Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (2024)

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (1)

Vast terrain, mountainous landscape, exciting wildlife, and endless outdoor adventures are just some of the ways that the gorgeous state of Alaska truly lives up to its nickname of “The Last Frontier.” Cruising the unspoiled waters of the 49th state is the trip of a lifetime for most, offering the opportunity to experience a multitude of destinations all within one epic vacation. Viewing the stunning landscape from the water also provides a unique vantage point, whether you’re spotting whales and eagles or marveling at the towering peaks and ancient glaciers.

With Alaska’s fickle weather that can change on a dime, it’s important to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature might throw at you. Layers are crucial, as you can experience the warmth of the sun one minute and wind, rain, or snow the next. It can be overwhelming to pack for a destination in this type of climate as well as the variety of activities that might be on your itinerary. We spoke to Kristin Erz, an expert on cruising in Alaska and the sales director for Hurtigruten Group, to help curate this packing list that'll ensure you have the best trip possible. Essentials range from clothing like the Ibex Wool Aire Hoody to Canon's EOS 6D Mark II camera.

Packing Checklist for an Alaska Cruise

Here are our top packing picks for a cruise in Alaska, broken down into essential categories. We’ve included specific recommendations that can serve as a great checklist for your trip so you can worry about one less thing as you get ready for an unforgettable journey.

Clothing

Shoes

  • Best Hiking Shoes: Danner Mountain 600 for Men and Women
  • Best Sandals: Chaco Z/Cloud Sandal for Men and Women
  • Best Casual Shoes: Blundstone Classic 550 Chelsea Boot for Men and Women

Gear and Accessories

Luggage and Bags

T+L's Top Picks and Tips

Clothing and Outerwear

“The key to packing for Alaska is layers. Although the cruising season happens primarily during the summer months, shorts and T-shirts will be in the minority of your Alaskan wardrobe (sorry!). As the saying goes, ‘There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,’ and so you will want to be prepared for the unpredictability of the weather,” shared Erz.

Fabrics should be moisture-wicking and breathable, suitable for active exploits. Packing casual pieces to hang out in on the boat during transit periods is a good idea as well, as it will maximize comfort. Although you’ll need to pack for a variety of situations, the cruise line you choose will determine if you’ll need to bring something for formal dinners or events.

“Larger lines do have formal nights throughout their sailings (think suits, dresses, and the shoes to match); albeit these evenings are optional for guests, so it may just mean you can’t dine in certain restaurants that evening if you’re not dressed in formalwear,” said Erz. “An expedition cruise line like Hurtigruten Expeditions, for example, has no onboard dress code — so if you want to go into the dining rooms with the same clothing you wore earlier that day exploring, that’s perfectly fine.”

“For cultural activities with Indigenous communities, there isn’t a specific dress code for guests to follow, but we recommend our guests dress respectfully,” Erz added. “Keep it modest and simple, as everyone will be focused on the beautifully designed — and often handmade — clothing and costumes worn by local communities in their daily lives as well as for celebrations and cultural ceremonies.”

Best Base Layers for Men

Icebreaker Thermal Leggings and Crew Top

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (2)

A thermal base layer, moisture-wicking/breathable mid-layers, and water/windproof outer layers are essential, giving you the flexibility to add and remove layers for warmth and weatherproofing depending on the day's adventure,” Erz said. Icebreaker’s 100 percent merino wool is packed into this crew top andleggingsfor men, offering the best combination you could want in a base layer.

Best Base Layers for Women

Kari Traa Half-zip Baselayer

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (3)

Super soft and comfortable, this base layer set not only keeps you warm but feels great against the skin and doesn’t itch, despite being 100 percent merino wool. Cute patterns and colors make the topand pantsa treat to wear, not just under everything else but on their own as well.

Best Waterproof Pants

Mountain Hardwear Men’s Ozonic Pant

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (4)

Waterproof pants will be your best friend in Alaska’s fast-changing weather. Staying dry is your goal when exploring, and these waterproof pants, which are also availablefor women, are your ticket to comfort in that regard. Their stretch gives you all the mobility you crave, while side zips make putting them on and taking them off a breeze. As a bonus, they come in a variety of sizes, including short and long, so they’re suited for almost everyone.

An outdoor vest can be the perfect addition to your layering setup, providing core warmth without making you overheat. Bringing a vest that’s packable and doesn’t take up too much space is ideal, but you also want something that keeps you toasty, and this one ticks all those boxes.

“I recommend an insulated vest, one that you can easily roll up and fit into your backpack as you become more active or as the day warms up,” Erz shared. The Alpine Air Vest also comes in women's sizes.

Best Long-sleeve Shirt for Women

Outdoor Research Long-Sleeve T-shirt

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (6)

We love the sun protection built into the Women’s Outdoor Research Activelce Spectrum Long-sleeve shirt. In addition to blocking harmful UV rays, this shirt is perfect for layering or wearing on its own for your Alaskan exploits. Stay warm using the added thumbholes, and the stretchy material won’t stop your range of motion no matter what you choose to do on the ship or off in the pristine Alaskan wilderness.

Best Long-sleeve Shirt for Men

Outdoor Research Long-sleeve Sun Shirt

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (7)

Stylish while also offering sun protection, the Men’s Outdoor Research Astroman Long-sleeve Sun Shirt is a versatile piece to bring on your Alaska cruise. Breathable fabric and a button-up style mean you can wear this to dinner on the ship after a full day of fishing orhiking in Alaska.

Best Waterproof and Windproof Jacket

Helly Hansen Men’s Jacket

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (8)

To save space for packing, it’s wise to get a lightweight jacket that offers both rain and wind protection as an outer layer. Despite offering a shield from the elements, the Loke Jacket is breathable, so you won’t end up sweltering within your outer layer. Adjustable cuffs, hood, and waist allow you to tailor it to your fit and style as well. It also comes inwomen’s sizes.

Best Packable Down Jacket for Men

Marmot Men's Fordham Jacket

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (9)

Our Ratings

  • Comfort

    4.5/5

  • Warmth

    5/5

  • Design

    4.5/5

  • Value

    4/5

This jacket is big on warmth and style, so you can wear it for excursions and while walking around on deck. Weighing just three pounds, this jacket can easily pack into your luggage, especially if using packing cubes, but will still provide that heft you want when wearing a down jacket. Plus, the pockets are extra spacious so you can carry binoculars, gloves, cameras, or any other essentials.

Best Packable Down Jacket for Women

Arc'teryx Atom Insulated Hoodie

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (10)

Our Ratings

  • Comfort

    4.5/5

  • Warmth

    3/5

  • Design

    3/5

If you're short on space, you'll love this light and breathable Arc'teryx jacket. This coat is the opposite of bulky, which is perfect for packing or storing in carry-on bags. It's really a functional jacket for outdoor use, especially when you'll be moving a lot (like on hikes). For sightseeing or standing still for long periods of time, we do recommend layering this coat with thermal or flannel pieces for extra warmth.

Windy conditions on land as well as on the ship should be expected at some point during your trip, so it's important to pack pants thatwill keep you warm and comfortable. These Icebreaker joggers are made primarily with wool to keep you cozy no matter what your day has in store.

The 11 Best Travel Pants for Women of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

Best Pants for Women

Outdoor Voices RecTrek Jogger

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (12)

Our Ratings

  • Fit

    4.5/5

  • Comfort

    5/5

  • Quality

    5/5

  • Durability

    4.5/5

  • Design

    4/5

We love that these joggers are versatile enough that you can dress them up or down — keeping warm for every occasion. They feature an adjustable waist and relaxed fit toward the legs that aren't so loose they look baggy. Made with RecTrek fabric that feels like the material of a windbreaker, these pants are durable and lightweight, sure to keep you comfortable and protected both indoors and outside in the cold.

Best Swimsuit for Men

Vuori Banks Short

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (13)

Our Ratings

  • Fit

    5/5

  • Comfort

    5/5

  • Quality

    5/5

  • Coverage

    5/5

  • Value

    5/5

Wear our favorite swim trunks for water-based activities as well as a casual lunch on the boat. Their relaxed design can be dressed up or down, and no matter what, you’ll always be ready to hop in the ship’s pool, go for a kayak, or do anything else where water is involved while visiting Alaska. Plus, they're made of the brand's VCycled fabric, so each pair is made of four to five recycled plastic bottles.

Best Swimsuit for Women

Mindy x Andie The Amalfi

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (14)

Our Ratings

  • Fit

    5/5

  • Comfort

    5/5

  • Quality

    5/5

  • Coverage

    5/5

  • Value

    4.5/5

For a sporty feel that looks chic, The Amalfi One Piece is the way to go. With a variety of sizing options, including classic fit and long torso, it’s ideal for all body types and will be suitable for any water-based activity, including pool and hot tub dips on your Alaskan cruise. We also love that the fit feels so secure, with a shelf bra and soft cups for support and adjustable shoulder straps, so there's full mobility, too.

Best Shorts

Patagonia Women’s Short

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (15)

These shorts will come in handy on warmer Alaskan days and are suitable for casual or active pursuits. Boththe men’sand women’s styles are made of moisture-wicking and quick-dry materials that also move with you on hikes or during other outdoor adventures. They’ll be the perfect addition to your Alaskan cruise wardrobe when the heat turns up a bit.

Best Short-sleeve Shirt

Patagonia Short-sleeve Shirt

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (16)

We like Patagonia’s Capilene Cool shirt for everyday wear, whether you’re doing something casual on your cruise or being active. The fabric is specifically designed to keep you cool and dry when Alaska turns up the temperature. The soft, stretchy fabric also provides flexibility to move with you during your adventures instead of restricting your mobility. A women’s version is also available.

Best Mid-layer

Patagonia Women's Full-zip Hoody

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (17)

Our Ratings

  • Fit

    5/5

  • Design

    5/5

  • Performance

    5/5

  • Durability

    5/5

  • Value

    3/5

A fleece or another warm mid-layer is a must on an Alaskan cruise. This one offers a full zip-up style and a hood so you can regulate your temperature and have protection in case of heavier wind. Patagonia also offers it for men.

Moisture-wicking socks like these Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion Socks for womenand menare ideal for Alaska for casual pursuits and outdoor adventures. They’ll provide warmth without being too bulky and dry quickly, making them perfect for hiking, kayaking, or exploring historic Gold Rush towns.

Shoes

“Don’t forget about your feet — waterproof hiking shoes or boots are great for comfortably getting you through all kinds of excursions,” Erz says. Without overpacking, you’ll want to make sure you have something comfortable for walking and/or hiking, as well as casual shoes for your time hanging out on the ship. Adventure sandals aren’t always necessary but can also make a welcome addition to your list for water-based exploits.

Best Hiking Shoes

Danner Men’s Mountain 600

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (19)

Our favorite leather hiking boots for both men and women are ready to rock straight out of the box and easily go trail to town. They have many fantastic features like traction and cushion but aren’t too technical in design. Warmth, breathability, and practicality make these a solid choice for Alaska and anywhere else you’ll be exploring the outdoors.

Best Sandals

Chaco Sandal

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (20)

Our Ratings

  • Comfort

    5/5

  • Drainage

    5/5

  • Protection

    5/5

  • Durability

    5/5

  • Traction

    5/5

Summer in Alaska can, in fact, have warm weather days, and if you’re trekking to a waterfall, embarking on a trail with a river crossing, or kayaking, you’ll want a pair of sturdy sandals with grip. The Chaco Z/Cloud Sandals for women and men offer a cushioned footbed, adjustable straps for a tailored fit, and excellent grip and traction.

Best Casual Shoes

Blundstone Men’s Classic 550 Chelsea Boots

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (21)

Our Ratings

  • Comfort

    5/5

  • Durability

    3.5/5

  • Value

    4/5

  • Fit

    5/5

These stylish slip-on boots with a low profile are ideal for going from ship to town, and even for a nature walk or easy hike. They offer comfort and versatility and are fashionable enough to pair with jeans or other pants for a casual, but nice dinner look. Women's sizes arealso available.

Gear and Accessories

Once your shoes and apparel are covered, your attention should turn to the equipment that will help you get the most out of your time on the Alaskan waters. With the tools and products below, you'll be as comfortable as possible and able to fully absorb the magnificence of your surroundings.

Best Binoculars

Nocs Provision Standard Issue 8x25 Waterproof Binoculars

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (22)

These portable, waterproof binoculars are the perfect addition to your packing checklist for Alaska. Rugged yet lightweight, they’ll help you spot wildlife such as moose, eagles, whales, and other creatures from the cruise ship deck or out on your daily ventures.

Best Sunglasses

Persol PO3292S Sunglasses

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (23)

Our Ratings

  • Fit

    5/5

  • Performance

    5/5

  • Quality

    5/5

  • Appearance

    5/5

  • Value

    5/5

Handmade in Italy and ready for any adventure, these Persol sunglasses are unisex, stylish, and protective. This style comes in ten different colorways and various sizes, so you can be sure to select the perfect option for you. You also have the option to add your monogram and/or prescription to be sure you look great and see everything there is to see on your travels.

A warm hat is a good idea for nighttime on the cruise ship, especially as it can get windy and chilly when the temperature drops. A lightweight beanie should get the job done, and this unisex one by Carhartt does just that and comes in a wide array of colors as well.

Best Portable Charger

Anker PowerCore 1000 Portable Charger

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (25)

Although there are plenty of outlets on board cruise ships for charging, it’s a good idea to have a compact and portable backup power bank when out on excursions, especially if you're using your phone as a camera. This one by Anker is ultra-compact and reliable, making it a solid option for travel.

Best Sunscreen

Pipette Mineral Sunscreen

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (26)

Our Ratings

  • Feel

    5/5

  • Transfer

    4.8/5

  • Opacity

    5/5

  • Water Resistance

    5/5

Sunscreen is crucial whether you’re traveling to the beach or the Arctic. The Pipette Mineral Sunscreen is reef-safe, scent-free, and comes in a travel-size container, making it a fantastic choice for an Alaskan cruise, where you will need to apply it for daily outdoor activities. It has a lightweight, creamy texture that absorbs easily into the skin and is perfect for those who may want to apply makeup or other skincare products on top.

The 11 Best Reef-safe Sunscreens of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

Best Bug Spray

Off! Family Care Insect Repellent With Picaridin

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (27)

Our Ratings

  • Effectiveness

    5/5

  • Coverage

    5/5

  • Value

    5/5

  • Smell

    5/5

  • Ease of Use

    5/5

This family-friendly insect spray will come in handy on an Alaskan cruise, particularly in the summer months when mosquitos can be prevalent. We especially appreciate its easy-to-use, quick-pump top so you can re-apply when you're out and about and it doesn't leave behind any oily or greasy residue.

Best Travel Camera

Canon EOS 6D Mark II Digital SLR

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (28)

There are a lot of fantastic travel cameras out there, but one of our top picks for Alaska is the user-friendly Canon EOS 6D Mark II for its full-frame and low-light capabilities as well as 4K video. You’ll want something more than your smartphone for this type of trip, with interchangeable lenses in order to capture wildlife, wider landscape scenes, and much more.

Luggage and Bags

“For those avid photographers, Alaska delivers, but it's important to protect your equipment from the elements, [which is] why a dry bag or waterproof backpack is highly recommended,” Erz said. In addition to a dry bag, you’ll need something to bring your clothing and other belongings onto the cruise without having to lug around a giant suitcase, which can be extremely cumbersome and take up too much room in your cabin space.

Best Dry Bag

Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (29)

A dry bag offers waterproofing for the important belongings that you don’t want to get wet, and they’re an absolute must for a cruise to Alaska, where you might get caught in wet weather, go kayaking, or participate in other water-based activities.For those that need something on the smaller end, the Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack has options ranging from 1L to 35L. For those that need more storage in a heavier-duty dry bag for things like camera gear, extra clothing, etc., theHydraulic Dry Packis an excellent choice; padded straps and a removable hip belt help you carry your items comfortably.

Best Duffel

Thule Chasm Sport Duffel Bag

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (30)

Our Ratings

  • Capacity

    4/5

  • Design

    4/5

  • Portability

    4/5

  • Value

    4/5

  • Durability

    5/5

A classic duffel bag can be the way to go when packing for an Alaskan cruise. This duffel is spacious, with options to hold anywhere from 40 to 130 liters — all of your essentials and then some. The water-resistant TPE laminate and nylon base are durable and provide structure. It also features hand straps on each side as well as backpack straps for a variety of comfortable carrying options.

Best Suitcase

Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (31)

Our Ratings

  • Capacity

    5/5

  • Design

    5/5

  • Maneuverability

    4.5/5

  • Durability

    5/5

  • Value

    5/5

If you’re packing in a suitcase for your cruise, you'll want something that's spacious for all your layers as well as easy to maneuver for your travels. This hardside suitcase is easy to roll around with four spinner wheels, and there's plenty of room to fill up with two separate sides for organization. It even comes with built-in compression compartments to keep all of your bulky clothing items organized so it's no surprise it's the best checked suitcase we tested.

Best Day Pack

L.L.Bean Stowaway Day Pack

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (32)

Our Ratings

  • Capacity

    5/5

  • Design

    5/5

  • Durability

    5/5

  • Value

    5/5

  • Comfort

    5/5

When on a cruise, you may have constant access to your room, but you'll still want to bring a light day pack to store items you want with you at all times. This polyester backpack is made of recycled bottles and conveniently packs away into its own pocket, so you can store it while in-flight and have it ready for day trips when you board the ship. With plenty of pockets plus sternum and hip belts, this is a comfortable pack that you're sure to love.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the best month to take an Alaskan cruise?

    “Alaska’s cruise season takes place during summer, so most cruise travelers are headed there from May to September. Although temperatures can be chillier, some cruisers will seek out shoulder season, April to May and September to October, which can offer lower pricing and fewer crowds compared to the peak months of mid-June to mid-August,” Erz explained.

  • How many outfits should I pack for a seven-day cruise?

    With a need for a mix of practical clothing and layers, outfits for dinner, and more casual wear, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact number of outfits to pack for a week-long Alaskan cruise, which is why it's key to pack lightweight layers when possible. Since you can wear your outer layers more than once (and there are often laundry services onboard), you will likely only need five to six outfits.

  • How much luggage can I bring on a cruise?

    “Luggage restrictions are heavily dependent on airline limits, which are typically one suitcase weighing up to [50 pounds]. When packing for a longer adventure, find out if your cruise ship offers self-serve or paid laundry services on board. The use ofpacking cubesor vacuum bags is a smart way to further condense what’s going into your suitcase. Merino wool, bamboo, and other natural fibers are great anti-odor clothing that can be worn more than once,” Erz said.

  • Do you need a winter jacket on board an Alaskan cruise ship?

    You should certainly wear a warm jacket even on board an Alaskan cruise. When traveling around the ship, you're likely to find yourself outside frequently, whether you're heading from place to place or standing outside sightseeing, so it's best to be prepared. We recommend you bring a packable jacket that you can easily stuff into your day pack and/or layer up to keep cozy.

  • How far in advance should I book an Alaskan cruise?

    “Cruise lines tend to offer their best pricing further out. You will want to start planning your Alaskan voyage about 10-12 months out from departure, especially if you have a certain room category or side of the ship that you want to be on (i.e., if you cruise north or south along the coast, availability of a balcony on the land side tends to fill up faster). Also, keep in mind that airfare is best purchased in advance, especially if you need to factor in flights to Anchorage, for example, where the ideal flight times and minimal connections can sell out more quickly,” Erz said.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

An outdoor enthusiast and travel writer, Lauren Breedlove used some of her personal experience traveling to Alaska as well as cruising to write this guide. Additionally, she and writer Taylor Fox analyzed testing insights and scoured the internet to research and select the best products for this type of trip. Lauren also interviewed Hurtigruten’s sales director, Kristin Erz, to gather expert insights as well as ask for packing suggestions.

The 21 Best Walking Shoes for Women of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

Love a great deal? Sign up for our T+L Recommends newsletter and we'll send you our favorite travel products each week.

Here's Exactly What You Need to Pack for an Epic Alaska Cruise (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Arline Emard IV

Last Updated:

Views: 6369

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (52 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Arline Emard IV

Birthday: 1996-07-10

Address: 8912 Hintz Shore, West Louie, AZ 69363-0747

Phone: +13454700762376

Job: Administration Technician

Hobby: Paintball, Horseback riding, Cycling, Running, Macrame, Playing musical instruments, Soapmaking

Introduction: My name is Arline Emard IV, I am a cheerful, gorgeous, colorful, joyous, excited, super, inquisitive person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.