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.
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
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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