Locals Head Out on a 450 Mile Packrafting Backpacking Expedition

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As a company based in Colorado, we are lucky to be surrounded by incredible landscapes and outdoor beauty that calls to be enjoyed and explored. We’re also surrounded by people who value active lifestyles and all that the great outdoors has to offers. So when Zen was contacted by two Colorado Outward Bound School (COBS) instructors about a sponsorship, we had to listen.

Noah Larsen and Arthur Shain were planning an expedition in the remote Brooks Range of Alaska. They would embark on a 450-mile self-supported packrafting, ultralight backpacking and tenkara fishing expedition on the western side of the range. As two river and land instructors who typically work in Colorado’s mountains, Utah’s deep desert canyons and rivers across both states, an expedition this far North would not only be a first for them, but it would be a life goal.

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Arthur first contacted us through emailed and explained their expedition:

“We will begin after driving north on the Dalton Highway from Fairbanks to Atigun Pass. From the pass, we will start hiking. We plan to parallel the continental divide and hike west, dropping our packs and inflating the packrafts to float the Itkillik and Anaktuvuk Rivers. After bypassing the town of Anaktuvuk Pass, we will paddle on the John River, eventually taking out at Hunt Fork and marching to Gaedeke Lake. We will float on the Alatna River until reaching the Arrigetch. The Arrigetch lies at the heart of the Brooks Range and is recognizable by its large granite faces and towers. We plan to stow our boats, climb up the talus to Ariel Pass, then descend down the other side to the Noatak River. Until reaching Nutuvuki Lake, we will paddle the Noatak and Reed Rivers, heading south. Next, we plan to traverse east, hiking cross-country to rejoin with the Alatna River. We will paddle the Alatna River until the town of Allakaket, where our adventure finishes after about 450 miles worth of hiking, packrafting, and fishing!

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The success of their journey relies on having high-quality, ultralight gear and fly fishing will be an important component of the expedition. Gear and rods that offer unique innovations in their quality and usability are critical for this type of adventure, so is simplicity and efficiency, which makes up Zen’s philosophy. Traversing the mountain ranges of Alaska is more than a walk in the park. Reliable gear becomes a life line. We’re proud to be a part of this expedition.

In his email, Arthur explained, “Tenkara helps connect us to the environment. We value this opportunity to challenge ourselves, learn from our experiences, and explore a remote area rich with natural and human histories”. That statement struck gold with us. At Zen, we want to be a part of that journey, that experience, that challenge and help carry out your life goals with simplicity and efficiency, while also connecting with a great community.

Please wish Arthur and Noah the best of luck and very safe travels in this remote region in Alaska. They head out August 12th. We just had to support these guys and hope to hear about their adventures next month. “Some species of fish found in Gates of the Arctic National Park include arctic grayling, lake trout, northern pike, arctic char, whitefish, and chum salmon, said Noah. “We look forward to testing out two Sagi model rods from Zen Tenkara on the various sized rivers and creeks that we plan to encounter!” Let the journey begin!

Noah Larsen, Colorado Outward Bound School (COBS) Instructor

Arthur Shain, Colorado Outward Bound School (COBS) Instructor



  1. What a great expedition! I lived 20 years on the Kuskokwim River, loved the “approach” to fishing 🎣, hunting and secluded living in the Y-K Delta.
    Kudos to your”approach”, be safe, Godspeed.

  2. Have a great and safe trip! So proud to have a family member who loves God’s world!
    I went fishing yesterday but not even a nibble. Hope you have better luck. Good bless both of you and keep you in his care.

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