Person in tent looking out at person packrafting

Ultimate Gear Guide for Alaska

Gear is an essential tool in your Alaska travel kit. Weather, terrain, wildlife, and more are reasons to be over-prepared rather than under-prepared. While some gear provides necessary protection, other gear can help your experience become a major success. 

Outdoor Gear Rentals in Alaska

If you’re traveling with adventure in mind, having the right gear doesn’t mean having to purchase new items. Outdoor retail stores like REI, bike and ski shops, outdoor gear rental stores, fishing charters, tour operators, and more offer gear and equipment rentals and can provide guidance on what you need to bring on your adventure. You can rent camping and backpacking gear, mountain and fat tire bikes, canoes, kayaks, packrafts, snowshoes, skis, fishing gear, winter clothing, and more, allowing you to enjoy many activities without the cost and hassle of having to travel with your gear. Call ahead to make sure that the gear you need is available. Many outfitters allow you to reserve in advance to ensure that everything is available when you need it. 

Fat tire biking in Girdwood
Rent your gear from local outfitters, like these fat tire bikes available to rent in Girdwood. 

Summer and Fall Gear

While summer and fall in Alaska are stunning, it’s also the time to make sure all safety and necessary preparations have been made. As wildlife and weather are active, this means carrying the proper gear. 

Before heading out for any activity in any location, it’s important to note that weather in Alaska can shift dramatically, even in summer months. The key to being prepared for Alaska weather is having plenty of layers. Wearing base and mid layers, like synthetic t-shirts and long-sleeve shirts, light jackets, and windproof/waterproof jackets is always a good idea. One minute you might be comfortable in shorts, and then the next minute you’ll want to change in to waterproof pants. When in doubt, always pack that extra layer!

It's also important to be bear aware. Bear safety gear, such as bear spray, bear bells, and bear-proof food canisters, are available for purchase around the state. These are recommended for spring, summer, and fall hiking, backpacking, fishing, backcountry trips, and any activity that involves the great outdoors.

The basic safety necessities for summer and fall outdoor activities include:

  • First aid kit
  • Bug spray
  • Bear spray / bear bells
  • Map / GPS device
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Water

See below for additional gear you’ll need for your adventures!

Hiking in Alaska

Hiking Gear

Hiking Alaska’s incredible trails is one of the best ways to experience the state. Be sure to bring:

  • Layered clothing, such as a synthetic base layers, light jacket, raincoat and rain pants, and change of pants to put over shorts. Even on warm days, it’s good to bring a pair of long pants to protect your legs in case you encounter overgrown trails or mosquitos.
  • Waterproof hiking shoes, with an extra pair of socks. These are useful for wet hiking conditions, river/creek crossings, and the occasional snow at higher elevations.
  • Light hat and gloves if you’re hiking at higher elevations or wet/windy areas.
  • Backpack
  • Water bottle
  • Trekking poles

Hiking in Kodiak

Fishing Gear

Fishing in Alaska requires more than just poles, tackle boxes, and bait! Here, the ultimate gear can help you get that prize winning catch: 

  • Waders and boots, which can often be rented from local outfitters
  • Bug spray 
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Hat

Fishing in Kodiak

Glacier Trekking

Take to the ice to cool off this summer! If you’re going with a glacier trekking tour group, all equipment should be provided. Check with the company to be sure! Most companies will provide:

  • Trekking poles
  • Crampons or spikes to go over boots
  • Helmets

Don’t forget to bring your own:

  • Sturdy shoes or boots
  • Camelbak or backpack
  • Warm layers
  • Sunscreen - sunlight reflects strongly off of the ice, causing sunburns to happen much faster

Hiking on Matanuska Glacier

Camping, Backpacking, and Backcountry Gear 

Camping and adventuring in the backcountry is one of the greatest pastimes here in Alaska. Due to the nature of the weather and wildlife, these excursions call for detailed preparation and the ultimate gear. Below is a list to ensure you have the gear necessary for a safe, enjoyable experience!

  • Waterproof hiking shoes or boots
  • Trekking poles
  • GPS device or map
  • Headlamp (unless you are out during midnight sun season – where you won’t even need your headlamp at midnight!)
  • Backpack
  • Tent
  • Waterproof tarp for top and bottom of tent, depending on weather conditions
  • Warm sleeping bag and sleeping pad
  • Binoculars
  • Bear spray
  • Bear resistant food canister or bag to hang food
  • Bug spray
  • Headnet for bugs
  • Waterproof matches or lighter
  • Stove, fuel, and cooking gear
  • Water purifier
  • Satellite communication device
  • First aid kit

And make sure to pack it in, pack it out! Practice Leave No Trace principles at all times in the backcountry. Read the dos and don’ts of Leave No Trace here

Backpacking in Alaska

Water Adventurers

Whether you’re packrafting, canoeing, kayaking, SUP-ing, or more, you’ll need more than sunscreen to keep your adventures floating high!

  • Life jackets (when renting gear, these will be provided)
  • Wetsuit or drysuit is recommended in case of falling into cold temperature waters (also available for rent)
  • Base and mid layer clothing, with a waterproof outer layer

Kayaking in Alaska

Winter and Early Spring Gear

Temperatures vary across the state during winter and early spring, so make sure you pack accordingly. You’ll find the coldest temperatures in the Arctic and Interior regions, with plenty of snow and often below zero temperatures. The key to enjoying your time outside in winter is to have the proper gear. That means plenty of warm layers! The Inside Passage region has the mildest winter temperatures in the state, so be prepared for rain and sometimes snow.

With all of that snow comes opportunities for fun winter outdoor recreation activities. And the good news is – you don’t have to bring everything with you. Local outfitters rent snowboards, downhill skis, cross country skis, snowshoes, fat tire bikes, cold weather clothing, and more so you can get out and enjoy the powder. Tour operators will provide the needed gear for winter tours, like crampons and ice axes for glacier trekking, snowmachine suits for snowmachine tours, and ice fishing gear.

Snowmachine tour at Spencer Glacier

For the colder months of the year, the basic necessary gear is:

  • Base and mid-layers such wool and synthetic long-sleeve shirts and fleece jackets
  • Warm outer layers such as down coats
  • Snowpants
  • Long underwear or warm layer to wear under snowpants
  • Wool socks
  • Insulated and waterproof boots
  • Neck gaiter
  • Warm hat, gloves, scarf
  • Balaclava / face mask for the coldest temps
  • Hand warmers to put inside gloves and shoes

Snowshoeing in Alaska in winter

Dress Like a Local

Alaska Native Traditional Gear 

Alaska Native winter gear is by far the most effective winter gear – so much so that Iditarod mushers use them to get through the toughest race on earth. While not for rent, local shops sell Alaska Native winter clothing including mittens (pualuuk) lined with fur of sea otter, beaver, wolverine, and other pelts. Kuspuks (long hooded Alaska Native coats) and mukluks (Alaska Native boots) are worn by locals and mushers alike, due to their unparalleled heat retention. This gear is well worth the haul home as a useful souvenir that will last for decades. Be sure to look for the Silver Hand sticker to ensure you’re getting genuine Alaska Native made items.

Alaska Native mukluks
Alaska Native mukluks. Photo Credit: Lexi Qass’uq Trainer (Cup’ik/Yup’ik

Alaskans' Favorite Gear

Want to look like a local? Here’s some of the favorite gear of local Alaskans:

  • Xtratufs: these brown waterproof boots are a ubiquitous wardrobe staple of Alaskans, used when fishing, camping, boating, beach walking, grocery shopping, doing house projects, going out on the town – you’ll see them everywhere. Also popular are the Xtratuf ankle boots, available in a wide variety of colors.
  • Carhart Gear: Alaskans are partial to this sturdy outdoor wear, including jackets, overalls, pants, and beanies.
  • Insulated Skirts: Down and synthetic insulated skirts from brands like Skhoop are a popular gear choice for local ladies while hiking, cross country skiing, walking the dog, and more. You’ll see locals wearing short, medium, and long lengths practically year-round.
  • Bunny Boots & Steger Mukluks: Alaskans have an affinity for these two different styles of white winter boots, which are our go-to for keeping our feet warm in the coldest temperatures.
  • Shoes & Boots with Cleats: Ideal for icy conditions on trails and sidewalks, locals rely on walking/running shoes and winter boots with metal studs and grippy rubber soles, such as Icebugs, to keep us sure-footed. Another popular solution is a set of cleats that go over your shoe, like Kahtoola Nanospikes, that can easily be slipped on or off your shoes or boots when the conditions change. 
  • Alaska-themed clothing and accessories: We are proud to be Alaskans and support local businesses and artists – especially those that make fun Alaska-themed clothing. Brands like Salmon Sisters, Alaska Starfish Co, and artist galleries make hoodies, leggings, hats, head bands, and more with Alaska-themed graphics and patterns that you’ll see lots of locals wearing.

Bush plane pilot getting ready to fly
Xtratufs are the footwear of choice in Alaska.

Packing Lists by Region

Arctic Packing List

Arctic packing list

Interior Packing List

Interior Packing List

Inside Passage Packing List

Inside Passage Packing List

Southcentral Packing List

Southcentral Packing List

Southwest Packing List

Southwest Packing List

Whenever and wherever your adventures take you, the proper gear will help you enjoy all that Alaska has to offer!  


Alaska: AKA Your Next Adventure

Where will your Alaska adventure take you? Order our Official State of Alaska Vacation Planner and plot your course.