Moving to Alaska is the adventure of a lifetime. As with any great adventure, you’ll need some supplies along the way to help you enjoy your journey to the fullest.
Here’s the great news: You’ll find a lot of what you need in Alaska. However, there may be some things you want to buy before you make the move. After all, it’s true that items in Alaska can be more expensive than in the lower 48. Additionally, since Alaska is a remote destination, availability of certain items can be limited. And, finally, many online retailers simply won’t ship to Alaska, or they tack on a pricey delivery fee.
However, before you stock up, take a look at our list of what to buy before you make the move—and what not to buy.
Before you make any final decisions, it’s important to ask yourself two questions.
Question #1: Where Are You Headed?
Question #2: What’s Your Moving Plan?
Question #1: Where Are You Headed?
Unless you’re headed to a remote part of the Alaskan bush, you’ll have more opportunities to stock up in Alaska than you think.
For example, Fairbanks has a number of familiar chains and big box stores, including Walmart, Costco, and REI. In Fairbanks, you’ll also find local staples like Big Ray’s (outdoor clothing and gear) and Fred Meyer (groceries, clothes, housewares, electronics, and more). In busy Anchorage, you’ll have all of this, plus Duluth Trading, Cabela’s, Kohl’s, a Bass Pro Shop, and plenty more. Even on more remote Kodiak Island, you’ll find a Big Ray’s, as well as several other places like Cy’s Sporting Goods to get the gear you need to live your Alaska life to the fullest.
Additionally, plenty of online retailers do ship to Alaska:
- Amazon Prime is available in many regions. That said, some items considered hazardous materials (aerosols and lithium batteries, for example) may not be eligible for Prime shipping.
- Other stores that ship to Alaska (minimum purchases may apply) include 1-800-PetMeds, L.L. Bean, Nordstrom, Petco, and Zappos.
The bottom line? Alaska has more opportunities to buy things than you may think. Keep that in mind before you start stockpiling items to bring with you.
Question #2: What’s Your Moving Plan?
Do you already have a vision for how you want to move to Alaska? Just as there are many different ways to live in the Land of the Midnight Sun, there are many ways to move here, including:
The Minimalist Move
Just you, two checked suitcases, and a planet ticket. (Plus maybe a few of those handy USPS if-it-fits-it-ships boxes.)
The DIY Move
A hands-on move that might mean driving a truck with a trailer or buying your own container. (Read this first!)
The Lift Van or Container Move
For people who want to bring some significant household possessions to Alaska. (Check out your options here.)
The Door-to-Door Move
The ultimate in convenience. Movers pack your stuff, ship it, and unpack it in Alaska. Great if you’re short on time.
Understanding the possibilities—and investigating the associated costs—will help make a lot of buying decisions for you.
For example, if you’re planning to drive your pickup truck to Alaska, you probably won’t be buying a couch before setting out. However, you might still want to bring outdoor gear like a mountain bike, camping equipment, or hunting supplies. However, don’t think of these as must-buys by any means. You’ll find plenty of outdoor gear in Alaska.
However, if you’re committed to bringing a full container, then you might want to consider bringing (or buying) a few bigger items with you. For example, you’ll find a much bigger furniture selection in the lower 48. IKEA doesn’t ship to Alaska. Wayfair, Overstock, and Costco.com sometimes do, but it almost always involves a significant shipping fee. As a result, you may want to invest in a few basic pieces, like a couch, a bed, and a bookcase.
The Case for Minimalism
There are plenty of people in Alaska who will tell you it’s a mistake to buy a ton of stuff before moving. Here’s why:
Now that we’ve covered what you can expect in Alaska as well as what you need to consider before moving, we’ll give you our list of what to buy before you move.
What to Buy Before Moving to Alaska
Before we dive in, a clarification: You could probably buy all of these items in Alaska. However, you probably don’t want to spend your first few days gathering the basics. You want to spend them enjoying your new home. Plus, if you arrive in the middle of winter, you’ll want to have most of these items ready to deploy almost immediately.
In other words, buy these items and you’ll be ready to enjoy Alaska as soon as you arrive. (And, since most of them are pretty compact, they’ll fit right in your suitcase!)
We’ve also divided our list into:
The Basics – Our recommended must-haves
Extra Credit – A few useful nice-to-haves
Don’t Buy – Skip these, at least for now
The weather in Alaska is formidable, especially in the winter months, so you’ll want to be ready for it with…
- A heavy-duty parka or a winter jacket
- A high-quality winter hat, ideally one that covers your ears
- A scarf or a balaclava to keep your neck and face protected
- Waterproof gloves
- Rain pants for staying dry outdoors when it’s raining sideways. Especially in the wetter areas of Alaska, very few people use umbrellas since they don’t really do much when the wind is blowing.
- Cold weather bib overalls – Unless you’re working outdoors or on the water. (Plus, you can always get a pair in Alaska!)
Layers are the best choice for staying warm in cold weather. Not only do the winter clothes themselves act as insulation, but the air between the layers insulates, too.
- Two sets of thermal underwear.
- Layers are essential!
- A fleece jacket to act as an additional insulating layer under your coat.
- Flannel- or fleece-lined jeans
- Cotton. Cotton absorbs moisture, and takes a long time to dry, leaving you with wet fabric close to your skin, which can be uncomfortable as well as cold. Choose wool and technical fabrics instead.
Don’t neglect your feet! Keeping them warm and dry allows you to enjoy the outdoors longer, whereas the opposite can cut an excursion short. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Waterproof boots that will keep your feet warm and dry in snow, wet conditions and mud
- Wool socks (again, not cotton; those will get sweaty, stay wet, and make your feet cold!)
- Shoes or boots that look good but won’t stand up to water, snow, or mud. (Most Alaskans choose function over fashion!)
Around the House:
Finally, you might want to buy a few items that will make your home life extra cozy year-round:
- A comfortable sleeping mask so you can snooze through the sunny Alaskan summer nights
- Warm slippers to keep your feet snug during those cold Alaskan winters
- Blackout curtains. They’re incredibly useful, but it will be better to get ones that fit the windows in your new home. Wait to buy these until you’ve moved in.
Buying Smart for Your Alaskan Adventure
As any outdoor adventurer will tell you, the right gear makes all the difference. The same will be true of your life in Alaska. When you’ve got a set of the basic items that protect you from the elements and make your home life comfortable, you’ll be a much happier resident of the Frontier State. Now that you know what’s available in Alaska—and what you might need—you’re ready to make your final shopping list before setting off on your Alaskan adventure.
Want some help with your move? We’ve got options for moves of all sizes, and we can help you get anywhere you want to go in Alaska (even remote locations)! Get started with a free quote from our Alaska-based team.
Tell us about your move!