Camp Life

Everything you need to know to prepare your visit at the Toolik Field Station.

Please make sure to carefully read the different sections of this page, as it provides valuable information to help you prepare for your stay. 


canoe

Example image 2

Aurora by Scott Filippone

Winter walk

Hiker

Art on the lake

Toolik Field Station is located at mile 284.5 of the Dalton Highway, 370 miles north of Fairbanks. 

Driving to the station takes 9-12 hours over a largely unpaved industrial artery that serves operations at Prudhoe Bay.

There is no cell reception anywhere on the Dalton Highway, so having a satellite phone or an InReach GPS tracker is recommended. CB radios are commonly used by truckers to communicate hazards and other safety information, and are also recommended for any vehicles that traverse the highway.

There are little to no options for supplies along the way, so food and drinks should be planned out and brought beforehand.

The majority of our visitors travel to and from Toolik Field Station via a fleet of NSF-owned and Toolik-managed Science Support vehicles on a set schedule, but there are other options available to reach the station. Visit our Transportation page for details.

Sukapak Driving North during the winter at Sukapak Mt. 
Trees covered in snow along the Dalton Hwy at sunset. Beautiful drive
Snowy mountain Sukapak Mt during the winter
Snow plow clearing Atigun Pass DOT in Atigun Pass

 

Toolik Field Station operates year round, with summer operations differing greatly from winter operations.

"Summer" season: May-September

Toolik Field Station is fully operational and staffed with maintenance technicians, cooks, operations staff, a safety coordinator and EMT,  Environmental Data Center and GIS experts, a naturalist, and access to 100% of the buildings in camp.. 

During the summer season the user day rate will cover your housing, food, field assistance, transportation, equipment, lab or other building access, and any other type of support that might be needed while doing work at Toolik Field Station.  The kitchen is fully staffed and provides hot meals 2-3 times a day (except on Sunday), as well as 24/7 self-served food as needed

"Winter" season: October-April

Only "essential buildings" remain open and heated: Dining Hall, Garage, Cottongrass dorm, Winter lab, Winter Quarters, generator modules, and the well house. The station is minimally staffed with at least 4 personnel to maintain continuous heat, power, and water utilities, and to provide remote access and other support as needed

During the winter months Toolik Field Station is still open to visitors but operates with reduced services. Only a hot dinner is served, with self-serving options for other meals. Lab space is limited to the winter lab, and is shared between all projects doing work at Toolik. Accommodations are in one of our winter capable hard-sided dorms. Support requests (field assistance, equipment use, etc.) need to be coordinated with Toolik staff ahead of time.

Science project members are responsible for providing their own field clothing and gear.  During the summer months weather is difficult to predict and can turn quickly.  We recommend that you bring cold weather clothing in addition to summer clothing to be prepared for any weather. Fabrics to consider are Polar Fleece, polypropylene, Capilene, wool, and silk. Avoid cotton fabrics and jeans for remote field site use. Rain is frequent in the summer, so good rain gear is a must! Don't forget to plan for warm weather as well, as we can see temperatures in the 80s! 

Here is a list of recommended clothing to bring to TFS (winter-only gear marked with *):

  • Head protection: sun hat, warm hat
  • Eye protection: 
    • Sunglasses (polarized)
    • Goggles*
  • Rain gear: rain jacket, rain pants
  • Gym clothing
    • Clean gym shoes if you plan to use the Health Care facility (Gym)
  • Outer layers: 
    • Warm jacket/parka with hood, down or synthetic
    • Windbreaker
    • Midlayer Fleece/sweater
    • Hiking pants (loose fitting, avoid cotton and denim for remote fieldwork)
    • Shell pants
    • Insulated/waterproof bibs (Carhartt or equivalent)*
    • Shorts
  • Neck gaiter, balaclava, Buff
  • Gloves: 
    • Liner gloves   
    • Insulated gloves
    • waterproof gloves
    • mittens*
  • Footwear:
    • Gore Tex hiking boots 
    • Rubber boots, insulated advised (Muck boots, Xtratufs, Bogs, etc.)
    • Slip-ons (Crocs, flip-flops, sandals)
      • lodging accommodations and shower module are shoe-less
    • Running shoes
    • Insulated winter boots (Steger Mukluks, Sorel)*
    • Overboots (Neos)*
  • Under Layers:   
    • Several sets of long underwear (upper and lower body, wicking and insulating)
    • 4-6 pair wool socks
    • Shirts (polypropylene, wool; avoid cotton)

Check out this video from the USFWS "How to get dressed: Arctic Field Style": https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=172415357007839

Don't know what a "bug jacket" is? www.bugshirt.com sells a quality product or these same shirts can be purchased at Arctic Fire & Safety in Fairbanks.

Mosquitoes

 

 

  • Outdoor protection:
    • Chapstick and Sunscreen
    • Insect repellent (DEET highly recommended)
    • Insect head-net or jacket
    • Sunscreen
    • Bear spray
    • Satellite phone or InReach (TFS can loan sat phones for daily field trips depending on inventory availability)
  • Toiletries:
    • Toothbrush
    • Toothpaste
    • Soap
    • Shampoo/Conditioner 
    • Feminine hygiene products
  • Sleeping/showering:
    • Sleeping bag - TFS provides bed with mattress, pillows, fitted sheet and pillow case
    • Towel for showering and sauna
  • Field gear:
    • Day backpack
    • Water bottle(s) and/or Thermos
    • Camera
    • Batteries
    • Binoculars
    • Pocket knife/ multitool
    • Personal First-Aid Kit for out of camp excursions
    • Headlamp (winter only)*
  • Others:
    • Recreation gear: tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag liner, water filter, etc. 
    • Reading material, music, art supplies, games
    • Medications with copies of any prescriptions
    • Casual Comfy Clothes (jeans, t-shirts, etc.)
    • Costumes (dressing up for a bonfire is a tradition at Toolik)
    • Swimsuit (for the sauna or swimming in the cold lake)

The TFS kitchen staff serves three meals a day except on Sundays, when there is a continental brunch and full dinner service only.

Our kitchen staff is familiar and experienced with accommodating special dietary needs, and dishes are strictly prepared and labeled for people with food allergies. We provide vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and other dietary options as needed. If applicable, please make sure to indicate your dietary limitations when you complete your profile in the myToolik system. 

We ask staff and users to stick to the meal plan that they sign up for at the beginning of the season to help facilitate planning meals.  

There are a few basic diets at Toolik:

  1. Regular - (Fish/Meat available at each meal)
  2. Pescatarian - Fish 2-3 times a week, Vegetarian the rest of the time.
  3. Vegetarian
  4. Vegan

The regular hot meals are scheduled at 7:30-8:30 for breakfast, 12:00-13:00 for lunch, and dinner is at 18:00-19:00.  Outside of those hours, self-served food is available in the dining hall refrigerator chillers. We also provide a variety of bags and wrappers to take food with you into the field. 

Self-served food include: left-over food, sandwich and salad bar, snacks, soft drinks, a wide variety of milks (both dairy and non-dairy), Gatorade powder, coffee, and teas. Self-served food is available 24/7 in the Dining Hall.

Arctic Bread

We may be located in the Arctic but we have access to a variety of communication services. 

  • Internet access:
    • Toolik Field Station is operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks and all internet services are provided through their Office of Information Technology (OIT). While outages are rare they do happen, but service is typically restored in a timely manner.
    • Wireless internet is reliably available throughout most of camp. There are a few dead spots, but you should have access to the Wi-Fi in most buildings around camp.
    • Hardwired Ethernet capabilities are available and especially helpful when working inside laboratories
    • Illegal downloads are prohibited, and will be monitored and tracked by OIT. Multiple offense computers will be banned from the network
    • All computers must have up-to-date antivirus software.
    • While the station has fairly fast internet, please keep in mind that it is shared with many others. It is important that everyone keeps their downloads and streaming to a minimum
  • Phones:
    • Toolik Field Station has a variety of public phones around camp that everyone is welcome to use, these phones only dial short distance (meaning Fairbanks) numbers. They are linked to the UAF campus, so if you know the 4-digit extension of the number you try to call on campus you can dial directly
      • Station Manager: x2511
      • EMT: x2516
      • Maintenance: x2523
      • Updated phone lists are posted throughout in camp. 
      • For other numbers, dial 9, then 1 and the number with 907 area code. 
      • Talk to the staff if you need to make a long distance call. 
  • Cell phones:
    • There is no provider that works at Toolik and you won't have reception anywhere close to the station. Most providers work in Prudhoe Bay, which is the closest place you'll be able to use your cell phone. If you have GCI, your phone will work in Coldfoot and close to Alyeska Pump Station 4.
    • There is a work around to use your cell phone while in camp via Wi-Fi! If your provider allows Wi-Fi Calling, make sure to enable the service (free in most cases, check with your provider) before you lose reception on the Dalton. You won't be able to enable the service once at Toolik so make sure to activate it while still in Fairbanks! Once enabled, you will be able to make calls, receive/send text messages, etc. while on Wi-FI as if you were within cell reception
  • Satellite phones:
    • Toolik has a stock of satellite phones available to check out each day to take into the field. 
    • All Toolik fleet trucks are equipped with a satellite phone in case of an emergency, and the Science trucks shuttling between Fairbanks and Toolik also are equipped with an InReach that track the location of the vehicles. 
  • Radios:
    • Toolik staff carry hand-held radios at all times. There is a base station radio in the staff office that anyone is welcome to use if they are trying to reach a staff member. 

Water conservation is a high priority at the station. TFS has no water treatment facility, thus all sewage and wastewater must be stored and trucked to Prudhoe Bay for treatment at great expense. For this reason, we limit showers and laundry to a minimum.

Bathing

In the summer months, showers at the station are located in the “shower module,” located in the lab area in camp. There are several individual shower stalls, as well as sinks and mirrors. 

All TFS residents should limit their bathing to 2 short showers per week. There are water-saving “pause” valves on all shower heads. There are cubbies located in the shower module for storage of toiletries. There are two additional showers in Cottongrass, these are the only operational showers in the winter months.

TFS has a sauna, which has played a key part of our water conservation efforts. The wood-fired, lakeside sauna operates several times a week during the summer months. Re-circulated stove-heated water and pitchers are available for bathing on the sauna deck, and during the summer there is a dock from which to access the lake. There are separate men’s, women’s and co-ed sauna hours. Clothing/bathing suits are optional.  You may want to bring your own towel, however, as there is a limited supply of towels that are available on a first come first served basis. 

Sauna The sauna under the aurora

Cedar walls and benches in the interior of the Sauna

A peek inside the sauna
Sauna profile Exterior of the sauna facing north

Laundry

Residents may do one load of laundry every two weeks. The washing machines at Toolik are high-capacity and high-efficiency. The station provides high-efficiency (HE) laundry detergent. Please make sure loads are full to make the most of a load. Consider combining clothes with another resident in needed.  

One of our goals here at Toolik Field Station is to limit our impact on the surrounding environment that we study.  Being this far remote has some challenges, and while we can't be 100% sustainable we can have measures in place that help us be greener and reduce our impact. Here are ways how you can help us achieve this goal.

Power Conservation

Power loads that supply the station are supported by a series of generators that run on diesel fuel. During the summer season, the station goes through a lot of diesel to operate and support a high population. There are a few things residents can do to help conserve power:

  • Always turn off lights when leaving a room.
  • Always turn off power on equipment that is not in use. For example, all Weatherport tents and most dorm rooms are heated with individual heaters that use up a lot of energy. These heaters can heat up a room very quickly, so when you leave your room during the day please make sure to shut down your heater
  • Make sure doors close completely behind you.

Water conservation

Water conservation is a high priority at the station. TFS has no water treatment facility, thus all sewage and wastewater must be stored and trucked to Prudhoe Bay for treatment at great expense. For this reason we limit showers and laundry to a minimumThere are a few things residents can do to help conserve water:

  • Limit showers to 2, 2-minute showers a week, and laundry to one load every two weeks..
  • Use the outhouses "towers" around camp, instead of flushable toilets

Tower fun

 

Trash management

We separate trash and recycle at best as possible. All the trash bins around camp are labeled for recycling, and "burn" vs "no burn". 

  • In the summer when the camp population is high we incinerate burnable trash produced in camp - food waste, paper products, and other safely burnt materials - hence the importance to only throw burnable items into the trash bins labeled "burn".
  • Note that we are hoping to get an industrialized composter in 2021, in which all food and compostable paper products could be turned rapidly into compost. This will help us considerably decrease the amount of trash we will have to burn. Our goal is to stop using the incinerator completely, and having all non-compostable trash transported back to town for proper processing.
  • Trash is not sorted in the winter months. All trash is bagged collectively and brought back to Fairbanks for proper processing.  

 Recycling

  • We do recycle year around though, so make sure to sort recyclables appropriately.
  • Make sure to always pay attention to recyclable items and use the right bins.
  • Note that glass can NOT be recycled in Alaska. We ask that nobody brings disposable glass bottles or containers to camp as a result, with the exception of glassware needed for lab work or field work.  

Hazardous waste and other lab waste 

Toolik Field Station has gasoline and diesel fuel available for vehicles and other equipment. Fuel is not included in the user day rate, and will be charged independently to a project. 

If you need fuel please request some from the Toolik Operations staff during normal business hours (8:30am - 5pm) unless it is needed for an emergency.  Only Toolik staff members are authorized to pump fuel for residents.

If you plan to acquire fuel for your project vehicle(s) at Toolik Field Station your project must establish a fuel account  prior your visit to the station .  

 Fuel tanks

Toolik's location and facilities offer a lot of opportunities for recreation and quality time spent as a community, when work is done for the day. Many residents regularly organize a variety of community activities that everyone is encouraged and welcome to join, from Toolik's World's famous Trivia, to breathtaking hikes, easy walks, nice runs, paddling on calm waters, or fun bike rides following the Alyeska pipeline,  there's a lot for available for any types of physical comfort. 

Toolik also has a small Health Club with a treadmill, a rowing machine, weights and a variety of other equipment to stay in shape. 

Weekly workshops are typically organized during the week in the summer time, and everyone is welcome to present or attend.  

Community input is also essential to making Toolik a better place for everyone. The users forums, organized 3 times a summer, are a good venue to provide feedback to staff and others at the station. Other meetings often happen too, whether it's a field safety training, or a discussion about diversity issues, everyone is encouraged to attend, and bring up topics they'd like to discuss or feel are important for Toolik to think about. 

 

Science talk

Moutain biking alongside the pipeline

Bonfire

Shadows

The weather at Toolik can be quite dynamic, and at times unpredictable. 

During the summer season daytime high temperatures range from the low 40s to 80 degrees (F).  Snow usually sticks to the tundra until early to mid-June, with high afternoon temperatures and colder nights. Toolik Lake is typically ice-free by mid-June. Temperatures rise with green-up during late-June and July. Snow is possible at any time during the summer, though it won’t stick for long.  A majority of the annual precipitation falls as rain during the summer months. Temperatures begin to decline again in early August, with nights falling below freezing. Snow begins to fall and sticks by mid-September. Toolik Lake usually freezes over by early to mid-October.

Snow can stick to the ground for the rest of the winter as early as early September, and temperatures drop quickly from there. It can get really cold (-40F or colder) with sustained high winds. That, combined with complete darkness from mid-November to mid-January, makes winter outdoor work challenging. Fieldwork should be carefully planned beforehand, and team members should be prepared with the adequate gear. 

Climograph of climate summaries

For more information about weather at Toolik, please visit our Weather page

Toolik Field Station is home to an abundance of critters -- large and small.  If you'd like a sneak-peak at what you will find or revisit an old friend, check these guides:

Bird Guide Mammal Guide Fish Guide Plant Guide

*Mosquito Warning*

The mosquito population on the North Slope is very abundant in the summer. Mosquitos begin emerging in early June, become most fierce during the month of July when hatchings are smaller in body size and much more numerous, and start dropping in early August. Although annoying, Alaskan mosquitoes do not (yet) carry harmful diseases. 

It is recommended that you bring a head net or a bug shirt, which can be found locally in Fairbanks, or online on sites like Amazon. Mosquitoes cannot bite through tightly woven nylon (e.g. quick-dry hiking pants), so outer layers of this material are useful. Also, it is preferable to wear light colors as mosquitoes are attracted to dark-colored clothing .

Mosquito repellent (natural or DEET) is highly recommended. Re-apply frequently but be mindful -- DEET can melt plastic! Avoid putting too much on your face especially if you are wearing glasses or on the palms of your hands when handling field gear.   

Wolf and caribou