Posted in Visiting Alaska

There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes! Ask any local in Alaska, and they’ll tell you that one of the most important things to know before visiting is to prepare for varied and possibly inclement weather in any season. Layering up and choosing the right materials for outdoor recreation isn’t just advisable, it’s essential unless you want to find yourself shivering (or sweating) full of regret. Given the diverse weather conditions, it’s no wonder Alaskans have a special place in their hearts for outdoor gear. So, before you embark on your next adventure in the 49th state, consider grabbing some of these gear favorites that locals can’t live without.


These iconic neoprene boots are an Alaska staple, earning the seal of approval from the stars of Discovery Channel’s hit show “Deadliest Catch.” Whether on the deck of a fishing vessel or at a downtown Anchorage pub, you’ll see XTRATUF boots worn in Alaska just about everywhere. The brand offers waterproof boots and is known for keeping feet dry and warm during wet and cold weather conditions. Traditionally recognized by their classic brown and yellow aesthetic, newer designs include fun marine patterns on the inside fabric, which can be shown off when folding the boots down. Pair the boots with a pair of wool socks, and you’re guaranteed to be dry and warm all day long.

Three people standing and wearing brown Xtratuf boots, Westmark Hotels

Wool Socks

When temperatures frequently drop below freezing, wool socks are a must-have to keep your feet warm and insulated. Unlike cotton or synthetic socks, wool socks have natural moisture-wicking properties, keeping feet dry and comfortable even in damp conditions. This moisture control helps prevent frostbite, which can be a serious concern during the winter months. Wool’s breathability ensures that feet stay warm without overheating, making it perfect even for outdoor activities in the summer, like hiking and hunting. Alaskans also value wool socks for their ability to withstand long adventures, making them a cherished item year-round.

Long Underwear

When weather becomes challenging in Alaska, wearing a base layer is critical. Outdoor enthusiasts are well-advised to avoid cotton long underwear, as cotton absorbs moisture and can lead to a chill if it becomes wet. Instead, opt for synthetic materials like polypropylene, capilene or thermal tops and bottoms. These synthetic fabrics maintain warmth, even when damp, ensuring comfort and protection against the cold. Brands such as Smartwool, Ibis, Icebreaker and Patagonia offer long underwear that is put to the test every day in Alaska and continues to be a favorite among the locals. While long underwear made with synthetic material may run a higher price, the investment proves worthwhile, particularly when you’re halfway through your hike and the rain sets in. Customer reviews further confirm the durability and longevity of these products, even in the most tough conditions.

Convertible Pants

Contrary to what many believe, sometimes it is hot in Alaska and the Yukon. In fact, in July 2019, Anchorage had six consecutive days in the high-80s! Temperatures in Alaska’s interior can be even more intense, climbing into the 90s. On days when the temperature is expected to fluctuate significantly – or if you are planning on an activity that requires a big elevation change along the way – convertible pants are highly recommended! This multipurpose garment, which can effortlessly transition between full-length pants or shorts, is a clever solution for adapting when the chilly morning becomes sweltering hot. Available at most outdoor retailers, convertible pants are ideal for those looking to stay comfortable in the diverse climates of Alaska.

Quality Rain Gear

Even if the day starts with blue skies and warm temperatures, there’s no guarantee it will stay that way. Alaskans know staying warm and dry is important to an enjoyable day outdoors, whether you’re hiking, fishing or exploring the sights. When choosing rain gear, it’s important to select gear coated in nylon with factory-sealed seams. While plastic or vinyl rain suits or ponchos may seem like cost-effective choices, caution is advised; these materials are prone to tearing and might not hold up when you need them most.

Photo Credit: Miles Partnership

Gloves with Touchscreen Tips

Touchscreen-friendly gloves are a game-changer in Alaska, enabling you to stay connected and capture photos without exposing your hands to the biting cold. The challenge of using a phone with bare hands in 10-degree weather is familiar to many Alaskans who have ventured outside in such cold conditions, often resulting in discomfort and difficulty. These gloves allow individuals to use devices without freezing off their fingers. Locals prize these gloves for their practicality and functionality, considering them essential Alaska gear.


Sunglasses are essential year-round in Alaska — yes, even in the winter! The snow and ice can reflect sunlight intensely, causing glare that can strain the eyes and lead to discomfort. During the summer, the extended daylight hours and higher angles of the sun leave you with the much-needed protection from sunglasses. We recommend wearing a pair with UV protection so you’re comfortable doing outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing and skiing.

Ice Cleats/Ice Grips

Ice cleats, also known as ice grips, are shoe attachments with spikes on the bottom to prevent slipping or falling on the ice. They go right over your shoes, making them easy to put on and remove. Whether you’re embarking on a glacier expedition or simply navigating icy streets en route to dinner, ice cleats are a key safety accessory, ensuring you remain upright and secure throughout the winter months.

Photo Credit: State of Alaska/Brian Adams


Buffs are a favorite item amongst all Alaskans and something everyone should pack for the winter months. The versatile garments are multifunctional and can be used around your neck and face in below-zero temperatures or as a headband to keep your ears and head warm. Buffs help shield skin from frostbite during outdoor activities like hiking, skiing and snowmobiling. Their lightweight and breathable fabric offers optimal protection without hindering movement.

We know you’ll love the warm hospitality you’ll find waiting for you after exploring Alaska at one of our nearby Westmark Hotels. No matter the weather, you’ll find that our hotels are places where you can warm up by the fire or cool down with a pint of beer to relax and tell stories from your day of northern adventures. Check out this related post on what to buy and what to rent for your trip.