Making your Denali packing list is an exciting part of planning your trip. Alaska’s Denali National Park is part of the last frontier of North America.
So you need to be safe and comfortable to fully enjoy this amazing six-million-acre park. That’s right–six million acres of wilderness with exactly one road. High alpine tundra starts where the forest ends and peaks with Denali at 20,310 feet.
This makes Denali North America’s tallest peak. And it is home to many wild animals since any human development is banned. The only lodges available inside the park are on private land but you can make reservations.
So, such a rugged environment calls for gear…and lots of it. It also calls for travel insurance.
You never know what’s going to happen on your trip until you get there. Protect your travel investments by going to Travelex and finding a plan that works for you.
To come up with our Denali packing list, we evaluated the best outdoor products by scouring real user reviews and personal experiences.
We looked at core features, durability in the backcountry, materials used, ease of use, and affordability.
Now back to the fun. Gear!
What to pack for Denali National Park
Your Alaska packing list should center around sturdiness and safety. Ditch the tennis shoes and sweatpants for something more technical.
Best Hiking Boots for Men
If you’re wondering how to tour Denali National Park without sacrificing your feet, the Vasque Men’s St. Elias Fg GTX Hiking Boot is the answer.
Made with a waterproof full grain leather upper, from All Terrain Compound midsole, and EVA comfort pods, this shoe is designed to reduce fatigue. Get mega durability with the molded rubber toe cap. The boot is lined with Gore-Tex with Performance Comfort Technology and weighs 2 lbs 15 oz.
Reviewers are impressed with their durability and comfort with several reviews indicating that their boots are several years old with little wear showing.
Make sure you break these in before taking them to Denali so the leather gets loose and supple.
- Pros: Durable and built to last.
- Cons: Heavy and need some breaking in before they feel comfortable.
Best Hiking Boots for Women
For your Denali packing list, the Soloman Women’s Quest 4D 3 GTX is a waterproof backpacking boot that is designed for traction.
The boots were made with running shoe technology for reduced weight and cushioning, but remain supportive enough for hiking on mixed terrain.
Reviewers liked the ankle support and stability and felt their feet were protected on rough terrain.
They noted they felt heavier than other shoes, but also seemed well-balanced.
- Pros: Excellent ankle support and traction
- Cons: Pricey, heavier, stiffer, and had a high cuff
Best Backpack for Carrying 35+ Pounds
When you researched what to do in Denali National Park, we’re pretty sure backpacking was at the top of the list. You’ll need a backpack that can hold a tent and your gear. There are many good ones on the market that will handle a variety of preferences and needs.
The Osprey Atmos AG 65 for men and the Aura AG 65 for women are ideal for multi-day, backcountry hiking. The packs feature an anti-gravity suspension that minimizes the weight and should be comfortable for at least five days with no more than 40 lbs.
Get the perfect fit with the adjustable harness and hip belt. Store extras in the convenient front mesh pocket. There is also an internal sleeve for hydration systems and there’s even a place to stow your trekking pole.
You should also include a rain cover for your backpack on your Denali packing list, but this is a separate purchase, as is the water reservoir.
The pack might be a little bit large for traveling on planes. Call your carrier for advice if you need to fly with it. The National Park Service also recommends you pack a bear-resistant food container to protect your food, you, and the bears.
This one is large enough for seven days worth of food but light enough to put inside or strap to your pack.
- Pros: Good for heavy loads, comfortable enough for multiple days on the trail, adjustable for an excellent fit, and pocket for a sleeping bag.
- Cons: Heavy, hefty price tag and exterior has excessive straps.
Best Tent for Camping in Denali
When it’s set up, the tent weighs 3.5 lbs and then folds down to 18×6 inches. The Easton Syclone Poles resist strong winds. And it will protect you from bad, wet weather. It’s also roomy due to its vertical sidewalls.
- Pros: Excellent protection, freestanding, 2 doorways, easy to pitch, roomy
- Cons: The outer tent is close in on the short sides
Best Sleeping Bags for Camping
The National Park Service suggests that campers have on their Denali packing lists sleeping bags with protection to 20 degrees F…and that’s for summer.
Check out the affordable, 550 down-fill Kelty Cosmic 20. It’s light and warm with two zippers and a mummy-style design. It also compresses down and is very easy to backpack with.
- Pros: Light, hood for added warmth, down-filled
- Cons: Not so roomy
Best Rain Gear For Hiking in Denali
Yet, it will keep you comfortable and dry if you get hit with a shower on the trail. The weather is unpredictable in Denali and the winds are often high. So a packable rain jacket is essential for your Denali packing list.
The Marmot Bantamweight is made of 100% nylon that is breathable and weighs less than five ounces. You can store it by stuffing it into its own internal pocket. It’s more expensive than other jackets, but the quality is high. Matching Marmot waterproof, lightweight pants made from the same breathable nylon as the jackets are also available.
- Pros: Breathable, lightweight, and can fit into an internal pocket.
- Cons: Pricey, can snag, and no zippers in the armpits.
As far as other clothing, the National Park Service recommends warm, fast-drying layers made from polypropylene, nylon, fleece, or wool. Avoid cotton clothing at all costs as that kind of fabric will absorb sweat and water and will make you cold in the wind.
Make sure your Denali packing list includes the following clothing if you plan to do a backcountry hike:
- Quick-drying pants
- Long underwear
- Long-sleeved shirt (at least one)
- Warm hat
- Waterproof gloves
- Fleece jacket
Best Stove for Camping in Denali
What to do in Denali National Park when you’re camping and it’s dinner time? Cook your vittles on a packable liquid fuel stove in record time. The MSR XGK stove is a favorite of mountaineers and guides in Denali and other epic mountain ranges around the world.
It’s my personal favorite on our Denali packing list because it’s powerful and heats up fast, which you’ll appreciate if you have to melt snow, boil creek water, or need to prepare a meal for a group.
- Pros: Heats up fast even in cold and wind, easy to pack.
- Cons: Does not simmer, and requires a fuel bottle (sold separately).
Make sure to bring your cookware and water bottles too. Since water from creeks can harbor dangerous bacteria and parasites, you’ll need a way to filter the water. I like the MSR Guardian water purifier. It’s bulky, but it works fast, which is great if you’re getting your water from “nature.”
“Nature” is creeks filled with giardia and other tiny beasties. Also, glacier water contains a lot of silt, so you’ll need a silt-stopper on your filter to prevent clogs.
Best GPS Watch for Backcountry Hiking
Pair your low-tech maps and compass on your Denali packing list with a watch that will help keep your bearings. The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is solar-powered so you can stay the course for miles without worrying about battery life.
Monitor your heart rate and sleep. And train using the grade-adjusted pace guidance. Comes preloaded with colored topo maps that you can view on a larger-than-average screen.
It does have a battery that averages 14 days in the smartwatch mode and 36 hours in GPS mode. It also supports a variety of activities including skiing, running, and biking.
- Pros: Detailed maps, waterproof to 100 m., customizable, decent battery life
- Cons: Pricey, steep learning curve
Best Food for Hiking in Denali
Personally, this is my favorite part about backpacking–picking out the food for a Denali packing list. Whatever you choose should be calorie dense, yet lightweight. Fortunately, delicious choices abound.
Lunch sandwich made with:
- Cured meats and cheese
- Packets of chicken or tuna, mustard, and relish mixed into a salad
Pack a sandwich baggie with little packets of salt and pepper, hot sauce, relish, mayo, and mustard if you need to amp up any flavors. Anything you bring into Denali, you have to bring out with you. So keep in mind how much trash your food choices will generate.
See Related: Best Cabin Rentals in Denali
What to Bring on an Alaskan Cruise
When most people think about cruises, they think about warm, moonlit nights and days spent poolside.
But cruising in Alaska means being prepared in your Denali packing list for any kind of weather. What to bring on a cruise to Alaska in June may be the same wardrobe you’d wear in November in any other state.
Dressing in layers is always a good idea. Make sure you have some athletic wear too for any active shore excursions you book. Kayaking and zip lining require clothes you can really move around in.
You will also want to find travel insurance to protect you in case of cancellations or other interruptions…because, you know, they happen.
Try TravelInsurance.com to compare different plans and prices.
What to Bring to Alaska in August for a Summer Cruise:
- A mix of short and long-sleeved shirts
- Fleece vest for when it’s too warm for a coat
- Lightweight jacket
- Rain jacket and pants
- Long underwear
- Convertible zip pants
- Wool socks
- Waterproof footwear
- Hats and gloves
- Clothes for dinner (check with your cruise line’s dress code for dining and other events)
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Alaska
What to Bring on an Alaska Fishing Trip
This might be the fishing trip of a lifetime. Don’t get caught unprepared. Our Denali packing list will outline some of the essentials you’ll need to stay safe and dry.
Best Waterproof Bags for Boating
You’re on the water so you need to keep your belongings dry even if you get a splash or rain shower here and there.
MARCHWAY Floating Waterproof Dry Bag comes in different sizes with a buckle closure and a sturdy design.
- Pros: Roll-top closure system makes a watertight seal, easy to clean
- Cons: Not waterproof when submerged, folding over diminishes space
Best Polarized Sunglasses for Fishing
Protect your eyes from UV rays by including these KastKing Skidaway Polarized Sports Sunglasses on your Denali packing list. These sunglasses have a scratch-resistant coating and are polarized to reduce glare and tested for any optical distortion.
- Pros: Affordable, lightweight, strong but flexible frames
- Cons: Tint could be darker for highly sunny conditions
See Related: Best Things to do in Juneau, Alaska
Best Boots for Fishing
You’ll need a tough boot on your Denali packing list for walking around the cold wet shores and decks that come with fishing in Alaska.
The XTRATUF Ankle Deck Boot (which comes in both men’s and women’s sizes) is a great choice. They’re short enough to be comfortable but will still keep your feet dry.
- Pros: Slip-on style, easy to clean, breathable lining
- Cons: Little traction or arch support
What Else to Bring with You
Other important items to bring are:
- Warm clothing you can wear in layers
- Rain jacket and pants
- Chest waders
- Fishing vest
- Gloves and hat