Backcountry Rental

Pre-Departure Information

Glacier Bay Sea Kayaks will meet your group for a pre-departure kayak orientation and instruction before you set out on your trip.  This is a mandatory meeting for your entire group and will take two hours to complete. The orientation is outlined below to familiarize you and your group with the content ahead of time.

Kayak Orientation & Instruction Content

  • Fill out rental form and collect final payment
  • Map orientation
  • Issue gear
  • Introduction to your kayak and safety features
  • Staging kayaks ready to depart.

Rental Form & Final Payment

You will have had a receipt emailed to you with your confirmation letter that outlines your payments thus far. To hold the reservation we take a deposit which may include: the cost of your room reservation ( if you are staying at Glacier Bay Lodge), air taxi to and from Gustavus, camper transportation, rain gear and boot rental and a percentage of the kayak rental cost.

There will be an outstanding amount due, which is usually the remaining kayak and gear rental cost. This outstanding amount will be collected at the beginning of your orientation, at which time you will also fill out a kayak rental form and have all members of your party sign a release form. Parents/Guardians must sign for minors under age 18.

Map Orientation

  • We will go through how to read a nautical chart, looking at: depths, scale, topographical contour lines and color, which indicate mud flats and the steepness of terrain. Since there are no designated camping sites in Glacier Bay, it will be important to find beaches for camping and rest breaks that offer a steeper, slope rather than a long tidal mud flat during low tide.
  • Paddling at a leisurely pace, the average distance covered over 4 – 6 hours is 10 miles, which factors in going with or against tide and wind, along with the size and configuration of your group. Large groups tend to go slower while smaller groups may cover more ground.
  • You should already have a paddle plan when you arrive and we shall go over your plan, making sure that it is realistic.
  • As we look over the map with you, we shall point out local knowledge information and hazards specific to your route, which may include: the ice choked bottle neck entrance to McBride Glacier, Lamplugh and Reid Glaciers which have strong glacial winds that come off the Brady Ice Field, Johns Hopkins Inlet and the hazards of camping near glaciers that may calve at any time causing ocean surges up the beach, paddling around icebergs, Adams Inlet and mud flat shallows, the Beardslee Islands and negotiating navigation in a complex island cluster, Sitakaday Narrows rip tides and Scidmore Cut depth of access.
  • Wake zones.
  • Wildlife restrictions and closures.
  • Understanding how tides work and how to read a tide table, which is imperative to a safe and enjoyable kayak experience. We will go through tides in detail along with common prevailing wind directions and how opposing wind and large tides can create choppy paddling condtions. For advance information please read our web page on tides.

Issue Gear

  • Kayak(s)
  • Sponge, bilge pump
  • Spray skirt
  • Paddle float
  • Life vest (PFD)
  • Paddles, including a spare paddle
  • Paddle leashes (optional)
  • Rain gear and boots (if rented)

Note – we do not rent or have any dry bags.

Introduction To Your Kayak And Safety Features

At the kayak racks we will go through:

  • The safety features of the kayaks, with an (on shore) demonstration of wet exit and re entry techniques and the use of a paddle float in the event of a capsize.
  • Recommendations on how to pack the kayaks.
  • Adjustments of the foot pedals, rudder and seat backs.
  • Proper care and handling of the fiber glass kayaks, including how to carry the kayaks up and down the rocky beaches without damaging yourselves or the kayaks and how to enter and exit the boats while free floating, avoiding harsh contact of the fiber glass on the rocks.
  • Spray skirt attachment.
  • Paddling basics.

Staging Kayaks For Departure On The Camper Transportation Vessel

  • If you are taking the camper transportation for a drop off further up bay, you will stage your kayak(s) on the dock the night before departure.
  • We will instruct you on how to get out onto the dock safely and how to prepare your kayak for loading. Your kayak will be loaded on to the transfer vessel empty. If you would like to practice packing your kayak, you may do so the night before your departure.
  • The morning of your departure, you will load personal gear and the empty kayak(s) from 6:30 – 7:00 AM; general boarding is at 7 AM. Boat departs at 7:30 AM.  The kayaks will be loaded onto the bow of the boat with the assistance of the boat crew.
  • If you are planning on a one way pick up, we shall review the pick up times and location with you to ensure that you will be at the correct place and the correct time to meet the pick up. You may also get GPS coordinates for the drop off sites in advance from NPS.
  • At the end of your trip, an Alaska Airlines jet departure on the day of your return to Bartlett Cove is not possible most summers, however, most years Alaska Seaplanes does have an evening departure late enough for you to fly back to Juneau on the day of your return on the boat from up bay. You will need to check their flight schedules for current information.  For a more relaxed ending to your backcountry adventure, we encourage you to stay at either Glacier Bay Lodge or one of the inns or b&bs in Gustavus that evening. If you do decide to depart that day on Alaska Seaplanes, you will need to be organized by having a taxi pre-booked to take you to the airport and assigning check-in tasks to your group members. These tasks include: washing out and returning bear canisters, checking out on your NPS permit, retrieving personal gear from the NPS storage shed, and paddling back (a ten minute or more paddle and process) and checking in kayaks and gear at the kayak racks with GBSK staff.  We go over the kayaks with you to determine any damage and this can take a few minutes. If you are a party of four, two people can paddle back two doubles to our racks, carry them up the beach and check them in with staff.

Orientation Times

If you are taking a vessel transfer further up bay. Your orientation time will be at 5 PM the night before your departure.

If you are paddling up or going into the Beardslee Islands, your pre-departure orientation may depend on the tides. For a Beardslees trip, our staff can meet you at either 9 AM, 2 PM or 5 PM.

The date and time of your orientation will be clearly stated on your receipt.

As of 2020, the NPS is asking all campers to fill out the backcountry permit and watch the two required videos on line in advance of your arrival. Please see our NPS Permits page for more information. If you are unable to do this, in-person NPS orientations are held daily at 10 AM & 3 PM.  The NPS Visitor Information Station (VIS) closes by 5 PM each day so you should plan on arriving in time to get your backcountry permit prior to that.