Alaska Basic Packing Tips

Alaska, the Last Frontier, is a place of breathtaking beauty and extreme weather conditions.

If you plan a trip to this majestic state, packing right is crucial. Here’s a list of 12 essential items you should pack for your Alaska adventure and some basic tips.

Moisture-wicking fabrics such as nylon and spandex are easy to layer and excellent for Alaska’s weather conditions. Waterproof/resistant clothing is essential for any season and should always be the top layer.

💡 Tip: Bookmark this article and check back regularly, as we will add Alaska packing and outfit guides for each month soon!

1. Layer Clothing (General)

When you’re in Alaska, the weather can change in a heartbeat. That’s why layering is your best friend and absolutely key during any season!

  • Why it’s necessary: Layering allows you to add or remove clothing based on the temperature and your activity level. This way, you’re always comfortable, whether you’re hiking a glacier or watching whales.
  • Tip: Start with a light base layer and add more as needed. Remember, it’s always easier to remove a layer than to wish you had packed more.

2. Base Layer

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Think of the base layer as your second skin. It’s the first layer you’ll wear, and it’s essential for keeping you warm.

  • Why it’s necessary: A good base layer wicks away sweat and keeps you dry. This is super important because wet skin loses heat way faster than dry skin.
  • Tip: Opt for materials like merino wool or synthetic fibers. They’re great at moisture management. Cotton? Not so much.

3. Jackets (Waterproof)

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In Alaska, you’ll encounter rain. And when it rains, it pours. That’s where a waterproof jacket comes in.

  • Why it’s necessary: A waterproof jacket ensures you stay dry during sudden downpours. Plus, it acts as a windbreaker, shielding you from those chilly Alaskan breezes.
  • Tip: Look for jackets labeled “waterproof” and not just “water-resistant.” There’s a big difference. And trust me, in Alaska, you’ll want the former.

Of course, the season and month you plan to visit Alaska will determine the thickness of your jacket. From May until September, we typically recommend the following:

The suggested inner layers (see above), in combination with rain jackets, are usually fine during these months. Our tips:

However, we advise packing a medium winter jacket for the second half of September and for early May. In early spring (April) and late fall (October), we recommend a heavier winter coat, as well as for the winter months, of course.

It gets cold in the morning and in, particular if you go on a day cruise or stay outdoors for longer. Most locals recommend packing wool socks, mittens or gloves, and a hat for any time in spring and fall.

How many jackets? We usually suggest bringing a light jacket and a thicker one (yes, two jackets) in May and during September. During the summer, two light jackets are sufficient. In the winter months, bring a heavy coat (we would recommend two, but two heavy ones take up too much space in your luggage).

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4. Pants (Waterproof)

Just like the jacket, waterproof pants are a lifesaver. Especially if you’re planning any outdoor activities.

  • Why it’s necessary: Waterproof pants will keep your legs dry, which is essential for staying warm. Wet legs can quickly lead to hypothermia in cold conditions.
  • Tip: Consider pants with zippers on the sides. They’re easier to put on and take off, especially if you’re wearing boots.

Our pants tips:

Shorts (Summer): For July and August, we always add shorts and summer shirts made of moisture-wicking materials, as well as closed-toed sandals with durable, good traction soles.

5. Insulated Boots

Your feet deserve some love, too. Insulated boots will keep them warm and cozy.

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  • Why it’s necessary: Cold feet can make any trip miserable. Plus, Alaska’s terrain can be rough, so you’ll need sturdy boots to tackle it.
  • Tip: Make sure your boots are also waterproof. Wet feet in cold weather? No, thank you.

6. Warm Socks (Moisture Wicking)

Socks might seem trivial, but in Alaska, they’re a big deal. Bring plenty!

  • Why it’s necessary: Warm socks provide an extra layer of insulation for your feet. They also wick away moisture, keeping your feet dry.
  • Tip: Like with the base layer, go for merino wool or synthetic materials. And pack extras. You’ll thank me later.

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7. Gloves

Your hands are exposed to the elements, so they need protection.

  • Why it’s necessary: Gloves keep your fingers from freezing. And trust me, you’ll want to snap lots of pictures, so you’ll need warm fingers.
  • Tip: Mittens are warmer than fingered gloves. But if you need dexterity, go for gloves with touchscreen capabilities.

8. Hat and Scarf

Your mom was right; you lose a lot of heat from your head.

  • Why it’s necessary: A hat and scarf combo will keep you toasty and protect against windburn.
  • Tip: A hat that covers your ears is a winner. As for the scarf, make sure it’s long enough to wrap around your neck a couple of times.

9. Sunglasses and Sunscreen

Yes, even in Alaska.

  • Why it’s necessary: Snow reflects sunlight, increasing the risk of sunburn. Plus, the glare can be blinding.
  • Tip: Go for sunglasses with UV protection. And always reapply sunscreen, especially on your face.

10. Backpack

You’ll need something to carry all your stuff, right?

  • Why it’s necessary: A backpack is perfect for holding snacks, water, and extra layers. Plus, it keeps your hands free.
  • Tip: Choose a waterproof backpack. It’ll keep your belongings dry, no matter the weather.

11. Binoculars

Alaska is all about the views.

  • Why it’s necessary: From spotting eagles to watching whales, binoculars bring Alaska’s wildlife up close and personal.
  • Tip: Go for compact binoculars. They’re easier to pack and carry.

12. Camera

You’ll want to capture every moment.

  • Why it’s necessary: Alaska is a photographer’s dream. From majestic mountains to incredible wildlife, there’s always something to snap.
  • Tip: Don’t forget extra batteries and memory cards. Cold weather can drain batteries quickly.


Packing for Alaska might seem daunting, but with this guide, you’re all set. Remember, it’s all about staying warm and dry. So, pack smart, and enjoy your Alaskan adventure! Safe travels!

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