Alaska Adventure Travel Resources

Alaska Climate And Seasons

The Alaskan climate varies enormously, by both latitude/longitude and altitude. Much of the state is classified as subarctic, but can range from temperate-Mediterranean in the far east to true tundra in the far north.

For climate purposes the state can be roughly divided into five regions: the far north, interior, south west, south central and the inside passage.

The far north

Well within the Arctic Circle, the Alaskan far north has an Arctic climate characterised by short, cold summers and long, even colder winters.

The summer months bring long, sunlit days with June and July enjoying almost 24 hours of unbroken daylight. The opposite is true for the winter with virtually zero sunlight and just a short period of ‘civil twilight’ on the winter solstice.

This makes the far north, particularly the Gates of the Arctic National Park, a perfect spot for spotting the winter aurora borealis.

Precipitation (usually in the form of snow) can be expected any time of year.

Average temperatures

Low

High

Summer

0 C (33 F)

7 C (45 F)

Winter

-30 C (-22 F)

-24 C (-12 F)

The interior

With its continental subarctic climate, the interior sees the most extreme weather variations anywhere in the state. The interior region sees relatively low precipitation year-round.

The summer sees around 20 hours of unbroken daylight, the winter solstice gets just 5.


Average temperatures

Low

High

Summer

11 C (52 F)

22 C (72 F)

Winter

-28 C (-18 F)

-18 C (0 F)

The south-west

Bounded by the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska, the southwestern region has an extremely changeable subarctic climate with some regions seeing desert-levels of precipitation, others around 2,500 mm per year.

The winter solstice sees around 5 hours of daylight, the longest day in summer gets 18 hours.

Average temperatures

Low

High

Summer

9 C (49 F)

16 C (62 F)

Winter

-18 C (0 F)

-11 C (12 F)

South central

Moderated by the weather systems coming off the Gulf of Alaska, the region around Anchorage has a relatively mild subarctic climate with short, cool summers and snowy, windy winters.

The longest days of summer see 16 hours of daylight and the shortest days of winter get a relatively generous 6 hours.

Average temperatures

Low

High

Summer

9 C (48 F)

18 C (65 F)

Winter

-7 C (20 F)

-2 C (29 F)

Alaska Packing List

Packing for an Alaska trip depends entirely on the activities you’ve got planned but the common theme is to hope for the best, plan for the worst.

If you’re planning on skiing, paddling or technical climbing you’ll need specialized equipment: consult your operator.

Some essential equipment (especially safety gear) will be provided by your operator--it’s essential that you check before you head into the bush.

General backpacking list

  • Backpack: Minimum 70L for men, 60L for women. Bear in mind that backpacking gear (bear barrel, food, tent, etc) will full a good 20L of your pack. If in doubt err on the side of caution and go for a bigger pack.

  • Waterproof cover: Check that it will fit your pack (when full!)

  • Daypack: For carrying food and essentials while on hikes.

  • Water bottle: At least 1L. Bladders are good for hands-free sips but also bring a hard-sided bottle such as a Nalgene.

  • Hiking boots: Quality medium/heavy-duty hiking boots broken in before you arrive.

  • Hiking socks: Four pairs of synthetic or wool mid-weight hiking socks.

  • Waterproof/breathable rain jacket and rain pants: Gore-Tex or similar quality breathable waterproofs are essential.

  • Lightweight windshirt.

  • Synthetic or wool (no cotton), long-sleeve top and bottoms.

  • Synthetic hiking pants.

  • Warm beanie hat.

  • Mosquito head net.

  • Fleece or wool gloves.

Around camp

  • Sleeping Bag: Synthetic or down sleeping bag rated to a minimum of 30 degrees F.

  • Stuff-sacks: Two waterproof compression sacks, one to fit your sleeping bag, the other to fit your extra layers.

  • Sleeping pad: Closed-cell foam pad or inflatable air mattress.

  • Headlamp: Especially for trips departing after August 1.

  • Heavyweight synthetic top: For staying warm around camp.

  • Thick fleece or wool gloves: Keep dry and only use them around camp.

  • Lightweight Crocs or sport sandals: For around camp and crossing streams and rivers.

  • Sacred socks: Heavy, warm pair of socks to put on at night. Keep dry at all costs!

Personal items

  • Sunglasses with case

  • Toiletries

  • Personal medications

  • Sun screen/lip protection

  • Pack towel

  • Book/Kindle

  • Camera

  • Binoculars

  • Insect repellent

Optional / recommended gear

  • Lightweight synthetic glove liners

  • Bandana

  • Accessory carabiners

  • Synthetic liner socks

  • Gore-Tex or Lightweight Neoprene Socks

  • Waterproof gaiters