You’ve booked your trip to Antarctica, are getting excited and now the only thing left to do is pack. But, where do you even begin? If you’re asking this question, fear not, because our Latin Expert, Alison has recently returned for Antarctica and knows exactly what you’ll need from the bottom up. Here’s our packing guide for your next Antarctica expedition.
Layers are critical when dressing for Antarctica, the air trapped between each layer helps with insulation. Additionally, Antarctic weather is often unpredictable and bringing adequate layers will allow you to add on and peel off various items as needed based on the temperature. Cotton is not your friend in polar regions so avoid it at all costs.
Long underwear is essential and comes in many forms. Silk or merino wool long underwear is extremely light weight but very warm. Insulated, moisture wicking synthetic leggings also work well. Depending on the excursion day you may want 2 layers of long underwear underneath your clothing, but these layers can often be re-worn more than once.
Bring 2 pairs of tall, wool socks or insulated moisture wicking socks per excursion day. Many of these types of socks can be worn more than once. It is appropriate to bring some cotton socks to wear when warm and cozy aboard the ship, but they should not be worn on excursions under any circumstances as they will hold moisture and freeze.
Waterproof boots for excursions will be provided on board. The boots provided are tall, high quality insulated gum boots made of rubber and neoprene. You will be asked for your shoe size prior to departure and also given the opportunity to switch out sizes on board to ensure the perfect fit.
Moisture wicking undergarments are ideal and are far preferable to cotton. It is possible to buy undergarments specifically designed for hiking and active experiences, this is what you want to look for. Any moisture that is trapped inside can become quite cold and can potentially freeze. Women will want to wear sports bras or similar active styles.
Hiking pants work well over long underwear and should be comfortable. Do not wear jeans or similar cotton pants under any circumstances as they will hold moisture and become stiff and heavy before eventually freezing.
Waterproof pants are required for most voyages and with good reason. Gore Tex is absolutely ideal and will feel more flexible in the cold than typical rain pants. This should be the top layer on your bottom half; worn on top of you hiking pants as well as 1-2 layers of long underwear.
Wool, polar fleece or a combination of multiple moisture wicking long sleeve shirts are ideal. Half zip tops work well as they typically have a tall collar that can also provide neck protection like a turtle neck. Over your long underwear, 2-3 layers are recommended on top.
An ultra-light synthetic puffy coat is also advisable as a layer beneath your waterproof coat.
A rather stylish, waterproof jacket will be provided to you on board and makes you look and feel like part of the expedition team. You will be asked for your jacket size prior to departure and like the waterproof boots, given an opportunity to switch sizes on board if needed. The jacket will have a waterproof hood which will be useful in addition to a hat.
Waterproof gloves are non-negotiable. Be sure to think about the mobility of the gloves and if you will have the ability to do all of the things you want to do on excursions – such as taking photos. Dexterity is key! Additionally, touch screen gloves are perfect if you plan to take photos with your phone – frost bite is not uncommon when taking off gloves to use photo touch screens.
Neck protection is also critical, and a neck tube or balaclava is perfect as those garments also cover your ears, chin and mouth. A significant amount of heat escapes from the top of your head, so a high-quality wool beanie hat is a must.
Another necessary item is sunglasses or ski goggles for both wind protection and the possibility of bright sunshine. If you are lucky enough to experience blue skies the reflection off of the snow is intense and snow blindness can be a real danger without sunglasses.
Sun screen the last item you will need to adequately protect yourself from the harsh Antarctic winters. Even when very cloudy, sunburn is a real possibility.
Now you are ready to go to Antarctica, enjoy!