Last Updated on February 23, 2020
If you are here, probably you are planning a trip to Alaska, and need packing list. It is one of our favorite states in the U.S. because Alaska is a paradise for photographers. If you love landscapes, mountains, and wildlife, this is one of the most beautiful places to visit and take amazing photos.
It is worth preparing well for the trip to Alaska. The most important thing is to pack appropriately. It might be challenging. The weather in Alaska changes very often. During our trip, we experienced sunny days, rainy days, windy days, and cold days (freezing). And believe us, all of this you can feel in one day! So the weather can be unpredictable even in summer, which is the best time to visit Alaska.
That’s why when going on vacation to Alaska, you have to get ready for four seasons. Especially if you are going to the mountains or you are planning a cruise.
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We share our experience of what is worth taking to Alaska. How to prepare and what to take for a trip to Alaska? And what to wear in Alaska? So the best tip we can give you what to wear in Alaska is layers. To dress in layers will prepare you for changing weather. We take into account various activities in Alaska: bear watching, camping, and hiking in Denali, wildlife watching, cruises in Alaska, kayaking, or flightseeing with landing on glaciers. There are so many amazing activities you can take during your holidays in Alaska. If you do any of them, it will be for sure a memorable trip for you. We experienced most of these activities, and we give you lots of recommendations on what to do in Alaska in our 10 Days Alaska Itinerary for 2020.
Here we share opinions about essentials you need to pack for Alaska. We hope our advice on what equipment to take and what to wear on an Alaskan vacation, including various activities, will make your packing process more comfortable.
Alaska Photography Gear Packing List
We have a shared passion – travel and photography. Chris has been photographing for 30 years, and his first camera was medium format. Most of his travels focused on U.S. Agnes has been photographing for 15 years, and her adventure with photography began in India and Nepal. She spent many nights in the darkroom concentrating on developing films and enjoying the magic of the image. Photography gives both of us great joy and fulfillment, and we like to spend time together taking photos. Most of all, we love wildlife and landscape photography. That’s why photography has motivated our travel choices. It’s hard to get up in the morning for work, but it is never difficult to get up before sunrise to take photos in a magic place.
Therefore, before each travel, we must decide what photography equipment and what camera accessories to take with us. It is not an easy task. Each of us uses a different brand of camera, and we have no way to exchange it between us. Agnes is a big fan of Nikon, and Chris is in love with Canon. However, we are still together. And of course, we always discuss which camera for wildlife is better, and which wildlife lens is the best or which is the best lens for bird photography… Never-ending story 😉 But first of all, we travel and take photos for many years. Here we share our experience with our camera gear packing list for Alaska’s journey.
Cameras and Lenses
For the trips to Alaska, we usually add one or two camera bodies and two or three lenses for each camera to the Alaska packing list. In the case of Canon, it’s Canon 1DX (best camera for nature and wildlife photography, but probably too heavy for you, so do not take it as a recommendation please) and Canon EOS R (very light and modern mirrorless camera). In the case of Nikon, it is D750 – an optimal choice for traveling photographers. Light camera with excellent quality sensor and very ergonomic.
Regarding the lenses, it’s good to have three of them:
- Ultra-wide Lens. In the case of Canon, we recommend EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM or EF 16-35mm f/2.8L or cheaper 17-40mm f/4L EF Ultra Wide Angle. In Nikon system, it’s good to have Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED or Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR.
- Standard zoom lens. In the case of Canon, we recommend EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM or EF24-105mm F4L IS II USM. In the Nikon system, it’s good to have Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR or Nikon 24-120mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S NIKKOR VR.
- Tele photo lens for wildlife and landscape you have choice between lighter EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS/Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR or EF 70-200mm f/4L is II USM/Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR and heavier but more flexible Canon wildlife lens like EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM or Nikon wildlife lens like AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR.
If you already have a camera and lens, you must pack it somehow. In most cases, the best option is to use a camera dedicated backpack. Still, sometimes, if you must take the camera for a multi-day hike. The only option is to pack your gear in a daypack or regular trekking backpack, because you must have it together with sleeping bag, tent, etc.
But let’s consider the situation where you have the comfort to pack your gear to a dedicated camera backpack. For many years Chris was a big fan of Lowepro products because they are excellent quality and designed smartly. But a couple of years ago, he discovered Think Tank and felt in love with those backpacks. Now the main backpack he uses is Think Tank Airport Commuter. It fits perfectly with airplane hand luggage size and is very comfortable to carry photo gear. Moreover, it has space to fit all equipment required for a trip to Alaska and other destinations.
Agnes is more focused on universal backpack and uses Genesis Denali. It is light and does not protect your gear at the same level as Think Tank, but is still good enough and much cheaper. So we recommend to consider this backpack if it meets your expectations.
Tripods and heads
It is not easy to decide on a good tripod. Does the question arise if, in the era of high ISO and image stabilization, we still need a tripod? The answer is easy – yes, if you want to create epic pictures, you must have a tripod and work with low ISO. Then another question arises – should it be light or heavy and steady? And here the answer is not easy. Very lightweight tripods are usually useless because they are not stable enough. Heavier tripods are better because they are very sturdy. But you must carry them, and weight matter is you go for trekking. It is the topic for a separate article. Here we want to show you only our choices for Alaska trips.
We got used to Sirui tripods for two reasons. First, they are built very well and reminds good Gitzo tripods for a quarter of the price. Second, they are cheap. We do not want to spend too much money for a tripod – isn’t it better to move this budget to lenses?
But tripods are not everything. To attach the camera to the tripod in a flexible way, you will need some head as well. After years of testing different solutions, we ended up with ball heads. And the best ball head we figured out on the market considering quality and price seems to be Kirk BH3. It uses arca swiss standard plates that are universal and standardized not only for cameras but for telephoto lenses as well.
One more thing worth considering is L-bracket. In the case of the ball head, it allows you to use your camera in a vertical or horizontal position and turned out to be a perfect solution for us. It gives you the full expected flexibility to set up your camera and take the dreamed picture. The only problem is that L-bracket must be dedicated precisely to your specific camera, so be careful about buying one and make sure it fits.
Every good photographer at some moment in time grows up to acquire some set of basic filters. Sometimes the collection is expanded over time, and sometimes you stay with your favorite set for years. So it’s the right approach to buy once and buy a good set. What we can do is to share our experience in this matter.
Filters are useful mainly in landscape photography, and nowadays, with modern software is less and less critical. But still rule number one is to take the best possible photo on the spot and do not count too much on postproduction. It is why we still keep carrying our filter sets.
Again, the filter topic is so broad, we can dedicate a particular article to them, but here we would like to share only recommendations for the Alaska trip. And it is simple. You will need a minimum one, optimum three, and maximum several filters.
With memory cards, it is easy. You always should buy the fastest and most reliable ones. For years we were using SanDisk and Lexar CF and SD cards. We never had any issues with them, so that we can recommend them to you. It doesn’t make sense to save on cards because, for sure, you do not want to lose your pictures because of a card failure.
Beyond cameras and lenses
For our last trip to Alaska, we decided to take some more gear. And it was the right choice because we were delighted with the results. We have taken two things:
- DJI Osmo Pocket – a tiny and good quality camera that can produce 4K videos.
- DJI Mavic Air – a small foldable drone to get pictures and videos from a different perspective.
With the recent one, please remember that you need to register it with FAA to fly in the USA, and you are not allowed to operate in national parks.
Alaska Best Backpacking Gear List
Here is our essential trekking gear to Alaska. Whether you’re planning a road trip or heading deep into the backcountry on one nights or a week, the right pack and adventure-ready apparel make all the difference. Camping in Alaska, especially in Denali National Park, is a fantastic experience. Above all we love mountains hiking and camping in the wilderness. Our trekkings are often harsh. After that we like to lie in the tent and listen to the sounds of nature or looking at the stars or to rest in a hammock hanging from a tree. That’s why we share with you our experience of what to pack for Alaska wilderness, including trekking clothes and trekking gear. If you are going camping in Denali National Park or would like watching a brown bear in Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, check our camping gear list to Alaska.
Even if you are going on a one-day hike and you do not intend to camp, this list will be helpful to prepare you to visit Alaska for any type of adventure. We share with you our essential backpacking gear list for a trip to Alaska, and our subjective opinion about the best-hiking clothes we use during our travels. Below it’s our hiking equipment list, especially ultralight backpacking gear. We recommend the best shoes for Alaska trip and what to wear in Alaska trip.
- Hiking boots. Waterproof outdoor boots are essential in every travel, especially if you are going for a hike in the mountains. Our choice is Mammut. We hiked in Mammut boots many miles on challenging trails. These hiking boots are great for harsh weather conditions. They are reliable and comfortable. They have excellent traction so that you can hike even in mud or snow. So most importantly is to have good quality, comfortable hiking boots.
- Walking boots. It’s good to have a pair of lighter mind hiking boots or trekking sandals. Agnes’ likes her closed-toed Kenn sandals. They are great when you have to cross a river. Chris’s choice is mind hiking waterproof boots.
- Socks. Good moisture-wicking socks are must-have during your trip to Alaska. Our choice is Merino Wool Hiking Socks, which are incredibly soft and warm and have natural wicking and odor-resistant properties. As a result, keep you dry and comfortable while active in cold weather.
- Hiking underwear. First of all, you need high quality and quick dry underwear, for the reason that it’s essential to feel comfortable during your hiking and camping. So choose well your travel underwear. For Agnes best hiking underwears are sports bra and quick dry women’s outdoor bikini. Chris’ choice is breathable travel boxers.
- Long sleeve thermal base layers. As we mentioned, the weather in Alaska is unpredictable. That’s why layered clothing will help you get ready for any conditions. Right thermal underwear is essential during hiking or nights in a tent. We always take with us a minimum of two sets of long-sleeved thermal underwear. Chris likes Merino Wool Thermal Pants, which are breathable and keeping you fresh in summer and warm in winter. His choice is also Long Sleeve Thermal Shirt ,which keeps you dry and comfortable while active in cold weather, and it’s super soft. Agnes’ option is set Midweight Stretch Long Sleeve Top and Women’s Tight for it, which is soft and warm and helps stayed warm without overheating. We always choose a set with the highest weight (230-250gm) to protect us against cold and a set with an average weight (180-200gm).
- Flees jacket. Agnes loves her Kuhl jacket. It’s one of the best she ever had because it’s warm enough and comfortable. This jacket is excellent for everyday layering in chilly weather. It also has big pockets for necessary gear as smartphone and even small lens. Chris’ choice is Mammut, which is warm and great as a layer as well.
- Windstopper jacket. Windproof and warm jacket in the mountains is a must-have. Windbreaker is ideal for backpacking and hiking. Chris’ choice is a softshell jacket, Agnes’ choice is hooded softshell jacket.
- Waterproof rain jacket. This type of light coat is essential. We like gore-tex technology, for the reason that it is perfect for hiking and backpacking. Agnes has Black Dimond Rain Shell. The jacket is of excellent quality and is suitable for mountain climbing. Chris’ choice is Marmot Gore-Tex Jacket.
- Puffer jacket. It’s great to have ultra-light fill goose down jackets because they are so warm and easily packable that you can keep it in the pocket. We love this technology. Agnes’ choice is The North Face Thermoball Hoodie, Chris’ choice is Eddie Bauer Downlight Jacket. They help us stay warm during chilly mornings and evenings in camp.
- Hiking pants. We prefer light waterproof outdoor trousers which are also windproof. Therefore our choices are Soft Shell Waterproof Thin Fleece Pants for Chris, and Quick Drying Lightweight Hiking Pants for Agnes.
- Hiking shorts. For a hot day, it’s good to have one pair of hiking shorts.
- Short sleeve thermal t-shirt. It’s good to have one or two short sleeve t-shirt. When it’s a hot day this t-shirt helps you to stay dry.
- Warm hat. When the weather is chilly, it’s good to have a warm Windstopper hat.
- Gloves. We prefer windproof and warm Touchscreen Gloves because they are useful while taking photos.
- Windproof band. We like headbands. Agnes likes Buff headbands, Chris prefers polar ear band.
- Swimsuit. Are you surprised? A swimwear is necessary. On warm days you can bathe in the river. And if you read our text about 10 our favorite places in Alaska, you will see that one of the best for us is Chena Hot Springs. After trekking or a few nights in a tent, it’s great to relax of natural hot springs in Alaska.
- Sunglasses. Yes, it’s essential. There is a lot of sunny days during Alaska summer. Certainly, it’s good to have sunglasses.
- Hat or cap. Agnes loves classic wool hats that protect hair before the sun. Chris prefers caps.
- Hiking backpack. It’s essential for your trekking clothes and camping gear. Most importantly is that the backpack has to be comfortable so that it doesn’t burden your spine. Our choice is Deuter. These backpacks are of excellent quality. They lie on your back very well. Trekking with them is a pleasure. Agnes choice is Deuter Aircontact Lite 60 for women. Chris has Deuter Aircontact Lite 65 for men. They are stable, solid, and have a lot of space for equipment. The necessary camping gear with a tent and a hammock will fit, as well as your trekking clothing.
- Lightweight tent. It’s important to have solid backpacking tent. But should be light and easy to put up. We have 2 person tent, which offers a good amount of space and it’s warm inside.
- Lightweight sleeping bag. Light or ultralight sleeping bag is must-have. But most of all it has to be warm. Above all it keeps you healthy. Sleeping bag keeps you comfortable in super cold temperatures, especially in the morning. It’s essential to be warm enough for you otherwise camping will stop being a pleasure. Our choice is Mummy Sleeping Bag.
- Light thermarest sleeping pad. We spent two nights without sleeping pads. We were in a hurry, and we didn’t take them with us to Katmai National Park. As a result sleeping without insulation was tiresome. Although the temperatures were not low, and our sleeping bags are warm, those two nights were not pleasant. Insulation is important. So don’t forget camping mattress with you for camping. Our choice is Thermarest Trail Sleeping Pad, which is self inflating, light, solid foam type, and we enjoy our nights in a tent with this staff.
- Hammock. We love hammocks. After the hike, we hang the hammock on the trees and rest hanging out in it. In addiition it’s great for the spine. We have a light double camping hammock, which allows us to relax together.
- Travel stove. We use ultralight backpacking travel stove to prepare our hot meals while camping. Agnes will not get up without a cup of hot coffee, so for us it is must-have. And don’t forget coffee, matches and camping plates 😉
- Headlamp. It’s must-have on camping and also during the only a one-day hike. Our choice is a waterproof headlamp.
- Camping knife. It should be high quality, from carbon stainless steel. Our choice is Gerber.
- If you are going backpacking or camping, f.e. in Denali National Park you will need also a compass and good map or a watch with GPS if you plan to do anything far from the main road. But we also recommend Handheld GPS because it is really difficult terrain.
- Bear safety. It’s good to take for a camping bear bells and bear spray and bear proof conteiner. You should be prepared for an encounter with a bear in bear country, so check Bears Safety Rules before your trip to Alaska.
Alaska Cruise Packing List
It’s a difference between packing for the sunny Hawaii cruise and what you’ll experience during a cruise in Alaska. Alaskan cruises are amazing. You are so close to nature. You can observe unique animals: orcs, whales, seals, or even polar bears. So if you decide on a wildlife-watching cruise, it’s worth to prepare well for your trip. During the cruise the weather can vary dramatically. Lots of people ask about Alaska cruise packing tips. What to wear on an Alaskan cruise? What gear should I take for the cruise? We share our opinions about cruise clothing and the best equipment for a cruise.
- Binoculars. It’s a great idea to take waterproof binoculars for Alaska cruise, which helps you observing wildlife. It will be much easier to find whales and orcs in the water or seals on the rocks. It’s also great item for birdwatching. You can use it even during other activities, like hiking. Binoculars are essential for spotting wildlife.
- Camera. Photographing Alaska from a cruise ship is an adventure. For sure, you want to take great photos during the cruise. It is a fantastic opportunity for wildlife photography. The best camera for the Alaska cruise is a camera with fast AF because it’s not easy to catch animals in the water. Our choices are: Canon EOS R (Chris’ choice) and Nikon D750 (Agnes’ choice).
- Lens. The best lens for Alaska cruise is lens with zoom. The best will be lens in the range 200-600. We use Canon EF 100-400mm and Nikkor 80-400mm. You can check out our wildlife photos taken with these gears, e.g., in the article about bear watching in Katmai National Park or about our camping in Denali National Park.
- Rain gear for camera. It’s good to take also rain cover protector to your camera and lens. And it’s a great idea to pack your equipment in a waterproof floating backpack in the case on a stormy or rainy day during your cruise.
- Rain cover for smartphone. If you like taking photos by your smartphone you should use a dry bag for it.
What to wear on an Alaskan cruise
Deciding what to wear on a cruise in Alaska depends on what type of cruise you choose, how long it’s going to be your journey, and when you are going. If you are going for longer, then one-day wildlife watching cruise, you should take a mix of formal, casual, and sporty attire to cover all aspects of cruising in Alaska. So clothes to wear on a cruise depends on the kind of cruise. But first of all, your comfort and warmth matter. The weather is unpredictable. We share opinions in clothing that makes you easy to admire and observe wildlife from the deck of the ship. So pack layers as temperatures can vary in Alaska even in summer. Evenings and mornings can be chilly.
- Shoes. Waterproof shoes with good traction are essential because the deck can be slippery. Agnes’ choice is closed-toed Keen sandals for sunny days and mid hiking boots for colder days. Chris prefers Salomon waterproof shoes.
- Rain gear. A good rain jacket (Agnes’ choice) helps you stay dry. Showers are quite often even during summer. Chris likes this gore-tex technology jacket.
- Flees. Agnes uses Kuhl jacket. It’s warm and comfortable. This jacket is great for everyday layering in chilly weather. Chris’ choise is Mammut which is warm and great as a layer as well.
- Thermal base layer. For us, is essential and must-have during our travels. Chris uses Merino Wool Thermal Pants which are breathable and keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter. His choice is also Long Sleeve Thermal Shirt which keep you dry and comfortable while active in cold weather and it’s super soft. Agnes’ option is set Midweight Stretch Long Sleeve Top and Womens Tight for it, which is soft and warm and helps stayed warm without overheating.
- Warm socks. Pack good socks which help you avoid moisture. Our choice is Merino Wool Hiking Socks.
- Warm hat. When the weather is chilly, it’s good to have a warm Windstopper hat or headband.
- Sunglasses. Yes, it’s essential. There is a lot of sunny days during Alaska summer so take sunglasses and enjoy your cruise!
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