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For many travelers, a trip to Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. When we committed to checking it off our bucket list, we knew it required researching. We had no idea where to start or what to pack for Alaska.
However, after much research, we packed our bags and headed west. So what are the items we made sure not to leave home without?
Let’s dive in and look at what you should pack for your Alaskan adventure!
Visiting the Last Frontier
A trip to the Last Frontier is an incredible and breathtaking experience. Unfortunately, it’s not for the faint of heart.
The vast wilderness and rugged terrain can do a number on you and your vehicle, especially if you haven’t prepared. It’ll chew you up, spit you out, and send you heading south with your tail tucked between your legs.
However, experiencing the aurora borealis, the diverse wildlife, and the rocky environment can be worth it. We’ve followed the adventures of our best friends and many others as they planned their unforgettable experiences. We knew it wasn’t something we could take lightly or procrastinate.
If you want to visit Alaska, start planning now. Getting the most out of your time will take some time. You don’t want to drive all of those miles and spend all the money on fuel to have a miserable time.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Alaska?
The peak season for visiting Alaska is between mid-June and mid-September. The weather tends to be warmer, and the days are longer. This makes it easier to be comfortable and gives you plenty of time for your adventures. But watch the time, or you might stay out too late.
Additionally, many people plan their trips to Alaska during the winter. While days are shorter, and temperatures rarely get above freezing, it’s the best time to see the aurora borealis. If you want to experience this magical sight, you’ll want to visit from December to March.
However, if we’re being honest, the state is amazing any time of the year. As long as you come prepared and know what to pack, you can have an incredible experience in Alaska.
Packing List Essentials for Alaska
There are quite a few things that you’ll want to make sure you have with you during your trip. Let’s look at what you should pack for your trip to Alaska.
No matter when you visit, it’s a good idea to dress in layers. The temperatures can change frequently and drastically.
Bring a lightweight, moisture-wicking base layer and a mid-weight insulating layer. Fleece jackets, sweaters, and vests are great for insulating and keeping cool. They’re also easy to shed if you get warm.
For your outer layer, you want something waterproof and wind resistant. Alaska experiences both of these weather conditions throughout the state. It’s a good idea to always carry this layer with you. You never know when an unexpected shower or the wind will catch you off guard.
Investing in a solid pair of hiking boots is a good idea when heading into this rugged environment. They should be waterproof and have plenty of ankle support. They can be beneficial in getting traction and stability on uneven surfaces.
However, you won’t want to wear your hiking boots everywhere. Wear sneakers or walking shoes to help with less strenuous activities. You’ll likely do plenty of walking around cities and exploring on foot.
If you enjoy water-based activities, you’ll also want some water shoes. Sandals with straps can be helpful when kayaking or walking along rocky shores. Just ensure they’re comfortable and won’t cause blisters or other issues.
If you go during the summer, you’ll experience a tremendous amount of exposure to the sun. While it may not be hot outside, the UV rays from the sun can still burn you. Pack plenty of sunscreen with at least 30 SPF, and apply it regularly.
We also recommend sunscreen in the winter. The sun reflecting off the snow can also cause bad sunburns.
Remember items like sunglasses, a hat, and a lightweight long-sleeve shirt to keep your arms covered. If you can keep the sun off your skin, you can avoid severe burns, which can ruin your trip.
Bring after-sun care items like aloe vera gel or a lotion for those who burn easily. These can keep skin moisturized and be very soothing. Trust us; you’ll be glad you brought them when you need them.
During the summer, Alaska experiences practically 24 hours of sunlight. These seemingly endless days are great for squeezing in adventures but not so great for sleeping. An eye mask will be essential if you want it to be completely dark while you sleep.
Additionally, we suggest using it before your trip. Some people need time to adjust to having something on their face. These masks can be uncomfortable initially but great once you get used to them.
If you think the mosquitoes where you live are bad, wait until you get to Alaska. The summer, the most popular tourist months, is the worst for mosquitoes. These pesky insects are tough as nails and will do almost anything to get to your delicious blood.
The most effective product against these pests is a repellent that contains DEET. Some of you may have strong feelings about using this product.
However, you may change your mind once you experience mosquitoes in Alaska. Pack wipes or a portable spray bottle to make reapplications easy.
Alaska is a photographer’s dream come true. It has incredible mountains and wildlife just about everywhere you look. However, while your iPhone may get some great shots of landscapes, it will be little help for wildlife. If you want an up-close wildlife shot, you’ll need more zoom.
You’ll need a DSLR or mirrorless camera with several lenses to get that picture-perfect shot of a bear or bald eagle. Remember to take your safety seriously by keeping your distance.
No photo is worth putting yourself in danger. That bear may outweigh you by several hundred pounds, but it can outrun you in a foot race.
Keep in Mind: Which Camper and RV Backup Camera Is Best? Let’s dive in and see!
Binoculars are a great way to enjoy wildlife sightings of bears, moose, eagles, whales, and so much more. We recommend that you pack a set in your day pack for your Alaska trip. Or strap them around your neck or have them easily accessible when on hikes or scenic drives.
You never know when they’ll come in handy and help you spot animals and other details in the distance.
If you’re shopping for binoculars, consider a pair with a magnification power of 8 or 10 times. This gives you the best chance of seeing objects several hundred yards away.
It’s best to get a set with good low-light performance. These can help you spot animals in the early morning or late evening hours when wildlife is most active.
While Alaska may be a part of the United States, you’ll have to drive through Canada to reach it. Unfortunately, ever since 2009, Americans have needed a passport to travel to or through Canada. If you don’t have one and want to drive to Alaska, now is an excellent time to get it.
Processing times depend significantly on demand. Receiving your book in the mail can take anywhere from six to 12 weeks. You want to avoid the added stress while preparing for your trip.
Give officials plenty of time to get you your passport. It’ll be one less thing you have to worry about as you prepare for your adventure.
Pro Tip: Thinking of camping in the winter? Then you need to know these Winter Camping Tips!
The weather in Alaska can be incredibly unpredictable, and rain is the norm. Knowing what to pack each day of your Alaska trip is tricky.
If you want to stay dry, you better have plenty of waterproof gear. Bring a jacket or raincoat to keep the rain and mist off of you.
Consider packing a pair of waterproof or rainproof pants. These work great for hiking to help you stay dry and comfortable. If you plan to explore any coastal cities, these two pieces of equipment will be essential.
Complete your rain gear ensemble with a pair of waterproof hiking boots. This allows your feet to stay dry and reduce the chance of blisters and other uncomfortable issues while exploring.
One of our least favorite things to do is hike with wet feet. It’s undoubtedly going to make it hard to enjoy the experience.
Most adventurers fill their schedules with day trips around Alaska. As a result, you’ll want a quality day pack to carry your equipment. Ideally, you want a 20 to 30-liter pack with plenty of zippers and buckles. But you also need to know what to pack in your Alaska day pack.
A good backpack will give you plenty of storage space and make it easy to organize your essentials. You can access sunscreen, insect repellent, and your camera quickly.
However, don’t wait until Alaska to test it out. Head to a local park or trail and take a few hikes with it. You want to adjust it and get it dialed in to avoid any rubbing or chafing. Once set, you can adventure comfortably.
Prepare Yourself for an Epic Alaskan Adventure
As you can see, knowing what to pack for Alaska is essential. You don’t want to head into the Last Frontier without the proper equipment.
If you do, your dream trip could quickly turn into a nightmare. Double-check your gear and ensure you have everything you need before embarking on your journey.