What to Wear in Alaska During Winter
Alaska is a beautiful place to visit at any time of the year, but if you visit in winter you'll want to be sure the pack appropriate clothing. Alaska's temperatures can dip below minus 60 F in the winter, so you'll need plenty of warm clothing to stay safe and comfortable. The best way to ensure you stay warm and dry is to layer your clothing. It may make for a heavier suitcase, but you'll be glad that you prepared when you step outside into the frigid temperatures. Here's a brief tutorial on how to dress for Alaskan winter.
Your First Layer
The most important thing about your inner layer of clothing is that it must absorb the moisture from your skin to keep you dry. Cotton and wool are not great for this. Instead, choose long underwear made from thin Capilene fabric, which absorbs moisture and dries quickly. It will help keep you warm, even when you're mountain climbing or hiking through the wilderness. If you're traveling with a significant other, you may want to air out your long undies frequently, as Capilene tends to absorb odor.
Layer No. Two
Wear lightweight, synthetic materials over your underwear. A sweater, fleece top or long-sleeved shirt and sweats will provide extra insulation without causing you to sweat. Stick to acrylics or polyester fabrics instead of heavyweight natural fibers like wool or padded cotton, which hold moisture. Perspiration can be dangerous in the arctic.
The Outer Layer
Wear Gore-Tex or some other waterproof and breathable fabric for your outer layer. You can wear a zip-up snowsuit or a jacket with a warm hood to cover your ears. Make sure you are able to insulate yourself from moisture and cold winds by zipping or buttoning your outer garment all the way up to your neck.
Wear liner socks that will pull the moisture away from your feet underneath a second layer of heavier woolen socks, and make sure your boots are comfortable, waterproof, insulated and warm. You can purchase expensive, heavy-duty hiking boots, or just bring along an extra set of lightweight, comfortable ones so that you will have an extra pair to wear while the other ones are drying out.
Throw a warm scarf around your neck, and put on waterproof mittens or gloves before you head outdoors. Wear a knit cap under your parka hood, and if it's a particularly biting day, consider wearing a knit face mask to keep your cheeks from chapping.
Even in the winter, it's advisable to wear at least a 30 SPF sunscreen when heading outdoors in Alaska. With large areas of snow reflecting the sun's rays, you have as much chance of getting a sunburn there as you would on a spring day anywhere else.
Tammy Quinn McKillip has written extensively in print and online publications about pets, parenting, theater, design, health and environmentalism since 1999. She is the editor of the Macaroni Kid National Family Safety newsletter and publisher and editor of "Macaroni Kid," a local family-friendly weekly events newsletter. She is pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at City College of New York.