Packing List for 12 Days in Alaska: What I Packed | Steph Osmanski
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alaska luxury tours

12 Days in Alaska: What I Packed

In August, I got an opportunity to travel to Alaska for 12 days. Half the time was spent on land, bouncing from hotel to hotel, and the second half was a sea portion, a cruise through Alaska that ended in Vancouver, Canada. Once my flight to Fairbanks, Alaska was booked, I had only one question in my mind: What do I pack for 12 days in Alaska? These are my Alaska packing tips.


Packing for any trip, even a weekend one, is difficult for me. Some people are poor test-takers, I’m just not a good packer.  I am notoriously bad with planning for the weather and I never seem to include the kinds of clothes I actually need. I always seem to forget something.


When I began packing for Alaska, I knew I wanted to do better. I’m always trying to step up my packing game. Mostly because it’s weak AF.


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That being said, please note that I did not include a packing list for toiletries or other extras. Below, I solely comment on which clothes I packed for our 12-day Alaska trip. I included a few things like sunglasses, caps, beanies, and wool socks, but that is about as far as I get into “extras.”


One of the most important articles of clothing you will bring with you to Alaska is the waterproof jacket. I actually brought two. Mostly, it was a cosmetic decision in the name of FaShUn~* but I don’t regret it. When one jacket was still drying from the day’s excursion, I had another to throw on.


When I tell you I literally wore a rain jacket with me every day, I am not exaggerating. So if I had been photographed in the same black jacket 12 times, I would have been disappointed. That’s just me!


My packing non-negotiables:

Another packing non-negotiable for me was that I wanted to bring the smallest number of bags as possible. For me, this meant one carry-on and then between my partner and I, sharing one checked bag.


To get away with only packing one checked bag between the two of us, we had to pack clothes that were versatile and could be mixed and matched. I packed a total of four pairs of leggings and eight tops. I did a lot of layering. Like in the above Instagram photo you may notice a peek of blue sweater sticking out from underneath the cream and pink sweater I was wearing over it. I’m wearing about three to four shirts in that photo.


Likewise, in the Instagram picture below, I’ve also got more than one shirt on. My raincoat is serving as protection against the constant Alaskan mist, but there is a tank top and an Underarmor long-sleeve shirt underneath the flannel you see there.



If you’re thinking of heading to Alaskan for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, read this first. Keep scrolling to find out how I packed for a 12-day trip to Alaska and Canada!


Alaska packing tips for land:

The weather in Alaska is tricky to pack for, which is why anyone who’s been will tell you to pack in layers. I can’t stress this enough: layers are essential in Alaska. Looking at the pictures of myself in Alaska, I realize how deceiving they are. Almost every day of the trip, I had a raincoat with me (even if I’m not wearing it in a picture) and underneath whichever shirt I am wearing (whether it’s a Dri-Fit or a flannel), I am likely wearing another one or two shirts.


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My layering formula went like this: sports bra, tight Dri-fit tanktop, long-sleeve shirt, flannel, then raincoat. Sometimes, instead of a long-sleeve shirt as my “main shirt,” I wore a sweater, then tied a flannel around my waist. I almost always wore leggings and wool socks — only opting for my one pair of jeans for a night on the cruise. I wore my wool socks and hiking boots for every excursion.

alaska what to pack

Beanie, long-sleeve shirt, sweater, and rain jacket.

Alaska packing tips for sea portion:


Fancy cruise clothes I kept to a minimum. You might choose differently but for the way our trip was designed, we had a lot of excursions. We had an excursion almost every day. From riding ATVs to landing on a glacier via helicopter, we were constantly on the go, so it made sense to give more of our packing space to clothes that were meant for the elements.


alaska cruise dress

Cocktail dress for formal night.


But if you have cruised before, then you know that formal nights are unavoidable. We went with a group where we were expected to take part in formal nights, too. So formal cruise wear was a must-pack.


For cruise wear, I kept things pretty simple. There were two formal nights on board the ship. I wore one floor-length gown and then a short, cocktail dress to the other formal night. Regular “casual” dinners were still relatively dressy, mostly because of the group we were with, so I wore a full-length jumper one night and on the fourth, jeans, a fancier blouse, and my black kitten heels.


What to pack:


When choosing what to pack, the focus should be on articles of clothing that are easy to layer. For our trip, I opted for a lot of tight-fighting shirts to keep heat in. I don’t like that feeling of wind creeping up my back or across my stomach.


For the most part, I kept cruise-only clothes to a minimum. I only packed two bathing suits and sandals I used solely for getting in and out of the cruise ship’s hot tub or in-spa sauna.


You can probably get away with not even packing jeans. I only wore them once, one night for dinner and I dressed them up with heels and a fancier type blouse. As far as wearing jeans on any of our excursions, it just was not feasible. We ended up wet after half of the excursions or needed flexibility for the activity like ATV-ing, hiking, or boating. Jeans definitely are not necessary. I would say only include them if you would like to dress down one night for dinner on the ship.


  • Rain jacket (at least 1)
  • Sweatshirt (2)
  • Flannel (3)
  • Leggings (4)
  • Waterproof pants (1-2)
  • Jeans (1)
  • Underarmor long sleeve shirts (3)
  • Fancy blouse (1)
  • Hiking boots
  • Wool socks
  • Formal gowns (2)*
  • Jumper (1)*
  • Sandals (1 pair)
  • Sneakers (1 pair)
  • Black heels (1 pair)
  • Hat
  • Bathing suit (2)*
  • Sunglasses
  • Vest (optional)
  • Dri-fit tanktops (2)


* = denotes for cruise only

What not to pack:

It’s important to note that our trip to Alaska happened in August. We were not dealing with the more frigid temperatures that Alaska is known to get. For this reason, I will say I did not need a down jacket or a winter’s parka. But that may all depend on what time of year you visit.


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Also, I added on my list above at least one pair of waterproof pants. This is because I did not pack waterproof pants and my partner did. I definitely regretted it after we went ATV-ing. Even though the excursion company provided us with a head-to-toe waterproof jumper, my clothes underneath still were soaked. Waterproof pants would have helped a lot.

alaska outfit

Hat from the Wing, Dri-Fit long-sleeve shirt, long-sleeve shirt underneath, flannel wrapped around waist, and leggings.


I also found that I did not need a scarf; a lot of the packing lists I consulted online said to include a scarf but I opted not to. Scarves are bulky to pack and for us, a waste of much-needed space in our suitcase. Maybe if you don’t care about keeping your luggage to a minimum, then a scarf will work for you. For us though, it just did not prove necessary so I’m glad we opted not to bring it. One less thing to lug around or take up space!

Other fun packing tips:


I use packing cubes! The packing cubes I use personally are from Eagle Creek, linked right here. You can get them pretty much anywhere — either on the Eagle Creek website, Amazon, or Bed Bath and Beyond. The set I have is the Pack-It Original Cube. It consists of three sizes of packing cubes: small, medium, and large. The cubes themselves are washable and water repellent, though I have never personally had an incident where I needed my cubes to be either.


Packing cubes are a great way to condense your luggage. They are probably the sole reason we were able to get away with one checked bag between us!


For this trip, I had my eye on the Away bag. I kept oscillating back and forth whether or not it was time to invest in a higher-quality suitcase. But ultimately, I stayed with the bag I had. I bought my carry-on luggage case in 2016, right before a four-day trip to Las Vegas. Can you guess where I bought it? Nowhere fancy, I assure you! Wal-Mart.

alaska outfits 2

All the layers, even gloves.


It was less than $40 and had many similarities to the Away bag. I liked how it had 360-degree roller wheels and packable compartments on both sides of the case. Unlike the Away bag, my case does not have a USB port to charge a phone or other device. However, I will say: After talking to someone else on the trip, someone who had an Away bag, I think I have been convinced.


I’m not yet ready to make the switch but eventually, once my Wal-Mart bag (which I have to admit is pretty durable) gives out, I know I’m definitely springing for the Away. More on that purchase to come, hopefully within two years or so.


In conclusion,


Especially if you’re visiting Alaska around the time we did, the emphasis should be on clothes that are waterproof and Dri-Fit, not necessarily your warmest clothes made out of wool. Tank-tops for me were a saving grace. I packed a lot of Dri-Fit, workout tanks that I would normally wear to the gym. Because these were super tight-fitting, they tucked into my leggings nicely, keeping in heat. A definite recommend tip to any women traveling!


In our experience, it was more important to have clothes that work well layered rather than to pack the fluffiest, fuzziest things we had in our closets. For this reason, I can’t recommend Dri-Fit clothing, flannels, and leggings enough.

Stay tuned for more Alaska content including details on where we stayed, what we ate, and more.

Have you visited Alaska before? Any insight you would add to this packing list?

Steph Osmanski
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