Contrary to the name, 'outpost', Alaska today has just about all the major chain stores we're familiar with in the rest of the states. The prices are a little higher in Anchorage and other main cities and noticeably higher in the smaller towns (and whatever the traffic will bear out in the wilderness). We show here some things that we were glad we took or wish we had taken or purchased there. Long days and distances make what you wear and take and carry it in more important because you can't change or get to what you don't have. Clothes have to be warm when it's cold and cool when it's hot which we found is possible with new 'wicking' synthetic fabrics. Luggage has to hold a lot in an organized way and then collapse or fold up to minimize storage space when not in use. Normal home and personal items can be just as necessary but are likely to be overlooked when you're concentrating on the more exciting travel needs.
What to wear takes on new meaning when the temperature can swing 60 degrees in the same day! These tourists are dressed for checking trap lines on the Yukon River, but not for 99% of the activities and attractions they came to Alaska for. Most of the time, you need thin garments (and undergarments) you can put on and take off as the conditions dictate. The aforementioned exotic 'wicking' synthetic fabrics have found their way into normal and long sleeved t-shirts, short, semi and long underwear, vests, tanktops, light sweatshirts and 'hoodies' in budget to boutique price ranges. These items from Amazon and Wal-Mart are reasonable in price and great in performance. Over a long Alaskan day, you don't notice the temperature, humidity, rain or snow as your clothes keep you warm, cool, dry and freely moving or relaxing. A couple of years ago (pre-2007) you would have to run around to 4-5 specialty stores to collect a similar wardrobe.
Amazon has a vast selection of brands which their suppliers ship when you order. Your wait is minimal as they have shipping down to a fine art.
Wal-Mart has a great assortment of mostly budget priced items. You can also ship to store or find it in stock at their stores.
Alaska's yard sales are likely to turn up some real eye-openers. I like to get the feel for a destination by 'going through their stuff'. I LOVE Craigslist and looking at "Craigs List - Anchorage" gives you such a good picture of what Alaskans have, want, need... makes you feel like a local without leaving your house. Look at "Anchorage Super Ads" or "Anchorage Yakaz Ads" (yes, someone is selling tickets for the Anchorage Elton John Concert on May 28th!!!) or "Anchorage Kijiji Ads" or, if you're thinking of staying a little longer, there's always "Anchorage jobs/careers" or another of my favorites, , where you can find that mastodon ivory knife you've been looking for... or muktuk... or birch tree syrup... or...
Equipment for Alaska includes cameras, binoculars, cellphones, IPods, Gameboys, batteries for everything, chargers for everything, memory cards, travel cases, tripods, monopods, USB cables, IPod jacks, thumb drives, DVD player and movies... or not!!! You can get along without gadgetry and just enjoy the sights, sounds, conversations and hotel room entertainment and save yourself a lot of time and expense. Naaa... that would be too easy! We of the Orange County Tribe believe if it moves, it goes with us! We do, however, have our memories backed up on hard drives for slide shows, emails, albums and websites like this. We were also able to stay in touch with family, friends and coworkers and never lacked for entertainment on long train rides, nights in hotels and the motorhome and drives in the motorhome.
Alaskan souvenirs don't have to be boring and don't have to break the bank, either. We went into a Wal-Mart in Anchorage and found Alaska t-shirts, Alaska sweatshirts, blueberry candy, postcards, maps, books and other momentos for very good prices. This left us with extra cash for designer coffees, candy, salmon lunches and local handicrafts which we would have had to forego. So much in the souvenir department was in the form of pictures, movies, rocks, shells, moose droppings and other non-cash items. The Alaskan locals and fellow tourists we 'collected' (and photographed) are a continuing source of pleasure since we left 'the Great Land'.