confiscate hand warmers from my bags, so don’t pack them ahead of time.
If you feel the need to dress up, a blazer jacket may keep you warm, but if it’s cold, the smart writer will be wearing long underwear underneath. I suggest casual formal, which is sweater over a shirt and tie. The secret here is simple: If it turns cold, wear what you want for outer wear, as no one will know that you are wearing thermal socks, long underwear, or have a hand warmer in your pocket.
I’ll be arriving in late August in time for pre-conference trips. Do I need to book a room ahead of time?
Early booking of hotels for pre- and post-conference activities is critical for this conference. If not, you can count on sleeping in your rental car. Immediately prior to conference is Labor Day weekend, and it is still the peak of autumn tourism season. Visitors will be out viewing the fall colors, plus the locals will be indulging in activities ranging from moose hunting to berry picking. Many hotels will be booked Aug. 31-Sept. 2. Don’t chance it; make reservations now for any pre-conference travel. Consider cabins and campgrounds or rent an RV. You can always find somewhere to camp if you’re geared up to do such a thing, but even state campgrounds can fill up during the Labor Day weekend in places like the Kenai Peninsula.
How should I transport my bear spray for my post-conference trip, and what is the best way to transport firearms and fishing rods?
No liquids or gels can be transported in hand-carried luggage unless they are 3 ounces or less and they must all fit in a quart Ziploc bag. Save the headache and pack as many items as you can in checked baggage. Pocket knives belong in checked baggage. Don’t carry bullet charms on your key rings. Bear spray or any type of defense spray is illegal to transport in any luggage. Log on to your airline’s website and read the details.
Be prepared for baggage fees if you are not a frequent flier. Carry a lightweight duffel bag as a spare for items you might win in the auction or photo scavenger hunt. If you plan on taking fish back home, fish boxes are about $20 each, or a cooler is $28 at Wal-Mart. Ship the fish as an extra bag, otherwise FedEx costs will be around $200 to $300 for next-day delivery of a 50-pound box to the East Coast.
Speaking of luggage costs, each airline has its own baggage fees. If you plan to pack waders, other outdoor gear and your clothes for conference, this will take one 50-pound bag. Take multi-piece rods that fit in your main bag. You need to pack firearms in a lockable guncase, which counts as a separate bag. A second duffel will cost the second-bag rate, but the third or fourth bag really is costly, jumping up to $100 or more for some airlines. Don’t be surprised. Fees add up fast to the uninformed. An option is to mail items to or from Fairbanks via post office.
Will there be elevation or any health concerns?
You’ll not suffer any elevations concerns in Fairbanks, but because of the four-hour time difference you might suffer from jet lag if flying from the East Coast. Ask your physician for a sleeping aid or hit the local health food store for some melatonin.
What about things I forget to pack?
Fairbanks has several major shopping centers, including Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and Fred Meyer, plus a Sportsman’s Warehouse for those outdoor items. Just buy your items before you head to the hot springs, as it is a 60-mile journey, one way, with no major stores or shops along the way.
Is there anything I should pack instead of buying in Fairbanks, because of the expense?
If you are fishing, you will NEED chest waders unless you are saltwater fishing from a boat.
Bring rain gear. If you are planning a pre or post trip, and are confused about clothing, contact me directly for advice on a specific activity.
The Interior has some good tourism and adventure, but if you are planning to catch salmon and trout, realize that Fairbanks doesn’t have good fresh salmon or wild rainbow trout fisheries. You’ll find the best big fisheries in the Talkeetna and southcentral Alaska area, about four to eight hours south of Fairbanks. Which means you’ll need to drive south if you want to enjoy some of the state’s coastal kayaking, fishing or glacial experiences. Many members are renting a car in Anchorage and driving to Fairbanks, and then driving to the top areas for the activities they want to do either before or after the conference. It may also be cheaper to fly into Anchorage than Fairbanks and the money you save can be used for a rental car. The drive from Anchorage to Fairbanks is about 6-7 hours, one way, via the Parks Highway.
Can you recommend some places to eat in Fairbanks?
Restaurants in town are abundant. My favorite is Siam Square on College Road, which offers the best steak and Thai food in Alaska. Fast food places include Carl’s Jr. to McDonalds to Subway. Brewsters on Airport Way has some great, affordable food. You can’t beat The Cookie Jar for great breakfasts and the Alaska Salmon Bake offers grilled salmon and halibut in an outdoor setting. ◊
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is my last column in OU as the 2012 conference local chair. If you have any last-minute questions about pre- or post-conference trips, contact me directly via email at ChrisBatin@AlaskaAngler.com. I’ll also be available on-site throughout the conference to assist with your trip plans. This is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for many of you; make the most of it with the resources you have through OWAA headquarters, Fairbanks CVB or through the conference catalog.
Chris Batin has been a member since 1979. He is the 2012 conference local chair. He is also editor and publisher of Alaska Angler, and Alaska Hunter Productions and Video Productions. Contact him at ChrisBatin@AlaskaAngler.com.

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