A trip to Alaska means you've got to do some planning to be prepared when you arrive. Here are ten things you should never leave behind when you pack for your Alaskan vacation.
Wherever your Alaskan travels take you, it’s a good bet you’ll encounter snow or rain. You probably don't need a reminder of the importance of having dry feet when you’re doing a lot of walking. If you don’t want to pack a big pair of boots, make sure your hiking shoes are waterproof.
Sunscreen and Hat
If your feet are dry, that probably means the sun is in your eyes. You’ll probably be wearing long sleeves so you won’t need too much, but bring along a small container of sunscreen for protection (even if you’re traveling in the winter). This is especially true if you plan on spending time on the water. Water will reflect the sun and can burn twice as fast.
Mosquitoes, horseflies, and plenty more six-legged insects populate the Alaska wilderness. For those that plan on backpacking or camping, bug spray is essential. It’ll be impossible to enjoy the scenery if you’re spending every waking moment swatting at the air or taking shelter in your tent. Bug spray could very well be the most important item you bring.
Wool or Similar Clothing
Packing clothes for Alaska can be difficult. More times than not, it’s necessary to bring clothing that will keep you comfortable in all four seasons. Instead of packing clothing made from cotton, try wool, polyester, or other materials that wick away water and retain heat when wet. Layering these items along with a waterproof outer layer will make you as prepared as possible for any weather.
Reminder to keep your torso toasty. If your core is warm, your body won’t have to move blood away from your extremities. A nice down vest can go a long way in keeping your fingers warm.
Rain Jackets, Rain Pants, and Waterproof Cases
Always pack raingear for a trip to Alaska. You’ll be glad you have it if the rain starts pouring. Also consider bringing an Otter Box or similar item to protect your phone and other electronics. These items can also be helpful if you plan on kayaking or rafting during your trip. Plastic bags come in various sizes and are a great way to keep your extra layers and electronics dry.
For most visitors, a trip to Alaska is not complete without wildlife sightings. But these encounters aren’t always right outside your window or along the trail. Whether you’re searching for a view of grizzlies or on the water looking for whales, a quality, waterproof pair of binoculars are worth their weight in gold. If you’ll be on the water, consider attaching a small flotation device to the straps just in case.
Animal and Plant Identification Books and Apps
There’s a good chance you already know what a humpback whale, moose, and wolf look like, but Alaska has thousands of species of plants and animals and it’s very hard to recognize them all. Bringing along identification books can help you identify your sightings and make your exploration more enjoyable.
This tool should be a staple for anyone planning to spend a night in a tent. These handy little knives are great in a pinch, take up zero space, and can replace many larger items that would fill up your backpack. Whether you need to cut a line, open a can, or cut a branch to hold a hot dog over a fire, always bring along a knife.
Maps and Printed Itinerary
Because of cell phones, many travelers no longer have hard copies of essential travel information. But Alaska is one of those places where cell service is not always reliable. Cities and towns are usually fine, but along stretches of highway and deep within national parks, service can’t be depended on. Not to mention that phones die, get dropped, end up in puddles, or are exposed to the elements in various ways. Sometimes there’s just no replacing a good map, which can be essential when you’re traveling in a place like Alaska. The same is true for your itinerary and directions. Print out anything you think you’ll need before you leave and pack the print-outs in your suitcase.
First Aid Kit
Depending on where you are, medical attention may not be immediately accessible. Even a small kit with band-aids, anti-septic, and painkillers can make a sprained ankle or other ailment much more manageable. A thermal blanket, mirror, flares, or other objects that can signal for help are useful items to keep in your kit, especially if you’ll be going hiking or backpacking.
In this beautiful, wild state there is always an element of risk, such as steep slopes and water hazards, that can cause injury. Plan your trip carefully and you increase your chances of having a great experience!