What to Take on an Alaska Vacation

Packing for a trip to Alaska can quickly get overwhelming.  The question is, do you need shorts, a ski cap, or both?  The answer is both—and then some. Here are some suggestions on what to take on an Alaska vacation:

Coming between May and September? Think Layers

Alaska is a pretty casual place, so their “dress code” is not about fashion so much as being comfortable, so that you can enjoy each day to the fullest, no matter the weather. That’s why they say to dress in layers. From spring through early fall, be prepared for temperatures in the 50 to 70 degree range, always with the possibility of a little rain and wind. If you dress in layers and bring a small hip pack or backpack, you’ll stay warm and dry when it’s chilly or wet, and you can peel off layers and stow them as the weather changes.  Rain or shine, many day tours—flight seeing, cruises, bus tours—offer some access to shelter, but you should always be ready with your own rain gear and basics, since you’ll easily be spending at least a little time outside. For specialized excursions, you can expect that the tour operator will provide specific gear that you would need for that day—like tackle and hip waders for a fishing trip, or a poncho, rain boots or dry suit for a rafting trip.

What to Pack – The Middle & Outer Layers

The middle, insulating layer has traditionally been expedition-weight long underwear, a fleece or synchilla jacket, or even a sweater. These synthetic materials have the edge over wool or cotton because of their lightness and warmth. They work well.  But lightweight synthetic or down jackets work as well. They’re lightweight and pack down smaller, yet provide more loft as an insulating layer. When it’s not raining, you can also wear them as an outer layer. They’re wind- and abrasion-resistant and can handle a lot of perspiration, because they’re so breathable.  Here are my recommendations:

Duofold Expedition Weight Two-Layer Thermal Tagless Bottom & Crew

The Duofold® Expedition  2-layer long-sleeve crew and bottom is the last line of defense against the cold. It’s crafted using a two-layer thermal fabric construction to deliver exceptional warmth. The performance-activated Varitherm® baselayer fabric combines thermal protection with moisture management to keep you warm and dry. The odor-resistant properties prevent odor-causing agents from gaining a hold on the garment.

Duofold Men's Expedition Weight Two-Layer Thermal Tagless Bottom, Duofold Women's Expedition Weight Two-Layer Thermal Ankle Length Bottoms, What to take on an Alaska Vacation

Mens Bottom: Duofold Men’s Expedition Weight Two-Layer Thermal Tagless Bottom

Women’s Bottom:  Duofold Women’s Expedition Weight Two-Layer Thermal Ankle Length Bottoms

Men's & Women's Duofold Expedition Weight Two-Layer Thermal Tagless Bottom & Crew, What to take on an Alaska Vacation

Men’s Crew:  Duofold Men’s Expedition Weight Two-Layer Thermal Tagless Crew

Women’s Crew:  Duofold Women’s Expedition Weight Two-Layer Thermal

What to Pack – The Outer Layer

The outer layer is the one you really need to get right. You want a shell that’s waterproof and breathable to stay warm when it’s windy and dry when it’s rainy. These thin, outer jackets can be tucked into in the outer compartments of your suitcase and should be fully waterproof.

Amazon Essentials Men's Lightweight Water-Resistant Packable Down Jacket, What to take on an Alaska VacationAmazon Essentials Men’s Lightweight Water-Resistant Packable Down Jacket

Down fill brings warmth without the weight to this water-resistant quilted jacket featuring a full-zip front with stand-up collar.  Choose from 6 colors.  Click Here for Amazon Essentials Men’s Lightweight Water-Resistant Packable Down Jacket

Wantdo Women's Hooded Packable Ultra Light Weight Short Down Jacket, What to take on an Alaska VacationWantdo Women’s Hooded Packable Ultra Light Weight Short Down Jacket

This warm jacket is padded with an innovative material that’s as warm as down and super light. It features a compact silhouette for a feminine look, and it’s thin and lightweight enough to wear under another layer. Zip closure, hood and a raglan-sleeve design combine to create sporty style.  Click Here for Wantdo Women’s Hooded Packable Ultra Light Weight Short Down Jacket

Bring Warm Weather Gear Too!

Pack some shorts and short-sleeved shirts for your vacation, too. There are plenty of outdoor retailers to find any last-minute items you may need.  Recent Alaskan summers have been hot and sunny.   Take your swimsuit, sunglasses, sunscreen and a lightweight, brimmed hat for sun and rain.  Interestingly, the intensity of the sun in Alaska on a peak summer day is probably equivalent to a spring day in the Lower 48, because of the lower angle of the sun in the subarctic regions. But due to the long summer days, there are twice as many hours of daylight, so you definitely want to protect your skin.

Other Extras

Gloves & Hat

Even on a warm summer day, it can get pretty chilly when you are heading up to a glacier. While you won’t need a parka or anything winter-weight, a pair of thin gloves and a light hat will be worthwhile. If anything, you’ll be able to spend more time taking great photos.

HINDAWI Womens Beanie Winter Hat Scarf Set , What to take on an Alaska VacationHINDAWI Womens Beanie Winter Hat Scarf Set 

Thick and tightly knit weave with reversible plush infinity scarf and hat set, fashionable unique design keeps you warm and looking good in the cold weather.  Click Here for HINDAWI Womens Beanie Winter Hat Scarf Set Slouchy Warm Snow Knit Skull Cap

DG Hill Mens Winter Hat Gloves Set 3M Thinsulate Fleece Lining Beanie, What to take on an Alaska VacationDG Hill Mens Winter Hat Gloves Set 3M Thinsulate Fleece Lining Beanie

Classic style knit hat, beanie with a pair of gloves is the perfect clothing accessory set for men; 3M Thinsulate insulation for warmth without bulk; The extra layer that traps and holds body heat is effective when hat and gloves are damp and is able to dry quickly; Soft, thermal fleece lining has great heat retention for outdoor activities in cool or cold weather. Click Here for DG Hill Mens Winter Hat Gloves Set 3M Thinsulate Fleece Lining Beanie

Proper Footwear

Never bring new shoes to Alaska—you’ll be walking a lot, and don’t need blisters. Old tennis shoes that are well-worn are better than fancy boots that have never been taken out of the box. If you want waterproofing, look for Gore-Tex socks that can slip over your regular, non-cotton socks. If you’re going to invest in hiking shoes, get yourself a comfortable pair of lightweight hikers with good traction—two pairs, actually, in case one gets wet.  And break them in before you visit.

RAX Men's Lightweight Backpacking Hiking Boots, What to take on an Alaska VacationRAX Men’s Lightweight Backpacking Hiking Boots

Lightweight Cushioning EVA mid sole for a relaxed and safe walking, this mid men hiker features a molded EVA mid sole for additional cushioning,which absorbs shocks while walking, with high rebound.  For more information, or to purchase << Click Here >>.

Columbia Women's Redmond Mid Waterproof Trail Shoe, What to take on an Alaska VacationColumbia Women’s Redmond Mid Waterproof Trail Shoe

This comely mid-cut hiker features Columbia’s best waterproof breathable construction, lightweight cushioned mid sole and advanced traction out sole that has the right grip for every terrain.  For more information, or to purchase << Click Here >>.

RANDY SUN Unisex Waterproof & Breathable Hiking/Trekking/Ski Socks, What to take on an Alaska VacationRANDY SUN Unisex Waterproof & Breathable Hiking/Trekking/Ski Socks

The waterproof socks can make your feet enjoy freedom of movement all the time, and it is not only wind proof and water proof but also highly moisture and perspiration permeable.  << Click Here >> for pricing information, or to purchase.

Mosquito Protection

Mosquitoes aren’t as much of a problem as most people think. But you’ll still want to bring “bug dope” as an insurance policy.  30-40% DEET usually does the trick. The only time you’ll need 100% DEET is on a backpacking or float trip in the interior near standing water.  If you don’t like DEET, the best DEET alternative is Picaridin.  This synthetic compound doesn’t have as good of repellent qualities as DEET, but it works pretty darn well—and it doesn’t damage fabrics like DEET, nor have the odor or oily feel, nor have the bad taste when applied to the skin.

Ben's 30% DEET Mosquito, Tick and Insect Repellent, 3.4 Ounce Pump, What to take on an Alaska VacationBen’s 30% DEET Mosquito, Tick and Insect Repellent, 3.4 Ounce Pump

Ben’s 30 insect repellent provides up to 8 hours of effective protection in buggy situations. Don’t get bitten, get Ben’s!  << Click Here >> for pricing information, or to purchase.

Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin, What to take on an Alaska VacationSawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin

Long-lasting Sawyer Picaridin-based insect repellent can be applied to your skin as well as clothing, outdoor gear, and more. It offers effective protection against disease carrying nuisances like mosquitoes carrying Zika and ticks carrying Lyme Disease.   << Click Here >> for pricing information, or to purchase.

Other Extras to Consider

Fishing License

You can order this ahead of time online, but it’s easy to obtain from your air taxi, fishing guide, or most local grocery stores.

Small First Aid Kit

Most hotels and tour operators will have you covered, but it’s convenient to have Band-Aids and ointment for minor emergencies.

Swiss Safe 2-in-1 First Aid Kit, What to take on an Alaska VacationSwiss Safe 2-in-1 First Aid Kit

2-in-1 Premium First Aid Emergency Kit with 120 medical grade items.  Amazingly small, lightweight Mini Kit with additional 32 medical items.  Perfect for any occasion or events – family, home, workplace, emergencies, outdoors.  << Click Here >> for pricing information, or to purchase.

Backpack or Tote Bag

Layers are useless unless you have away to stow them. You’ll likely be away from your hotel for most of the day, so it’s a good idea to have a bag to carry your camera, extra clothing layers, medications.

Venture Pal Lightweight Packable Durable Travel Hiking Backpack Daypack, What to take on an Alaska VacationVenture Pal Lightweight Packable Durable Travel Hiking Backpack Daypack

The Venture Pal 35L hiking daypack provides several pockets for handy storage and convenient organization. In addition to its roomy main compartment, the backpack features two front zipper pocket for smaller items, an internal zippered pocket, and two open-mesh side pockets for quick access such as guide books, water bottle or umbrella.  << Click Here >> for more information, or to purchase.

Binoculars/Spotting Scope

Wildlife won’t (always) stroll up to you. Having binoculars to see them in greater detail can really make the difference between a good trip and a great trip.

Nikon 7576 MONARCH 5 8x42 Binoculars, What to take on an Alaska VacationNikon 7576 MONARCH 5 8×42 Binoculars

The MONARCH 5 delivers sharp, high-contrast views that are the result of a state-of-the-art optical system. Featuring Nikon’s premium ED Glass lenses and Dielectric High-Reflective Multilayer Prism Coatings, the MONARCH 5 displays exceptionally accurate color reproduction and a clear, natural looking image.  << Click Here >> for more information, or to purchase.

Celestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope, What to take on an Alaska VacationCelestron 52250 80mm Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope

Celestron’s popular Ultima 80mm Zoom Spotting Scope offers images that are noticeably brighter and sharper than entry level 60mm spotters. The Ultima 80 is a refractor style spotting scope with an Achromatic objective lens. Excellent light transmission is assured by multi-layer anti-reflection coatings on the objective lens as well as on the zoom eyepiece and the BAK-4 prisms. The multi-coated 80mm objective lens delivers 77% brighter views than a 60mm scope, and the built in zoom lens produces sharp images from 20X all the way up to 60X magnification.  << Click Here >> for more information, or to purchase.

Zipper-Top Bags

Freezer-sized, zipper-top bags are great for keeping your clothing folded and leak-prone toiletries isolated. Separate baggies also make it easier to repack in case your luggage is searched, and extra bags are handy for storing dirty or damp clothing.

Vaultz Mesh Storage Bags, Assorted Colors and Sizes, What to take on an Alaska VacationVaultz Mesh Storage Bags, Assorted Colors and Sizes

The Vaultz sturdy mesh storage bags are perfect for organizing all of your miscellaneous items.  Each bag comes with a heavy duty zipper and clip.  The black bag is 9″ x 9.25″, the red bag is 5.5″ x 9″, the orange bag is 5″ x 8″, and the yellow bag is 5″ x 7″.  << Click Here >> for more information, or to purchase.

Watch/Alarm Clock

With so much daylight, it’s hard to keep track of time!

Marathon CL030023 Travel Alarm Clock with Calendar & Temperature, What to take on an Alaska VacationMarathon CL030023 Travel Alarm Clock with Calendar & Temperature

The MARATHON Travel and Desktop Alarm Clock is a compact size of 4 W X 0.5 D X 2.25 H inches, making it a perfect travel clock. Featuring a rotating stand, the MARATHON Travel and Desktop Alarm Clock can be folded into a compact case for ease of travel.  << Click Here >> for more information, or to purchase.

Camera/Video Camera

Capture your Alaska experiences, and don’t forget the extras: batteries, lenses, chargers and memory cards. Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau each have a good camera shop, but you’re better off bringing everything you might need.

Nikon COOLPIX W300 16MP 4k Ultra HD Waterproof Digital Camera, What to take on an Alaska VacationNikon COOLPIX W300 16MP 4k Ultra HD Waterproof Digital Camera

For those thrill seekers and action-hounds, meet the COOLPIX W300, a tough-as-nails camera designed for the extremes. Waterproof, freezeproof, shockproof and dustproof, it captures 4K Ultra HD video, 16 MP photos, time-lapse movies and more in the harshest conditions.   << Click Here >> for more information, or to purchase.

26 Comments

  1. John

    Leahrae,
    What a great list for what to bring. You never know what you will get in the weather department in Alaska, last time I was there in November, they had 2 feet of snow. Need protection from wind, wet, cold and bugs all at the same time.
    The only thing missing is some kind of fitness tracker to keep track of the miles you will put on your feet if you really want to see Alaska.
    John

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Oh yes, a fitness tracker is a great idea John! I do believe that an Alaskan vacation will include a lot of exercise. I know it does for me. I head to Alaska again next month and I am not looking forward to the snow! Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  2. Lane Onson

    I’m was totally amused when you said, “Think layers” for 50-70 degree weather. You all are a bunch of ‘virgins’. I live in the Midwest and 50-70 is almost time for shorts.

    I definitely agree with the camera and First Aid kits. First aid kits are important no matter where you go. Since, I’m totally into mini-hiking, the backpack is surely a go.

    Thanks for the article.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are welcome Lane and glad you enjoyed the read. Yes, for me, 50 – 70 is down right cold! LOL I think an Alaska vacation would be right up your alley 🙂

      Reply
  3. Yurii

    Fantastic information! Honestly, as someone from California I would not have a clue what to wear in Alaska. This is not only great general information, but fantastic specifics for those of us who are limited in our weather experiences.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great and yes, those of us who live in warm weather climates, would definitely be wise to follow this packing list 🙂 Alaska is beautiful, but the weather can be unpredictable no matter what time of year. Thanks for reading what to take on an Alaska Vacation.

      Reply
  4. Israel Olatunji

    Thanks for the suggestions on what to take on an Alaska vacation! Kudos to you for the analysis made on the possibility of a little rain and wind and what to simply put on to stay warm and dry when it’s chilly or wet. But the question I have is that: is it free to visit Alaska any time and is there a particular season anyone can visit the place?

    Thanks for the informative post!

    Israel Olatunji

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      One nice thing about Alaska, is the nature and beauty are all free. Of course if you want to do a tour or a train ride, that sort of thing, there will be a fee. The best time is late May to early September. You’ll find nice weather, only with a possibility of some rain or a chill that might go thru the area. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  5. Bex Arnold

    I live in Vancouver, Canada and it has been my experience that the temperatures can change quite dramatically throughout the day depending on what you are doing and where you are.I spend a good part of my time outdoors and find I can never create the right combination of layers to stay dry and warm. Your clearly delineated layers breakdown is a huge gift to encounter. I really appreciate the links you provide to check out the gear too. I do intend on visiting Alaska after having absorbed all this useful content but until then, I am stoked I now have a guide and really, a solution to my outside adventure gear. Thanks Leahrae! Great post!!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great Bex! I am glad you enjoyed. I lived there 22 years, and yes, you do need layers no matter when you go. It is just a given 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  6. David

    I hope to make it to Alaska one day. Your article has really encouraged me…and your tips included some important things I hadn’t considered. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great David! I too hope you can make it to Alaska some day soon. It is a beautiful state. Thanks for stopping by beach travel destinations.

      Reply
  7. Amber

    Love the suggestions for layers! I never know what to pack for weather like this, but now I feel like I’m ready to go to Alaska!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes Amber, or anywhere similar in weather 🙂 Really everyone needs to visit Alaska, so beautiful. Thanks for visiting my post on what to take on an Alaska vacation.

      Reply
  8. Scarlett

    This is an awesome article my older brother and I are planning on going to Alaska, I’m fixing to retire and he has about 18 months. And we are going. His family’s all grown and we get along so well. Why not combine our outing.
    Thank you so much for all your work you done. It will save us a lot of research.
    Blessings,
    Scarlett

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Glad I can help Scarlett! You will have a wonderful time. Please let me know if you need any additional information.

      Reply
  9. Debra

    I am planning my Alaska vacation right now and this is Beautiful!! Thanks for the fine example!! I got a lot of work to do!!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Glad I could help 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  10. Violet

    I like the women’s jackets, they look comfortable and warm too. I can see using this jacket for a lot of my travel, and not just to Alaska. Are they available in all sizes?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, they come in a variety of sizes and there is one just for you 🙂 I have one of these jackets, and I wear it where ever I am going if I think it might get chilly! Thanks for visiting beach travel destinations.

      Reply
  11. Kahlua Gordin

    Wow,

    Thanks for covering all of the things needed for an Alaskan vacation.

    Honestly, the idea of Alaska to me is just cold year-round but after reading your post I have learned that to not be the case.

    Having never been to Alaska, you have certainly inspired me more to go there – and I heard it is beautiful.

    What was your favourite part about Alaska?

    I love the waterproof ski socks too and will end up buying them just for myself. There is nothing worse than cold feet.

    Cheers & thanks again,
    Kahlua

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I would have to say the Kenai Peninsula is probably my favorite. Very beautiful and lots to see and do. And yes, Alaska has beauty like no other state! It’s great. Thanks for visiting my post on what to take on an Alaska vacation.

      Reply
  12. Heku

    Hey Leahrae! This is definitely all one needs to know before planning a trip to Alaska. A very well written and informative article, that doesn’t miss a thing. Thank you for this amazing article on Alaska! My question is: What can be said about the humidity in Alaska during summer time?

    -Heku

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      It is not humid there Heku. It is rather dry actually. So no worries, if you do not like the humidity 🙂 Thanks for visiting!

      Reply
  13. Furkan

    I really liked Amazon Essentials Men’s Packable Down Jacket. But I wonder if it would be rough on my skin as I get allergies too easily.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      The material is actually really soft and I don’t see this causing any allergies for you. The lining is 100% nylon, so unless you are allergic to nylon, there will be no issues for you 🙂

      Reply

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