Let's get the GEAR

"GIF of the main characters of "Portlandia" saying "Let's get the gear""


We're flying ourselves to Alaska. This is the first in a series of posts about our planning, preparing, flying, and touring the great state of Alaska. We're jumping right in with packing...

We've never been light packers. This is more true for Katie than Will, but when we travel we tend to take all the things. We have one of those rolling suitcase sets that includes a giant case (good luck keeping it less than 50 pounds) and a carry-on. We'd easily fill the large one, and the carry-on. Then we'd each have backpacks for under our seats, and Emma would have her own trunki

Trunki Suitcase

Because we're flying ourselves, and flying into small municipal airports, our usual over-packing wasn't going to work. For one thing, the baggage compartment of the Cirrus is not that large.

Cirrus Cabin{ width=50%}

The big suitcase does fit (but only just). Finally, and most importantly, the indignity of showing up in small Alaskan towns dragging around a rolling suitcase it just too much to bear.

Suitcase in mud

Travel Backpacks

So, Katie did a ton of research. She came across the Pack Hacker blog and geeked out. We kinda settled on getting a travel backpack each. I had a backpacking backpack before, but the travel ones are more optimized for motorized travel, and less for hiking under your own power. I'll share the short-list of options she came up with:




We settled upon the following:

  • Will's Farpoint 55: Osprey FarPoint 55

  • Katie's RuckPack 40: REI RuckPack 40

  • Emma's HydraJet 15: Osprey HydraJet 15

Of course, no amount of planning and research is too much to just throw it all out and get something else when you actually get to the store. So, I got the Osprey Farpoint 55, and Katie got the REI Ruckpack 40. I'm hoping that I can get away with carrying-on my pack on my commercial flights for work, which I take about once-a-month. It's a few inches too-long for Alaska Airlines, but I'm hoping that they let me get away with it (hey there, me from the future [2023]. I've been using my Farpoint 55 for all my commercial travel, and I'll never go back to a roller suitcase). The main selling point for me is that it has a zip-off day pack, and I intend to use that for my under-seat stuff (Laptop, headphones, and iPad). We did end up getting Emma the Osprey Jet, but it ended up being the HydraJet. The HydraJet is just what REI had in stock, and turns out she loves the water bladder.

Capsule Wardrobe

Packs are only one piece of the puzzle, though. To pack lighter, you have to pack less. So, another thing Katie came across in her research is the travel capsule wardrobe. The idea behind the capsule wardrobe is a collection of a small number of essential items that don't go out of fashion, can be mixed-and-matched, and travel well. So, for travel, we chose mostly black and grey clothes made of merino wool. Merino Wool is naturally odor resistant. This is a pretty big deal for us, because we're pretty obsessively clean, and do not like re-wearing dirty clothes. I think it's going to be a bit of an adjustment, but that's how we're packing, so we'll have to deal.

Compression bags

Another way we're trying to maximize packing space is via compression bags. These are very thin nylon (like parachute fabric) bags with zippers that compress-down the contents.

All the stuff Will is taking

Will's things unpacked

Bagged into packing cubes

Will's things bagged

Packed into the backpack

Will's things packed

Initial testing with Will's pack turned out pretty well


One of the biggest complications we're facing on this trip is that Will has to travel to Massachusetts for most of the week prior to our departure; arriving home late on August first, and we leave for Alaska on the second. To stay safe, we're going to sleep-in and take it kinda easy on the first day. What that means is that Will has to pack for both trips prior to departing to Massachusetts.


This is all we're taking - those three packs - for 12 days. This is unprecedented for us. Of course, the lie in that statement is that the airplane survival pack (with camp stove, water, tent, sleeping bag, etc.) life vests, boots, airplane emergency pack (oil, tools, windshield cleaner, etc.) will be coming along for the ride as well.

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