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8 Best Coats For Alaska To Stay Dry And Warm

If you plan on visiting Alaska during the shoulder season or peak summer months, it’s important to have a good jacket. The best coat for Alaska will depend on your budget and how often you’ll use it in your hometown. The time of year will also impact your choice of outerwear.

For a winter trip to Alaska, it’s crucial to have outerwear that can withstand arctic tundra conditions. This should be paired with snow pants, merino wool layers, and insulated boots to stay warm during outdoor activities. Hand warmers and foot warmers are also important for a more enjoyable winter trip.

On the other hand, those on an Alaska cruise will only visit southeast Alaska, where the temperatures are less extreme. The choice of coat will depend on personal preference and how sensitive you are to the cold.

Wearing a Columbia coat in Alaska

Someone from Florida may find Alaska to be very cold, while a Canadian may find the average temperatures to be similar to those back home.

What To Consider When Selecting A Jacket

When cruising to Alaska, choose clothing that is waterproof. Since weather changes significantly, layers are essential too.

Base layers like those used for skiing are recommended if you’re cruising in the shoulder season (April and October) and you feel the cold. If cruising to Alaska in September or October, expect rain almost daily. We couple our raincoats with waterproof shoes to keep our feet dry.

Packable jackets are preferred if you’re flying into your embarkation port and short on luggage space. However, I recommend wearing the coat on flight day to save on luggage space.

When purchasing a coat for Alaska, here are some favorite brands known for quality and durability.

Patagonia

Patagonia produces technically functional jackets, from soft shells to hard shells. Since they design their jacket lines for skiing, wearers can enjoy large pockets to carry smartphones, selfie sticks, and accessories.

If you ski or live in a cold destination and need a jacket for an Alaskan cruise, Patagonia makes a great choice. Their jackets provide warmth without the bulk but be prepared to pay significantly more than other brands.

Choosing a highly functional jacket may come down to where you live (for multiple uses) and your overall budget. 

Patagonia uses recycled synthetic materials for all waterproof jackets, making them ethically and environmentally conscious. Choose from the Patagonia Das Parka, a thicker coat for cold weather, to the Upstride jacket, a lightweight, stretchy option.

Fair Trade Certified, the company ensures safe work conditions and fair pay. Since 2014, they’ve partnered with Fair Trade USA, leading in Fair Trade clothing styles.

In recent years, their clothing line has shifted away from using Gortex, which adds to the cost. Many of their styles now use a 3-layer membrane with waterproofing properties, ideal for low temperatures and trips to Alaska.

Pros: Warm and waterproof without the bulk. Sustainability.

Cons: Price.

Columbia

Columbia is a trusted brand known for its quality, great pricing, and flexibility. Their 3-in-1 jackets make an excellent choice for Alaska for their versatility. The brand makes several types of jackets for wet and cold weather. Select a style with a waterproof outer layer – a must in Alaska.

On glacier viewing days, I wear the outer shell with the fleece or an Omni-heat reflective base layer for added insulating benefits. Brian and I both have Columbia jackets, which we have worn in the Canadian Rockies in extremely cold weather. In -34C, they kept us warm and dry.

Wearing my Columbia upper shell on the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's Tour
Wearing my Columbia jacket on a Ketchikan tour

While I have tried several jacket brands in Alaska, Columbia makes the best jacket for changable weather conditions. I wear the inner layer on dry, sunny days when exploring the ports.

On wet port days, wearing the waterproof shell with waterproof Vessi shoes, which provides all the protection I need. Next to Hubbard Glacier, combining the two layers gives waterproofing and warmth without the bulk.

When I traveled to Denali National Park, I had three ways to wear this jacket for all weather conditions.

Columbia jackets have multiple outer and inner pockets and zippers to secure the two layers together. The cuffs have snaps to keep the sleeves in place. Some styles have removable hoods, eliminating the extra bulk. 

If you’re traveling to Alaska in September, wearing a rain jacket with rain pants is recommended since the fall is rainier.

Although Brian and I have the Columbia brand, I noticed a difference in weight. Brian has the men’s Ridge Gates Interchange Jacket, but mine weighs more. It’s a good idea to check the weight of your jacket before purchasing one.

We also found the sizing varies. My jacket is true to size, but Brian’s model fits slightly large. Since Columbia is a well-known brand, consumers can find them in most outdoor clothing shops and online.

Wearing the inner layer of my Columbia jacket
Wearing the inner layer of my Columbia jacket

Pros: Pricing, versatility, and quality products.

Cons: Some coats are heavy.

North Face

North Face has been producing outerwear for over 50 years. Their brand is known for durability, which means your investment will last longer, providing great value for money.

Since consumers can find their products in many countries in the world, finding the perfect jacket for Alaska is relatively effortless. Like Patagonia, North Face is focused on making their jackets from recycled synthetics and regenerative materials and using responsibly harvested down.

My favorite and the popular Freedom Insulated jacket provides warmth without the bulk and keeps you dry on wet port days. I love the fact that they sell two-tone jackets as well as funky mottled (almost tie-dyed) variations fror a more fashion-forward look.

Their Antora Triclimate jacket provides 100% waterproofing, with less warmth, and doesn’t break the bank. Although, I’m not a fan of the shorter length.

Brian in a Noth Face jacket
Brian in a North Face jacket

You can’t go wrong with the Antora jacket for excellent wind and rain protection. While the waterproof coat is lightweight, you can add layers of clothing to take you from comfortable port days to colder glacier viewing.

One of the great benefits of North Face clothing is that it retains its value. The company has a “Renewed Marketplace,” allowing consumers to resell their once-loved items. New buyers can purchase a next-to-new coat at a discounted price—a great option if you’re on a budget.

Many jacket models come with adjustable hoods, cuffs, and underarm venting to regulate body temperature. If you intend to wear more layers, you may need to size up to accommodate the extra thickness.

Pros: Timeless styling, temperature regulation, and good value. You can also resell your coat on their Marketplace. Their products also come with a lifetime warranty.

Cons: Their sizing varies significantly from jacket to jacket.

Helly Hanson

Brian wearing Helly Hanson
Brian wearing Helly Hanson

My husband, Brian, owned a 3-in-1 Helly Hanson jacket for many years. The pieces served him well through rain, sleet, and snow. He used it in the Canadian Rockies with -34C temperatures and stayed toasty warm.

My husband’s jacket didn’t last as long as I expected, maybe because he washed it often. After multiple washes, the protective insulated layer broke down and flaked. While the outside shell became unwearable, the inner shell still looked brand new.

We like the Helly Hanson jacket for its slim fit compared to competitor brands. The newest jacket designs have insulated pockets, allowing smartphones to last longer in cold weather. Even though this coat only lasted five years, he wouldn’t hesitate to purchase another.

Like other brands, Helly Hanson has moved towards sustainability by making its products from recycled materials. So, if sustainability is a huge factor in choice, Helly Hanson, North Face, and Patagonia are your best bets.

At Hubbard Glacier in a Helly Hanson jacket
At Hubbard Glacier

Pros: Insulated phone pocket, high collars, and lightweight.

Cons: Lacks durability in material and snaps need constant repairs.

Arc’teryx

Another Canadian company, Arc’teryx, makes its clothing for mountaineering. While you might not be scaling any massive peaks in Alaska, their jackets have the qualities you want – lightweight, waterproof, and durable.

The jackets are also known for their comfort and range of motion, essential for active travelers. So, if you’re canoeing on Mendenhall Lake or hiking in one of the Alaska cruise ports, its outerwear will serve you well.

The company designs its outerwear to be sleek and simplistic without sacrificing function. While there are fewer styles than brands like North Face and Columbia, what it makes excels in what it’s designed to do.

Arc’teryx jackets come in more subdued color choices, so if you’re looking for a great performing coat without a modern look, Arc’teryx may be the one for you. However, they are a premium brand, so expect to pay the most for a coat bearing its logo.

To save money, choose a coat that provides less warmth. Then, layer with merino wool or fleece to adapt to changing temperatures.

A propriety material, “Coreloft” provides superior warmth while being packable and lightweight. The brand’s commitment to sustainability is also a key selling point. Arc’teryx’s reputation for durability means the jacket can withstand multiple trips. 

Pros: Makes activewear that moves with you. Lightweight and sustainable products.

Cons: High ticket cost and lack of colors.

Puffy Coats

Brian in a down coat in Ketchikan
Brian in a down jacket in Ketchikan

Down jackets and vests are incredibly lightweight and add lots of warmth. They are a favorite amongst cruise guests for their lightweight feel. Down jackets come in different lengths, from a short bomber style to a long knee-length coat.

Select from a goose, duck, or a down blend, depending on budget. The down from a goose provides the most warmth, followed by the duck down. So, don’t assume you need to purchase a thick vest or jacket to be warm.

Manufacturers also produce vests and jackets with different fill power. The higher the fill power, the higher the down quality, which produces more loft and a warmer jacket. Choose a coat with a good quality shell fabric, which helps to prevent natural down loss.

One with stitched boxes is better than channels. The boxes prevent the down fill from clumping up. Baffle boxes are also superior to stitched boxes because they eliminate cold spots.

Those with allergies should avoid the coats with a down blend. Since they are often blended with feathers, a common allergen, they are most likely to cause allergic reactions.

While a down jacket keeps you warm, it doesn’t have waterproofing properties. Since it rains frequently in Alaska, using a down-filled coat is best suited for cruises to Alaska in the month of May or early June, which are generally the drier months.

If you own a puffer jacket and don’t want to invest in a waterproof layer, using a rain poncho over the down. Should the down get wet, it will dry very quickly. Down is also washable.

A nice feature to down is its ability to pack down to almost nothing. Many manufacturers like Eddie Bauer, sell their coats with storage bags that are slightly larger than a Ziploc bag. So, start out wearing the jacket in the early mornings, and remove it and fit in a day pack as the temperature rises.

Pros: Coats are lightweight, packable, warm, and fast drying.

Cons: Not waterproof.

Taiga Works

Taiga Works is a Canadian company that makes outerwear clothing. Their Gortex jackets come in many colors, and seam sealing ensures a 100% waterproof product. Gortex has a stiffer feel than other materials and may not be suitable for those who prefer a softer fit and something fashionable.

While Taiga sells its top layer as a single product, you can purchase a fleece or down piece to provide an insulating layer. I owned a Taiga Works Chamonix jacket, which always kept me dry.

The deep pockets in my jacket were appreciated as they easily accommodated my smartphone and gloves when they weren’t in use. I also liked that I could buy a multi-colored garment or choose from a large selection of colors.

Dog sledding in a Taiga Works jacket
Dog sledding in a Taiga Works jacket

The biggest bonus is its actual weight, which is much less than that of competitor brands. The downside was it wasn’t as warm as my Columbia 3-in-1 with Omni-heat technology. My jacket had a nylon liner that didn’t stand up well. The liner shredded, and I replaced it with a gortex liner instead.

My jacket had a hood that I could roll up and tuck away inside the collar. It was an excellent alternative to a removable hood.

My Taiga served me well in Alaska, and I used it for dog sledding on Herbert Glacier in Juneau. Like other brands, you can wash this Gortex jacket with a particular product to maintain its waterproofing properties, although it’s recommended you wash Gortex sparingly.

Pros: Lightweight, deep pockets, and hoods that roll up into the collar. Some jackets are available in size two.

Cons: The jacket lining doesn’t last as long as the shell.

Synthetic Filled Jacket

In theory, synthetic jackets serve the same purpose as a down, but without the higher price tag. A synthetic alternative may cost 1/3 the price of a down.

They make an excellent option for those on a budget or someone who resides in a warm destination and has no use for a well-made jacket for cold weather. However, synthetics don’t compete with the superior qualities of down.

Wearing my synthetic coat in Alaska
Wearing my synthetic jacket in Alaska

Since these jackets aren’t made with natural materials, they don’t breathe. So, if it’s not too cold, I sweat wearing one. I have a red synthetic coat that I use in winter weather because it provides a lot of warmth.

Like a down, the shells aren’t waterproof, although spraying it with a waterproofing product can repel the rain. Alternatively, pair it with a plastic poncho on rainy days.

Pros: warmth, inexpensive

Cons: not packable, not breathable

Picking The Best Coat For Alaska

Choosing a new jacket comes down to price and where you reside. Spending hundreds of dollars on a one-time-use piece may be pointless for resdients of Texas, Florida, or other warm destinations.

Since I live in Canada, my rain and insulated jackets are frequently used. So, set a budget and find something that works for you.

Creating an Alaska packing list with the right coat will elevate your trip from a good one to a fantastic experience.

Wearing various waterproof jackets in Alaska