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