Five Things you must Pack for Alaska in Winter

Planning a visit to Alaska in winter to see the Northern Lights and experience the magic of deep winter? I lived in Fairbanks for many years and still visit frequently, usually at least once each winter. I’ve learned everything there is to know about what to pack for Alaska in winter!

Even though the cold is real, don’t overthink the packing here. There are five things that you absolutely need and everything else you can wing it, improvise or buy. Those five things are:

  1. A big puffy jacket, the warmer the better, with a hood and long enough to go to your knees or at least mid thigh
  2. Warm boots with good traction
  3. Your prescription medications
  4. Your ID and a credit card
  5. A back up battery for your phone (extra important in the cold)

For those who want more detail, I’ll talk about what I pack for summer as well as what to pack for an Alaska cruise. I even have a few videos of me packing if you really want to get into the details.

This list of what to pack for alaska in winter is focused on Fairbanks and Anchorage, since that’s where most winter visitors are headed. If you’re going to Southeast Alaska in winter, Juneau for example, the weather is much different and VERY wet, more like a colder version of the Pacific Northwest. This list is focused on colder, drier climates in Alaska.

Looking for a summer packing list? Find that here!

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Jennie wearing her winter gear for Fairbanks on a sunny day
This is a pretty typical winter outfit for me in Fairbanks. In this case I’m wearing leggings and an insulated skirt instead of snow pants. It was about Zero degrees when this photo was taken.

Big Puffy Jacket

To be totally honest with you, the brand and price point of the jacket doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that your puffy jacket is long (to your knees if possible) and has a hood and is as warm as possible.

This is the REI brand one that I usually wear when I’m visiting in winter (sometimes with a sweater or fleece underneath if it’s below zero because this is a lighter puffy jacket). Another great option is this Columbia one, but again, the brand doesn’t matter, especially if you’re just visiting one time!

Warm Boots with good traction

I have a whole article about the best boots for Alaska, but my current favorites that I wear as a visitor are these sorel ones. They are comfortable for walking and hiking, their traction is good and they are waterproof which is wonderful when you come inside and the snow starts melting. If it’s below zero I wear extra warm socks or double socks in them.

Best boots for Alaska in winter, the bottoms of winter snowboots are visible under jeans seen from above. The boots have a navy blue sole and a gray middle section. The person wearing them is standing in the snow
My go to winter boots for Alaska

Back up battery for your phone

This is something not everyone things of, but it’s super important, especially when it’s cold. Your phone battery will die quickly if it’s out in the cold. I have this one which adds three extra charges to my phone which is pretty amazing.

Other helpful items to pack for Alaska in winter

You probably are going to bring more than five things! The point of prioritizing is so that you don’t get overwhelmed and focus on the most important things without having to buy a whole new wardrobe.

Make sure to still bring light layers and short sleeves since buildings are often super hot in Alaska in the winter. It will definitely not be cold inside!

Some other items that I find helpful on winter trips to Alaska and when I lived there:

  • Warm wool hat
  • Jeans: It sounds a little silly but your favorite jeans will serve you well in Alaska in winter.
  • Snow pants: If you’re not spending extended time outside, you don’t need these to visit. But if you are, this is a good item to have. I love these insulated winter pants, but you can totally grab any affordable snow pants you can get your hands on. They don’t need to be anything special. Have long underwear or leggings to wear under them, it’s much more comfortable and warm.
  • Gloves and Mittens: the type of gloves will vary greatly depending on your preferences. These are the ones I wear most often, they are fairly light allowing you to still use your hands and they have pads so you can use a phone with them on. You’ll also want mittens or mitts to wear over them. When it’s really cold you need mittens but sometimes you have to take the off and you’ll want light gloves underneath. These are fantastic waterproof mittens for layering. If you already have gloves and mittens you love, just bring those!
  • Buff: Having something to pull up over your nose and mouth is helpful when it’s really cold. It can also function as a scarf or headband. Get it here on Amazon or here at REI
  • A headlamp – especially if you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, make sure to bring a head lamp with a red light setting so it won’t wreck your night vision when Aurora chasing
  • A pair of shoes that are not boots – to give your feet a break!
  • Microspikes – these can be really helpful when it’s icy. They’re like tire chains for your feet. You can get by without them but I found them super helpful when I lived there. Get them here on Amazon or here at REI.
  • Swimsuit if you are going to Chena Hot Springs or the Alyeska Nordic Spa, which are both amazing and you should definitely add to your winter itinerary!

Watch me pack for Fairbanks in February

Here’s a video of me packing everything I need for a winter visit in a carry on (if I’m bringing skis then I have to check those). You can also grab my personal winter packing list here.

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      Jennie Flaming
      Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years and I still spend lots of time there every year. I've been a tour guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington and am a field editor for the Milepost. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!