Packing for Alaska with kids felt like one of the trickiest packing situations we’ve encountered. I deliberated for ages over what to pack for Alaska!
Happily, all the research paid off and our Alaska summer packing list served us really well. We had enough gear to suit our needs and to keep us comfortable for various activities and weather situations, but didn’t have too much. Even when the RV broke down and we had to switch to a car, we were able to fit everything even without a car top carrier. That felt like a total win for our Alaska packing list!
Here are all of the Alaska packing essentials that helped us feel prepared and have an amazing trip. It shares everything you’ll need for an Alaska family packing list, so you’ll have everything included for an Alaska packing list for kids and an Alaska packing list for adults.
Alaska Packing Tips
We found a few general packing tips helpful in planning our Alaska summer packing list:
- Pack layers. Alaska weather is notorious for changing suddenly, so you’ll want a few different options in terms of warmth and coverage.
- Choose clothing that can get dirty and be washed easily. You’ll likely get dirty and muddy; this is not the time to pack anything precious that needs to be dry cleaned. Quick dry clothing is also your friend!
- Prioritize comfort. When we stayed with some friends who live in Anchorage, they observed that most everyone in Alaska purchases the most functional clothing possible, and often from Costco because that’s what is available. Casual, functional clothing is key – no need to take up space with anything fancy.
- Consider clothing that can be reworn. Wool is great for this, especially for layers closest to the skin, because it’s naturally antimicrobial and odor-resistant. This means less wash, and then the outer clothing can be reworn, as well.
- Stay dry. There’s nothing more miserable than being damp all day long, especially when stuff takes longer to dry in potentially wet weather. Prioritize gear that will allow you to stay dry and comfortable, and has the added benefit of keeping clothing underneath clean so you can easily rewear it.
- Think of safety. Packing for Alaska is different than many other places because physical safety is really something to consider. See my tips below on how to consider that.
- Invest in good footwear. If there’s one area to select quality gear, it’s with footwear. Dry, comfortable feet, especially for kiddos, will make all the difference.
- Remember you can access items there. No need to pack your entire house. While Alaska has plenty of remote places, the cities that are likely to be your home base have plenty of resources, medical supplies and care, and other necessities. If you do forget something, you’ll likely be able to access it if necessary.
What to Pack for Alaska: Best Clothes for Alaska
Tops: Best Alaska Shirt to Pack in Summer
If I’m being perfectly honest, while I wondered what shirts would work best for what to pack for Alaska, plain old t-shirts worked just fine for us the vast majority of the time. These are my favorite basic t-shirts that cost $8 (or $5 on sale, which is often). If you tend to get warm easily, I’d recommend an athletic-style moisture-wicking and quick-drying shirt like this.
My kids packed a mix of short- and long-sleeved t-shirts when planning what to wear in Alaska in summer and that worked great. Just inexpensive basics like this and this!
Bottoms: Best Pants for Alaska
For a several week trip, I’d recommend packing between 5-7 outfits. Since we drove, we took 7, with a mix of long- and short-sleeved shirts. We did some t-shirts and some athletic-material shirts that would dry quickly.
For bottoms, we did mostly pants with 2 pairs of shorts. We definitely could’ve gotten away with skipping the shorts as it never felt so hot that we needed pants. Plus, even lightweight pants provided better protection from mosquitoes. Instead of shorts, I’d recommend something like these zip off hiking pants that convert to shorts – they were my boys’ favorite pants to wear the whole trip and gave them some flexibility if they wanted shorts to wear. Plus, they repel water and dry quickly!
That said, I DO recommend packing a pair of shorts that can double as a swimsuit if you’re participating in any water activities. My boys LOVE this pair and my daughter loves these – they’re great for wearing hiking, to play, or as a swimsuit (they dry as fast as any of their regular swimwear).
For women’s pants, I personally prefer hiking and being active in athletic leggings. They also fit well under rain pants if the weather turns. I loved these maternity athletic leggings with pockets that come in cute prints.
You can definitely take any assortment of tops and bottoms that you like, but here are a few that we liked having on hand:
- Women’s hiking pants
- Women’s quick dry, water repellent zip off pants
- Mens’ quick dry, water repellent zip off pants
- Girls quick dry, water-repellent zip off pants
- Boys’ quick dry, water-repellent zip off pants
- Boys’ fleece pants
- Boys’ quick dry wicking pants
- Boys’ graphic tees (love this $4 dino one)
- Girls’ side-pocket athletic leggings
Pajamas / Wool Base Layers
We packed 3 pairs of pajamas per person, one of which was a pair of wool base layers. We really love wool base layers because they’re comfortable for pajamas and are also great for layering in cooler weather. Plus, wool can be aired out and reworn easily since it resists odors and doesn’t need to be washed often. Perfect for travel!
- Women’s wool base layers top & bottom
- Kids’ wool base layers top & bottom
Alaska Summer Packing List: Outerwear
What to Pack for Alaska: Waterproof Rain Gear
One of the most important items we took along was waterproof rain gear for the whole family. Alaska weather is notoriously unpredictable, so we took it not knowing how much we’d need it. It turns out we needed it a lot! Whatever you do, make sure you pack a good quality rain jacket for Alaska.
We made sure to have full-body rain gear for each family member. Having rain pants for Alaska in addition to jackets made a huge difference in keeping us dry and comfortable. It was also really helpful with keeping clothing cleaner – super helpful while traveling and with limited laundry access. Finally, they served as excellent windbreakers, especially on boats. I took off my rain pants while on one boat tour since the sun had come out, and immediately put them back on 5 minutes later because I was cold and they made an enormous difference in blocking the wind.
Here are all the items we used:
- Women’s Rain Gear: Jacket, Pants
- Men’s Rain Gear: Jacket, Pants
- Kids’ Rain Gear: Jacket, Pants (I LOVE that these kid rain pants have adjustable waistbands – hugely helpful for my narrow kiddos)
- Toddler Rain Coverall
Best Jacket for Alaska: Lightweight Insulated Jacket and/or Mid-Layer
This is where you have a bit of flexibility depending on your planned activities and how easily you get cold. We really liked having lightweight puffy jackets with us because they’re easy to throw on over clothing and pack down easily in backpacks. Plus, we also traveled to a couple places with chillier weather (like glaciers). We also packed mid-layer sweatshirts or zip ups and did have a couple of times when we layered a shirt, mid-layer, and lightweight insulated jacket together, sometimes even with a rain jacket on top for weather protection.
That said, I think we could’ve definitely gotten away with not having both the jacket and mid-layer. We also packed wool base layers (more on those below), which work great as pajamas and could also be layered underneath. So I think we could’ve done wool base layers + shirt + jacket OR mid-layer + rain jacket if needed. That would’ve allowed us to skip either the mid-layer or insulated jacket. I personally think it’s easier to pack the jacket and skip the mid-layer (and my kids only used their mid-layer sweatshirts once or twice), especially since the jacket is easier to spot clean. I got more use out of my mid-layer zip up than my kids did and often wore it instead of my full jacket.
Wool sweaters would also make great mid-layers but we didn’t have those on hand in the right sizes for our kids. I did also bring a wool sweater for myself.
- Women’s lightweight insulated jacket
- Women’s mid-layer zip up
- Women’s merino sweater (here’s a terrific and classic budget option)
- Men’s lightweight insulated jacket
- Men’s mid-layer
- Kids’ lightweight insulated jacket
- Boys’ mid-layer sweatshirt, Girls’ mid-layer zip up
Hat For Alaska Packing List
Maybe we lucked out with temperatures and wind, but we brought and never used our warm hats/gloves/scarves – even on and near glaciers. But if you want to make sure to be prepared, they certainly don’t hurt to have along and don’t take up too much space. And if you get a windy day on a boat, I’m sure they’d come in handy.
Here are the ones we like and brought with us (but didn’t use):
It’s also a good idea to have some sort of sun hat if you’re sensitive to the sun! A couple of my kids wore baseball hats, Dan LOVED this men’s sun hat, and we used this darling toddler sun hat for baby M. I love this solid colored baseball hat for women.
Best Shoes To Pack For Alaska: What Shoes to Wear in Alaska
Waterproof Hiking Shoes
If we could only choose ONE pair of shoes when deciding what to pack for Alaska, it would be waterproof hiking shoes. Alaska has so many incredible trails and the best Alaska shoes below served us well throughout. But even if you aren’t any intense hiking in Alaska and are wondering what shoes to wear in Alaska, supportive, waterproof shoes are one of the best Alaska packing essentials we took along.
We loved these shoes for everything from walking trails to going on wet boats to just walking around town. The kids’ ones are especially versatile and all of my kiddos were happy to wear them as normal walking shoes. They were super comfortable and kept everyone dry and cozy, and held up amazingly well. We really loved the mid-height boots because they were great at keeping water out the top of the shoes without being too stiff. These are also definitely shoes that my kids will rewear tons near home for hiking, school, and more.
- Women’s waterproof hiking boots
- Men’s waterproof hiking boots
- Kids’ waterproof hiking boots
- Little Kid & Toddler waterproof hiking boots
If you’re looking for a cheaper option, these have good reviews and come in lots of colors, though I can’t vouch for them. I’d highly recommend spraying them with waterproofing spray.
Should I Pack Rain Boots for Alaska?
If you’re planning what to wear in Alaska in the fall and don’t plan to do much hiking, you may want to consider packing rain boots instead of hiking boots. This is also true if you plan to spend a lot of time on boats, water activities, fishing, etc., or are wondering what to wear in Alaska in May.
These are my favorite rain boots for women and the best kids rain boots that have held up over multiple kids for us. There are also these ultra popular Alaska deck boots that are built to last and really hold up. We saw tons of locals wearing them when we were there!
If you’re planning to do some water activities, I highly recommend packing a pair of hiking sandals for Alaska. These are great for boating activities like kayaking or rafting, or if you’re planning on playing on the beach or tide pooling. We LOVE all the below hiking sandals. Our kids especially live in theirs every summer and they hold up perfectly year after year and are durable enough to hand down to younger siblings.
- Women’s hiking sandals
- Men’s hiking sandals
- Older kids’ hiking sandals (also here & here)
- Younger kids & toddler hiking sandals (also here & here)
These are definitely optional, but when driving, I really liked having a pair of casual walking shoes for days exploring museums or even for dry days going on boat tours. I might not take the extra space if I were flying, but they’re an absolute women’s packing essential for me for basically any other trip that didn’t require other shoes, and I’d 100% bring them if driving.
These are my very favorite ever shoes that I wear ALL the time and almost never travel without. They’re unbelievably comfortable, cute, and look good with everything from leggings to jeans to skirts. I’m obsessed with them! That said, they’re not an Alaska packing essential, so you can easily skip them if you’re trying to save some space (but you should buy them anyway because they’re the best ;)).
Purchase them here, here, here, here, and here
Alaska Packing List: Undergarments
Of course, you’ll need to bring some undergarments along in your Alaska packing essentials. If possible, try to pack ones that dry quickly and can be hand washed in a sink if needed. We always like to bring some extras, especially for kids, as they’re small and pack easily. We do have some favorites when it comes to socks and bras – see below!
We live by wool socks most of the time, but especially when traveling. Since wool is naturally anti-microbial and odor-resistant, they don’t need to be washed after every wear. It’s easy to air them out and rewear. Plus, wool is great for warmth in cool weather and for wicking to stay cool in warm weather. It’s an Alaska travel essential that is perfect for Alaska’s changeable weather.
We really liked a mix of crew and ankle-length wool socks from our very favorite sock brand. They are incredibly comfortable, durable, and have a lifetime warranty (on SOCKS!). We’ve had a number of our pairs for 4 years without a single hole. Plus, they’re a family-run business that gives back to their community and I just adore them. We used them for all the family members except our toddler since they don’t make them that small (we mostly used these for her).
This is my very favorite bra that works great for travel. I love that the cut lets me use it as either an everyday bra or sports bra, and it’s so comfortable for both. It definitely works best for smaller-chested people but it’s the only kind I personally wear because I love it so much.
Hiking Backpacks for Alaska / What to Pack in Your Alaska Day Pack
There are SO many different options for the best backpack for Alaska or a day pack for Alaska, and a lot of it comes down to personal preference. These are the ones we took along and LOVED – I highly recommend each of them for an Alaska family trip.
Best Alaska Backpack for Kids
These are our VERY favorite kids hiking backpacks and for sure one of our best Alaska hiking essentials. They are functional and lightweight and incredibly durable. My kids used them nonstop the entire summer and they still look completely brand new. Plus, they love the various pockets and compartments, and I love that they’re well-fitting so they don’t put undue pressure on their little bodies. Don’t miss these on your Alaska packing list! Even if you’re not planning on tons of hiking, they’re still one of our favorite Alaska must-haves when traveling with kids.
My kids always keep one of these waterproof rain covers attached to their backpacks with a carabiner so they can quickly cover them if we encounter any wet weather.
Best Alaska Backpack for Adults: Women’s Backpack for Alaska & Men’s Backpack for Alaska
I didn’t do much backpack-wearing while we were in Alaska since I was extremely pregnant and had been having some pelvic pain, so couldn’t do much carrying. Still, even with some discomfort, I was able to easily carry this super awesome women’s day pack for Alaska. It’s lightweight and fits me really well, even with a short torso. I love it!
When Dan wasn’t carrying the child hiking carrier (more on that below), he carried our usual favorite family hiking backpack (also available here). We LOVE this thing. It has so many pockets and organizes extremely well. It also carries everything we need for a day hike, from camera equipment to food and water.
Best Child Hiking Carrier When Visiting Alaska With Kids
We decided to purchase a child hiking carrier (also available here) for Alaska before leaving on our trip. In the past, I’ve worn the youngest in a soft-structured carrier while Dan wore the family hiking backpack that I mentioned above. However, this time, we knew I wouldn’t be able to wear our toddler and that we’d be doing a fair bit of walking and hiking. So we decided to purchase a backpack hiking carrier for Alaska.
We knew we wanted one that had some storage capacity for food, water, and camera equipment so Dan could carry those along with the toddler, and this child backpack carrier fit the bill perfectly. We ended up LOVING this thing. M, our youngest, found it way more comfortable than a soft-sided carrier, and was able to nap in it much better, as well. Dan thought it was extremely comfortable and distributed weight very well to carry both M as well as our gear. We also purchased this rain cover for it that we leave attached, which was very helpful on some wet days of being outside.
Waterproof Rain Cover for Your Alaska Hiking Backpack
As I mentioned above, the best backpacks for Alaska should definitely be coupled with a waterproof rain cover. We love these smaller covers and this slightly larger one to protect our gear.
Best Reusable Water Bottle for Your Alaska Packing List
Water is obviously one of the most important things to carry along on any hike, and especially for your Alaska hiking gear when in more remote areas.
I like this hard spout insulated sippy for babies and young toddlers. THIS and THIS are great travel water bottles for younger kids. I also like this one (which is surprisingly spill-resistant, but the straw can get dirty since it doesn’t have a cover).
My older kids LOVE this water bottle; it’s one of our summer travel must haves – it’s a great size, fits in a side pocket, and keeps drinks cold for forever. For adults, I really love the same water bottle my older kids use, and we also love THIS one and THIS one.
Mosquito Head Net for An Alaska Packing List
We’d heard that the mosquitoes get super intense in Alaska in the summertime, and that was no joke! Some places were definitely worse than others, but carrying along mosquito protection is definitely a must. We loved these mosquito head nets (also here) and were so glad we had one for each person. They weigh almost nothing, so it was easy to just clip them onto our hiking backpacks with a simple carabiner.
We also always keep mosquito repellent and sunscreen in our packs – more on our favorite kinds below.
Trekking Poles for Alaska
Depending on how much hiking you’re planning to do, hiking poles can be really helpful to add to your Alaska summer packing list. Even though we stuck to fairly easy to moderate hikes, I personally really liked having them, especially while pregnant, for extra stability. This pair is relatively inexpensive and served me well the whole time we were there. My kids have these kids trekking poles and they’re fantastic quality.
Alaska Travel Checklist: Medical Items
We tend to keep our travel medical items with kids pretty minimal, but it’s helpful to have a few things on hand, especially in more remote areas. Here’s what to pack for Alaska in terms of basic medical supplies:
- Bandages (the only kind worth buying) and/or full first aid kit
- Anti-bacterial ointment
- Prescription medicines
- Any required vitamins (like prenatals)
- Insect repellant
- Picardin was really effective and less intense than Deet
- Best mineral facial sunscreen
- Best allover mineral sunscreen for kids and adults
- Hand sanitizer
- Glasses/contacts/contact solution/contact case
- Sunglasses (I love these)
- Pain reliever
- This kind is the same exact dosage as the children’s specific ones, but is much cheaper and smaller than most kid chewable tablets
- Icy Hot (growing pains come up more when you’re walking a lot)
- Motion Sickness Medication
- Anti-nausea ginger drops
- Kid’s dramamine
- Motion sickness patch (I used this on a few boat tours)
- Children’s Zyrtec (we really wished we had this on hand when our toddler got a mosquito bite right next to her eye and it almost swelled shut. We had Benadryl but in messaging with our pediatrician, he recommended this instead, which was difficult to find in a tiny town)
- Small thermometer
Alaska Summer Packing List: Wildlife
One of the best parts of an Alaska family trip is viewing tons of wildlife. This was, by far, our favorite part of visiting Alaska with kids! They were over the moon with all the bears, moose, otters, eagles, and so much more. When viewing wildlife, it’s really important to keep a good distance for your safety and theirs. Here’s what we took along with us to safely enjoy all the animals.
While binoculars are great, these little monocular spotting scopes were even more compact and perfect for our kids to carry in their Alaska backpacks. They loved wearing them and they weren’t bulky or heavy. Plus, they’re powerful and waterproof, which made them great to carry around. I also used them a number of times and they worked great.
If you prefer traditional binoculars, this is a great pair of inexpensive binoculars for Alaska.
Camera Equipment: Best Camera for Alaska
It’s incredible to be able to capture some photos of the wildlife and landscapes in Alaska. I love the full frame mirrorless camera body we have. We primarily used two lenses – a 24-70mm zoom lens and a 100-500mm super-telephoto lens. Both were invaluable for capturing gorgeous photos even from a distance. While pricey, they really made a huge difference in the quality of our images and I’m so happy we had them with us. Here is some other must have photography gear for Alaska:
- Canon R6 Mirrorless Camera Body (or direct from Canon)
- Canon Rf 24-70 F2.8 L Zoom Lens (or direct from Canon)
- Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 Super-Telephoto Lens
- Ultra lightweight travel tripod
- Protective Camera Case (or direct from Canon)
- Polarizer filter/lens protector (I was very glad to have this arrive with the camera so I could start using it without fearing dust immediately scratching the lens!) (or direct from Canon)
- Extra batteries (or direct from Canon)
- Spare lens covers (with strings to attach to camera) (or direct from Canon)
- Tempered glass screen cover (or direct from Canon)
- Neck strap (I love that this one has a zipper pocket for spare batteries, memory cards, etc.) (or direct from Canon)
- Camera shoe (to quickly attach to a tripod) (or direct from Canon)
- Extra memory cards (this is important to get ones that can keep up) (or direct from Canon)
- Memory card holder for spare memory cards (or direct from Canon)
- 5 Terabyte portable external hard drive to download and back up photos (love that this one is small and lightweight and easy) (or direct from Canon)
Packing For Alaska: Emergency Supplies
Satellite Communication Device
This tiny satellite communication device (also available here) was absolutely invaluable during our Alaska road trip. It was a lifesaver when our RV broke down in an area without cell service so we could call our Roadside Assistance. And it’s a very necessary safeguard when participating in outdoors activities or in the backcountry in Alaska, many areas of which have zero cell signal. It’s an extremely important safety measure and absolutely an Alaska travel essential.
It is absolutely essential to be bear aware when spending time outdoors in Alaska. And while with other precautions, it’s unlikely that you’ll need bear spray, you should always have it with you. You should definitely never hike or camp without it and is always something to include when deciding what to pack for Alaska.
While you cannot fly on commercial airlines with bear spray, you can drive with it if you happen to be taking an Alaska road trip from the Lower 48 (just be sure to declare it at the Canadian border). Otherwise, you’ll need to purchase it once you arrive; there are plenty of places that sell it.
External Power Bank
Again, Alaska has many remote places so you want to make sure you have a way to charge devices, especially cell phones and your emergency satellite communication device. This is my favorite portable charger that charges quickly and stores a great amount of power for its size so can charge phones several times.
Car vent cell phone mount
If you’ll be driving for an Alaska road trip, it’s a great idea to pack one of these tiny car cell phone mounts. It’s small and lightweight and allows you to view your GPS on your phone hands free. (Be sure to download offline maps in advance!)
USB Car Charger
Again, if you’re road tripping in Alaska, make sure you take along a USB car charger. We love this 4-port one.
Car Battery-Powered Jump Starter
Finally, if you are planning an Alaska family road trip, a battery-powered car jump starter is invaluable. With so many remote areas without tons of other vehicle traffic, it’s great to be able to give yourself a jump if needed. We used ours several times while there!
Other Alaska Packing Essentials: Packing for Alaska with Kids
Here are a few other items that are absolutely invaluable when traveling to Alaska with kids:
- Packing Cubes
- Kids Kindle
- Alaska can have a lot of long driving days; we were SO grateful to have our kids’ Kindles with us. Each of our older 3 kids (ages 11, 9, and 7 at the time of our trip) has their own and they got tons and tons of use.
- Travel Journals for Kids
- Alaska has so many incredible opportunities for families. It was special to have my kids document their favorite experiences, from animals to activities. We love these simple journals that come in different colors for each child with an elastic band to hold them closed so they stay nice.
- You probably noticed I mentioned carabiners a number of times throughout the post – they’re so helpful!! Especially for travel or any sort of outdoors activity, we love having some on hand to clip hats, mosquito head nets, rain covers, and more onto bags. We even use heavier duty carabiners to clip water bottles in place in outside pockets so they don’t fall out. Such a simple thing to take along that is helpful in many ways!
- Waterproof picnic blanket (perfect for often-damp Alaskan ground!)
- The Milepost book (kind of the Alaska road tripping Bible, although it honestly felt a bit overwhelming to us so we didn’t use it much)
- Folding backpack or duffel
- We LOVED having this folding duffel on hand – it folds down really small but expanded to fit everything we needed for our family for a couple of overnight stays in small towns
- We also have these lightweight folding backpacks if you wanted a smaller option for each person
- Baby cot if needed (THIS is our favorite super lightweight one)
- Quick-dry travel towels (we like having one or two of these on hand to dry off quickly if needed)
There you have it – your full list of what to pack for Alaska in the summer. I hope it’s helpful and puts you at ease knowing you have all your Alaska travel essentials covered!
IF YOU LIKED THIS POST ABOUT WHAT TO PACK FOR ALASKA, YOU MIGHT LIKE THESE POSTS TOO:
- Can’t Miss Emergency Summer Road Trip Supplies
- Road Trip Essentials with Kids
- Summer Travel Essentials for Families