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Alaska on Your Bucket List? 12 Things You Need Before You Go

By Marissa Kozma
Read time: 6 minutes

If you’re lucky enough to be traveling to the “Last Frontier” for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, you might be on the fence about what to pack. From extreme chills to unusual daylight hours, Alaska — with its far north location — presents a unique set of challenges when it comes to trip planning. Whether you’re embarking on a summer cruise or an arctic expedition, here are 12 must-pack items for your Alaskan adventure

Summer Cruise

Aerial view of Alaska lake surrounded by hillside homes in summer
Credit: Steve Bower/ Shutterstock 

Gore-Tex Insulated Windbreaker

Visiting Alaska in the warmer months? You should never forget an insulated coat when packing for Alaska — even in summer. Most outdoor brands feature a material in their activewear called Gore-Tex that helps withstand the elements. An insulated windbreaker is ideal for both warm days and chilly nights, during which you might experience harsh winds and a sudden salty sea breeze when the cruise ship heads into arctic waters. Marmot’s Minimalist Jacket will ensure you rock the boat in style — and most importantly, stay dry.

Waterproof Day Pack

If you have the opportunity to kayak through the glacial passageways, wetlands, or lakes of Alaska in summer, make sure you bring a waterproof day pack to keep your camera, phone, and other belongings safe and dry. The Skog Å Kust BackSåk comes in 11 colors and two sizes. It features a roll-down top for quick access, zippered protective pockets, adjustable cushioned straps, and back padding for optimal spine support. 

Sleep Mask

Experiencing the “midnight sun” in Alaska might sound fun, but in reality, it can be a challenge if you’re a light-sensitive sleeper. From late spring to late summer, some places in Alaska receive more than 18 hours of sunlight each day — perfect for adventure but tricky for sleeping. Hopefully, your hotel room has decent blackout curtains, but if you find yourself faced with the sun’s ever-blinding presence during peak sleep hours, you’ll be glad you have a heavy-duty sleep mask. These 3-D memory foam sleep masks by Sia Silk are extra soft and feature an ergonomic design to help you unwind in total darkness.

Blue or Green Bug-Proof Joggers

Alaska is home to 35 species of mosquitoes, which means you’ll probably encounter a few of them, especially in summer. So it’s smart to keep your legs and arms covered with lightweight clothing. A pair of bug-repelling joggers should do the trick. These BugsAway pants by ExOfficio will prevent ticks, mosquitoes, and midges from landing and feature zippered pockets for carrying bug spray and other essentials. As an added bonus, they come in shades of green and blue — wearing cool tones such as blue, green, purple, and white can make it difficult for mosquitoes to see you. 

Binoculars

No matter what month you set sail on an Alaskan cruise, you’re bound to encounter some epic wildlife, so don’t miss the opportunity to spot orcas, harbor seals, humpback whales, sea otters, sea lions, walruses, and more. A pair of binoculars will help you focus on the dot everyone’s pointing to on the horizon. We love these fun-colored pairs by Barska.

Moisturizing Sunscreen

Any dermatologist will emphasize the importance of applying moisturizing sunscreen each day, and this is even more crucial when you’re under the beating Alaskan summer sun. The lightweight, moisturizing SPF 30 sunscreen by Ursa Major is vegan and cruelty-free, mineral-based, and suitable for all skin types. You can layer it with makeup and other skincare products. The sunscreen helps your skin stay hydrated, protecting it from harsh rays that reflect off Alaska’s coastal waters.

Sun Hat

Just like your skin, your head will need extra protection out on the water. A bucket hat with an adjustable chin drawstring is perfect for warm, windy days on the cruise ship deck. This sun hat by Jane Shine is made of breathable nylon mesh that dries quickly and features an inner band to absorb sweat. The hat offers UPF 50-plus sun protection, can easily be folded up or down for a variety of styles, and fits right in your pocket. It’s also available in 21 different colors and patterns to match any outfit.

Arctic Expedition

Home along icy lake and snow-covered landscape in Alaska
Credit: Gary Whitton/ Shutterstock 

Heated Gloves

Braving Alaska in winter instead? It’s one of the most magical times of year, but it goes without saying: Make sure you pack warm! Temperatures in the southern and coastal regions of Alaska average anywhere from 0 degrees to -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping your fingers and toes cozy is extra important, since extremities are the first to experience frostbite symptoms if left unchecked. Consider packing heated gloves — these rechargeable battery-powered ones by Fieldsheer are made with goatskin leather and include four heat settings for optimal warmth that lasts up to eight hours. 

Fleece-Lined Leggings

Even if you’re planning an adventure trip, chances are you don’t have room in your luggage to pack bulky snow gear. Leave thick pants at home and instead opt for multipurpose attire with insulation to prevent body heat from escaping. Fleece-lined leggings will add a protective layer to any outfit. LAPASA’s line of active thermal wear is made of 100% Merino wool and will keep you warm on even the coldest Alaskan night.

Trapper Hat

Sadly, your favorite beanie might not be enough for the Alaskan frost this time of year. Earmuffs aren’t a bad idea, but you can keep your head and your ears even warmer with a trapper hat. Waterproof winter trapper hats by ChoKoLids come with a facemask for extra protection against the chill, and the ushanka faux fur lining keeps your ears snug so they won’t sting.

Snow Boots

Your snow boots will likely get some love on a winter trek through Alaska, so make sure you choose wisely. Boots should be waterproof and well-insulated, have good traction for icy trails, be relatively easy to slip on and off, and be lightweight enough to attach to snowshoes if need be. Sorel is one of the most popular boot brands for snowbirds —the Out ‘N About III Classic Boot is stylishly upholstered in leather and suede but features a vulcanized rubber shell for slush protection and molded rubber outsoles for optimal grip. 

Light Therapy Lamp

Sunlight is an essential ingredient for maintaining optimal health — and yes, that includes your mental health. But in winter, parts of Alaska experience a polar night, meaning the sun does not rise above the horizon for about 67 days each year. The shortest “day” in Fairbanks is just three hours and 42 minutes. The lack of sunlight means vitamin D deficiency is a problem, so consider packing a light therapy lamp. The HappyLight Lumi Plus by Verilux emits a bright white light that mimics sunlight to energize and enhance focus. It even has a countdown timer to fit your daily needs and routine.  

Note: All featured products and deals are selected independently and objectively by the author. Daily Passport may receive a share of sales via affiliate links in content.

Featured image credit: Enn Li  Photography/ Moment via Getty Images 

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