Packing Light for Cruise to Alaska

I believe I wrote earlier that (a) our extended family (35 family members, 4 generations) is taking a cruise to Alaska in August and (b) my intention is to travel with a single bag – a carry-on sized backpack. Today, I did my first test pack of everything I plan on taking on the cruise. I am pleased with the result and thought I would share it with you.

Packing light is part of my overall goal of simplifying my life. I first implemented my “let’s make it simple” plan several years at work when I went 100% paperless in my office.  Since that time, I have been downsizing (e.g., getting rid of) other unused stuff in my life. So packing light is just another part of that plan.

Some of you may think this whole plan is silly. I get that, particularly the “packing light” part. But before you make a final judgment, maybe you should give it a try. Every downsizing and simplification step I have taken has been very liberating for me. This seems to be a common reaction of others as well.

So on to my packing test for the Alaska cruise. As you continue to read below about my “one-bag” adventure, keep two things in mind. First, we will spend two days in Vancouver before the cruise and four days in Denali and Seward after the cruise. Second, 90% of the clothing I am wearing and packing is lightweight, breathable, and quick drying because I obviously will be doing some hand washing of clothes on this trip.  Combined with the clothes I will wearing, I will have to wash at least socks and underwear every other day.

The photo below shows all of my travel clothes and gear before being packed.

Prepack photo

Starting at the top left of the photo and moving right:

Rain suit (waterproof, breathable jacket and pants designed to layer over other clothing); black Rockport walking shoes (I will be wearing waterproof trail shoes on the plane so the walking shoes will be used for everything else); 2 pr socks; 2 pr boxers; 3 T-shirts; 1 pr. long pants; 1 pr yoga pants (will also serve as sleepwear and casual lounge-around pants as needed).

Sport coat and tie (needed to sort of comply with cruise “formal night” policy); sleep mask; visor; day pack (for carrying stuff on excursions, hikes, etc.); swimsuit (can also serve as walking shorts, workout shorts, and emergency boxer shorts); 1 long sleeve t-shirt (also usable as sleepwear and base layer); 2 long sleeve shirts with tabbed sleeves for converting to short sleeve (one of these shirts is white for use on “formal” nights).

Packable water bottle; waterproof binoculars with case and strap; camera with charger and extra SD cards; portable clothesline; tube of Woolite for sink washing; gloves and pullover hat (for glacier watching).

Pocket-size pump spray tube of insect repellent; pocket size tube of sunscreen; tube of shave cream; disposable razor; floss; tube of combination shampoo and body wash; deodorant; spare bags and zip ties for hanging stuff up; sunglasses and croakie; portable speaker (for listening to music and podcasts during “me time” and music during impromptu family parties); and charger for my tablet and cell phone.

The last three items on the bottom right are a miniature flashlight; noise cancelling headphones; and a 7″ Android tablet for reading books and watching movies on the plane, etc.  Those items will be carried on me, inside pockets on my Scottevest jacket which I will be wearing to Vancouver.  The Scottevest jacket has removable sleeves in case all I need to wear is a vest.

And that’s my packing list. What do you think?

Now here is a photo of my carry-on backpack with all of the stuff in the photo above packed inside.

Post=pack photo

It also shows the Scottevest jacket with the flashlight, tablet and headphones.

The bag is an Osprey Porter 46. It is a frameless backpack but includes a full waist strap so it is easy to carry. I have used it several times already. It is perfect for me and my travel objectives. It fits easily into almost any overhead compartment.

My goal when selecting items for packing was to achieve a total weight on my back of 17 pounds or less. I chose 17 pounds because some foreign airlines have weight limits on carry-ons, with 17 pounds being typical.


I weighed the packed bag: 16 pounds. I was pleasantly surprised. I thought bringing the rain suit and sport coat would put me over the top.

There actually is room for a lot more stuff in the Osprey (those cinch straps aren’t doing much work now) but weight and simplicity remain a priority. I may add a lightweight sweater or fleece for an additional cold weather layer when we are cruising by the glaciers.  As it stands now, on the worst weather days I can layer a long sleeve t-shirt, a long sleeve shirt, the Scottevest jacket, and the rain jacket. Or I may add one more pr. of socks and underwear so that I won’t have to wash as often.

Am I crazy? Do any of you who are veteran travelers to Alaska have any suggestions or critiques?


  1. says

    I really enjoyed this post. When my wife and I travel, we always take too much. I’m going to show your post to my wife. With luck, next time we travel, we won’t need to take three bags for an overnight trip.

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