Many of our travelers ask us how to pack for Antarctica. That obviously is a tricky question and can be almost as complicated as “how do I pack for the jungle”. I would advise anybody from cold weather climates who ski or partake in outdoor sports, that it will be very similar to the gear you use for those activities. For those from warmer clients who need a little bit more handholding, let’s chat in more detail! The important part about Antarctica is to always be prepared for weather changes. What looks like a sunny day can quickly turn cold. The answer to this is to bring layers. You will always want to wear a pair of base-layer polypropylene or something that keeps you warm but also wicks moisture away from your body. I brought three pairs of base layers, and I felt I could wear each one a few times before needing to launder it. The next layer consists of your ‘warmth’ layer. This would consist of Polartec pants or fleece pants, and a fleece or ‘puffy’ jacket that keeps warmth in your body. This is a layer of personal preference, but the idea is warmth. You can’t bring anything too bulky, as you still need to put your outer layer on over it. Your last layer consists of your waterproof layer – this would be a thin shell or even insulated parkas and pants that are completely wind and rainproof. This usually is Gore-Tex or some other version of it and is designed to keep you dry more than anything. On some vessels, your parka is provided for you, so you don’t need to worry about the jacket, just the pants. Lastly, you want to be sure to bring two sets of waterproof and insulated gloves (two in case one gets wet, which frequently can happen). I brought also a thinner Smartwool glove set with touchscreen usability so that I could slip my inner glove out of my outer shell glove and still be protected when using my camera. You will also want a wool or fleece hat (preferably with ear flaps) and a neck gator or buff. Bring plenty of wool socks to keep your toes warm as well. Muck boots were also provided to us, but you will want to check with your operator to see if you are provided with these as well.
Other items of course will be comfortable clothing on board the ship. I recommend a good slip-on shoe or boot with good traction, clothing for around the vessel (especially for bad weather days), PJs, workout clothes if your ship has a gym you’d like to use, and of course a bathing suit (if for nothing else but the polar plunge)! Toiletries of a personal nature and medicines, etc. are a good idea. It is also a good idea to bring eye drops, cough drops, and anything else you may need as the climate is very dry and can catch up to you. Likewise, lip balm with SPF and sunscreen is needed, as on sunny days it can really reflect off the ice and give you a burn! Polarized sunglasses or ski goggles are also recommended, as are binoculars, and a dry bag or waterproof day pack especially if you will pack around camera gear for your excursions. The bags can get wet in the zodiac, so a dry bag is best. Other items to consider are a water bottle that you can reuse, a backup storage drive for your camera to transfer photos, and a good adventurous spirit! If you are particularly sensitive to smells, the guano smell will likely cause some gagging. Bring some smelly oil of your preference with you to dab inside your neck gaiter and pull it up over your nose when it gets too overwhelming.