Friday, March 8, 2019

Packing for an Alaska Cruise

I tend to be a heavy packer (at least compared to my backpacker peers).  Don't get me wrong;  I've moved to Europe for two years with one frame backpack and a day pack.  But I'll never be one of those people who purposely takes a serious vacation with one regulation-sized carry-on and nothing else.

For an Alaskan cruise, my recommendation is this:  don't pack light; pack prepared.  If you're like me, the last thing you want to do on your dream vacation is waste time and money shopping for stupid things you didn't bring.  There are too many whales to watch and trails to hike and history to live and salmon to eat.  

Alaska cruise packing list:

Layers. Layers, layers.  In case you didn't get that, I'll repeat:  layers.  Don't take a heavy winter coat.  Instead, take 3-4 light layers you can wear all at once and take off as needed.  Sometimes you'll be cold, especially if you spend a lot of time outside on glacier days or get caught in a long rain.  Other times you'll be too warm in anything more than a light jacket.  I have a long-sleeved, hooded T-shirt that's big enough to wear on top of other things.  I also take a light fleecy jacket, a thin wool sweater, and a stupid-looking but effective emergency poncho.  But there are many other combinations.  If you get cold easily, consider long underwear or some sort of second layer you can wear over or under your pants.  I usually take thick nylons (more like tights):  small to pack, but surprisingly warm.
Rain gear. It will rain. The ideal is something fancy like Gore-Tex, which is waterproof but breathable.  However, you can do with a much more affordable alternative.  At the very least, carry an emergency poncho and just swallow your pride when you put it on.  It'll mark you as a tourist, but so will all your oohing and aahing and picture taking.

Hat and gloves. If you spend eight hours on the outside decks in Glacier Bay on a cool day, for example, you'll be glad you have a knit had and gloves.  And please, stay on the outer decks during glacier cruising, at least for a bit.  It's beautiful.  Brimmed hats are handy when the sun comes out (or when the clouds malfunction, as locals joke). 

Good walking/hiking shoes. You don't necessarily need hiking boots, even if you're doing something like Devil's Punchbowl or Deer Mountain or one of the other fantastic Alaskan hikes.  But if you plan on doing anything much active (and please do--it's Alaska!), take good walking shoes with decent tread.  I always take a second pair, since my first often get wet.  Sometimes very, very wet.

These are the most important things, in my opinion, but for more, read my book:

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