March 26, 2015
By Peter B. Mathiesen
An Iditarod contestant spends up to 20 days on the trail covering some of the most inhospitable landscape on the planet during the dead of an Alaskan winter. The contestant's sled carries about 100 pounds of gear, as well as extra food for the dogs in case a checkpoint is passed.
Equipment choices are critical, because having the right gear is necessary to survive if extreme weather moves in. In short, no gear is haphazardly selected. The musher and their dogs' lives depend on it.
Iditarod Unleashed Marathon & 2015 Race Special
Tune in the 2015 Race Special on April 2 at 8 p.m. EST on The Sportsman Channel to catch all of the action from the hottest event below zero.
Top Gear Choices for the Trail
We asked nine veteran mushers which piece of equipment was so important they would feel sick if it was left behind in the truck:
#40 Lev Shvarts, Willow, Alaska
Sporting one of the most pilled-up fleece jackets of the Iditarod, Shvarts says he likes old-school gear. 'Thick Retro Fleece from Patagonia; man, that stuff is warm, ' he said. Although this specific jacket isn't made any longer, an equivalent sweater with a different pocket configuration can be purchased at Moosejaw Outfiiters
#15 Matt Failor, Willow, Alaska
When asked about his favorite gear, Matt Failor jumped up and said, 'My bad ass prototype 1000TD waterproof down Columbia Jacket
. ' The new parka should be available this fall and uses waterproof down with a breathable waterproof outer shell. Failor added the wolverine collar and ruff. No fur on the production model.
#50 Brian Wilmshurst, Dawson City, Alaska
Cabela's Alaskan Guide Minus 40
down sleeping bag is this musher's choice. The bag comes in a waterproof stuff sack that compresses for space. 'Most of the time the bag is so warm I sleep on top of it with a bivy sack as a blanket, ' Wilmshurst said.
#53 Monica Zappa, Kasilof, Alaska
Sporting a pair of impressively dog-yard-dirty neon lime green bib overalls, her response was quick: 'Let me grab a clean one, ' as she pulled on a hot pink parka with silver lightning bolts. 'My Posh House Gear, parka, bibs, rain suit and hats, ' she said. Posh House is an Alaskan custom garment maker that makes outerwear for at least eight mushers (female and male) on the Iditarod.
You can order down or fiberfill, and all are waterproofed breathable. Every garment is a perfect custom fit. There's no web site - you have to old school it and pick up the phone! Call Deb Ives at 907-360-7375.
Price: Starting at $250
#10 Cindy Abbott, Irvine, California
'My wind suit. When it really blows, even my parkas won't stop the wind, ' she said. 'I could freeze to death without these two shells. ' Abbott uses a disarmingly simple over-pant and shell woven with Versatech fabric from Northern Outfitters
175 (for both)
#61 Mike Santos, Cantwell, Alaska
'I really like Under Amour's 4.0 quilted Polartec Cold Base Layer
. ' Santos said it's lofty, it traps air, and it stays dry, which means he stays warm. 'And they don't smell after a week! I don't really smell good toward the end of the race, ' he laughed.
169.89 (for both top and bottom)
#44 Gerry Sousa, Talkeetna, Alaska
'I melt snow to make water for the dogs. This cooker outfit
is pricy but they are light, compact and last for a very long time. Sousa previously used a bucket and moved to this system to save space and weight. A restaurant owner, Sousa knows a lot about pots and pans.
#49 Laura Allaway, Fairbanks, Alaska
While many sponsored mushers use headlamps that are well north of $500, Allaway has to stay on budget and finds that, for the money, she can't beat a Leatherman Led Lenser
. 'I have yet to have one bite the dust and I treat them like hell. '
#46 Dallas Seavey, Willow, Alaska
'That's easy: my IRBI knife
. I could make do without it, but it would be a miserable experience. ' Seavey's choice is a custom-crafted drop-point knife made by IRBI Knives of Seward, Alaska.
Custom-made knives start at $