The Ultimate Female Travel Packing List for Southeast Alaska

susan in alaska

This guest post is brought to you by Susan of Travel Junkette.

Southeast Alaska is one of the rainiest places on earth. But don’t let that deter you; it is also one of the most beautiful.

Of course, there are stretches of the summer that you could visit during that you wouldn’t experience a drop of rain. But unlikely. And even if it is clear, the weather will still be cool. So to enjoy a trip to Southeast Alaska, it is essential that you pack correctly.

Having worked there for one summer, about to start my second, I’ve learned a few rules: wear fleece, wool, and quick-dry synthetics – not cotton, layers are your friend, and always pack a rain jacket. Always.

A popular phrase among Alaskans is that, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment.” With that in mind, here’s your ultimate packing list!

camping in alaska

Clothing

Wool tops (2) – Warm, quick-drying, and odor-resistant, these should be in everybody’s wardrobe, and especially those who are traveling to a rainy climate. Try anything by Icebreaker.

Waterproof rain jacket – Note that I said waterproof and not water-resistant. Be sure to check the label – they aren’t the same thing! My favorite is the Precip Jacket by Marmot.

Synthetic down or fleece jacket – It can get pretty cold at night, even in the height of summer. Synthetic down doesn’t get wet and gross. I love my Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket.

Quick dry trekking pants – For playing outside, you’re going to want pants that will dry quickly while you’re on the go.

Breatheable, quick-dry tees (2) – Noticing a trend here? These quick-dry shirts work perfectly for layering.

Sweater/hoody – For the nights that aren’t quite cold enough to warrant a jacket.

Jeans – You’re not planning on wearing your quick-dry pants to the bar, are you?

Flannel shirt – For going out, this is what I usually wear (with jeans) to “dress up.”

Baseball cap – Not only does it mean you won’t have to brush your hair, but, more importantly, it will keep the rain off of your face.

Warm hat & gloves – During chilly nights near the water, you are going to be glad you brought these!

Sweatpants/yoga pants – Preferably not made of cotton, but you’ll mostly be wearing these in your sleeping bag, so it’s not a big deal either way.

Panties (5) & sports bras (2)

Wool socks (5) – SmartWool socks rule.

susan in southeast alaska


Shoes

Xtra Tuff rain boots – Also known as the Alaskan sneaker, these are essential if you want to really fit in. They are made of neoprene and are flexible, warm, and waterproof. Perfect for kayaking and other water sports.

Waterproof hiking boots/sneakers – Merrell makes some great ones for women.

Toiletries

I wouldn’t worry about this one too much. Make-up and hair are, um, not too big of a concern while traveling in Southeast Alaska. Maybe all that’s needed is waterproof mascara, a quick-dry towel, and some good chapstick.

alaska

Outdoors Equipment

Tent – Hopefully, you’ll be doing a lot of camping on your trip. In my opinion, it’s the best way to make the most of your Southeast Alaska experience. Make sure your tent isn’t “summer-only.”

Synthetic-fill sleeping bag – Once again, down isn’t great, because after it gets damp… it stays damp.

Camping stove/cooking supplies – To cook that fresh fish you just caught!

Headlamp – Screw the flashlight, a headlamp is what you need.

Binoculars – Southeast Alaska is bursting with wildlife. Binoculars are essential for long-distance viewing.

Pocketknife – Sooo many uses.

Insect repellent – Mosquitoes can get nasty in the summertime.

Sunscreen/sunglasses – A girl can hope, can’t she?!

black bear

Miscellaneous

Day pack – You’ll need this for hiking (so you can carry those extra layers!)

Camera – Southeast Alaska is insanely photogenic. Waterproof cameras (with floating keychains) are ideal, and the Olympus Tough is an affordable option.

Sea sickness meds/bands – The best way to see the Inside Passage is by boat, so if you are prone to sea sickness (or even if you think you’re not), these are a good idea.

Eye shade – In the summertime, it is sometimes only dark from 10 pm to 5 am. If you want to sleep in at all, be sure to bring this along.

Watch – The time can get confusing with all those hours of daylight!

Plastic bags – So you don’t have to pack wet clothes alongside all your dry ones.

Swimsuit – Just in case you want to create your very own polar bear challenge!

Final Note: Alaska is like the rest of the United States in that credit cards are widely accepted, and ATMs are plentiful. And yes, they do take American dollars (it’s shocking how many people ask that)!

Have fun, and say hi to the bears for me!

Susan Shain has been working ungrownup seasonal jobs and traveling the world for the past four years. Follow her Alaskan adventures on her blog, Travel Junkette. You can also catch her on Twitter.

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Travel Resources

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Rebecca says

    How perfect is the timing of this! I seriously just booked my airfare to Alaska less then an hour ago and will be booking a tour with Gap tomorrow…Tours, I know, I know…but that is what happens when you only have 2ish weeks a year for vacation!

  2. Christine says

    The thing I wish I had in Alaska was leg warmers! For some reason the cold wind cut right up my pant legs. my ankles and valves were the only parts of me that got cold!

    • Susan @ Travel Junkette says

      Haha, I never thought about leg warmers! I guess I haven’t need them, because my SmartWool socks are nice and long – they go all the way up to my knees. And then my Xtratufs go over them. But legwarmers are warm AND practically haute couture for Alaska! Great idea!

  3. Jessica says

    I love your post,& your site! I Stumbled upon you via Pinterest because I’m obsessed with making sure I have everything i need packed!
    I’m going to be working in Denali in Alaska for the summer, would you say that this list is fairly similar to what I should pack for May-September? Just wondering because I know Southern Alaska is a bit different.

    • Susan @ Travel Junkette says

      Hey Jessica! So glad you found my post, and it sounds like Her Packing List is a great site for you! Denali is going to be quite different than SE Alaska, but many of the items you pack will be the same. There’s not nearly as much rain in Denali, so you don’t need to worry so much about rain gear (though I’d still bring it, because weather in AK is unpredictable). It’ll also be warmer up there, since you’ll be inland. But quick-dry and outdoorsy/casual clothes will still be the norm. Hope that helps!

  4. Adriana says

    Susan, your list is a life saver! I’ll be working near Talkeetna for the summer and was quite beside myself trying figure out what to pack and how to stay under the 50lb checked baggage limit. I’m curious, would cotton/synthetic blend shirts be ok? They work fine for me in the south were 90% humidity is a way of life.

    • Susan @ Travel Junkette says

      Hey Adriana! Delighted to be of help. Talkeetna is supposed to be wonderful — I’m so excited for you! I bet cotton/synthetic blend shirts would work fine up there. This list is for SE Alaska, where the weather is a LOT rainier than where you’ll be. Still, I bet a lot of the items needed will be similar. Have an awesome time, and let me know how your summer goes over at my blog!

  5. jacinta montgomery says

    Thank you so much, Susan……your advice has been such a big help with a trip coming up…will head off to my local camping shop for more appropriate clothing than I was originally going to take…your advice will most likely mean we have a much more comfortable and enjoyable trip.
    Thank you again
    Jacinta M.

  6. Miranda says

    How warm of a sleeping bag would cut it? I’m headed to SE Alaska (Haines) for a summer internship (early May to early August) and really like to backpack, so if I can take my 40 degree bag instead of my 20 degree, it would save tons of space and weight!

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