A packing list is one of the most important parts of planning an Alaska vacation! It’s always good to bring layers, but specifics for your Alaska packing list depend on the season and region you visit. There are also certain kinds of gear that you’ll definitely want to have on hand for your Alaska adventures.
I was born and raised in the Great Land and have traveled throughout the best places in Alaska, so I know the importance of having the right gear. I’ve put together an Alaska packing list to help you figure out what to bring to make the most of your time in the Last Frontier!
Read on to find out what you need to pack for Alaska!
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Alaska Packing List
You’ll be moving around a lot when you visit Alaska, so fitting everything into a carry-on gives you a major advantage. The Osprey Porter 46 offers plenty of room while remaining within the bounds of US carry-on size limits.
The Osprey Porter 46 also features lockable zippers for security and adjustable straps for maximum comfort. Osprey’s Almighty Guarantee is also another great reason to get one of these packs. Once you’ve bought it, you’ve got it for life!
You’ll want to go light when hiking in Alaska unless you intend to do multi-day treks. The Osprey Daylite is a favorite here at Travel Lemming. It has enough space for your everyday needs, plus two side mesh pockets for water bottles. The pack also features an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir or laptop, depending on your need.
The Osprey Daylite Daypack also features attachment points for connecting to the Porter (and several other Osprey packs), making for an easy combined carry.
A good set of packing cubes will make one-bag travel much easier (or any travel for that matter). Osprey’s UL Cube Set makes staying organized that much easier. The set consists of three pieces.
Filtration Water Bottle
A reusable water bottle is a must for any trip, especially if it involves hikes, and hiking is one of the best things to do in Alaska. Make the most of your trip by choosing a good filtration water bottle.
The Grayl Geopress 24 oz Water Purifier Bottle is a favorite among Travel Lemming staff. It removes bacteria from springs and streams while out on the trail and purifies tap water of heavy metals and similar contaminants.
This one is mandatory if you plan on tent camping unless you’re going right around the solstice. Even then, though, a head lamp can’t hurt. Black Diamond’s Storm 400, with up to 400 lumens, offers all the light you’ll need. The head lamp also features a handy tap feature to switch between full and dim settings.
The Black Diamond Storm 400 also has a strobe as well as red, green, and blue lights. The lamp comes with four AAA batteries, but it never hurts to pack extras as well.
There’s a running joke among those who live in Alaska that the mosquito is Alaska’s state bird.. Murphy’s Naturals Mosquito Repellent Balm is some of the best all-natural, travel-friendly bug repellent out there.
The repellent contains no artificial chemicals and the balm format dodges those tricky TSA regulations about liquids and aerosols (which some bug sprays use). This bug-repellant won’t stain your gear either. The natural herbal fragrances are much nicer than those mystery odors that the more artificial bug sprays have, too.
Most people don’t think of swimming when they think of Alaska, but there are some great hot springs and lakes throughout the state. Why not while away the daylight hours at Chena Hot Springs near Fairbanks waiting for the northern lights to come at nightfall?
Alaska also has some great beaches and brave souls may even venture a dip in the ocean. You’ll want a good towel like Nomadix’s Original Towel to dry off, no matter which body of water you choose. The towel folds down small and packs a punch when it comes to resisting odors and drying quickly.
First Aid Kit
You should be fine on your Alaska vacation, so long as you use common sense and follow best practices. It’s always good, nonetheless, to be ready just in case something comes up. This mini kit includes moleskin for any blisters that may crop up as you’re out on the trails.
Some kits do have more features and tools, but this kit has one of the best combinations of quality and variety of products, compactness of size, and affordability.
Other Alaska Essentials to Pack
- Passport, Driver’s License, and/or valid ID
- TSA-Approved Toiletries Kit
- Travel-sized Hand Sanitizer
- Travel OTC Medications
- Cell Phone and Charger
- Laptop and Charger
- Proof of Vehicle Insurance if renting a car
- Light gloves
- Baseball hat or other brimmed hat
- Trekking Poles
- Sleep Mask
Clothing to Pack for Alaska in Summer
Alaskan summers are unpredictable. It’s the warmest time of the year, so standard summer clothing is a must, but mornings and evenings may be a bit cool. Fleece jackets are a must on any Alaska summer packing list. A lightweight beanie is also a good idea.
The weather often changes quickly in Alaska, especially near the coast, so be sure to bring rain gear also. Take a look at the following list for an idea of the basics to pack for Alaska in the summer.
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 pair of jeans
- 1 pair of convertible hiking pants
- 4-6 t-shirts
- 1 dress shirt
- 1 pair of dress pants
- 1 rain jacket
- 1 fleece jacket
- 1 ball cap or wide-brim hiking hat
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 beach cover-up
- 1 pair of flip flops
- 1 pair of dress shoes
- 1 pair of sturdy shoes or hiking boots
- 7 pairs of underwear
- 5-6 pairs of socks varying in thickness
Most people visit Alaska in the summer, but even then, you’ll want a little extra warmth. Some of the state’s highlights, such as Glacier Bay National Park and the Kenai Fjords National Park are best seen from the sea.
Many places throughout Alaska (such as my hometown, Kodiak) have tons of great hikes and the alpine also gets a little chillier. KUHL makes warm, high-quality fleece and soft-shell jackets for men and women. The multiple zippered pockets are also handy for storing a few extra items, whether on the trail or in town.
Waterproof Hiking Boots
Trails can be muddy or soggy any time of the year, whether from rain, snow melt, or marshy terrain. Keen Targhee 2 Boots offers a great solution to this obstacle. Of course, you can’t wade into the water with them, but they will keep the muck and moisture out as you hike along Alaska’s trails.
They also offer plenty of ankle support for those rocky ascents and descents in Alaska’s unparalleled alpine.
Helly Hansen is a popular brand among Alaska’s commercial fishermen who spend much of their time out in the elements. The Helly Hansen Seven J jacket is a great option for keeping the Alaska weather out as you explore the state.
The jacket is lightweight and durable and features dual zippered side pockets for stashing items you want to keep handy. The clean, modern styling makes it a great choice for both outdoor adventures and urban exploration, too.
XtraTufs are the go-to rain boots for many Alaskans, whether for commercial fishing or casual everyday wear. XtraTuf makes boots for men and women and there are also insulated and steel-toed options for winter and the workplace. Calf-length boots are also available.
Women visiting Alaska will want to pick up a pair of the Salmon Sister designer XtraTufs. A local Alaskan company makes these boots (and you know you’re in Alaska when there’s such a thing as designer rain boots).
One caveat from personal experience: XtraTufs don’t make the best hiking boots. They were made more for fishermen at work who needed waterproofness more than ankle support.
Clothing to Pack for Alaska in Winter
A winter packing list for Alaska is much less ambiguous than summer–dress warm! A warm, water-resistant jacket will be your best friend while exploring Alaska in the winter. Winter is also the time that many Alaskans explore the “great indoors,” so a cozy sweater is also worth packing.
The following list is a good starting place for knowing what to pack for Alaska in the winter. I’ve included some unusual-for-winter items, too, such as flip flops, a swimsuit, and a bathrobe because Alaska’s hot springs are well worth a visit (and maybe even better) in winter.
- 3-4 pairs of long pants or jeans
- 1-2 t-shirts
- 2-3 long-sleeved shirts
- 3-4 sweaters, sweatshirts, or cardigans
- 1 dress shirt
- 1 pair of dress pants
- 1 winter coat
- 1 fleece or puffer jacket
- 1 pair of snow pants
- 1 pair of goggles
- 1 pair of warm gloves
- 1 beanie or trapper hat
- 1 scarf or neck warmer
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 bathrobe
- 1 pair of flip flops
- 1 pair of dress shoes
- 1 pair of hiking boots or snow boots
- 1 pair of ice cleats
- 7 pairs of underwear
- 5-6 pairs of warm socks
Alaska’s winters are rough. Even in the coastal regions like Kodiak and southeast Alaska, where there’s not as much snow and “warmer” temperatures, there can be a harsh “wet cold.”
The Columbia Bugaboo II jacket combines a sturdy outer jacket with a comfortable inner fleece jacket and is perfect for Alaskan winters.
Wear both together while outside. Remove the outer layer when you go inside. The versatility and quality of the jacket make it a must for whatever adventure you choose in Alaska.
Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks
A good pair of socks is right up there with a good pair of hiking boots when it comes to keeping your feet happy on the trail. Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks are some of the best socks on the market in terms of comfort and quality. They also come with one of the best lifetime warranties available, so once you’ve bought them, you’ve got them for life!
These socks come in a variety of thicknesses and are perfect for all the outdoor activities that the Alaskan winter has to offer. Darn Tough’s lighter-weight socks are also a great option for summer.
You will need a good warm pair of boots if you travel to Alaska in the winter. Mainland Alaska often gets a lot of snow. Coastal and southeastern Alaska can get the previously-mentioned wet cold (and lots of slush, believe me).
The 1964 Pac Nylon Snow Boot by Sorel keeps the wet and cold far away. The boots also have a solid grip to help navigate icy patches on the trail or sidewalks. Pack a pair of ice cleats, too, though, for some extra grip. Even the best boots can’t guarantee perfect traction.
Alaska Packing Tips
Wearing layers is the cardinal rule of any visit to Alaska, even in summer. The best summer activities include going to glaciers, out on the sea, and to mountain tops. All of these places will be noticeably colder, so it’s always a good idea to have another layer.
Bring Rain Gear
A good rain jacket and waterproof shoes or boots are all you really need when it comes to rain gear. Rain pants are often bulky and you won’t need waterproof pants unless you plan on taking some several-day hikes near coastal Alaska.
Alaska is an outdoor paradise, but it does have its dangerous side. Bears are one of the most well-known potential hazards, but other wildlife, such as moose, can also pose a threat. The Department of Fish & Game provides some helpful information on staying safe in Alaska’s bear country as well as general information on proper interactions with Alaska’s wildlife.
Get Bear Spray after Arrival
On that note, bear spray is one item you’ll need to get after arriving in Alaska. Bear spray is prohibited for both checked and carry-on baggage. Chances are that you won’t actually need to use bear spray, especially if you follow best practices for bear safety.
Still, it is always best to have a can on hand when venturing into the backcountry or down a local trail. You can purchase a can at most major retail stores and outdoor stores.
Pack According to Activities
Everyone’s Alaska trip will be a little different, depending on where you stay in Alaska and what you do. Alpinists may decide to ascend Denali, which requires a whole other set of gear. Kayaking tours will also require a certain set of clothing and equipment. The above lists are more of suggested basics than an exhaustive, definitive list.
Feel free to add or subtract as you see fit. Also, you won’t need to bring a life jacket if going on a kayaking tour or similar aquatic adventure. The law requires the tour operator to provide them.
Going Out on the Water
You can always expect temperatures to be lower out on the water, even at the height of summer. Rivers and lakes aren’t as cold, being surrounded by the warmer land, but you may still get wet from splashing. Have a thick flannel shirt or a fleece jacket handy for these occasions.
Bring a warmer jacket if you plan on visiting the Last Frontier on an Alaska cruise, too. It’s often a bit chilly out on the deck, no matter how cozy it is inside the cruise ship. This is especially true when you cruise past glaciers, which every cruise line that voyages through Alaska does.
The Alaskan “Dress Code”
We Alaskans are simple people. Workwear often passes for casual wear in the Last Frontier and if you want to blend in with the locals, do anything made by Carhartt. Outdoor clothing companies are neck-and-neck with work wear, too.
Pack 1 set of dressier clothes if you plan on visiting classier bars or restaurants, but don’t think you need to impress anyone!
FAQs about Packing for Alaska
What do I need to pack to go to Alaska?
What you need to pack for Alaska depends on the season you travel in. In general, though, you will always want an extra layer and a water-resistant jacket handy, even if you don’t wear them at all times. Bug spray is a big help, as is a good pair of hiking shoes or boots.
What kind of clothes should you wear in Alaska?
You should wear something comfortable but durable and suited for the outdoors and the elements. A warm fleece or puffer jacket is always a good idea when going to Alaska. A waterproof jacket, or at least one that is water-resistant, is also a must.
Thanks for reading my Alaska packing list! Now that you’ve got a good idea of what to pack for Alaska, check out my guide to the best time to visit Alaska.
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