When packing for a trip or vacation, often to a foreign place we’ve never been, we are left confused about what we ought to pack, and this is most certainly the case if you plan to head to Alaska in the summer.
You have an entire wardrobe that you are staring at, and perhaps there are even items you do not have that you will need. I mean, is Alaska cold in the summer? Is it warm? What does one wear to Alaska in the summer?
In short, Alaska in the summer can get very hot, so cool clothes are needed; however, this does not mean you should negate packing warm clothes as well.
The weather in Alaska is unpredictable, and regardless of what the weather looks like, there is always the chance of getting wet, so be thorough when packing.
Thankfully we have a good idea of what travelers should expect when it comes to packing for Alaska, and we’re here to help!
For this trip of a lifetime, you’ll want to be sure that you have all the suitable clothing for the trip, without taking any unnecessaries. So if you want a thorough guide on what to pack for your adventure, be sure to read on!
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Summer In Alaska: What To Expect
Although often thought of as a cold and snowy state, Alaska is a great summertime destination. With its long days and scenic views, there is plenty to do in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Here are a few things to expect when spending your summer in Alaska.
The first thing you’ll notice is the amount of daylight. During the summer months, there is nearly 24 hours of sunlight in some parts of the state. This can take some getting used to, but it also means that you have more time to enjoy all that Alaska has to offer!
Another thing to keep in mind is that although it may be sunny outside, the temperatures may still be cool. Average highs in July are only in the 60s or 70s, so be sure to pack some layers.
Summer in Alaska typically runs from May through September. Here are some general notes about what to expect in each month.
- May is generally the driest month across the state, even in the temperate rainforest of the Inside Passage.
- In June, days in Alaska can be cool, with an average high of 65° F. However, the sun shines for almost 20 hours a day, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors. The further north you travel in Alaska, the warmer it will be. In Fairbanks, temperatures can reach the 80s.
- By July, daytime temperatures in the Interior can average in the 70° F range—although it has been known to reach well into the 90s—while temperatures in the coastal areas and higher elevations rarely get above 65° F.
- By August and September, temperatures across the state start to cool down as fall colors start to take over Alaska’s tundra and forest landscapes. Having said that, temperatures can range anywhere from the mid-50s to the low 80s, so it’s always a good idea to pack a sweater or light jacket.
- Rain is always a possibility in the summer, and snow has been known to make an appearance as well. The southeastern panhandle region of Alaska is the driest part of the state, while the western and northern regions tend to be much wetter.
Key Notes About Clothing To Wear In Alaska In The Summer
One thing that Alaskans agree upon is that in Alaska, the weather is tough to predict, and within a single day, you will not know whether to dress for the cold or for warmer weather.
One sure thing is that on certain days, you will likely experience some type of wet weather. So despite planning a trip to Alaska in the summertime (when in many places it’s nothing but heat and sun), the best thing to do is think of dressing in layers.
This is because the weather is ever-changing. That’s what makes the natural surroundings in Alaska so majestic!
On any given day, you may start with a short sleeve, puffer, and a rain jacket and then see the layers being shed off, then put back on throughout the day. Totally normal.
You also want to take along clothes that you will not be concerned about getting dirty.
This is because you will likely partake in various activities such as hiking, fishing, kayaking, dog sledding, and all the other great outdoor adventures that Alaska offers. So the likelihood of your clothes staying clean or stain-free is highly unlikely.
Be prepared by bringing along a travel-friendly laundry soap so you can conveniently wash anything as needed!
In the same vein, you also need to ensure that the clothing you pack is easy and hassle-free for washing and drying. Factor in your laundry situation when you book your accommodation and preferably try to stay in one place with affordable or complimentary laundry facilities.
If you intend on backpacking, you will likely need to rough it a bit more, but consider how and when you will do laundry. Again, travel-sized laundry soap can really help here.
Additionally, do not worry about taking along formal clothing unless it is for business or similar purposes (i.e., a wedding, photoshoot, etc.).
In Alaska, you want to go for comfort over flashy. You will find that even at some of the nicest restaurants, even the average pair of jeans and fleece sweater will be acceptable.
Shirts To Pack For Alaska In Summer
If you are headed out for a lovely day of hiking, then you likely want to wear a short-sleeve moisture-wicking shirt. Apart from comfort, they will also help you not overheat in the sun (but be sure to pack something like a raincoat in your backpack in case).
There is also a place for long-sleeve base layer shirts that you can wear when the weather is slightly colder than usual.
You want to make sure that whatever you choose to wear is moisture-wicking and will dry quickly if you get wet by a sudden, unexpected downpour. Some long sleeves come with zips, which is great if the temperature increases, and you can unzip them and allow fresh air to cool you down.
Merino wool tops are your best option for outdoor destinations like Alaska. They’re able to keep you warm on those cooler mornings and keep you cool throughout those warmer afternoons.
Plus, you can wear them on the drive back to your hotel after a long day of exploring and they won’t be stinky!
I recommending bringing along a few long-sleeved baselayers (men and women) for the added protection from the bugs as well as all that sun exposure, but there are short-sleeved options as well.
Jackets And Additional Layers For Alaska In Summer
One thing you cannot go without in Alaska (even in the summer) is a lightweight windbreaker rain jacket, which must be fully waterproof, and not merely water resistant. You may get caught in the rain while out on an adventure, and you do not want to be left cold and miserable; you are there to enjoy yourself.
Another great option is a packable puffy jacket, as it makes for a great summer layering piece. This is because it works well at keeping your core body temperature warm, and this, in turn, will aid in keeping the rest of your body warm.
Additionally, when looking at layering pieces for your Alaska trip in summer, a fleece zip-up jacket is something worth looking at packing. What is terrific about this type of jacket is that it does not absorb water very easily. And this makes it ideal for the climate in Alaska.
A cozy sweater or flannel is another excellent option for your summer trip to Alaska; what is nice about most types of these is that they do not make you itch, are lightweight, and some are even made from organically grown cotton.
You are unlikely to wear these when outside and the weather is wet or too hot, but they are perfect for indoor use such as hanging out in a hotel, eating at a restaurant, or having a casual stroll around town.
Choose whatever the weather calls for, as well as whatever works best for you, and packs up nicely into your daypack.
Pants To Take To Alaska In The Summer
One through-line you may have noticed is that we have mentioned rainproof clothing, which also goes for the type of pants you ought to try and take along for the journey. Be sure to take a pair of water-resistant pants, but also look for a pair with a lower leg zipper that will allow you to remove the bottom half and turn them into shorts if the weather warms up.
Some days call for shorts, so you may want to bring along a pair or two.
However, do not go to the other extreme where you only pack shorts and disregard the need for long pants. You’re going to want to bring long pants!
If you are going between June and July, shorts can be a great idea to bring along — but do note that the downside is that mosquitoes love bare skin during this time, so take mosquito repellent along with you. (Mosquitoes are not as common in the towns/cities, but be careful especially in the open tundra of the Interior and northern Alaska, where there are dense forests and marshland.)
In terms of adventure pants, I’d recommend something that you can hike in, but can also double as your “casually exploring” pants.
My favorite pairs for women include the Prana Meme or the Prana Halle since they have a more modern, tapered look to them.
In terms of hiking pants for men, I hear great things about the Prana Stretch Zion.
Alternatively, if you know the weather is going to fluctuate drastically during the day (super cold in the morning and very hot in the afternoon), convertible zip-off pants work well if you want to enjoy shorts later in the day!
Headwear For Alaska In The Summer
In Alaska, the long summer sun can be intense, and wearing a sunhat is a great way to protect yourself from its harmful rays. But what kind of sunhat should you wear in Alaska?
There are a few things to consider when choosing a sunhat for Alaska. First, you’ll want something that will provide good coverage for your head and face. A wide-brimmed hat is ideal, as it will keep the sun off your skin and out of your eyes.
Second, you’ll want a hat that’s comfortable to wear in warm weather. A straw or fabric hat with breathable mesh is a good choice for this, as it will help keep you cool.
Finally, you’ll want to choose a hat that’s durable enough to withstand the elements.
If you are engaging in activities near or on the water, it is a good idea to pack a quick-drying hat with a chin cord to help it stay secured to your head. Also, some hats have fabric that offers a UPF to protect you from harmful UV rays.
The Columbia Bora Booney is a sunhat that checks off all the boxes.
And for everyday wear, you may want a brimmed cap that will keep your head dry and the sun out of your eyes.
Although the days in Alaska tend to lean far more toward the warmer temperature, it can become relatively cold at night. This is especially relevant if you are camping in Alaska.
Therefore, something like a nice cozy beanie is essential to add to your luggage (especially if you run cold) as it will help to keep your head warm during the chilly evenings.
Keep Your Hands Warm In Alaska In Summer
Getting yourself a pair of warm gloves is a wonderful idea, as they will come in handy when the temperature dips in Alaska.
Even in the summertime, mornings can be cool and wet in the mountains! When you’re taking off to go on a hike at 6-8am, a beanie and gloves can really come in handy.
What is also marvelous about these gloves is that they are touch-screen compatible, so you will not need to take them off to type on your phone, and they will offer your hands excellent warmth.
Considering What Shoes To Take To Alaska In The Summer
If you plan on doing some adventuring in the wild, be sure that you have a good pair of waterproof hiking boots for your trip.
What we are ideally looking at, though, are lightweight hikers with excellent traction. This is because many trails in Alaska are often wet and muddy. You want something breathable yet waterproof and immensely comfortable.
My favorites have always been the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boot. They check all the hiking boot boxes–durable, waterproof, and out-of-the-box comfort! They make these for both men and women.
I’ve also recently discovered the Hoka Anacapa Mid GTX Hiking Boot. They’ve also got out-of-the-box comfort, plus they look so darn cool! You can find them for women here and men here.
No matter what hiking shoe you choose, we want to emphasize that you must break your shoes in before going to Alaska if you hope to avoid blisters!
Sandals or Water Shoes
Next, let’s talk sandals. It is summer in Alaska, after all! Depending on where you are in AK and what your itinerary calls for, a pair of sandals can come in handy.
Opting for a pair of adventure sandals means you can wear them aboard watercraft (boats, canoes, etc.) as well as around your accommodation or the campground where you are staying.
Chaco Z1 Classic Sandals (men and women) are great for just this.
For more casual sandals, I alternate between my waterproof Birkenstocks and Oofos Recovery Slides— both allow you to walk miles and miles in them. Not the cutest, I’ll admit. But SO functional and comfortable!
We recently discovered the Oofos slide at our REI store and boy were we sold on it. From the moment we slid them on our feet, maximum comfort! It was like walking on clouds!
For any hike you do, I’d bring an extra pair of medium weight wool socks along with you on your hike–just in case your first pair get wet or muddy. There’s nothing worse than having to hike hours on hours with cold, wet socks. I cringe just thinking about it…
Hiking socks by Smartwool provide the perfect amount of cushioning in the heel and ball of the foot for hiking and backpacking.
You can also go with lightweight wool socks as well, but note they are thinner with some light cushioning in key places like the heel and ball of the foot.
Protect Yourself From UV Rays In Alaska During The Summer
You will need to pack two things that people often forget to put on their list of things to pack: sunglasses and sunscreen.
You will need these as you will likely spend much time in the bright glaring sun, on the water, and near snow. Therefore, proper polarized sunglasses are a must to protect your eyes, and sunscreen will prevent sunburn.
Sunscreen is absolutely necessary for any outdoor adventure. Even if it’s overcast or cloudy, the UV index can be very high, so be sure to apply whenever you’re outdoors.
Whenever we travel, we always go with a coral reef-safe brand, as traditional sunscreens contain chemicals that harm our environment as well as the natural balance of marine ecosystems.
And honestly, it’s not enough to just buy any old bottle that has a “reef-friendly” label on it. It turns out many sunscreens claiming to be “reef-friendly” or “reef-safe” actually aren’t!
Products containing the following ingredients are technically NOT reef safe: oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene or nanoparticles. Always review the active ingredients on the bottle to be sure you’re really getting something reef-safe.
Here are a few travel-sized biodegradable sunscreens you can easily buy on Amazon:
- Badger Reef Safe Sunscreen – SPF 40 Kids Clear Sport
- Badger Reef Safe Sunscreen- SPF 35 Clear Zinc Sport Unscented
- Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen
- Babo Botanicals Zinc Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
- All Good Sport Face & Body Sunscreen Lotion
And on days where we are just out and about (not getting into the water)–for the face, we are absolutely obsessed with the magical Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen. No white-cast, no greasy film!
There Will Be Chances To Swim In Alaska In Summer
A swimsuit goes hand-in-hand with summer and is no different for when you travel to Alaska during this time. You may go and take a dip in an alpine lake, soak in a hot tub at the cruise ship, hotel or cabin, or venture into natural springs!
Whatever you intend on doing, you will regret it if you do not pack a swimsuit just in case.
Sleepwear For Your Trip To Alaska In Summer
This outfit sometimes does not make it onto our radar while considering all the other elements of our trip and the clothing we need to include in our luggage.
Do not forget to take your pajamas along as you will want something comfortable to sleep in at night. Just consider that some “nights” may be warmer or colder than others, so perhaps give yourself two options.
Other Travel Gear To Pack For Alaska In Summer
Summer in Alaska is very different from numerous other places in that many areas of Alaska can see daylight for up to 24 hours of the day. This will mean needing certain items to aid in your sleeping.
To aid with your sleeping, make sure you pack or at least purchase an eye mask while you are there; this is because, as mentioned, Alaska is prone to experience daylight for up to 24 hours (some areas have roughly 16 hours).
Trying to fall asleep in Alaska can be tricky without one, even with the curtains drawn.
Depending on where you spend your time in Alaska, there may be mosquitoes and you’ll want to protect yourself against bites. Typically the closer you are to trees and marshlands, the more prevalent mosquitoes are.
If you plan to go hiking, I would definitely recommend packing an effective insect / mosquito repellent. We recommend the following travel-size options:
- Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent
- Another good option is Sawyer Jungle Juice Insect Repellent –because we love outdoor destinations and summer camping/hiking, we always have a bottle of this at home and ready to go!
If you’re looking for more natural options, we recommend the following travel-friendly options:
If you’re going to be doing day hikes only, a 28 to 35L backpack is enough to carry all the essentials you need. One of the best of the best-selling backpacks is the Osprey Skimmer 28 Hydration Pack (for women).
For the guys, the Osprey Manta 34 Hydration Pack is a great daypack loved by many hikers.
These options are big enough to carry a packed lunch, snacks, water, and camera, as well as any outer layers you shed off during the day.
For those of you doing the multi-day backpacking trip where you’ll be carrying all of your gear, you’re going to want to go with something ranging from 50 to 80 liters.
I am a huge fan of Osprey bags due to their genius design and high quality (they are my personal favorites)! One great thing about the Osprey Aura (women) and the Osprey Atmos (men) is that you can remove the top lid for shorter hikes, thereby turning them into smaller, less bulky packs.
A must-have item if you want to save your legs and knees from the ascent and descent of any hikes with elevation change!
You may also encounter stream crossings throughout your hikes, and these stream crossings can be difficult for some without the added stability provided by walking sticks.
I absolutely love my pair from Black Diamond. I brought my trusty Black Diamond Hiking Poles with me and they were nothing but reliable. Other great trekking pole options can be found at REI.
Bring a reservoir with a bite valve and stick it in your backpack for easy access to water while hiking. A 3-liter reservoir will do just fine for most day hikes.
National Park Passes
Alaska has eight national parks: Denali National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Glacier Bay National Park, Katmai National Park, Gates of the Arctic National Park, Lake Clark National Park, and Kobuk Valley National Park.
Unlike the National Parks on the mainland, in Alaska, there’s only one National Park that actually has an entrance fee. It’s Denali National Park.
Denali National Park Fees: 7-Day Pass: $15 (per adult) | Annual Vehicle Pass: $45
If you plan to visit, you can purchase an individual entrance fee for $15 or purchase a Denali Annual Pass for $45, which covers up to 4 adults.
If you love visiting National Parks as we do, an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass may give you the best value in the long run if you plan to visit other national parks and federal lands across the US.
As long as you visit 2 additional national parks in the USA, the pass will more than pay for itself and save you so much money on park admission fees. You can buy a pass online at REI or in-person at the entrance gates of Denali National Park.
For state parks: The Alaska State Parks parking pass covers parking fees at most parks and recreation areas around the state of Alaska. Daily parking usually costs $5 and you can check the site fees here.
Bring a super-concentrated soap and a handy-dandy travel clothesline so you can do your own laundry. We usually wash our hiking socks and tops we plan on re-wearing to prevent them from smelling funky after a long day of hiking.
By doing your own laundry, you can save on those insane dry-cleaning fees hotels charge!
If you’d rather save money, simply use the soap or body wash gel provided by your hotel to wash your clothes.
And that about wraps up our post on what you should wear to Alaska in the summer season.
Remember these takeaways when it comes to packing for Alaska in the summer:
- In summer, Alaska sees a lot of light, even during “nighttime” hours.
- Just because it’s the summer season, don’t think you won’t need to pack anything warm for the trip.
- Although the temperatures are often warm, there are times when it will be wet and cold, so you must pack accordingly.
- You do not want to overpack, but at the same time, you do not want to go on your adventure unprepared!
- Dress in layers as best as possible. You’re going to want to pack thinner, insulating layers. Think base layers, long-sleeve t-shirts, and thin sweaters.
GAME-CHANGING GADGETS FOR SMARTER AIRPORT TRAVEL
These are some of my favorite airport/airplane travel products that free my hands up and make traveling so much more convenient. Say goodbye to the days of fumbling around or not having enough hands for things.
- Add a Bag Hook and Hanger Strap | Have a purse, briefcase, tote bag, or bag of souvenirs that’s causing you inconvenience by needing to be carried? Get this bag hook and attach it to your luggage so you only need one hand to tow everything with you.
- riemot Luggage Travel Cup Holder | This foldable drink caddy holds 2 cups, perfect for your pre-flight coffees and fountain drinks. There’s also room to hold books, iPads, phones, tickets and documents.
- Klipsta Traveling Hat Clip | Have you ever brought a wide-brimmed hat on vacation and found it to be the most annoying thing to travel with? A hat clip for your bag or backpack completely removes the struggle of needing to carry your hat in hand!
- Flight Flap Phone & Tablet Holder | Attaches to airline seat backs so you can watch movies hands-free. Also great for standing your phone up on tables too!
- Clipa2 – The Instant Bag Hanger Collection | Hang your bag or purse literally anywhere (on your luggage, on restaurant tables, hotel rooms, etc).
Looking for more Alaska travel tips? You may also like:
Best Time To Travel To Alaska: Everything You Need To Know
18 Best Things To Do At Mount Rainier National Park For First Timers
25 Top Travel Gadgets That Will Make Your Next Trip So Much Better