Recommended Clothing For Trips To Alaska


Recommended Clothing For Your Road Trip To Alaska

clothingDepending on the time of your visit, there might be variations to the theme of clothing.  That said, Alaska and the places in between feature a range of weather and climate.  You will likely have to prepare for multiple conditions during your adventure.

Most road trippers set out for a late spring to early fall adventure, so that’s what our discussion will largely be targeted for.  If you’re setting out in mid winter, we’ll assume that you know what you’re doing.  The gist of clothing preparation is you need to be prepared for 35 degrees to 90 degrees, or winter to summer.  You can go through some warm days only to get a near frosty evening, especially if you tread on the fringes of early or late travel season.

The Alaska Road Trip & Clothing Needs

For road trippers, you need to be aware of two major things.  First, you have limited space to store clothing.  There’s will be a number of other things competing for your storage space, all important.  Also, you will be doing laundry somewhere, probably multiple times, on your journey.  You will need perhaps a week, plus or minus a few days worth of clothing on hand.

For us, a good system has been to limit our main clothing (toiletries not included) to a single duffel bag’s worth of clothing per person.  Whatever fits in that space is up to you.  Just have enough to last a week or so, and support surviving from near freezing to summer weather.  Simple, right?  Further, more specific suggestions are provided a bit later in this section.

As for preparing for cooler temperatures, it’s better to use layering techniques and multiple articles of clothing.  Not only will this work to keep you warmer, but it also allows you to pack less overall clothing.  Most of your cooler temperatures will be in the evening, but keep in mind that glaciers you may visit can get extremely chilly.

Dealing With Clothing On Your Road Trip

Plan on keeping your clean clothes and dirty clothes separated, if you can.  It will make things easier on laundry day and will help with keeping fresh clothes smelling good.  For us, we use a DIY home-made laundry bag made from mesh and paracord.  We can just stuff it anywhere it fits in the rig, which makes storage easier. Laundry day just means finding a place, pulling the laundry/clothing bags, doing laundry and putting clothes away.  We limit our main personal clothing to one fairly good-sized duffel bag each.  We keep toiletries separate so they’re easier to get access to and just pull the clothes we need when needed.

As for us, we don’t typically bring all our clothing bags into the tent each night.  We typically will select what we need for the next day and just bring that into the tent.  Planning ahead makes sure you don’t have to get up in the chilly air to get fresh clothing.  After getting dressed, we’ll put some of the clothes in the dirty hamper, some back into our main clothing bag for re-use.

Chances are pretty good you won’t get a fresh set of clothes every day. In the interest of saving space, it’s helpful to re-wear pairs of jeans from day to day since they take up a lot of space and don’t usually become un-wearable in a day’s time.  Some items likes socks, undergarments and t-shirts are a good thing to stock up on so you can feel relatively fresh every day.

Doing Laundry On The Alaska Road Trip

Hunting down a laundromat can be a little tricky up north.  Plan your laundry days for times you’ll be in a city or town of reasonable size since you won’t find them in the many small towns along the way.  Some campgrounds also offer laundry machines for convenience, but don’t always count on it.  Plan on about 2-3 hours to do laundry.  We usually set up camp in or near a town and try to take care of laundry, food resupply, showers and other necessities.

Be prepared that laundry day will cost you a few bucks and often times they’re cash only.  If coins are required, there’s usually always an attendant or coin machine.  If you’re in Canada, this means you’ll need Canadian currency to get the job done and as you get further north, US currency is not always an acceptable payment method.

You may find that rolling up your clothing is a better storage technique than traditional folding techniques.  While yes, you may end up wrinkling some of your clothing this way, rolling up your clothing will allow you to store a bit more and will also make organization easier.

Suggested Alaska Road Trip Clothing List

Obviously clothing is a very personal preference, so this is just a basic guideline of what to think about.  The concept of layering very much applies here.  It’s better to bring a larger quantity of lighter wear (t-shirts, etc) and plan to keep warm with more layers then it is to throw in a bunch of bulky clothing items that will eat up your storage space.

  • 2-3 pairs of jeans
  • 2 pair of shorts
  • 7-10 pair of socks
  • 7-10 undergarments
  • 1-2 thermal long sleeve shirt
  • 1-2 thermal pants
  • 7-10 t-shirts or short sleeve shirts
  • 2-3 long sleeve mid-weight shirts
  • 1 waterproof/resistant jacket (hood recommended)
  • 1 pair of boots/shoes
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 1 sweatshirt or sweater
  • 1 waterproof hat

If you’re heading out in the shoulder seasons or have a tendency to get colder than average, you might need to put a little more focus on the warmer garments.  If you plan to do some serious hiking while you’re out, you might want to consider more technical wear since you’ll be sweating up a storm and otherwise making the clothing unusable.

Alaska’s Winters & Required Clothing

So you want to experience an Alaskan winter, do you?  Depending on where you go, the winter brings about some serious considerations for clothing.  In the interior of Alaska, winter temperatures can get to -50 degrees Fahrenheit which is extremely cold.  That’s for both high and low temperatures, there is little relief.

For the most part, southeast Alaska won’t see Alaska’s extreme temperatures and will hover around freezing much of the time.  South central areas, around the Kenai and Anchorage can see everything from freezing to below negative 20 Fahrenheit.

At minimum, most of Alaska proper requires a warm parka and some sort of insulated jeans or other insulated pants.  If you plan on spending time outdoors, several layers of thermal clothing will be required for both top and bottom.  A lot of us Alaskans wear Carhartt arctic bibs for extended outdoor adventures.  Make sure you have a nice and warm hat, too, and a balaclava will be essential if you want to spent hours outside.

Even if your plan includes dashing in and out of warm places, you should be prepared for the cold.  Unexpected vehicle breakdowns could be life threatening if you aren’t ready for it.

If you’re not sure what to bring and want be prepared, honestly, we would suggest outfitting your winter wear up here.  Few places in the lower-48 are experienced with Alaska’s cold temperatures and you will get better advice and gear selection from our outfitters.  Prices for clothing here are not too out of line.  If you’re planning on visiting small towns, like Nome or Kotzebue, be sure to prepare well ahead of time because your options will be highly limited in Alaska’s villages.


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