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How to pack for a trip to Antarctica

Glistening, groaning icebergs. Playful Adélie, gentoo and emperor penguins. Sunbathing Weddell seals and spouting sperm whales. Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, driest continent on earth, and for a lot of vacationers, the ultimate frontier. 

Because the “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration” on the finish of the nineteenth century, individuals have longed to observe in Shackleton’s footsteps and discover this polar desert. Thankfully for contemporary adventurers, extra alternatives than ever are open for vacationers to verify probably the most illusive continent on earth off their bucket lists. However to do this, it’s a must to have the suitable gear. 

Ensure you have loads of information storage as you will take extra photos than you’ve got taken earlier than © Vadim Nefedoff / Shutterstock

What to pack for a voyage to Antarctica

Most expeditions to Antarctica are on scientific analysis vessels that additionally transport vacationers. Not like a standard cruise, nonetheless, you received’t want fancy formalwear for the eating room. Costume on board is informal and comfy and, above all else, retains security in thoughts. Ships sometimes ban any footwear that’s open-toed or high-heeled, however your tuxedo t-shirt might be simply positive for penguin theme night time.Whereas on board the ship, your greatest guess is comfy, layered clothes and slip-resistant footwear for strolling the damp decks. Wildlife sightings are a well-liked pastime at sea, and this can be a good alternative to present your digicam and snow gear a take a look at run, because the wind on deck offers you a style of Antarctic chilly. Binoculars turn out to be useful, too, for recognizing far-off whales and birds from the boat.

Be ready for seasickness crossing Drake Passage

Earlier than you step foot on the southernmost continent, you’ll should courageous the Drake Passage. Those that make the crossing regularly will let you know that it’s known as the “Drake Shake” or the “Drake Lake,” relying on the swell of the ocean. If it’s the previous, you’ll need to be ready with seasickness drugs. This may be drugs, patches, wristbands, or a mixture thereof; should you’re significantly vulnerable, discuss along with your physician about prescription remedy earlier than you permit house. 

Michael Ballard stands with his back to the camera in a red cruise-line parka and grey dry-bag style backpack gazing out across the snow and ice fields of Antarctica
Layering is vital to staying comfy in chilly environments — and keep away from cotton material blends © Angela Ballard / Lonely Planet

Packing for shore excursions in Antarctica

As you method your first touchdown, the ship’s crew will verify your out of doors put on and digicam gear like tripods for any tiny stowaways. All the things might be inspected, vacuumed and brushed to take away overseas particles like grime and seeds to be able to shield Antarctica’s pristine atmosphere.

Getting out of your ship to Deception Island, South Shetland Islands, the Falkland Islands and different widespread Antarctic landings requires you to trip in an inflatable motorboat.

A water-resistant dry bag or backpack like these utilized by scuba divers is beneficial for protecting your digicam gear dry, and a water-proof pouch on a lanyard will maintain your telephone safe and useful for fast photographs. The intense chilly will drain the batteries in your electronics quicker than regular, so carry extras and maintain them in an interior coat pocket to learn out of your physique warmth till you want them. 

Methods to shield your self on this harsh atmosphere

Sun shades with a UV filter are important for exploring within the blinding southerly sunshine — as is sunscreen. Some individuals carry ski goggles to assist fight the wind, significantly if they’ve prescription lenses. Moisturizer and lip balm are additionally requirements within the Antarctic ambiance; due to its low temperatures, the polar air comprises solely about one-tenth of the water vapor present in temperate latitudes, and your pores and skin will dry out rapidly.

Whilst you is perhaps tempted to pack your bulkiest garments to remain heat, you’ll be higher off with layers of moisture-wicking, windproof materials. Prime these with waterproof snow pants (a requirement for many Antarctic cruises), however don’t tuck them in — that may shovel ice and snow straight into your boots, leaving you with moist socks and chilly toes. 


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Weddell seal looking up out of the water, Antarctica
You may want totally different gear for once you’re on ship, or shore, in Antarctica © Mint Photos / Artwork Wolfe / Getty Photos

Stopping contamination of this pristine atmosphere

Many cruise firms present company with rubber boots for shore excursions, largely to forestall contamination of the Antarctic snow and soil. However skinny, moisture-wicking socks layered beneath a thicker, hotter pair will maintain your toes toasty, significantly should you drop some air-activated warmth packets into your boots. The identical layering method works greatest in your arms, with a skinny liner pair of gloves topped with a thick, waterproof pair of ski-type gloves.

A balaclava gives an all-in-one method for protecting your head heat and your face shielded from Antarctic winds, or you possibly can go for a snug-fitting beanie and a neck gaiter that may match beneath the hood of your coat and keep placed on fast boat crossings.

Keep heat and dry… apart from the polar plunge

Regardless of freezing temperatures, it’s best to carry a swimsuit. The polar plunge is a enjoyable alternative to shed your snowsuit and strip to your skivvies for a fast dip within the sub-zero salt water. When you’re again on board, maintain your swimsuit on to reap the benefits of your ship’s sauna to thaw out from the swim. 

A yellowy moon rising over icebergs and snowy peaks in Antarctica, the moonlight reflected in the center of the frame against the deep blue water
Regardless of the cruel atmosphere, you possibly can pack properly for a protected and comfy Antarctic expertise © Angela Ballard / Lonely Planet

Methods to shield your digicam gear in Antarctica

You’re more likely to take extra photographs in Antarctica than many different journey locations, so make sure that your gear is prepared. Take into account a rubber housing to guard your digicam physique, a rain sleeve to maintain out snow and spray, and a lens hood to assist fight the icy glare. An exterior exhausting drive will assist release house on reminiscence playing cards, and an influence strip is useful for charging all of your units concurrently in your cabin. It’s possible you’ll want outlet adapters, too, so verify along with your cruise line. Talking of cameras, you possibly can depart your drone at house — you received’t be capable of fly it in Antarctica.

Miscellaneous gadgets you additionally want in your Antarctica voyage

In case you’re bunking in a shared cabin to chop prices, then don’t overlook to carry a sleep masks, earplugs, a bag lock and different hostel-style roommate necessities. 

Heading to Port Lockroy or Vernadsky Station? Carry some U.S. foreign money with you to buy gadgets from the present store or ship a postcard with a penguin postmark to family and friends again house.

Essentially the most stunning factor you most likely received’t have to pack for Antarctica is a coat. Most cruise operators present one as a part of your package deal, each for the branding alternative and for security causes. It’s simpler to search out boatloads of company on shore excursions when everyone seems to be dressed alike. Double verify earlier than you depart, nonetheless, to make sure it’s included in your expertise.

Antarctica packing necessities at a look

  • Artificial, silk or wool base layers 
  • Waterproof snow pants
  • Moisture-wicking socks
  • Wool or insulating socks
  • Swim go well with
  • Shut-toed, slip-resistant deck footwear
  • Waterproof boots 
  • UV-protected sun shades
  • Drybag
  • Beanie or watchcap
  • Neck gaiter
  • Waterproof gloves
  • A light-weight windbreaker or jacket
  • Binoculars
  • Additional batteries
  • Digital camera + chargers, lenses, equipment, and many others. 
  • Movement illness remedy
  • Moisturizer
  • Sunscreen + SPF chapstick

This text was first printed on December 16, 2019 and up to date on April 7, 2022

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