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What to Wear & Bring

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Summer –

The most important thing to remember about your Alaskan vacation is that you will likely be outside for a good portion of your stay, and most tours and attractions are not cancelled because of rain. With that in mind, be prepared for rain, and to be outside in the rain. While for many, this means a raincoat, you might want to consider a pair of lightweight rain pants, especially if you plan to be outside for extended periods, or to do any hiking. On sunny days, low plants and shrubs will hold moisture from dew and rain for many hours, even if its sunny. Walking in these conditions (as well as on a rainy day) will be a lot more comfortable if you can stay dry. In addition, in a light rain that might be easily tolerated with just a raincoat, many tours can become uncomfortable because you’re moving through the rain and wind.

We joke with our guests about "The Garden Hose Test." You know that your raingear is adequate if you can put your raingear on and have someone squirt you with a hose for for 30 seconds, and you remain mostly dry. While this is indeed a joke, it points out that not all raingear is going to be adequate for a rainy Alaskan day, and you should consider gear that is more likely to pass the "Garden Hose test."

The vast majority of days are sunny and pleasant, but weather is often rapidly changeable, and evenings are often cool, even at times when it is light 24 hours a day. Frost and freezing temperatures stay late in Alaska, and come early, and places away from the water can experience temperatures in the 30’s and even 20’s in May and early June, and in August and September. Most visitors to Alaska will not be acclimated to these temperatures (you’ll find Alaskans wandering around in shorts almost without regard to the weather in the summer) and so you should bring easily layered sweaters and jackets. Many guests find that being prepared for inclement weather seems to insure that the weather during their visit is sunny and warm!

Bring clothing that can be layered, and remember that cotton loses warmth very quickly when wet. Consider wool or some of the technical fabrics designed to hold body heat, especially in situations where you will be exposed to the elements for extended periods.

Winter –

Choosing winter clothing for your visit to Alaska will depend a lot on the types of activities you will be undertaking, and the parts of the state that you’re headed to. For many of the more specialized trips, tour operators provide the necessary cold weather gear for your visit. For others, guests will need to have high quality winter clothing. When purchasing winter clothing for your visit to Alaska, you should seek out stores and retailers that specialize in such gear, because many retailers in other parts of the United States do not carry or have the necessary knowledge to advise you on the proper items for your visit. If you visit in February or March, the weather has moderated to the point that the winter weather you’re likely to experience will be not too different than what you’re used to at home during midwinter.

Things to bring anytime of year –

Alaska is visually spectacular, and guests will always want to have a camera with them. However, some activities are not suited to taking along electronics, generally because the chances of ruining your equipment is high. Some vendors address this issue by providing photos of your activity for you – Most notably, whitewater rafting trips. For some of the more challenging activities and tours, you might want to consider leaving your expensive camcorder in your room, or only bringing shock and water-resistant equipment with you.

One thing that often trips up visitors to Alaska is the length of the days. The farther north you go, the longer the days and the brighter the nights. In Fairbanks, the sun does not set until after midnight in June and much of July. Most innkeepers have heavy curtains that keep your room dark, but guests should pay attention to the time so that they don’t stay up until one in the morning waiting for it to get dark. Having a watch is helpful. In the winter, days are very short, and the sun may not come up until almost 11:00 am.

If you’re going to be hiking in Alaska, a compass and GPS are a good idea. An important thing to remember is that the magnetic variance in Alaska is on the order of 25-30 degrees east of true north!


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