Packing for a trip to Antarctica should be fairly straightforward. You pack your cold weather clothes and voila! You are done…
Except that it is not always quite so easy.
There are quite a few factors to consider when packing for a trip to Antarctica, some of which you may not have immediately considered, so, to make it easier, here is a guide to everything that you will need when visiting the frozen continent.
Your thermal base layers are easily some of the most important items you will need to pack. You will want to be wearing your long johns each and every time you go on a landing or kayaking trip, and having ones of a sub par quality will definitely leave you feeling less than stellar.
I recommend buying stretchy thermals made of merino wool. They dry quickly, they keep you warm as hell and they have moisture wicking qualities that prevent you from overheating.
I only packed one pair and I made it work, but having two pairs would definitely have made my life a lot easier.
I honestly can’t believe that once upon a time I used to hate jeans! They have become a wardrobe staple for me, and when it comes to just hanging out on the ship in between landings, at meal times and on days spent at sea, there is nothing better than a pair of comfy jeans. I packed two pairs so that I wouldn’t need to do laundry (it’s fricking expensive on a cruise ship) and that served me perfectly.
I gotta confess something. I didn’t bring waterproof pants with me to Antarctica. I stupidly thought to myself, ‘oh I was fine in the Arctic during winter, I’ll be right for the Antarctic summer!’
What I did not consider was that Antarctica presents many more opportunities to get wet. Getting in and out of zodiacs is not always a coordinated affair, and it can lead to a fair bit of splashing. Not only that, Antarctica can go from cold and snowy to relatively warm and sunny in a heartbeat. So that snow that rests on your jeans can quickly melt and leave you feeling freezing.
I ended up buying a pair of pants on board and even though they weren’t exactly the most flattering things in the world, I was certainly grateful that I had them.
I cannot stress this enough, do not forget your sunnies!
The extreme white nature of the landscape can be incredibly harsh on your eyes, and without adequate eye protection you can end up feeling pretty rotten. If you do forget (like I did, because of course I did) most cruise ships will sell them on board. I got a cheap and cheerful pair for 6 euros which did the job perfectly.
Windproof (and waterproof) jacket
When it comes time to buy your ‘Antarctica jacket’ it is worth noting that you really don’t need to buy the top of the line jacket. As long as it is windproof and waterproof, your base layers will actually do a lot more to keep you warm. I already had a big thick Kathmandu (the Southern Hemisphere’s version of The North Face) from when I visited the Arctic in winter, and it certainly kept me warm, but there were lots of people getting around in much less bulky jackets and they had no issues.
Never underestimate the Drake Passage!
Bring a decent haul of anti-nausea drugs and thank me later.
This is a given. We lose a ridiculous amount of heat from our heads, so packing a warm beanie is imperative when heading to Antarctica.
Another given here, but your neck will get really damn cold without one. Also, if your jacket doesnt create a good seal around your neck, this can help prevent any cold from seeping in.
At least three pairs of warm gloves
I only packed one pair, and this was definitely a mistake!
Your gloves can get wet really easily on an Antarctic voyage, but they don’t always dry out very quickly, which can lead to you going back out for another adventure with damp gloves, and ultimately, freezing cold hands.
It really does pay to bring multiple pairs, but on the off chance that you can’t, hopefully your vessel will have a heli-hanger where they store kayaking gear like the Ortelius MV does. This heli hangar is constantly kept warm and dry in order for the wetsuits to dry quickly, so it is the perfect place to hang out your wet clothing.
Merino wool socks
I have raved about merino wool socks in numerous past blog posts – for good reason. They keep your feet totally warm, they somehow never get smelly, they do not require washing as regularly as standard socks do and they are moisture wicking so that you don’t overheat. I always travel with a few pairs of these babies, even when I am not venturing to somewhere stupidly cold, but when you are heading to a sub zero destination, the need for them becomes even greater.
Slides or sandals
Having shoes that don’t require lacing up come in really handy for the days when you are just meandering around the vessel.
Jumpers and sweaters
This goes without saying!
It can actually get pretty warm on board, so having some lighter layers will absolutely come in handy.
With Antarctica, comes wind. Prepare to wrangle your locks accordingly!
Knee high wellies
Your footwear can be one of the most important things that you pack for an Antarctic voyage. I was lucky that on my voyage we were provided with suitable boots, but others may not be so lucky. Basically, you need something resembling knee high wellies, but with added insulation for warmth. Getting in and out of zodiacs isn’t usually a dry affair, so boots that can keep your feet both warm and dry are a must!
That’s all folks!
You are now sufficiently prepared to pack your bags for an Antarctic voyage, so go forth and conquer the frozen continent!