Making the trek from the Midwest to Alaska was definitely a lot farther and a lot colder than I was used to. But this was the trip that has been on my bucket list for many years. While I do live in Illinois, where it does snow and get cold, the coldness level in Alaska is on a whole different chart.
When I arrived in Alaska it was 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Now Illinois has had below zero weather, but it is rare and everything moves a little slower. In Alaska, cold weather is the norm, and so packing the right clothing is crucial especially in relation to what you are doing. Here is what I packed for my seven-day trip in Anchorage, Alaska.
The coat is everything. This is the layer that will battle against the wind and snow, while keeping you toasty warm. Having a good quality coat is crucial to not freezing every time you step outside. Invest in a good quality coat, I recommend one that is longer as it will cover more of your body. The Women’s Sun Valley Down Parka coat from Eddie Bauer is what I chose, and I got it on Black Friday for 50% off plus a 10% student discount.
If you are going to do any activity outside during your time in Alaska then you need snow pants, nuff said. Unless I was just walking around town, then I was wearing my snow pants. They were perfect for dog sledding, Twilight Photography Tour, and Matanuska Glacier Tour. These are from Patagonia and I actually got them on sale a few months ago so I am unsure if they are still available, I couldn’t find them to link.
Layers under coat and snow pants
So now that you have the outer layer, you’ll want to look at choosing layers for underneath. This can consist of two layers: base layer and mid layer. You may not need all off them as it is based on what you are doing during your time in Alaska.
This will be the layer closest to your body, because many base layer shirts use reflective material to use your body heat to keep you warm. The shirt I got from Columbia on Cyber Monday for 25% off. Unfortunately, I could not find base layer leggings that fit my long legs and because I was on a budget I chose to go with a pair of leggings I knew I would wear more after the trip, even though they were more expensive.
These leggings are from Lorna Jane and they are lined with fleece. You want to make sure the leggings fit well since you will be moving a lot and don’t want to have to keep pulling them up once you have all your layers on. These were purchased months ago so I could not find them.
The mid layer is typically a thick sweater for around town or a heavier pullover/zip-up for activities in the snow. The Patagonia grey quarter zip and the Patagonia quarter snap-up were only two of three items I bought not on sale; however, they are good quality products that I can wear at other times. I would wear either over the base layer or a long sleeve tee shirt and be nice and toasty on the mountain side. Or wear them by themselves under my coat in town.
The sweaters I took were in exchange for the Patagonia pullovers and worn for when I was in town or low impact activities. The blue cowl neck sweater is from Columbia and I got it on sale during their 25% off Cyber Monday sale.
A mid layer for the bottoms would be jeans and I would only wear the jeans in town without the snow pants. Jeans get wet and stay wet so easily they are not good for activities on the mountain side. One day it was particularly cold so I wore my fleece leggings under the jeans, so I would recommend not using skinny jeans if you are going to layer like that. These jeans are from Old Navy and I got them during their sale earlier this fall.
To keep your feet warm and dry you need to invest in some good quality boots. I actually took two pairs because it was recommended to do so, since one pair may need to dry out after a long day out in the snow. My first pair I took are my ginormous meant for a blizzard snow boots. They keep my feet toasty, but are a bit heavy to walk in if I am just wandering downtown. I have had these boots for so many years that I do not know where I bought them or even the brand. However, they are still in good shape because I don’t do a lot of snow shoveling living in an apartment.
My other pair is Sorel brand and this is the third item out of three that I bought full-price. These will be perfect for walking around town and then walking to classes back home. While they keep my feet warm they are not over powering. The large boots I talked about above are what I use to wear to class after a big snow, and my feet would roast during class and they are incredibly heavy. Having these lighter boots are great for low snow winter trips.
Your five-year-old holey socks should not make the cut for this trip. Instead, invest in wool socks that at least go up to mid-calf to avoid them falling off in your boots. I got a couple pairs from Dick’s Sporting Goods and they had them buy one get one free as a Christmas special. The other pairs are by the brand Smart Wool and I have had them for a few years.
I chose to take two pairs of gloves, one for playing in the snow and another for walking around town and such. I really tried to pick gloves that would allow me to still handle my camera without taking them off because my fingers don’t like to be cold! The snow gloves are from Eddie Bauer once again got them on Black Friday for 25% off and the ___ gloves I think are from Dick’s Sporting Goods. That’s where I have seen them at least, but I got these as a gift last winter.
Well, unfortunately when I actually made it to Alaska I learned that while mittens are difficult to function in, but they are warmer than anything. So I ultimately I went out and bought the Gordan mittens for 40% off in an Alaska store. I also got liners to go inside because then when I take out my hand to take a picture it was not fully exposed, but then back into a toasty warm mitten. Get mittens not gloves. Seriously, it’s a lifesaver.
I cannot stress the importance of having a hat, and the right kind of hat. You lose the most heat from your head, and so if you are cold it is always said to put a hat on. Now you want to make sure you get the right hat. My red hat that traveled with me through my Alaskan trip is from Eddie Bauer. Yes, it is more expensive than an Old Navy hat, but that Eddie Bauer hat has fleece around the rim protecting my ears. Fleece is king in Alaska.
Earmuffs are something I have always wanted, but I am very particular about what I want them to look like. Then while in Alaska, I was inside a store that was having 40% off storewide sale and the earmuffs were there. They were already inexpensive and then adding the 40% off I was in love with them. They are perfect for walking around downtown, because I don’t know about you but my hair gets crazy when I take a hat off. Love my red hat to death, but the earmuffs are beautiful as well.
When it comes to protecting your neck and face I took two keys items with me. First, there is something called a turtle neck, which is essentially a circle piece of fleece that goes around your neck and can be pulled up to below your nose, protecting more of your face. Then, I had an infinity scarf that added extra protection to my neck and chest. The one I got is from Eddie Bauer, and was once again on sale for 50% off and an additional student discount.
I know a lot of items aren’t linked, but that’s how I saved money is using Black Friday sales. Which in the end means those items are gone, but this only shows how great it is to buy before Christmas.
Being prepared for Alaska is all about layers, and more importantly the right layers to keep you warm so you can enjoy your time outside in the beautiful winter wonderland.