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Snowbird-Bomber Hike, Hatcher Pass, Alaska

What to Pack for Alaska, Written by a Local

What to Pack for Alaska, Written by a Local was originally published in July 2020

Packing for Alaska can be tricky. I know, I live here- I’ve lived here my entire life. So while I have not technically traveled to Alaska (aside from back to it from elsewhere), I do know a few things about what to wear and what to prep for.

And here it is:

LAYERS

Layers are your best friend when traveling in Alaska. Many assume the state is an iced-over hellhole year-round, and I’m here to say: it is not. The weather in Alaska can be downright unpredictable and quite temperamental. A great example is the time my friend Meg, who isn’t from here asked if I wanted to hike up Flattop with her on the first day of fall. She laughed when we arrived and I had a small backpack jammed with just about every layer conceivably possible. She laughed, rolled her eyes, and said, “okay, Mary Poppins.”. Needless to say, it rained, snowed, sleeted, got sunny, and even had a wind kick up all in the course of the few hours we were out. By the end of the day, Meg told me “alright now I get why you had all that stuff with you.”

So the main take away I hope you get from this Alaska packing list is that layers are your best friend.

Start planning here: The Ultimate Alaska Travel Guide

Mt Healy Overlook, Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska

Alaska Weather By Season

What you pack for a trip to Alaska will largely be dictated by what time of year you plan to visit.

Summer

June-August

By and far the most popular time to visit with the warmest temperatures. You can typically expect daytime highs to come in in the 60ºs and 70ºs most days, but if it’s a cold and rainy day temps may not rise about the mid-50ºs. Then there are those freakishly hot summers on occasion- like 2019 when we regularly saw temperatures in the 80ºs and several in the lower to mid 90ºs.

Fall

September-October

Fall is not a bad time at all to visit Alaska, especially in the earlier part of the season. You can expect cooler temperatures than summer of course, with daytime highs coming in the 40ºs and 50ºs and nighttime lows down into the 30ºs and as the season progresses down into the 20ºs or colder. In my opinion, September is much better than October for temperature and for fall colors (many times the Chinook winds that come in September leave the trees bare in October). Note that fall does set in earlier in the interior and in the north than in southcentral Alaska and the panhandle, so know that if planning to visit DenaliFairbanks, or further north you could very well see snow in early September.

Winter

November-March

Whether you’re coming for the aurora borealis or the epic backcountry skiing and snowboarding, you can expect temperatures below 32ºF in both the day and nighttime in the winter months. Of course, winter is remarkably colder in the interior and in northern Alaska than in southcentral. Average winter temps in Anchorage will hover between 0º and 25ºF (though I have seen as cold as the -30ºs!), which seems balmy to Fairbanks’ winter temperatures that will stay subzero for the majority of the winter.

Spring

April-May

Very similar in terms of temperatures to fall. Early spring you’ll see daytime temps hovering in the 40ºs to 50ºs and temps in the 20ºs-30ºs, but come May, daytime temps will begin to creep up to the 60ºs. Note that spring can be a bit messy, especially at higher elevations, think mud and patches of ice.

Looking for road trip ideas? Check out my Ultimate Alaska Road Trip with 1-4 week ideas

McCarthy, Kennicott, Wrangell St Elias, Root Glacier, Alaska

What To Pack For Alaska Regardless Of Season

What To Pack For Alaska By Season

What To Pack For Alaska In Summer

(Don’t forget to pick up sunscreen, bug spray, and bear spray when you arrive!)

What To Pack For Alaska In Fall

What To Pack For Alaska In Winter

What To Pack For Alaska In Spring

Trying to travel Alaska without breaking the bank? Check out my Alaska Budget Travel Guide

Valdez, Alaska

What To Pack For An Alaskan Cruise

Truth be told, I’ve never gone on an Alaskan cruise (Unless going halibut fishing in Valdez counts?). That said, most cruises take place between May and September, so you can likely adjust your packing list using the spring, summer, and fall lists above.

Alaska, Hatcher Pass, Bomber Traverse, Talkeetnas, Talkeetna Mountains, Goldmint, Goldmint Trail, Goldmint Hike, Mint Hut, Rainey hut, Mint Rainey hut,

What To Pack For Alaska Hiking & Backpacking Trips

If you’re planning to go hiking, whether from day to multi-day hikes here are the things I recommend to take with you:

Matanuska, Matanuska Glacier, Alaska, how much does it cost to travel in Alaska

Have any questions about what to pack for Alaska?

Ask in the comments section below

Need Travel Insurance?

Start shopping plans over at battleface, my go-to travel insurance choice, or over at World Nomads.

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