The Ultimate Alaska Cruise Packing List
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Vast terrain, mountainous landscape, exciting wildlife, and endless outdoor adventures are just some of the ways that the gorgeous state of Alaska truly lives up to its nickname of “The Last Frontier.” Cruising the unspoiled waters of the 49th state is the trip of a lifetime for most, offering the opportunity to experience a multitude of destinations all within one epic vacation. Viewing the stunning landscape from the water also provides a unique vantage point, whether you’re spotting whales and eagles or marveling at the towering peaks and ancient glaciers.
With Alaska’s fickle weather that can change on a dime, it’s important to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature might throw at you. Layers are crucial, as you can experience the warmth of the sun one minute and wind, rain, or snow the next. It can be overwhelming to pack for a destination in this type of climate as well as the variety of activities that might be on your itinerary. We spoke to Kristin Erz, an expert on cruising in Alaska and the sales director for Hurtigruten Group, to help curate this packing list that'll ensure you have the best trip possible. Essentials range from clothing like the Ibex Wool Aire Hoody to Canon's EOS 6D Mark II camera.
Packing Checklist for an Alaska Cruise
Here’s our top packing picks for a cruise in Alaska, broken down into essential categories. We’ve included specific recommendations that can serve as a great checklist for your trip so you can worry about one less thing as you get ready for an unforgettable journey.
Best Base Layers for Men: Icebreaker Merino 200 Thermal Leggings and Crew Top
Best Base Layers for Women: Kari Traa Smekker Half-zip Baselayer and Baselayer Pants
Best Waterproof Pants: Mountain Hardwear Ozonic Pant for Men and Women
Best Long-sleeved Shirt for Women: Outdoor Research ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Long-sleeve T-shirt
Best Long-sleeve Shirt for Men: Outdoor Research Astroman Long-sleeve Sun Shirt
Best Waterproof and Windproof Jacket: Helly Hansen Loke Jacket for Men and Women
Best Packable Down Jacket: Ibex Wool Aire Hoodie for Men and Women
Best Swimsuit for Men: Columbia Backcast III 8-in Watershort
Best Swimsuit for Women: Left on Friday Sunday Suit
Best Short-sleeve Shirt: Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Shirt for Women and Men
Best Mid-layer: Patagonia RI Air Full-zip Hoody for Men and Women
Best Socks: Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Sock for Men and Women
Best Casual Shoes: Blundstone Classic 550 Chelsea Boot for Men and Women
Gear and Accessories
Best Binoculars: Nocs Provisions Standard Issue 8x25 Waterproof Binoculars
Best Sunglasses: Sunski Madrona
Best Hat: Carhartt Knit Beanie
Best Portable Charger: Anker PowerCore 10000 Portable Charger
Best Sunscreen: Aveeno Positively Mineral Sunscreen
Best Bug Spray: Sawyer Products 20-percent Picaridin Insect Repellent
Best Travel Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
Luggage and Bags
Best Waterproof Bag: Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack
Best Duffle: Eagle Creek No Matter What Duffel Travel Bag
Best Suitcase: Samsonite Centric 2 Hardside Expandable Luggage
T+L's Top Picks and Tips
“The key to packing for Alaska is layers. Although the cruising season happens primarily during the summer months, shorts and T-shirts will be in the minority of your Alaskan wardrobe (sorry!). As the saying goes, ‘There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,’ and so you will want to be prepared for the unpredictability of the weather,” shared Erz.
Fabrics should be moisture-wicking and breathable, suitable for active exploits. Packing casual pieces to hang out in on the boat during transit periods is a good idea as well, as it will maximize comfort. Although you’ll need to pack for a variety of situations, the cruise line you choose will determine if you’ll need to bring something for formal dinners or events.
“Larger lines do have formal nights throughout their sailings (think suits, dresses, and the shoes to match); albeit these evenings are optional for guests, so it may just mean you can’t dine in certain restaurants that evening if you’re not dressed in formalwear,” said Erz. “An expedition cruise line like Hurtigruten Expeditions, for example, has no onboard dress code – so if you want to go into the dining rooms with the same clothing you wore earlier that day exploring, that’s perfectly fine.”
“For cultural activities with Indigenous communities, there isn’t a specific dress code for guests to follow, but we recommend our guests dress respectfully,” Erz added. “Keep it modest and simple, as everyone will be focused on the beautifully designed — and often handmade — clothing and costumes worn by local communities in their daily lives as well as for celebrations and cultural ceremonies.”
Icebreaker Merino 200 Thermal Leggings and Crew Top
Best Base Layers for Men
“A thermal base layer, moisture-wicking/breathable mid-layers and water/windproof outer layers are essential, giving you the flexibility to add and remove layers for warmth and weatherproofing depending on the day's adventure,” Erz said. Icebreaker’s 100 percent merino wool is packed into this crew top and leggings for men, offering the best combination you could want in a base layer.
Price at time of publish: $105 (leggings); $79 (crew top)
Kari Traa Smekker Half-zip Baselayer
Best Base Layers for Women
Super soft and comfortable, this baselayer set not only keeps you warm, but feels great against the skin and doesn’t itch, despite being 100 percent merino wool. Cute patterns and colors make the top and pants a treat to wear, not just under everything else, but on their own as well.
Price at time of publish: $130 (top); $120 (pants)
Mountain Hardwear Men’s Ozonic Pant
Best Waterproof Pants
Waterproof pants will be your best friend in Alaska’s fast-changing weather. Staying dry is your goal when exploring, and these waterproof pants, which are also available for women, are your ticket to comfort in that regard. Their stretch gives you all the mobility you crave while side zips make putting them on and taking them off a breeze. As a bonus, they come in a variety of sizes, including short and long, so they’re suited for almost everyone.
Price at time of publish: $150
Prana Alpine Air Vest
A vest can be the perfect addition to your layering setup, providing core warmth without making you overheat. Bringing a vest that’s packable and doesn’t take up too much space is ideal, but you also want something that keeps you toasty, and this one ticks all those boxes.
“I recommend an insulated vest, one that you can easily roll up and fit into your backpack as you become more active or as the day warms up,” Kristin shared. The Alpine Air Vest also comes in women's sizes.
Price at time of publish: $170
Outdoor Research ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Long-Sleeve T-shirt
Best Long-sleeve Shirt for Women
We love the sun protection built into the Women’s Outdoor Research Activelce Spectrum Long-sleeve shirt. In addition to blocking harmful UV rays, this shirt is perfect for layering or wearing on its own for your Alaskan exploits. Stay warm using the added thumbholes, and the stretchy material won’t stop your range of motion no matter what you choose to do on the ship or off in the pristine Alaskan wilderness.
Price at time of publish: $22
Outdoor Research Astroman Long-sleeve Sun Shirt
Best Long-sleeve Shirt for Men
Stylish while also offering sun protection, the Men’s Outdoor Research Astroman Long-sleeve Sun Shirt is a versatile piece to bring on your Alaska cruise. Breathable fabric and a button-up style means you can wear this to dinner on the ship after a full day of fishing or hiking in Alaska.
Price at time of publish: $95
Helly Hansen Men’s Loke Jacket
Best Waterproof and Windproof Jacket
To save space for packing, it’s wise to get a lightweight jacket that offers both rain and wind protection as an outer layer. Despite offering a shield from the elements, the Loke Jacket is breathable so you won’t end up sweltering within your outer layer. Adjustable cuffs, hood, and waist allow you to tailor it to your fit and style as well. It also comes in women’s sizes.
Price at time of publish: $50
Ibex Wool Aire Hoodie
Best Packable Down Jacket
Available for both women and men, this ultra-lightweight jacket is big on warmth but not on taking up space in your luggage. In fact, it folds up into its own chest pocket, perfect for traveling to Alaska. Filled with merino wool and made of windproof and water-resistant material, this full-zip hooded jacket will easily become a staple in your outerwear lineup.
Price at time of publish: $285
Patagonia Men’s Wind Shield Pants
Windy conditions on land as well as on the ship should be expected at some point during your trip, and Patagonia’s Wind Shield Pants for men and women will keep you warm and comfortable. They’re lightweight, so packing them will be no problem, yet they still offer soft-shell level protection. Comfortable for hiking or any other Alaskan adventures, these pants are a no-brainer to add to your packing list.
Price at time of publish: $169
Columbia Backcast III 8-in Watershort
Best Swimsuit For Men
Wear these swim trunks for water-based activities as well as a casual lunch on the boat. They’re quick-drying with a mesh interior lining and also offer 50 SPF protection from the sun’s UV rays. Their relaxed design can be dressed up or down, and no matter what, you’ll always be ready to hop in the ship’s pool, go for a kayak, or do anything else where water is involved while visiting Alaska.
Price at time of publish: $23
Left on Friday Sunday Suit
Best Swimsuit For Women
For a sporty feel that looks chic, Left on Friday nails it with the Sunday Suit in a soft fabric that fits like a glove. With a variety of sizing options, it’s ideal for all body types and will be suitable for any water-based activity, including pool and hot tub dips on your Alaskan cruise.
Price at time of publish: $170
Patagonia Women’s Quandary Short
These shorts will come in handy on warmer Alaskan days and are suitable for casual or active pursuits. Both the men’s and women’s styles are made of moisture-wicking and quick-dry materials that also move with you on hikes or during your other outdoor adventures. They’ll be the perfect addition to your Alaskan cruise wardrobe when the heat turns up a bit.
Price at time of publish: $38
Patagonia Men’s Capilene Cool Daily Short-sleeve Shirt
Best Short-sleeve Shirt
We like Patagonia’s Capilene Cool shirt for everyday wear, whether you’re doing something casual on your cruise or being active. The fabric is specifically designed to keep you cool and dry when Alaska turns up the temperature. The soft, stretchy fabric also provides flexibility to move with you during your adventures instead of restricting your mobility. A women’s version is also available.
Price at time of publish: $39
Patagonia Women's R1 Air Full-zip Hoody
A fleece or another warm mid-layer is a must on an Alaskan cruise. This one offers a full zip-up style and a hood so you can regulate your temperature and have protection in case of heavier wind. Patagonia also offers it for men.
Price at time of publish: $101
Darn Tough Women’s Light Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Sock
Moisture-wicking socks like these Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion Socks for women and men are ideal for Alaska for both casual pursuits and outdoor adventures. They’ll provide warmth without being too bulky and dry quickly, making them perfect for hiking, kayaking, or exploring historic Gold Rush towns.
Price at time of publish: $24
“Don’t forget about your feet – waterproof hiking shoes or boots are great for comfortably getting you through all kinds of excursions,” Erz says. Without overpacking, you’ll want to make sure you have something comfortable for walking and/or hiking as well as casual shoes for your time hanging out on the ship. Adventure sandals aren’t always necessary but can also make a welcome addition to your list for water-infused exploits.
Danner Men’s Mountain 600
Best hiking shoes
Our favorite hiking boots for both men and women are ready to rock straight out of the box and easily go trail to town. They have many fantastic features like traction and cushion but aren’t too technical in design. Warmth, breathability, and practicality make these a solid choice for Alaska and anywhere else you’ll be exploring the outdoors.
Price at time of publish: $210
Chaco Mega Z Cloud Sandal - Women's
Summer in Alaska can, in fact, have warm weather days, and if you’re trekking to a waterfall, embarking on a trail with a river crossing, or kayaking, you’ll want a pair of sturdy sandals with grip. The Chaco Mega Z Cloud Sandal for women and men offers a cushioned footbed, adjustable straps for a tailored fit, and excellent grip and traction.
Price at time of publish: $75
Blundstone Men’s Classic 550 Chelsea Boots
Best casual shoes
These stylish slip-on boots with a low profile are ideal for going from ship to town, and even a nature walk or easy hike. They offer comfort and versatility and are fashionable enough to pair with jeans or other pants for a casual, but nice dinner look. Women sizes are also available.
Price at time of publish: $220
Once your shoes and apparel are covered, your attention should turn to the equipment that will help you get the most out of your time on the Alaskan waters. With the tools and products below, you'll be as comfortable as possible and able to fully absorb the magnificence of your surroundings.
Nocs Provision Standard Issue 8x25 Waterproof Binoculars
These portable, waterproof binoculars are the perfect addition to your packing checklist for Alaska. Rugged yet lightweight, they’ll help you spot wildlife such as moose, eagles, whales, and other creatures from the cruise ship deck or out on your daily ventures.
Price at time of publish: $95
Sunski Madrona Sunglasses
Polarized, budget-friendly, and ready for outdoor endeavors, the Sunski Madrona are a unisex pair of sunglasses that not only look great, but protect your eyes, too. “This brand has sunglasses that are created for any type of adventure and sustainable,” Erz shared.
Price at time of publish: $58
Carhartt Knit Beanie
A warm hat is a good idea for nighttime on the cruise ship especially, as it can get windy and chilly when the temperature drops. A lightweight beanie should get the job done, and this unisex one by Carhartt does just that and comes in a wide array of colors as well.
Price at time of publish: $20
Anker PowerCore 1000 Portable Charger
Best Portable Charger
Although there are plenty of outlets on board cruise ships for charging, it’s a good idea to have a compact and portable backup power bank when out on excursions, especially if you're using your phone as a camera. This one by Anker is ultra compact and reliable, making it a solid option for travel.
Price at time of publish: $26
Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50
Sunscreen is crucial whether you’re traveling to the beach or the Arctic. The Aveeno Positively Mineral Sunscreen is suitable for sensitive skin and comes in a travel-size container, making it a fantastic choice for an Alaskan cruise, where you will need to apply it for daily outdoor activities.
Price at time of publish: $13
Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent
Best Bug Spray
We love that the Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent offers similar protection to DEET without the potentially harmful effects of using it. This travel-friendly sized insect spray will come in handy on an Alaskan cruise, particularly in the summer months when mosquitos can be prevalent.
Price at time of publish: $9
Canon EOS 6D Mark II Digital SLR Camera Body
Best Travel Camera
There are a lot of fantastic travel cameras out there, but one of our top picks for Alaska is the user-friendly Canon EOS 6D Mark II for its full-frame and low-light capabilities as well as 4K video. You’ll want something more than your smartphone for this type of trip, with interchangeable lenses in order to capture wildlife, wider landscape scenes, and much more.
Price at time of publish: $1,399
“For those avid photographers, Alaska delivers, but it's important to protect your equipment from the elements, [which is] why a dry bag or waterproof backpack is highly recommended,” Erz said. In addition to a dry bag, you’ll need something to bring your clothing and other belongings onto the cruise without having to lug around a giant suitcase, which can be extremely cumbersome and take up too much room in your cabin space.
Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack
Best Waterproof Bag
A dry bag offers waterproofing for your important belongings that you don’t want to get wet, and they’re an absolute must for a cruise to Alaska where you might get caught in wet weather, go kayaking, or participate in other water-based activities. For those that need something on the smaller end, the Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack has options ranging from 1L to 35L. For those that need more storage in a heavier-duty dry bag for things like camera gear, extra clothing, etc., the Hydraulic Dry Pack is an excellent choice; padded straps and a removable hip belt help you carry your items comfortably.
Price at time of publish: $12 (1 liter)
Eagle Creek No Matter What Duffel Travel Bag
A classic duffel bag can be the way to go when packing for an Alaskan cruise. This duffel is spacious with options to hold anywhere from 60 liters to 130 liters – all of your essentials for Alaska. The water-resistant material and hand strap as well as a shoulder strap make this bag perfectly convenient.
Price at time of publish: $90 (large)
Samsonite Centric 2 Hardside Expandable Luggage
If you’re packing in a suitcase for your cruise, you'll want something that's spacious for all your layers as well as easy to maneuver for your travels. This expandable hardside suitcase is easy to roll around with the spinner wheels and there's plenty of room to fill up with two separate sides for organization. As a bonus, it fits in the overhead carry-on space in planes.
Price at time of publish: $224
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best month to take an Alaskan cruise?
<p>“Alaska’s cruise season takes place during summer, so most cruise travelers are headed there from May to September. Although temperatures can be chillier, some cruisers will seek out shoulder season, April to May and September to October, which can offer lower pricing and less crowds compared to the peak months of mid-June to mid-August,” Erz explained.</p>
How many outfits should I pack for a seven-day cruise?
<p>With a need for a mix of practical clothing and layers, outfits for dinner, and more casual wear, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact number of outfits to pack for a week-long Alaskan cruise, which is why it's key to pack lightweight layers when possible. Since you can wear your outer layers more than once and there are laundry services onboard, you will likely only need five to six outfits.</p>
How much luggage can I bring?
<p>“Luggage restrictions are heavily dependent on airline limits, which are typically one suitcase weighing up to [50 pounds]. When packing for a longer adventure, find out if your cruise ship offers self-serve or paid laundry services on board. The use of <a href="https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-tips/packing-tips/best-packing-cubes-for-travel" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="internalLink" data-ordinal="1">packing cubes</a> or vacuum bags are a smart way to further condense what’s going into your suitcase. Merino wool, bamboo and other natural fibers are great anti-odor clothing that can be worn more than once,” Erz said.</p>
What is the best Alaskan cruise route?
<p>If you have less than a two-week period to cruise Alaska, consider a seven-day cruise between Seward or Whittier, Alaska and Vancouver, BC. Experience the highlights of the Inside Passage, including Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Glacier Bay, with the option to extend your stay with a pre- or post-land package into <a href="https://www.travelandleisure.com/trip-ideas/bus-train/alaska-railroad-denali-star" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="internalLink" data-ordinal="1">Denali National Park</a>.</p><p><br/></p><p>If you have more than two weeks to cruise Alaska, consider an in-depth expedition — such as Hurtigruten Expeditions’ <a href="https://www.hurtigruten.com/en-us/expeditions/cruises/?destinations=alaska-cruises&durationIntervals=15-21" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="2" rel="nocaes">18-day</a> journey — that can bring you from the far reaches of Nome, Alaska, around the remote Aleutian Islands, into <a href="https://www.travelandleisure.com/fat-bear-week-alaska-katmai-national-park-6746936" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="internalLink" data-ordinal="3">Katmai National Park</a>, all before exploring the less-touristy towns like Wrangell and fjords of the Inside Passage down to Vancouver, BC.</p>
How far in advance should I book an Alaskan cruise?
<p>“Cruise lines tend to offer their best pricing further out. You will want to start planning your Alaskan voyage about 10-12 months out from departure, especially if you have a certain room category or side of the ship that you want to be on (i.e. if you cruise north or south along the coast, availability of a balcony on the land side tends to fill up faster). Also keep in mind that airfare is best purchased in advance, especially if you need to factor in flights to Anchorage for example, where the ideal flight times and minimal connections can sell out more quickly,” Erz said.</p>
Why Trust Travel + Leisure
An outdoor enthusiast and travel writer, Lauren Breedlove used some of her personal experience traveling to Alaska as well as cruising to write this guide. Additionally, she scoured the internet, researching and selecting the best products for this type of trip. She also interviewed Hurtigruten’s sales director, Kristin Erz, to gather expert insights as well as ask for packing suggestions.
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