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Alaska in September

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We're leaving Sept. 4 on the Volendam (HAL). I'm from Boston, so I have lots of clothes for cold weather, but how cold will it be? Do I need:


warm gloves

warm hat

scarf/neck covering

fleece jacket

rain jacket

duck boots? I know these are handy but difficult to pack. I also have hiking shoes that I can spray to make waterproof.


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Even in July and August we used ear coverings, gloves and scarf at the glaciers. For jackets, plan on layers, we've used sweat shirt with fleece vest and rain jacket.  We also found rain pants to be handy. Never took duck boots or hiking boots.  I've used low cut boots or leather walking shoes.

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Have you checked out the Alaska forum? Clothing is a hot topic over there...you might be interested in reading some of the threads.


We went last June and we used gloves, hats (beanie and ball cap with brim), rain coats, fleece. I brought a scarf but didn't use it.


Things will depend on what you have planned for excursions. Any time out on the water will feel colder than the actual temperature. The water will have a definite cooling affect and especially if there is a breeze or wind...it will be cold. You can be in the sun and feeling okay and then get into some shade and feel chilled...you can turn the corner and hit a wind tunnel effect and freeze...you can have rain and then it wears off and then it's sunny and comfortable.


Layers are the key to Alaska and it goes like this:


1. Base layer. What is close to your skin. Also called a comfort layer. Depending on the temperature outside, this could be a tee shirt, short sleeved...or it could be long sleeved.


2. Warmth layer. This is what you wear to...duh...be warm. Fleece, sweatshirt, Smartwool, vest, puffy jacket, pullover, etc etc. 


3. Protection layer. This is the waterPROOF layer. It isn't necessarily recommended that your waterproof layer be anything more than a typical single layer rain coat as it may be decent weather and rainy. You may not need to have a warmth layer AND a protective layer.


For gloves, wind proof can be more important that simply warm.


On our Hubbard viewing day, I was wearing almost every layer I had. I had a smart wool long sleeved shirt, a thinner fleece pullover will hood, a fuzzy fleece style vest, and my raincoat with hood. I had my beanie on AND both hoods...tightened up around my face. DS went back to the room to add his long johns under his pants...and this was June. I know my current location is Florida but we traveled from North Carolina where we were living until this past June. We aren't necessarily cold wimps...LOL. Glacier day was COLD. COLD. COLD.


It doesn't help that you are just STANDING there. 


Rain pants are a debate. Personally, we all brought tech fabric type pants...the kind that are quick drying. And these were sufficient for us. Our rain coats generally cover our behinds...our legs might have gotten wet but it wasn't anything that we felt like we should have had rain pants for. 


Definitely have a pair of waterproof shoes. Many people just use their regular athletic shoes or walking shoes and do some waterproofing to them. We took hiking boots because we did a lot of hiking (we went camping after the cruise) but generally, the thought is that any waterproof shoe is generally good. Again...some of this will be dependent on your plans. IDK how rainy September is...but all of SE AK is a rainforest...so generally, lots of rain. You want happy feet. I recommend Smartwool socks.

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Wow what a great summary @Anita Latte! I love how you broke layering down into, well, LAYERS. I grew up in the Adirondack Mtns where we would almost always hit 40F-Below at least once a winter, so layering is second nature to me. My DH grew up in Southern California, and he used to be like "Well, a jacket is a layer (over any light shirt!)". He's learned some!


I'd only add that the warm layer is better if it is two layers, so that you can peel one off and not be down to your base+raincoat. Like a shirt *and* a light sweater or cardigan maybe.


I would give a holler to neck tubes -- Even the light polyester ones from eBay are good, and you can also find them in quality 'tech' fabric at places like REI. I have been known to wear two, one around the neck (like a cowl) and one pulled over my ears but under my real hat, like a headband. They pack in no space at all and come in zillion colors/patterns.


We also like thin silk longjohn BOTTOMS -- it's easy to layer tees/shirt/sweater/jacket on top, but bottom layers are fewer by nature. Silky bottoms also pack small, and mostly will not overheat you under whatever your standard trousers are. I did take rain-pants on my first trip to Alaska, where we self-drove for two weeks after a 7-day NB cruise... I guess I wore them once or twice, but in the end, I left them behind at our last B&B, feeling that I would never wear them again.


I do love my SmartWool socks, but in the Adks we had a saying: If your feet are cold, put on a hat. Head loses most of your heat!

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For Alaska I brought along tights that I could add as a base layer under my pants, less bulky than the thermal bottoms that I own. 

The one thing that I did underestimate was socks. I thought with the tights and regular socks that my feet would be warm enough, I was wrong. I now own a wildly expensive pair of thermal socks that say Alaska and have moose on them 😊


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Rain gear! We were in Alaska in early September and on at least a couple of days we were drenched ... It wasn't 'cold' to someone from a cold climate, but it was damp. My shoes were soaked ... 

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To add to Anita's great advice, I recommend waterproof gloves. When I was on deck while cruising through Glacier Bay in May, the weather was cold and misty. I was comfortable except that my fleece gloves got pretty damp (I was using binoculars, so hands not in pockets) and by the time we cruised out of the Bay, my hands felt like blocks of ice. 

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