Don’t be afraid of the cold weather. It’s easy for anyone to stay warm and dry during a winter trip to Alaska—just follow these five rules.
Rule #1: Layer!
Wear a midweight to heavyweight wool or synthetic base layer that fits snugly to your body. Absolutely no cotton! Some good buys are long underwear from SmartWool, Capilene 3 or 4 from Patagonia, or Under Armour ColdGear. Wear a top and a bottom.
This layer should be a bit looser; wear a midweight fleece or pile jacket. Top only.
A down or synthetic down parka is important to top it all off. If you are actively moving about, you may only need the first two layers. But in temperatures below 0 degrees, you’ll be glad to have this final layer. For bottoms, choose waterproof snow pants that have additional insulation to add to the warmth of your long underwear.
Rule #2: Invest in warm winter boots – or at least buy toe warmers
Warm feet are a must—they can make or break your day. Purchasing boots rated at -20 to -40 is a good idea. If you already have a pair of boots but are concerned they won’t be warm enough, toe warmers can usually make up the difference. Avoid the brand Little Hotties—they don’t work well in cold temperatures! Instead, try Grabbers. They have adhesive that sticks to the outside of your sock to keep them in place—and they last for 6+ hours.
Rule #3: Mittens over gloves
Warm fingers are as important as warm toes. Mittens are the best choice because they keep your fingers together and trap heat more effectively than gloves. Hand warmers (also made by Grabber) are good to have on hand if you need some extra heat. If you’re taking photos and need use of your fingers, wear a thin pair of gloves underneath your mittens so that when you take the mitten off, your fingers aren’t totally exposed.
Rule #4: Hat + balaclava
A great combination in cold temperatures is a hat paired with a balaclava that will cover your nose and cheeks. If you’re active and get warm, swap the hat for a headband—but keep those ears covered to avoid frostbite!
Rule #5: Keep the snow out with gaiters
If you anticipate wading in deep snow and don’t want it to get into your boot, consider purchasing gaiters (which are inexpensive). They’re worn over your boot, cover up to your mid-calf or knee, and held in place with a drawstring at the top and a strap underneath the boot. A warm boot is rendered totally useless if the inside gets wet.