An Alaskan journey has specific packing requirements, and Jocelyn Pride has the lowdown.
Leave the stilettos at home, Alaska is all about exploring the great outdoors in comfort. Follow these tips and be prepared for weather conditions that can change as fast as the flick of a whale’s fluke.
Your shoes need to be your best friend, so definitely no newbies. Hiking boots have come a long way in style and comfort – lightweight, waterproof and long lasting, a good pair is worth its weight in Alaskan gold. Supportive trainers with solid traction are enough for less active excursions and keep your tootsies toastie with woollen or synthetic socks rather than cotton, which absorbs moisture like a sponge.
Modern fabrics now make it easy to pack light but right. To make the most of your time in the Last Frontier, dress in layers and make sure each layer is specifically designed for its function.
The layer against your skin is the most important as it manages perspiration. It’s worth investing in a couple of top quality base layers (long and short sleeved) made of lightweight merino wool because they wick away moisture and don’t retain body odour. Mid layers such as a polar fleece or light sweater work as insulation, and you’ll want an outer layer to protect against rain and wind; choose a rain jacket (preferably with a hood) made of waterproof fabric such as Gore-Tex, eVent or NeoShell.
Quick-dry lightweight hiking-style pants are the most practical for excursions as they move with you, give sun protection and are moisture wicking. Waterproof over pants are also handy for those just-in-case moments.
It’s the little things
Although Alaska can be a four-seasons-in-one-day place all year round, it’s still worth considering what time of year you’re travelling. In summer, temperatures can even soar into the mid to high twenties. It’s also bug time, so pack spray and pop in a head net to put over a wide-brimmed hat. Sunshine in Alaska is deceptively strong, you’ll need good sun protection and take a strap for your sunglasses – you’d hate to lose them overboard while looking for whales. With long daylight hours during summer, you may need an eye mask to sleep at night.
However, even on warm days, if the ship pulls into a glacial area, you’ll feel the chill, especially on your face and fingers. Glove liners are light and flexible and provide good warmth even when worn alone. Scarves and neck warmers are lifesavers – a tube style made of microfibre is a great choice as it can’t fall off, doubles as a cleaning cloth for camera lenses, glasses etc, and works to cover your mouth and nose on extra chilly days.
A light day pack will be invaluable; you’ll need it to carry your reusable water bottle (Alaska is a pristine environment and this will help keep the state green), your binoculars (for wildlife spotting) and your camera (along with extra batteries and cards, so you never miss a Kodiak moment).
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