“I’m Coming to Alaska and I Don’t Have Anything to Wear!” How to Dress for Success

The AKontheGO mailbox is beginning to fill with queries from would-be visitors to the 49th state. Aside from the usual stuff about moose and bears and mountains and fishing, AK Fam receives a lot of questions regarding clothing and what works (and doesn’t) for sheltering and protecting our little people’s bodies during a trip to Alaska.

AK Kid (above) has his basic “uniform” during the summer months, and we’ve found it to be practical, affordable in the long run, and darned cute, besides. Other parents around Alaska will likely agree with me (feel free to chime in here folks) that Alaska is not exactly the place to be concerned with fashion, although our sense of what is cool sometimes differs from the Lower 48; but I digress.

The outfit of AK Kid in the photo above illustrates perfectly my point, and the practicalities of fast-changing weather systems and dropping or rising temperatures at a moment’s notice. Bipolar weather, that’s what we have. We also have factors that are not related to the weather report; bugs, underbrush, and dirt all play a role in how our kids dress and how we clean them up. So, let’s look at AK Kid from a “top-down” perspective, shall we?

Hat: Bring two. One warm hat that covers ears and noggins with a comfy fleece or wool-blend and feels so nice at night in a tent or camper or standing by the bonfire at a fishing lodge; and one hat to keep sun out of eyes, and in AK Kid’s case, off his ears. It needn’t be fancy (we found this floppy sun hat at a tourist trap for $4 after his other one blew out the car window. Don’t ask), but hats should shade eyes (and/or ears) and ideally, the back of the neck, since pesky mosquitoes seem to love that area to bite as much as we moms love to kiss it.

Trousers: Since arriving in Alaska five-plus years ago, we’ve discovered a few things about children’s clothing; most of the hiking/camping clothing made in Outside (anywhere not Alaska) isn’t suited for the exuberant kiddo who will undoubtedly spend his or her vacation digging in the mud, sliding down a hill backwards and headfirst, carrying smelly fish, or burying other people in sand. Yep, life is good for a kid up here, and we have the pants to keep it that way. Carhartts are it. Duck cloth, double-kneed, ultra wearable treasures, they are, and people up here dress their babies in the stuff for the ride home from the hospital (well, not really, but we could). At any rate, we love the way Carhartts shed water, turn away hungry mosquitoes, and clean up real fine. Available online, at Fred Meyer stores and the famous Army/Navy Store in downtown Anchorage, Carhartt is a brand to trust for outdoor fun. Bib overalls, pants, denim in both, and shorts are all great choices, and, they come in Slim sizes. Buy ’em a little long, roll up, and add an additional summer to the wear time. Awesome.

Coat: Last summer was a dud, weather-wise. AK Kid’s raincoat received more wear than any other item, it seems, and it showed. Now grown out of that cute little number we found at Fred Meyer (thank goodness), AK Fam has moved on to our preferred brand, REI Elements. One step up from the REI basic brand, Elements offers sealed seams, breathable fabric, and cool styles. They also make rain pants that we’ll be packing for our southeast Alaska ferry journey this July. Raincoats are great layering tools for Alaskan travel; fleece and breathable shirts underneath make the ideal combo for 49th state fun, and are must-haves.

Boots: I’m in love with Bogs. Not the geographical term, the boots. The hottest fashion accessory to hit Alaska since Carhartts, Bogs are true all-season boots for kids and adults that are better than anything else I’ve found. True story. AK Kid loves his “Classic High” Spider boots with easy-on handles and a nifty design. Bogs are three-layers of neoprene, mesh, and rubber that are 100% (yes, you heard me) waterproof AND warm. Ta-Da! Find them at REI, Zappos, Amazon, or at the Bogs website. The only caution, parents, is that sometimes Bogs become too warm, so skip cotton socks and move on to breathable ones. Yeah, a bummer, but I’d prefer dry tootsies.  Smartwool makes a nice breathable sock that outlasts even the sweatiest feet.

So there you have it; a primer for at least starting pre-Alaska shopping. We’re all about function in the 49th state, and who knows, you might start a  new fashion trend where you live.

Happy exploring, we’ll see you this summer!

EK

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