Your Alaska Packing List: What to bring, and what to leave home

Alaska is calling! Be prepared with our packing tips for families.

I saw a tour bus yesterday. Birds are twittering in the trees. Bear tracks are becoming more frequent along my favorite trails. It must be springtime in Alaska, and time to plan the trip of a lifetime.

Is this you? Just.A.Few.More.Things. (

But, alas, I am a chronic over-and-early-packer. Weeks before my scheduled departure, I begin lining up outfits, shoes, hats, and other necessary equipment along the floor of my family room. It’s great, being so organized. But do I really need all this stuff?

Clearly, we have some work to do. AK Kid wearing his favorite ensemble.

Enter the Alaska Packing List, found on the AKontheGO home page, and now within the hallowed pages of Alaska On the Go: Exploring the 49th state with children. It’s a funny place, Alaska, with weather patterns as variable as our terrain, so it’s no wonder parents become confused about what to bring, what to add, and what to leave behind.

Frankly, if it were up to AK Kid, he’d stuff a few shirts, a pair of shorts, and a jacket in between the Legos and army men and call it good. But for those of you more dilligent than that, here is a list of recommended items to prepare for rain, snow, sun, wind, and/or mishaps. Find more information in Chapter 4 of the book, “Packing For Alaska” too, of course.

Just remember this: clothing should be durable, casual, and able to layer with other items. I’ve listed enough gear for a seven-day journey with kids.

Cozy "longies" work well for lounging by the woodstove with a good book.


Long underwear of polypropylene or wool, depending upon your child’s tolerance (doubles as pajamas).

Hiking/outdoor socks (3 pairs), and socks for day wear (7 pairs). I love extra socks.

Underwear/diapers (cloth-diapering family? Try Happy Bottoms Diaper Service  and their delivery options).

Stay on-the-go with durable clothing that can withstand splashing in waves and inspecting seaweed!


Trousers/pants (we love conversion hikers from REI; the zip-off shorts are handy ) (3 pairs).

Shirts (long and short-sleeved for layering) (4)

Fleece top (zip-up or pull-over) (1)

A lovely example of Alaskan variety with respect to foul-weather gear and head/footwear.


Rain gear (pants and jacket)

Mittens/gloves (1 pair of lighter-weight wool or wool-blend)

Hats (one with brim, one covering ears for warmth) (2)

We love boots in Alaska!


Sturdy sneakers or lightweight hiking boots (not too heavy for young feet to wear for long periods of time!)

Sturdy sandals (we like Keen or Teva)

Rubber boots (Alaska kids wear Xtra Tuffs or Bogs)

The future's so bright, you gotta wear shades!


Sunglasses (especially for those glacier walks)

Sunblock (yes, really)


Plastic bags (zipper-type are great for wet clothing)

Small, packable, quick-dry towels (find in camping stores or sporting goods outlets)

Family first-aid kit for minor emergencies and regular medication

Stroller, front or backpack for babies

NEED GEAR? We love Alaska BabyRentals, a local company specializing in renting bedding, strollers, carriers, car seats, and the like. Perfect for the parent who doesn’t want to schlep a lot of stuff to and from Alaska (and who would?). They’ll even meet you at the airport!

WHAT TO LEAVE: Alaska is decidedly less urban than many other family travel destinations, and most of us could care less how you dress the kids. Function definitely trumps fashion up here, and we like it that way. Leave the fancy princess dresses and button-down shirts at home. You won’t need them, even in the fanciest restaurant.

Planning for an Alaska trip just got easier, didn’t it?




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