How to Pack for an Alaska Land Tour

Smooth Alaskan highway leading towards mountains in summer
••• Gary R. Johnson / Getty Images

Packing for an Alaska land tour is different from packing for an Alaska cruise. Your daily schedule will be more intense, the terrain you visit will probably be more varied and you will travel to many different types of places during your trip. Even so, you will need fewer changes of clothing because you will not have to dress up for dinner (or anything else) during your Alaska land tour.

Pack for Maximum Comfort

Your Alaska itinerary will probably include stops in several different places.

Many tours begin in Anchorage because of its large, modern airport and its reasonable driving distance from the cruise port in Seward. From there, you may travel to Fairbanks via Whittier and Valdez or head north to Talkeetna and Denali National Park and Preserve, then loop north and west to Fairbanks. Your itinerary may also include the 92-mile, six-hour bus trip into Denali National Park and Preserve, either to spend a day hiking and viewing Denali or to stay a night or two at one of the three lodges at the end of the Park Road.

As you pack, keep comfort and safety in mind. Bring comfortable walking shoes, jeans, short- and long-sleeved shirts, rain gear, sun gear and a warm sweater or jacket for Northern Lights wakeup calls. If you are traveling during the height of summer, you will probably want to pack a pair of shorts, too.

Your shoes should be comfortable beyond compare. Bring walking shoes, hiking boots or whatever makes your feet feel wonderful on uneven, rocky, dusty ground.

Wear them on the plane, because if you pack them, they will take up a lot of room in your suitcase.

Pack Light

Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to wear a new outfit every day. Yes, you should change your underwear and socks, but you can re-wear shirts and jeans at least once during your trip.

Depending on your itinerary, you may be able to do laundry, which will allow you to pack even lighter.

Most hotels provide hair dryers; ask if you don't see one in your room, as some hotels keep loaner hair dryers at the check-in desk. If you prefer to bring your own hairdryer, you can, but it's not an absolute necessity.

People on your tour will not be cataloging your clothing choices each day. They are far more interested in seeing wildlife, whales, the Northern Lights, and Denali.

Pack Camera Equipment and Image Storage Devices

Alaska's scenery is amazing, and you will definitely encounter wildlife on your tour. Bring a camera or smartphone that takes great pictures. Pack an extra camera in case your battery dies at the worst possible moment. Make sure that backup camera is charged and ready to use.

On a one-week trip, you will probably take 50 to 100 photos per day. If your smartphone or camera cannot store that many photographs, you will need to pack an extra Sandisk or other image storage device.

If you plan to photograph the Northern Lights, consider bringing a tripod and a camera that can take long-exposure photographs.

Pack Layers

A chilly morning in Denali National Park and Preserve can give way to a sunny, warm noon hour.

If you plan to hike or take a whale watching boat tour, you will definitely need to dress in layers. A windbreaker or light jacket will protect you from rain, breezes, and cool temperatures. On chilly mornings, a sweater or sweatshirt can be your best friend. Later in the morning, you may want to take those top two layers off in favor of a T-shirt or moisture-wicking athletic shirt.

Nights, too, can be cool; your sweater or sweatshirt should be your go-to layer if you want to view the Northern Lights or Milky Way.

Pack a Few Extras

Alaska's air is dry. If you have dry skin, consider bringing moisturizer or lotion.

Sunscreen will come in handy if you spend a lot of time outside. Buy small, travel-sized tubes from your local big box store or grocery store. Remember to use sunscreen if you fly to a glacier.

While you won't find snakes or ticks in Alaska, mosquitoes and gnats abound. Be prepared; pack insect repellant. Bring netting if you plan to do some backcountry hiking or camping.

Trekking poles can come in handy, too. If you are staying at one of the lodges in Denali National Park and Preserve, ask about borrowing trekking poles during your stay.

Binoculars will help you see bears, caribou, and other wildlife.

If you plan to do laundry, pack some laundry soap and dryer sheets. Laundry soap "pods" are extremely portable and easy to use. Toss one into the washing machine along with your clothes; don't put the pod in a liquid soap loading compartment on top of the washer, because commercial washers were not designed for laundry soap pods.

A map, while not a necessity, can help you get your bearings and appreciate just how large Alaska really is. If space permits, bring a highlighter and trace your route as you travel. When you return home, you can use the map and your photographs to tell family and friends about your trip.

Save some luggage space for souvenirs. The bookstores and National Park gift shop bookshelves in Alaska are extremely tempting, and T-shirts and sweatshirts take up a lot of suitcase space.