The # 1 Alaska Packing Tip
"Dress in layers" is a phrase you'll hear all the time in Fairbanks ... Fairbanksans know it is important to dress in layers because the weather in Fairbanks, like the rest of Alaska, varies dramatically from day to day, and even hour to hour!
You need to be able to both keep warm and dry, and avoid perspiring so you won't risk hypothermia. Hypothermia is as dangerous as running into a bear, and is a lot more likley to happen. Dressing in layers is the best way to avoid hypothermia, and to be comfortable whatever you do and wherever you go while you are in Fairbanks, or anywhere else in Alaska.
Winter and Fall Layers
In the winter and fall, you want to have 3 to 4 light layers of clothes to keep you warmer than one heavy layer because air gets trapped between the layers and fibers. The trapped air acts as great insulation (it works that way in the summer too). Plus, layers are less bulky and weighty to pack your suitcase, duffel bag, and day pack than heavy outer wear.
- Long underwear layer: The first layer is the moisture control layer. Your choices will vary according to the adventure but the basics start with a good pair of synthetic long underwear. ~ NOT COTTON! Lots of Fairbanksans like to wear silk, but it really isn't the best all round fabric. Look for polypropylene, capilene or thermax.
- Insulation layerThis middle layer is for warmth and to retain body heat. It is your short sleeve and or log sleeved synthetic fabric shirts and pants. Fleece or wool is good, although wool takes a long time to dry and is a little heavier than fleece. You don't want to sweat and this layer should wick off moisture too, so don't put too many layers on here.
- The outermost layer or the shell layer should offer you protection from rain, wind, sleet, snow, etc. This outside layer should be both water-resistant and windproof and will also have some insulation properties.
Spring and Summer Layers
You’ll be comfortable and safe in all seasons if you plan for 3 to 4 layers ~ you can always put them in your day pack if you don't feel a need to wear them! The same layering principles apply in spring and summer, but you can plan a little lighter than for winter and fall.
- A short-sleeved, non-cotton tee-shirt
- A light weight, long-sleeved shirt (also synthetic fabric)
- A wool or fleece sweater
- This last, all important outer layer should be wind and water resistant at the least and water proof at best. In fact, make this the best rain gear you can afford!
For the bottom half, it isn't a bad idea to bring light weight, synthetic, long underwear if you'll be gone for a long day-hike. Also a pair of convertible trousers ~ they turn from long pants to shorts in with a quick zip at the knee!
If it is hot (which it can be) you can strip off the layers and put them in your day pack. Then when you cool down (which you will!) you can add a layer.