What to Bring

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WARNING:  You must arrive dressed appropriately for your tour.  Read my guidance below to make sure you bring the right clothing for the right season.  If you pose a safety risk to yourself by arriving with improper clothing, you may be denied access to the tour without refund.

 

Winter Guidance:   November to March "Cold Weather"

If you booked a winter tour, please be sure you follow the below guidelines very carefully.  Winter is cold on the glacier.  Typically the temperatures drop below freezing and remain below freezing all winter.  Snow persists generally after October and does not start melting with rigor until early April. 

If you are not dressed properly you will become too cold and will have to be evacuated from the glacier which will disrupt the tour for everyone else.  For this reason I reserve the right to deny people access to a tour if they do not arrive dressed correctly. Contact me if you have questions. 


Be sure to wear the following:

  • Insulated Winter Boots:  You need to wear well insulated winter boots.  Feet can become very cold on the glacier if you wear poorly insulated boots.  If you bring poorly insulated boots then you will not be allowed on the glacier.  I do not have any spare boots to loan people. 
Boots ideal for walking on glaciers in the winter will be larger and have thick insulation.  The examples below illustrate some good boots, however these are just examples, you do not need to have these exact brands...but this is what "right" looks like.  All of these boots can be purchased locally in stores or on Amazon starting at $30.

Other boots that have less insulation, thinner materials, and have a tighter fit may be good for walking around Alaskan cities during the winter, however they are not suitable for the frigid temperatures of glaciers in the winter.  They lack sufficient insulation and are tighter (tight boots = colder boots).  Each winter people arrive wearing lighter fashionable boots and become too cold on tour to complete even 25% of the journey.  Thus, if you arrive in unsuitable boots, you will not be able to join the tour.  

  • Good Synthetic or Wool Socks:  Cotton is never a good choice to wear because it has no thermal value if wet. We do not plan to get wet, but even sweating can cause moisture which then becomes cold. Brands like SmartWool and the Darn Tough are respected brands of good socks for the outdoors.  Generic similar brands can be just as good and can be purchased at Fred Meyers.  Make sure you get the thicker winter versions, not the lighter summer hiking versions of the socks.  
  • Hand-warmers and Foot-Warmers:  You need to also pack some hand-warmers and foot-warmers.  These can be purchased at Alaskan grocery stores or on Amazon.  You will want one in each boot, and one in each mitten or pocket.  They last 6-12 hours so you don't need many.
    • Hint: cell phone batteries tend to die after an hour of photo-taking in cold weather so a hand-warmer near your phone can keep it running for the entire tour.
    • Hats:  You must arrive with a good hat.  Ideally you need one that is thick and covers all of your head.  Really nice hats include ear flaps, however a normal insulated hat like the one below is sufficient (starting at $5).  You will need to wear your hat the entire time you are on the ice.

                

    • Scarf and/or Balaclava:  If the wind starts blowing you will want something to cover your face (cheeks, nose, etc).  You should pack a good warm scarf that you can wrap around your head, or pack a balaclava.  There are many styles and price ranges (starting at $6) to choose from but don't stress over options because they all work essentially the same.  Again, these are just examples to illustrate options - you don't need to buy the ones I illustrate.

             

     

     

     

     

    • Mittens or Gloves:  The hand protection model I prefer is:  good wool glove liners, inside very warm well insulated mittens, with hand warmers inside each mitten.  In cold temperatures your hands will stay warmer inside mittens because your fingers warm each-other and heat is trapped in the air space inside the mitten.  However if you prefer to wear gloves then make sure they are well insulated and make sure you bring hand warmers because you will need them.  Again, the options below are just examples to illustrate what choices exist but you do not need to have these specific versions. 
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    • Warm Coat:  You must arrive in a good warm coat - this is essential.  It needs to have a good thick layer of insulation (synthetic or down).  A good coat will be bulkier than thinner coats you might wear in urban settings (walking around Anchorage, etc).  It should have an outer shell covering the insulation which holds in heat and reduces wind penetration.
    • Thermal Layer:  I recommend that you have a middle thermal layer such as a fleece jacket or micro-down vest over your shirt and base-layer.  You can always remove an extra layer, but if you are cold you will regret not having middle layers. 
    • Insulated Snow Pants:  You need to wear insulated snow pants over your normal pants, or some other solution you "engineer."  These do not have to be expensive (they can often be purchased for under $25 in local stores or the version below on amazon), but you need to have warm snow pants covering your legs.  Alternatives may include a good base layer (see below), plus normal pants, plus thick fleece pants, all covered by a set of wind pants or rain pants.  
    • Base Layer / Long Underwear:  I highly recommend that you wear long underwear or a similar base layer if you have access to something.  If you dress well and follow all the above rules, then you may not need them, but if you have them (or are excited to expand your adventure inventory by buying some) please wear both the shirt and the bottoms.  If you want to buy something, a well respected brand is smart-wool, but there are many less expensive brands online as well (just be sure to avoid cotton blends).  Also, as a cost savings measure, you can also wear yoga pants and yoga shirts because they too will help insulate you as a thin base layer.  Along the same lines, women's "leggings" which are sold as style apparel are also great as a base layer if you do not want to invest in formal long underwear.  

     

    Fall Guidance:  September to October  "Cool Weather"

    If you have a tour booked during this window, please be sure you bring extra clothing and items in a backpack. This is our "inter winter season" - the space between cool fall weather and cold winter weather. Weather is unpredictable during this season. While many days are warm and sunny, historically the Matanuska Glacier can occasionally receive short-lived, intermittent snow storms between 20 Sept and 15 Oct. This early snow usually persists for about a day before melting in the sunny days that follow. After 15 Oct snow tends to remain without melting (i.e., our winter starts).

    Be sure to pack the following:

    • Outer shell jacket (wind breaker, rain jacket, gore-tex jacket, etc)
    • Micro-down coat (or comparable lighter weight insulated coat) that can be worn under your shell
    • Fleece coat (depending on how warm or cool you are, you will switch between the fleece coat and micro-insulated coat as we walk)
    • Warm hat (bring a hat with no decoration on top of the hat so the ice helmet fits correctly).  I like fleece hats because they are warm and thinner so fit well under the helmets.
    • Good synthetic or wool socks.  Cotton is always a poor choice to wear because it has no thermal value if wet.  We do not plan to get wet, but this is a glacier so there is always the possibility of wet feet. SmartWool and the Darn Tough brands are respected
    • Simple gloves or mittens (optional)
    • Long full length pants.  During this season I wear thermal long underwear (always synthetic) with shell pants (like rain pants, etc)
    • Good hiking boots / shoes
    • Backpack to carry your items
      • Chemical Hand and Toe Warmers:  You might also want to pack some hand-warmers and foot-warmers
        • Hint: cell phone batteries tend to die after an hour of photo-taking in cold weather so a hand-warmer near your phone can keep it running for the entire tour.

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      Spring Guidance:  April to May "Wet Conditions, Cool Temps"

      Spring is short lived in Alaska.  On the glacier we will see spring weather varying from "winter" to "summer" from one day to the next.  Conditions on the glacier can be vary from dry (frozen) one day to wet (slushy melt-water) the next day,and then back to dry (frozen) the following day. 

      It is best to seek advice from me prior to your tour to determine the nature of the conditions on the glacier to guide what you wear that day.  If you are traveling from out of state, be sure to pack:

      • Backpack: to carry your things.  This does not need to be a large mountaineering backpack, rather any normal size backpack will be fine.
      • Long Pants: wear a good pair of pants (not cotton).  Any good pair of hiking pants or synthetic pants will be fine. Cotton has almost no thermal value when wet.
      • Good Footwear: You may not be permitted on the tour if you arrive in unacceptable footwear. Your recommended footwear can vary depending on conditions.  Dry frozen conditions will require a good pair hiking boots or hiking shoes.  Wet slushy conditions will need a good pair of waterproof rubber boots (XTRATUFs are truly Alaskan favorites but any cheaper comparable boot will be fine too).
        •  or possibly   
        • XTRATUF boots can be purchased via amazon or even at local grocery stores like Fred Meyers.  However you can also purchase less costly simple rubber boots as well. For both options, just make sure you wear good socks as described below. 
      • Micro-down coat (or comparable lighter weight insulated coat) that can be worn under your shell
      • Warm hat (bring a hat with no decoration "pom poms" on top of the hat so the ice helmet fits correctly).  I like fleece hats because they are warm and thinner so fit well under the helmets
      • Rain Gear or Jacket Shell:  rain gear is good to keep in your backpack just in case we encounter a small rain event.  At a minimum, bring a light shell jacket in case it rains or gets a bit windy and you want to put on something that will block the wind. For the purpose of this glacier hike, the most expensive shells / rain jacket will work just as well as an inexpensive jacket, so don't feel compelled to buy something very pricey just for this tour.
      • Fleece Jacket:  bring a light fleece jacket to wear in case the temperatures are cool.  Heavy winter pants and jackets (like down, etc) are not required for summer tours. You will likely put the fleece on for part of the tour, then take it off as weather changes and you feel warm.
      • Warm Layers:  for the summer, I suggest wearing a comfortable short sleeve shirt (or light long-sleeve hiking shirt) when you arrive and having a nice thermal shirt in your backpack that you can easily put on if needed.
      • Socks:  wear good synthetic or wool socks.  Cotton is a poor choice to wear because it has low thermal value when wet.  We do not plan to get wet, but this is a glacier so there is always the possibility of wet feet. SmartWool and the Darn Tough brands are well respected.
      • Simple gloves or mittens (optional)
      • Chemical Hand and Toe Warmers:  You might also want to pack some hand-warmers and foot-warmers
        • Hint: cell phone batteries tend to die after an hour of photo-taking in cold weather so a hand-warmer near your phone can keep it running for the entire tour.

       

      Summer Guidance:  June to September "Warm to Cool, Sun to Rain"

      Summer and Fall can have variable weather.  Most often it is sunny at the glacier however occasional windy rain storms can arise and you need to be prepared. 

      Be sure to pack the following:

      • Backpack: to carry your things.  This does not need to be a large mountaineering backpack, rather any normal size backpack will be fine.
      • Long Pants: wear a good pair of pants (not cotton).  Any good pair of hiking pants or synthetic pants will be fine. Cotton has almost no thermal value when wet.
      • Good Footwear: wear a good pair hiking boots or hiking shoes.  You may not be permitted on the tour if you arrive in unacceptable footwear.
      • Rain Gear or Jacket Shell:  rain gear is good to keep in your backpack just in case we encounter a small rain event.  At a minimum, bring a light shell jacket in case it rains or gets a bit windy and you want to put on something that will block the wind. For the purpose of this glacier hike, the most expensive shells / rain jacket will work just as well as an inexpensive jacket, so don't feel compelled to buy something very pricey just for this tour.
      • Fleece Jacket:  bring a light fleece jacket to wear in case the temperatures are cool.  Heavy winter pants and jackets (like down, etc) are not required for summer tours. You will likely put the fleece on for part of the tour, then take it off as weather changes and you feel warm.
      • Warm Layers:  for the summer, I suggest wearing a comfortable short sleeve shirt (or light long-sleeve hiking shirt) when you arrive and having a nice thermal shirt in your backpack that you can easily put on if needed.
      • Socks:  wear good synthetic or wool socks.  Cotton is a poor choice to wear because it has low thermal value when wet.  We do not plan to get wet, but this is a glacier so there is always the possibility of wet feet. SmartWool and the Darn Tough brands are well respected.
      • Water:  bring a bottle of water, any snacks, etc you desire
      • Sunscreen:  bring a good sunscreen SPF 30 or 50, and plan to reapply as needed.  I also personally bring SPF 15 lip balm but this is not required. For sunscreen, I tend to use ThinkSport because it has fewer harsh chemicals that most on the market, but you can wear anything you like. 
      • Sunglasses:  you will absolutely want sun-glasses in the summer. However, you don’t need anything expensive - even a cheap pair of sunglasses from the grocery store will help protect your eyes from the bright sun reflected off the ice and prevent you from squinting
      • Camera:  a camera is recommended and people take wonderful photos with their smartphones so you don't need anything fancy (we have cell reception out here)
      • Hats:   A fleece hat with no decorations on top is highly recommended in case it gets cool outside (the hat must fit under your helmet so cannot have decorations on top such as pom-poms).  During sunny months, a hat with a visor is recommended but not required to shield your face from bright sun. Cold breezes can blow intermittently on the glacier so it's nice to have options in our backpacks.
      • Walking Poles:  if you are unsteady on your feet, consider bringing a walking pole.  You can bring any kind of walking pole. Sporting goods stores sell them locally in Anchorage, Palmer, and Wasilla and you can buy them online.  We also have a supply on hand if you want to borrow one.

       

      What Dr. Sarah’s Alaska Tours Provides (as seasonally appropriate to the conditions):

      • Micro-spikes to wear on your shoes to assist with gripping the ice 
      • Glacier (Ice) Helmet
      • Walking Sticks