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What to Pack for Alaska in the Spring

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In planning a trip to somewhere new – especially to a special destination that you may have waited your whole life to visit – there are a lot of questions. It’s easy to feel intimidated at every step of the process, including in those last few weeks and days as you prepare to set out on your trip. Packing for Alaska is no small feat given the diversity of experiences and weather extremes you might encounter.

While I grew up in Alaska, I didn’t really think much about packing for Alaska until I moved away and started returning as a visitor. Now, I’ve been back during basically every season and weather possible, and get a lot of questions about exactly what to pack for specific dates and seasons.

Pack for Alaska in the Spring Hero

To help those of you planning to take advantage of the good reasons to visit Alaska in spring, I’ve put together this specific list of what to pack for Alaska in the spring. Unlike my other packing lists for Alaska, I’m getting granular on this one; assuming a 7-day trip, you’ll find specific items and quantities of each for all the items I recommend. I hope this helps you feel confident that regarless of the weather, you’re going to have a great time in The Last Frontier!

In this post, I promote travel to destinations that are the traditional lands of many Alaska Native groups, including the Aleut, Athabascan, Haida, Inupiat, Tlingit, and Yuit peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

When is Spring in Alaska?

12 Days in Alaska - Eagle River

Before jumping into my list, I thought it miht help to start with defining exactly when spring occurs in Alaska. There’s a joke that Alaska has three distinct seasons: winter, break-up, and construction season. Actually, there are four seasons, but spring and autumn are quite short and the weather/conditions change quickly in the 2-4 weeks of each one.

Specifically focusing on spring – or “break-up,” referring to the messy melting of snow and ice –, spring in Alaska is roughly late April through late May (Memorial Day is the typical kick-off of the summer season). While you’ll find some summer activities (like Kenai Fjords cruises) start in the spring by this definition, you shuold still be prepared for less summer-y weather if you’re in Alaska before Memorial Day.

As such, if you’re visiting during this winter, you should certainly pack for the activities you have planned, but more importantly for the weather forecast during your trip. Earlier in spring, expect colder temps and possibly snow; later you might enjoy the equivalent of “warm” summer days by Alaska standards – but it’s just as likely to be cold and cloudy depending on the year!

(For extra advice, be sure to check my guides for visiting Alaska in April and May; those posts include weather info, special events each month, and more.)

What to Pack for Alaska in the Spring

These photos were taken during spring trips to Alaska in 2017 and 2022.

Taking the example of a 7-day trip, here’s exactly what I would pack for a trip to Alaska in late April through late May:

  • A hat, scarf, and gloves. As Spring can still have wintry weather and temps, these small extra layers are essential for staying comfortable no matter what the forecast holds.
  • Two long-sleeve merino wool crew shirts as a base layer on top. I love Unbound Merino as a brand; here are links for men and for women.
  • Two short-sleeve merino wool shirts for additional layering on top depending on the weather. (For men or for women.)
  • One or two sweatshirts or outer layers. Layers, layers, layers! Trust me, they’re worth the weight and space in your suitcase.
  • A soft-shell jacket, such as The North Face Apex Bionic. (For men or for women.) This is one of my go-to jackets for Alaska and you’ll see me in my bright green one in photos all over this site.
  • An ultra-light down jacket, such as from UNIQLO. (For men or for women.) I basically live in this jacket too, and it’s often underneath another jacket if it’s cooler – but you’ll also see lots of photos of me in my black down jacket too.
  • A waterproof jacket of some kind. I tend to alternate between a trench-style slicker I love from Pendleton (kind of like this one) and my North Face rain shell (also available for men), depending on the trip and activities I have planned.
John Hall's Alaska Review - Day 4 - Denali Park Drive Polychrome Pass

You can see me in Unbound Merino leggings and Xtratufs in both of these photos!

  • Two pairs of merino pants. I typically wear Unbound’s leggings, but they have a number of options; I recently added their women’s sweats to my wardrobe. Their men’s travel pants also look warm and comfy, for the gents.
  • Two other pairs of pants. You’ll need more pants than tops only because if you’re out adventuring and the weather is more iffy.
  • Waterproof boots and/or hiking shoes. You probably don’t need winter boots in the spring, but you definitely want something that can keep your feet dry if it snows or there’s a lot of melting going on. I live in my XtraTufs when I’m in Alaska, and Mr. V is a proud owner of a pair too. (I have a full list of the boots and shoes I recommend for Alaska here.)
  • 2-3 pairs of wool socks, plus 2-3 pairs of regular socks. Or more. Socks pack small and you can never have too many.

You don’t need some of the other essentials I typically recommend later in the season (like mosquito repellant or an eye mask) but will give you quite enough to cover the basics.

Additionally, you should, of course, pack activity-specific gear you might need; a day-pack is always a good idea, a reusable water bottle will help you stay hydrated on the flight and for long stretches on the road exploring the state, and you should definitely check the forecast in case it will be colder than usual during your visit.

Lastly, of course, be sure to pack undergarments, toiletries, and any electronics you need. We all have specific needs there, but you might find my weekend packing list and travel essentials list helpful if you’re looking for more guidance.

Have any other questions about what to pack for Alaska in the spring? Let me know in the comments below!

I was compensated for this post by Unbound Merino, though I love their brand and pack their clothes for Alaska all the time. This post also contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links

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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

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