Desperate Packing Filter: A Month in Alaska!!?
September 8, 2007 8:37 PM   Subscribe

Starting next week, I'm going to be spending four lovely weeks in Anchorage, Alaska and the surrounding area. All I get to bring with me is what I can lug on the plane of course... and I don't want to be 4000 miles from home without the essentials! What should I bring to be appropriately dressed for the weather?

Planning for the weather and for my shoes is my biggest problem. I'll be in Anchorage from September 15 until October 18. I've been trying to read up on the weather but it seems like things vary so much, I've just gotten myself more confused.

How cold and wet will it actually be? If I plan on doing some day-hiking, should I bring my waterproof boots or will sneakers suffice? Do I need a ski coat? Or will an anorak for casual days and a trench for dressy/work do the trick? Are there any items I would need for this time of year in Alaska that I haven't thought about? This might seem like a silly question, but such items are bulky and I have to bring enough clothes for work, play, and semi-formal occasions to last me the entire month (not to mention reference books and my laptop). So on that note, any tips for packing bulky things like shoes and winter gear? (I was planning on maybe wearing my coat, and boy will I look silly boarding a plane in Pittsburgh in 80 degree weather wearing a ski coat!)

I only get 2 suitcases and a carry-on, guys. You were great last time, helping me find a place to stay in DC while I'm on these crazy rotations... hopefully some Mefites who are familiar with Alaska can give me some good advice! :)
posted by keribear to Travel & Transportation around Anchorage, AK (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My parents were just in Alaska a few weeks ago. Unfortunately (for you), it's too late for me to call them tonight to find out what they'd recommend you bring... but I'll be sure to ask them tomorrow.
posted by Poolio at 8:48 PM on September 8, 2007

I currently live in Anchorage, used to live in Fairbanks, born in Homer; I've lived in Alaska all of my life. There will probably be a bit of snow, but not enough to stick yet. Temperatures will probably be in the mid-40s to maybe high-30s.

What kind of semi-formal occasions? Being in Alaska, there really aren't many occasions that call for anything more than a clean pair of slacks and button-down shirt, even for a woman. Unless the semi-formal occasions have been designated as such by your work, I wouldn't plan on a fancy suit/dress. But then, I guess that depends on the nature of your work.

As for hiking, sneakers will probably do you just fine if you have good heavy socks. I wouldn't wear a ski coat that early in the season, so a jacket will do you just fine. Otherwise, I suggest layering. You can always take layers off, but you can't add layers that you don't have. A different combination of the same layers can look like an entirely different outfit.

Really, if you have access to laundry services while you are here, two large suitcases and a large carry on (plus your one personal bag - which can be pretty darn big) should do you just fine.

If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me. My email is in my profile.
posted by rhapsodie at 9:43 PM on September 8, 2007

Another Alaskan here. Formal means ditch the Xtra Tuffs for the evening. Seriously, you won't need anything more formal than what qualifies as casual Friday wear down south. I live in SE where it pisses down rain in a constant stream and I find that walking around in my semi-waterproof Keen sneakers gets the job done, even on several hour hikes. Wear wool socks. They'll keep your feet warm even if they get wet. Don't pack a winter coat, just dress for cold fall weather. Plus, shopping in Anchorage is option city so you could always pick up something.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:39 AM on September 9, 2007

My family and I just got back from spending most of August in Alaska, in Anchorage and up to Fairbanks and down to Homer and Seward. Bring rain clothes. Bring layers. Someone above said to dress for fall weather, and I think that's absolutely correct. I would however, if you're planning to hike, bring a lightweight pair of boots - not big heavy trail stompers, but more than tennis shoes for sure, but that's just what I'm more comfortable in. Anything you forget, you can buy in Anchorage, chain stores abound. Fred Meyer is great for discount stuff (think Walmart, but nicer and not icky). There's an REI and a Borders books and big grocery stores. In some ways, unless you get out of Anchorage, you'll hardly know you've left home, retail-wise.
posted by jvilter at 6:24 AM on September 9, 2007

Best answer: I'm from Michigan, and have spent a lot of time in the Upper Peninsula (UP). Also, I had the chance to spend a week in Fairbanks a couple of years ago, and found it pretty similar to the UP, in terms of what to wear.

Here's what I would bring (suggestions linked, but they are pretty expensive - just take whatever equivalent you have):

- Definitely layer. Bring t-shirts (short and long sleeved), a few sweaters/sweatshirts, and a lightweight jacket, and that should be enough. Like rhapsodie said, you don't need to bring all that much to mix things up - you can wear a short-sleeved t-shirt over a long-sleeved one, for example. Also, people in Alaska are going to be waaaaay less fashion-focused than in DC - in my experience, nobody really cares what you wear.

- A hybrid sneaker/hiking boot is a great choice. Something with Gore-Tex lining is even better. (I'm thinking of something like the Drifter Gore-Tex on the linked page.) You'll be able to wear these pretty much all the time - take a pair that's already broken-in.

- Wool socks are good; if you have them, or can afford to buy a few pairs, I'd get some Smartwools. These are pretty much the only socks I wear anymore - they're expensive, and worth every penny. Get something longer - it will really help you stay warm.

- A good jacket. Something with multiple layers would be best. I have a basic polartec jacket, and find that it works well even in the rain. (Real polartec, not that imitation fleece stuff.) When I layer underneath this jacket, I'm perfectly warm. Something with a hood might help keep your neck even warmer.

- Stocking hat. I have a couple in different weights - a cotton one for fall weather, and a wool with earflaps and fleece lining for the really cold days. Earflaps may look silly to you, but if you're worried about being cold, go with the earflaps.

- In case it gets really cold, mittens - these are my favorites (though they don't seem that easy to come by these days).

- A lightweight scarf won't take up much room in your luggage, and can add a lot of warmth.

I definitely agree with Foam Pants about not needing anything that would approach "semi-formal" in the lower 48, unless there's an event you already know about that will require clothing like that. In my opinion, bringing clothes like that would be a waste of precious luggage space, since I doubt you'll wear anything remotely dressy while you're in Alaska.

On the plane, wear your heaviest shoes. Yes, a pain to take on/off at the airport, but it will save some space in your suitcases.
posted by splendid animal at 3:22 PM on September 9, 2007

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