Packing for an Alaska Vacation

11 July 17

Author: Betsy Reeves

Packing for a week or two in Alaska can be challenging when you consider the variety of activities there are to enjoy: glacier trekking, sea kayaking, fishing, hiking…all of which require different gear. A look at the weather report during peak season most likely reveals loads of rain, even more sun, snow in some places, and temperatures ranging from 40 to 75.

Here are some tips to make sure you pack what is necessary without having to pay an excess baggage fee!


When it comes to clothing, layering is the key. It is much easier to bundle up and then strip layers off as you warm up than it is to add layers when you are cold.

Think of your clothing for a spring, summer, or fall day in Alaska as having three layers:

Base layer:

Your base layer essentially is comprised of long underwear and your socks. A material such as SmartWool will keep you warm while wicking away moisture if you perspire. Be sure to wear both long underwear bottoms and a top. SmartWool can run on the expensive side, so other options are a pair of Dri-FIT or other moisture-wicking tights or yoga pants with a light top in the same material. As for socks, SmartWool makes several different thicknesses depending on your particular activity, and athletic companies such as UnderArmour and Nike make moisture-wicking socks, as well.

Middle layer:

A light, warm, moisture-wicking layer such as SmartWool or Dri-FIT is perfect for underneath rain gear.

This layer should be light and either moisture-wicking or waterproof. A pair of water resistant hiking shorts or pants and a Dri-FIT shirt, either short-sleeved or long-sleeved, is perfect for layering over your long underwear. Convertible hiking pants have zippers mid-thigh that allow you to convert them into shorts on warmer days. Some people prefer jeans; however, they are not waterproof and can become quite uncomfortable when (not if) it rains.

Warm Waterproof layer:

This layer consists of your rain gear and hiking boots, as well as accessories such as gloves, a hat, and a scarf. In general, outerwear can be tricky. After all, you want a windbreaker that is breathable and light for warm days, yet waterproof for rainy days, and warm during snow. I personally did well with a breathable windproof raincoat layered over a thin SmartWool half-zip sweater that kept me warm. You can either choose one warm winter waterproof coat, or a combination of a sweater/sweatshirt with a light windproof, breathable raincoat. If you go with the latter, be sure that sweater or sweatshirt is moisture-wicking. Most athletic apparel companies make sweatshirts that wick moisture away. Similarly, hats and gloves should be waterproof.

Hiking boots need to be warm, yet waterproof and light. Boots should reach above the ankle, both for support and also to keep you dry when splashing through creeks or walking on glaciers. You usually can find a pair that meets all of these requirements at your local outdoor apparel store.

Rain pants are a must. I personally don’t recommend fleece-lined kind…they get too hot. Instead, layer a light waterproof pair over your tights/yoga pants, long underwear, or hiking pants.

Ready to plan your Alaska getaway? Our Alaska expert Natalie can offer plenty of insight from her many years of experience planning dozens of Alaska land and cruise vacations for our happy clients. Set up a consultation today!

Here is Natalie’s helpful packing checklist for your Alaska getaway:

Checked bag:

Liquid toiletries



Insect repellent wipes

Long underwear top and bottom, or yoga pants/tights and similar shirt

3 short-sleeved moisture-wicking shirts

3 long-sleeved moisture-wicking shirts

2 pairs of waterproof hiking pants

2 pairs of waterproof hiking shorts

5 pairs of moisture-wicking socks


Rain pants

2 light moisture-wicking sweaters or sweatshirts

Breathable, waterproof, windproof raincoat

Warm, waterproof, light hiking boots

Evening wear….Alaska’s restaurants in the towns are quite casual. If you are going on a cruise, check with the cruise line for special attire or themed nights that require specific clothing.

Wristwatch with alarm clock

Travel alarm clock if wristwatch doesn’t have an alarm

Waterproof floating pouch/wet bag

Binoculars or scope

Extra bag for souvenirs

Day pack/fanny pack

Carry-On Bag:

Passport/legal ID

Airline tickets/boarding passes

Insurance cards


Cash/credit cards

Camera, extra batteries, extra memory cards, or film

Cell phone

Cell phone chargers

Rapid chargers for when you can’t locate an outlet


Change of clothes

Empty water bottle to fill up later


Ear plugs

Eye mask

Neck pillow


Reading material

Photo or description of checked luggage

Emergency phone numbers

Medications in original containers

Other ideas:

Walkie talkies for when you have no cell service

Travel steamer for cruise ships that don’t have irons in the cabins

Post-it notes for leaving messages for traveling companions

Lanyard for wearing your cruise ID around your neck

Sharpie for labeling your cups and other personal items when in a group


Ready to plan your Alaska getaway? Our Alaska expert Natalie can offer plenty of insight from her many years of experience planning dozens of Alaska land and cruise vacations for our happy clients. Set up a consultation today!


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