What are the items that you MUST have when you travel to Alaska? Here are my suggestions. To access links to the products, just click here:The Milepost - Some people use older versions since they believe that not much changes from year to year. But for such an important trip, where you are already investing thousands of dollars, I say that buying the current year's Milepost is an investment that you can't afford to not make. And if you buy it on Amazon, you can purchase the latest copy for less than $27 if you are a Prime member. This book is kept up to date by several employees that travel the roads each year, (we met one on the road in 2017) and they let you know of any changes to expect. It is a great planner, that comes with a large pull-out map and a code to download a digital copy for your tablet or phone. If you didn't buy it prior to leaving, they sell it at most every stop along the way.
2) Bear Spray - YOU WILL SEE BEARS!!!! And you need to be prepared just in case one surprises you when you are hiking to a glacier or simply out walking your dog at your campground. The ground cover is so thick that you will not see a bear that is literally three feet away. So whenever you are out, make lots of noise, but also have a can of bear spray on your belt or in your hand. And know how to use it. You won't have time to figure it out when being rushed by a bear. In fact, buy the brand that comes with a practice spray canister, just to make sure that you have actually used it prior to possibly needing it. My daughter was rushed by a bear in the summer of 2017. Luckily it broke off its attack prior to getting close enough to have to use the spray.
3) GPS - Maybe one for your vehicle & another handheld one for hiking. Don't rely on your map app on your smartphone! You won't have cell service for much of the journey. And if you are driving to Alaska, not just within the state, then make sure that the GPS is loaded with maps that cover all of North America and not just the United States. My sister and her husband hadn't considered this when purchasing their GPS. Luckily for them, we had an extra one for them to borrow, otherwise, they would have been stopping at a local Walmart to obtain one in Canada. And yes they could have purchased the maps online and then downloaded them to their own GPS but besides that increasing the overall price for the unit, trying to find decent enough wifi at a campground in Canada to do so, well that is a whole other blog post. My husband and I have tried a number of brands, and we prefer Garmin. If you are going in an RV consider purchasing the one that is made just for big rigs, 5th wheels & trailers. The Garmin RV 770 is the one that we bought and used in our 41 ft motorhome. Besides having the traditional GPS features that everyone has come to expect, after inputting basic specs about our rig, it routed us only on roads that had bridge clearances that were high enough and that could tolerate our weight. And it would warn of tunnels with safety precautions regarding propane, upcoming ascents, and descents above a certain grade % and turns that may require a speed reduction. There were also categories in the POI's made just for RV's such as RV campgrounds, RV services.
4) Hat with a visor - The sun is very low in the sky in Alaska, so glare is usually a problem. Especially near the water or glaciers. Having a hat with a visor helps out a lot. You can always buy one along the way from a tourist shop if need be.
5) Walkie-Talkies - If traveling with a group, then these are a necessity. Cellular reception is non-existent except in towns and even then can be hit or miss. So while traveling the various highways to and through Alaska, you will want and need the ability to speak with your group. A good set of walkie-talkies will go a long way in helping with this. We traveled caravan style with my siblings and managed to stay in contact most of the time with these. Make sure that you have extra batteries with you though.
6) Insect Repellant - When my husband and I went to Alaska in 2017 we were very lucky that there weren't a lot of mosquitos that year. But you can never predict what type of year it is going to be, and I understand that 2018 is gearing up to be a bad year. So be prepared and bring this with you. Again you will be able to buy this anywhere along the way, but it will be cheaper if you purchase it prior to your trip.
7) Camera - Don't rely only on your smartphone's camera. Yes, it will almost always be with you, as opposed to a camera that you will need to remember to pack, but you will want something that has better capabilities for the type of scenery you are going to encounter in Alaska. I recommend the Sony DSCHX80/B that my husband and sister-in-law both purchased. The primary reason that they both picked it was that it has an optical viewfinder. These are nearly impossible to find anymore, and as I mentioned with the need for a hat with a visor the low angle of the sun will make it nearly impossible to see a normal viewing screen due to the glare.
8) Binoculars - Sometimes it is hard to determine what it is that you see off in the distance. A good pair of binoculars will help you to identify whether it is an animal or merely a stump. Also, when you are whale watching, you aren't always lucky enough to be able to get up close and personal. So make sure that you have these with you on the boat. My personal favorites are the Swarovski EL brand with Swarovision field flattening lenses, that ensures that the image is perfect not just in the center of the lens, but all the way to the edges. They also are great in low light, enhance the color, & reduce the glare. And they are very lightweight for their abilities. The biggest drawback is the price. Depending upon the magnification, they range from $2100 - $2800. But as always, you get what you pay for. But for those with a more modest budget, try the Celestron Trailseeker for less than $200.
9) Daypack - Unless you are a serious hiker, you don't need a heavy-duty backpack. But you will need something to hold your gear and extra items such as a light rain jacket or some snacks. This will be true whether you are taking a day cruise to see whales, or hiking to a nearby glacier. Flashpack brand is the one that Kaitlyn recommends from REI. But for those who want more pockets, Osprey makes the Daylite and Daylite Plus, and for those who want a cross body functionality, try the CLINFISH which at the time of my writing this has a five-star rating with 46 reviews.
10) First Aid Kit - You will naturally pack any medications that you will need, but don't forget to bring a first aid kit as well for those little emergencies that you may encounter in between towns, or out on the trail. Make sure that you buy one that is made for the outdoors, but keep in mind that you aren't going to be encountering poisonous snakes in Alaska so you won't need ones with a snake bite kit. Look for ones that have their contents in waterproof bags and easily attach to backpacks, bicycles, etc for use on the trail as well as in your car. And look for kits that will supply the needs of as many people as you have on your trip and for as many days as you may be out on the trail.
13) Go Pro - You will want to use this to record all of your action adventures. The Go Pro is better than a traditional camera or video recorder as it attaches to your body to record all of your adventures when holding and pointing a camera is impossible or impractical. What better way to remember your trip.