Figuring out what to wear hiking in Alaska during summer can be challenging. You have to consider that the weather could go from a clear, blue sky to downpour rain in the blink of an eye. Okay, maybe not that fast… but Alaska is one of those places where you would rather be prepared than find yourself stuck in the middle of the woods without the right gear.
As someone who was born and raised in Alaska, I’ve hiked in many different conditions. From post-holing through icy snow, getting eaten alive by those pesky mosquitoes, and bushwacking through devil’s club, I know how important it is to be prepared.
I’m always trying out new gear to test on the trail, but I have a lot of trusty items that I will never stop using. These are the items that have proven to last a long time, perform well, or are just super comfortable.
In this post, I’m going to share tips and my personal recommendations on what to wear in Alaska in summer. I’ve also included a free printable Alaska hiking gear checklist that you can find at the end of this post.
5 Tips on What to Wear Hiking in Alaska
- Comfort is key. You’re not going to enjoy your hike if your feet are aching after the first mile and your pants are way too tight.
- Dress in Layers. Every Alaskan will offer you this tip first. Each layer you wear has a different function and with Alaska’s weather being a bit unpredictable, you’ll want to be able to add or remove layers as needed.
- Say No to Cotton. Did you know cotton absorbs over 25 times its weight in water? So when things start to turn cold and wet, you’ll feel chilly if you wear cotton.
- Protect Your Skin. Whether you wear a UV protectant neck wrap, a brimmed hat or sunscreen, protecting your skin from the sun will keep you from damaging your skin cells.
- Check the Weather. The weather in Alaska is unpredictable but you can still check the weather and get an idea for what the current conditions are and how you should prepare for them.
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Hiking Boots and Socks
Footwear is probably the most important thing you will wear on the trail. Choosing a pair of hiking boots that are supportive, comfortable, and have good traction, will be one of the best purchasing decisions you make.
My go-to summer hiking boots are the Oboz Bridger Mid B-Dry Hiking Boot. They are a mid-boot which provides enough ankle support for the long day hikes or multi-day trips that I go on. Plus, after I sprained my ankle a year ago from dancing too hard at a wedding, I definitely need the extra support. These boots are waterproof making them great for wet and muddy trails, have really good traction on all surfaces, and are just super comfy!
Besides choosing a well-fitted shoe, choosing the right socks means that you have a better chance of coming home without any blisters. Hooray! I hate blisters but I love these Darn Tough Coolmax Socks. Made in the USA, Darn Tough socks are comfortable, cushioned, and made to last.
I tend to either hike in a long-sleeve base layer or some sort of t-shirt. It just depends on what kind of hike I’m doing and how the weather looks. The tops I wear are always moisture-wicking and quick drying. I don’t often wear tank tops because I don’t like the straps from my backpack rubbing against my bare shoulders.
I love this Under Armour Half-Zip Long-Sleeve Top because if it gets too warm, I can zip it down a bit and get some fresh air. It’s also great to zip it down when I wear a buff around my neck. It also has thumb holes to help store body heat when I need to.
I’m also a fan of this Under Armour Short-Sleeve T-Shirt. It’s lightweight, has a nice fit, and dries super fast. Plus, there are some fun colors to choose from.
Hiking Tights and Pants
When it comes to choosing which pants to wear on the trail, I always make sure they pass the squat test first. I want to know that they’re comfortable to wear all day long and I can pull all kinds of cool maneuvers in them while I’m out on the trail.
The Patagonia Centered Tights are another favorite. Hello stretchy, moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and secret pocket tights. I like wearing long pants in Alaska when you’re hiking through overgrown trails. It protects your legs from any unwanted scratches.
If you plan on encountering a lot of bushes or stone, I would opt for buying hiking pants instead of tights. The Arc’teryx Sabria Pants have excellent stretch and durability, which will be perfect for your Alaska adventures.
Some days in Alaska are just way too hot to wear hiking pants! Due to the sun’s angle, we get hit with a more direct heat which actually makes it feel 10 degrees warmer than what it says on the thermometer.
When the weather is warm and I know I won’t be hiking through a bunch of brush, I love wearing hiking shorts. Kuhl has a ton of women’s hiking shorts to choose from.
The Kuhl Kontour Short 4″ are the softest hiking shorts I’ve ever felt! They’re stretchy and super comfortable, which is necessary for any hiking adventure. They also have a jean look to them so you can wear them on the trail and then straight to the local brewery. If you’re in between sizes, I recommend getting the larger size for a better fit.
Fleece is awesome to wear during your outdoor adventures because it doesn’t absorb water. This means it’s not going to get damp and uncomfortable. It’s incredibly versatile and can be worn while you’re chilling around an evening campfire this summer, or as a mid-layer during colder months.
There are a lot of different styles to choose from and a lot of options that won’t break the bank. The Helly Hansen Daybreaker Fleece Jacket and Patagonia Lightweight Synchilla Snap-T Fleece Pullover are great fleece jacket options to look at.
Rain Jacket and Pants
When looking for rain gear, you want to make sure that it’s waterproof and not just water resistant. The worst thing to happen on the trail is getting drenched because your gear isn’t working how you need it to. I find that anything from REI Co-op tends to hold up in quality and it’s more affordable than other big name brands.
The REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket has a lightweight, breathable, durable GORE-TEX® shell. It’s waterproof and easy to pack when you don’t need it anymore. When you’re looking for rain pants, you want to look for lower leg zippers so you can easily remove them without taking off your boots. The REI Co-op Essential Rain Pants are waterproof, breathable, and pack down into their own pocket.
If I’m only going for a day hike then I bring a small day pack. The CamelBak L.U.X.E. Backpack comes with a 3L (100 oz) hydration bladder which makes it super easy to access water. It also has enough space to hold all of my snacks and my camera.
When I’m planning an overnight trip and I need more space, I bring my Osprey Aura 65L Backpacking Backpack. Osprey is a great backpack choice for women because their packs are actually shaped for women! I’ve had my Osprey backpacking backpack for over 5 years now and it’s still in amazing condition. Read my Osprey Aura 65L Backpack Review here.
Any pair of sunglasses is better than no pair of sunglasses. The goodr OG Sunglasses block 100% of harmful UVA/UVB rays, don’t slip while you’re working up a sweat, and come in a bunch of fun colors. Plus, they are super affordable.
I carry a buff with me all the time. I have a few different ones to choose from depending on what season it is. During the summer, I like to bring the Buff UV Headwear. The UV protection blocks up to 95% of UV rays. It’s comfortable to wear and can actually be worn 12 different ways. I will wear this around my neck to protect myself from any extra sun from hitting my skin.
And, don’t forget to protect your lips with your favorite chap stick.
Alaska is bear territory. You need to carry bear spray with you just in case. Luckily, I’ve never had any close encounters with bears. I always carry Counter Assault Bear Repellent Spray with me just in case. Make sure to wear it in a place that’s easily accessible (not tucked away in your pack).
If you have bad knees or need extra support while you are hiking then hiking poles are a good idea. Alaska has many steep hiking trails and hiking poles will help you from falling over when you’re carrying a heavy load. The Bafx Products Adjustable Hiking Poles are a super affordable option to add this essential piece to your gear kit.
Gaiters go atop your boots and help to keep rain and all those little twigs and leaves out of your hiking boots. The Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters are a great pair of shorties.
TIP: If you are planning an overnight hiking trip, make sure to bring an extra set of clothes to sleep in. Tying to get a comfortable night’s sleep while you’re wearing damp clothes is the absolute worst. Happy hiking!
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Do you have any questions on what to wear hiking in Alaska? Share them in the comments!