The Ultimate Alaska Cruise Packing List

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What to Pack for an Alaskan Cruise

Travel & Leisure / David Hattan

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.

Best Clothing


  • Best Hiking Shoes: Danner Mountain 600 for Men and Women
  • Best Sandals: Chaco Mega 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 Merino 200 Thermal Leggings and Crew Top

Icebreaker Merino 200 Thermal Leggings and Crew Top


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 and leggings for men, offering the best combination you could want in a base layer.

Price at time of publish: $105 (leggings); $79 (crew top)

Best Base Layers for Women

Kari Traa Smekker Half-zip Baselayer

Kari Traa Smekker Half-zip Baselayer

Kari Traa

Super soft and comfortable, this baselayer 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 top and pants a treat to wear, not just under everything else but on their own as well.

Price at time of publish: $130 (top); $120 (pants)

Best Waterproof Pants

Mountain Hardwear Men’s Ozonic Pant

Mountain Hardwear Men’s Ozonic Pant


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 available for 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.

Price at time of publish: $150

Best Vest

Prana Alpine Air Vest

Prana Alpine Air Vest


A 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,” Kristin shared. The Alpine Air Vest also comes in women's sizes.

Price at time of publish: $170

Best Long-sleeve Shirt for Women

Outdoor Research ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Long-Sleeve T-shirt

Outdoor Research ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Long-Sleeve T-Shirt


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.

Price at time of publish: $22

Best Long-sleeve Shirt for Men

Outdoor Research Astroman Long-sleeve Sun Shirt

Outdoor Research Astroman Long-sleeve Sun Shirt


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 or hiking in Alaska.

Price at time of publish: $95

Best Waterproof and Windproof Jacket

Helly Hansen Men’s Loke Jacket

Helly Hansen Men’s Loke Jacket

Helly Hansen

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 in women’s sizes.

Price at time of publish: $50

Best Packable Down Jacket

Ibex Wool Aire Hoodie

Ibex Wool Aire Hoodie


Available for both women and men, this ultra-lightweight jacket is big on warmth but not on taking up space in your luggage. In fact, it folds up into its own chest pocket, perfect for traveling to Alaska. Filled with merino wool and made of windproof and water-resistant material, this full-zip hooded jacket will easily become a staple in your outerwear lineup.

Price at time of publish: $285

Best Pants

Patagonia Men’s Wind Shield Pants

Patagonia Men’s Wind Shield Pants


Windy conditions on land as well as on the ship should be expected at some point during your trip, and Patagonia’s Wind Shield Pants for men and women will keep you warm and comfortable. They’re lightweight, so packing them will be no problem, yet they still offer soft-shell level protection. Comfortable for hiking or any other Alaskan adventure, these pants are a no-brainer to add to your packing list.

Price at time of publish: $169

Best Swimsuit For Men

Columbia Backcast III 8-in Watershort

Columbia Backcast III 8in Watershort


Wear these swim trunks for water-based activities as well as a casual lunch on the boat. They’re quick-drying with a mesh interior lining and offer 50 SPF protection from the sun’s UV rays. 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.

Price at time of publish: $23

Best Swimsuit For Women

Left on Friday Sunday Suit

Left on Friday Sunday Suit

Left on Friday

For a sporty feel that looks chic, Left on Friday nails it with the Sunday Suit in a soft fabric that fits like a glove. With a variety of sizing options, 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.

Price at time of publish: $170

Best Shorts

Patagonia Women’s Quandary Short

Patagonia Women’s Quandary Short


These shorts will come in handy on warmer Alaskan days and are suitable for casual or active pursuits. Both the men’s and 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.

Price at time of publish: $38

Best Short-sleeve Shirt

Patagonia Men’s Capilene Cool Daily Short-sleeve Shirt

Patagonia Men’s Capilene Cool Daily Short-Sleeve Shirt


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.

Price at time of publish: $39

Best Mid-layer

Patagonia Women's R1 Air Full-zip Hoody

Patagonia Women's R1 Air Full-zip Hoody


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.

Price at time of publish: $101

Best Socks

Darn Tough Women’s Light Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Sock

Darn Tough Women’s Light Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Sock


Moisture-wicking socks like these Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion Socks for women and men are 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.

Price at time of publish: $24


“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

Danner Men’s Mountain 600’s


Our favorite 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.

Price at time of publish: $210

Best Sandals

Chaco Mega Z Cloud Sandal - Women's

Chaco Mega Z Cloud Sandal - Women's


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 Mega Z Cloud Sandal for women and men offers a cushioned footbed, adjustable straps for a tailored fit, and excellent grip and traction.

Price at time of publish: $75

Best casual shoes

Blundstone Men’s Classic 550 Chelsea Boots

 Blundstone Men's Chelsea Boot


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 are also available.

Price at time of publish: $220

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

Standard Issue 8x25

Nocs Provisions

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.

Price at time of publish: $95

Best Sunglasses

Sunski Madrona Sunglasses

Sunski Madrona Sunglasses


Polarized, budget-friendly, and ready for outdoor endeavors, the Sunski Madrona is a unisex pair of sunglasses that not only look great but protect your eyes, too. “This brand has sunglasses created for any type of adventure and is sustainable, too,” Erz shared.

Price at time of publish: $58

Best Hat

Carhartt Knit Beanie

Carhartt Knit Beanie


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.

Price at time of publish: $20

Best Portable Charger

Anker PowerCore 1000 Portable Charger

Anker PowerCore 10000


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.

Price at time of publish: $26

Best Sunscreen

Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50

Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50


Sunscreen is crucial whether you’re traveling to the beach or the Arctic. The Aveeno Positively Mineral Sunscreen is suitable for sensitive skin 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.

Price at time of publish: $13

Best Bug Spray

Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent



We love that the Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent offers similar protection to DEET without the potentially harmful effects of using it. This travel-friendly sized insect spray will come in handy on an Alaskan cruise, particularly in the summer months when mosquitos can be prevalent.

Price at time of publish: $9

Best Travel Camera

Canon EOS 6D Mark II Digital SLR Camera Body

EOS 6D Mark II Digital SLR Camera Body, Wi-Fi Enabled


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.

Price at time of publish: $1,399

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 Waterproof Bag

Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack

Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack

Sea to Summit

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., the Hydraulic Dry Pack is an excellent choice; padded straps and a removable hip belt help you carry your items comfortably.

Price at time of publish: $12 (1 liter)

Best Duffle

Eagle Creek No Matter What Duffel Travel Bag

Eagle Creek No Matter What Duffel Travel Bag


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 60 to 130 liters — all of your essentials for Alaska. The water-resistant material and hand strap, as well as a shoulder strap, make this bag perfectly convenient.

Price at time of publish: $90 (large)

Best Suitcase

Samsonite Centric 2 Hardside Expandable Luggage

Samsonite Centric 2 Hardside Expandable Luggage


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 expandable hardside suitcase is easy to roll around with the spinner wheels, and there's plenty of room to fill up with two separate sides for organization. As a bonus, it fits in the overhead carry-on space in planes.

Price at time of publish: $224

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 laundry services onboard, you will likely only need five to six outfits.

  • How much luggage can I bring?

    “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 of packing cubes or 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.

  • What is the best Alaskan cruise route?

    If you have less than two weeks to cruise Alaska, consider a seven-day cruise between Seward or Whittier, Alaska, and Vancouver, BC. Experience the highlights of the Inside Passage, including Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and Glacier Bay, with the option to extend your stay with a pre- or post-land package into Denali National Park.

    If you have more than two weeks to cruise Alaska, consider an in-depth expedition — such as Hurtigruten Expeditions’ 18-day journey — that can bring you from the far reaches of Nome, Alaska, around the remote Aleutian Islands, into Katmai National Park, all before exploring the less-touristy towns like Wrangell and fjords of the Inside Passage down to Vancouver, BC.

  • 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 scoured the internet, researching and selecting the best products for this type of trip. She also interviewed Hurtigruten’s sales director, Kristin Erz, to gather expert insights as well as ask for packing suggestions.

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