We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Appropriate winter gear for Fairbanks in late December

Which Fairbanks hotels are on sale?
mm/dd/yyyy mm/dd/yyyy
See hotels
Kansas City...
Level Contributor
25 posts
Appropriate winter gear for Fairbanks in late December

We're spending 4 evenings in Fairbanks between Christmas and New Years. We're gambling on seeing the lights, with some museums and sightseeing as we can.

We're renting a car, and hope to drive just out of the city to Cleary Summit and possibly other spots if the lights are out. No dog-sledding, mushing, skiing, or other outdoor activities are planned.

We own winter clothing suitable for here in the midwest; hats, gloves, wool sweaters, wool socks. Those work down to our winter lows between 10 and -5.

In everyone's opinion, would we be best served with buying some gear when arriving in Fairbanks? If so, any recommendations as to the types and brands would be helpful, as well as stores that would carry the equipment.

Most of the forum posts on the subject indicate layers, maybe mittens for extended outdoor time, face protection, synthetic underwear, and boots.

As they say in Wisconsin, there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. Buying clothing to stay comfortable and safe always seems to be appropriate.

Any input or opinion would be welcome.

Bristol, Connecticut
Destination Expert
for Alaska
Level Contributor
4,360 posts
27 reviews
1. Re: Appropriate winter gear for Fairbanks in late December

Layers is still the key. Long underwear is good to have and warm footwear is a must if you will be out for a while. Mittens are great for keeping your hands warm and I have a pair that have gloves in them, I wore them for years working in Kotzebue and my hands were never cold. Hats, scarves and a balaclava should keep you warm enough. It is a different kind of cold (dry) and if it is below -20 you won't stay out long no matter what you wear. Hand warmers and toe warmers will help. My biggest problem with the cold in Alaska was bloody noses, I always carried saline nose spray with me for a moisturizer.

I would wait and buy gear when you arrive, there are plenty of places to shop and you may decide what you have is enough. Prospector's, Big Ray's or even Fred Meyer will have some of what you need.

Kansas City...
Level Contributor
25 posts
2. Re: Appropriate winter gear for Fairbanks in late December

Many thanks for the quick and thorough reply, especially the nose spray. Hadn't considered that.

Keith

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
8,101 posts
35 reviews
3. Re: Appropriate winter gear for Fairbanks in late December

What do you have for footwear Keith? I bought my first pair of Sorels (rated to -40F) when I moved to Milwaukee in 1994 and have loved them ever since. I did buy a larger pair to accommodated two pairs of wool socks, which has made a difference on my winter Alaskan trips.

If you are planning to be outside to photograph the aurora, you'll need to be sure to be prepared for the impact of the cold on your feet while out standing around.

Regarding the nasal challenges, if you are arriving with temps at or below zero, be sure to give a good "blow" before going outside for your rental car. A "nose freeze" can be painful, because it happens so fast if you have sniffles or any nasal discharge/snot.

Kansas City...
Level Contributor
25 posts
4. Re: Appropriate winter gear for Fairbanks in late December

Boots are the big question.

I see REI online has Sorels Caribou boot on sale for about $100 and the same for their Conquest.

Seems Sorel is now owned by Columbia Sportswear, and are no longer made in Canada, but overseas. Reviews on the REI web site for the Caribou indicate that the quality doesn't match their boots made before 1995 or so.

We're in Seattle for two days before arriving in Fairbanks, so we may shop there for boots.

Anchorage, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Anchorage
Level Contributor
9,167 posts
183 reviews
5. Re: Appropriate winter gear for Fairbanks in late December

Brandy &/or a schnaps is also important "winter gear".

:)

Kansas City...
Level Contributor
25 posts
6. Re: Appropriate winter gear for Fairbanks in late December

Ah, must add plastic flask to the items to pack. The stainless steel flask could cause problems in the cold, perhaps. . .

Healy, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Level Contributor
35,076 posts
42 reviews
7. Re: Appropriate winter gear for Fairbanks in late December

Really depends on what you plan to do . . .if it is standing around, you do need the subzero gear. If you are being active, it is surprisingly different. I walk almost every day, and wear long underwear and the rest is fleece . . .I wear a thick fleece top, and over that, a fleece jacket. Fleece pants, and 2 pairs of socks, one being fleece or wool. I wear a fleece neck gaiter, and usually fleece hat, and big thick mittens, also fleece. When it is about 20 below, then I wear a polypro facemask. Only when it is -30 or colder do the snow pants go on - if I am moving, I don't need that much insulation. So really, all I do is layer fleece . . . which you can find just about anywhere, and need not be very expensive. But of course, I am acclimated! It just warmed up to zero yesterday and feels balmy warm after almost 3 weeks of -30+. :)

Chugiak, Alaska
Level Contributor
2,104 posts
12 reviews
8. Re: Appropriate winter gear for Fairbanks in late December

I swear by Baffins over Sorels. The ones with the liners are amazing- my Sorels made the tops of my foot cold, even with multiple socks. I barely need socks with my Baffins. I've now had North Face, Columbia, Sorel and Keen boots and they've none of them beat the Baffins.

I got the Baffin Icelands for $90 last Winter. Zappos has them for $110 right now, but I didn't look anywhere else. Really I think the key is a boot that has a liner- whether a felt one or an insulated one with the silver on the outside. I had to buy a size up with my boots that had liners. I like sites that have reviews of the boots since other folks will mention that.

But if you are going to be getting in and out of the car, you can maybe just save spending the money on expensive boots and just hop back in the car when you are getting cold. Especially if you aren't going to be doing many more outside things.

Atlanta, Georgia
Level Contributor
4,340 posts
15 reviews
9. Re: Appropriate winter gear for Fairbanks in late December

I've never worn Sorels, but I will add another plug for Baffins. I think I paid about $100 for mine, and they were worth every penny on our trip. I also found them to be warm enough with minimal "sockage". I used a single pair of medium weight Merino wool socks in mine, and was good for several hours at a time outdoors in -10 to -20 degree temps.

The biggest downside with them is that they are extremely bulky, especially in the larger sizes (I were a size 11). They also do not come in half sizes. Even with the bulk, I managed to get a pair into my rollaboard case (but not much else, other then what I could stuff into the boots).

I was actually able to drive our rental car a short distance while wearing them, but would not want to do that for a longer trip.

-JimG

Healy, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Level Contributor
35,076 posts
42 reviews
10. Re: Appropriate winter gear for Fairbanks in late December

For many years, I wore Lobbens, the felt boots from Norway. They really only work in the Interior where our snow is dry . . . my feet were never cold in those, but they are pretty pricey as they start at about $160 a pair. They are very lightweight and have great traction. :)