One of the most common questions we receive is about what to wear for backpacking trips or glacier hikes. These suggestions are with Alaska’s summer weather in mind, but can be useful when packing for any outdoor adventure.


Here’s the thing about Alaskan weather: it varies immensely, is incredibly unpredictable, and the forecast is never accurate. Often when you look at the weather forecast you are looking at a weather station miles away from your destination. Not only that, it can be foggy and rainy at MICA Guides when Sheep Mountain Air has blue skies less than 10 miles down the road.

The lesson here is to never trust weather forecasts and to be prepared for anything and everything! Summer temperatures in parts of Alaska can range from the mid-40s to mid-80s in one day, so it’s best to have options!

There’s no such thing as bad weather: just bad gear and a bad attitude!

Anyone who spends a lot of time outside will be familiar with the fact that the weather never cooperates all of the time.  We are blessed with gorgeous days, but there are plenty of times we get caught in less than ideal conditions. I have found, with the right gear, even the most abysmal weather isn’t so bad.

MICA Guides all geared up for a day on the ice

What to bring: Layers

Layers are the secret to any packing project. No matter how long or short your adventure is, you want to have options. I always err on the side of caution and like to have spare layers in my bag, even if I don’t end up needing them – the alternative is far worse!

So, you’re spending a day on the glacier, what layers should you bring?

  • Base layer
    • Wool or synthetic material is recommended. This is something that will be pretty tight against your skin, but you can opt for long-sleeves or short sleeves depending on the season and what you are doing.
  • Mid-layer
    • Something like a fleece or quarter-zip to provide extra warmth if you get chilly. You can’t take this on or off as needed.
    • I often bring a vest as an additional mid-layer to keep my core warm.
  • Insulating layer
    • A synthetic puffy jacket. While I love a down jacket as much as the next person, these aren’t the best option when you are around water and/or ice because once they get wet they loose a lot of their insulating properties and take ages to dry.
  • Waterproof layer
    • This might be the most important layer of them all! Even if it’s blue skies when you leave in the morning doesn’t mean the weather isn’t going to take a turn. Not to mention, glaciers are just made up of water, so this layer can help keep all your other layers dry while on the ice.
  • Bottoms

    Over the ankle boots are highly recommended!

    • In the summer there is rarely a need for multiple layers on the bottom, so just a pair of quick-drying hiking pants or soft shell pants will suit most all adventures. Stray away from heavy materials like denim that won’t dry quickly if they get wet.
    • Wool socks with over-the-ankle boots are must-haves for Alaskan trips. When it comes to socks ALWAYS pack more than you think you need.
  • Sun protection
    • Sunglasses, sunscreen, hats, buff, etc. These are especially important because the ice reflects so much light. In addition, Alaska’s long summer days mean extended sunlight hours so it’s always best to keep some extra sunscreen in your bag.

Layer up for your next adventure and we hope to see you out and about!