After choosing which Antarctica tour to take, the next big daunting question is what clothes for Antarctica to bring! It seems a daunting task to decide what to wear in Antarctica, but your friendly neighborhood polar booking specialist (me :D) is here to help! I’ve curated a lovely packing list for Antarctica to keep you snug, safe, and comfortable!
I’ve broken it up into some categories to help you out, but I of course left off the obvious stuff like toothpaste and those things that go with you on every trip! First up is the obvious…
Clothes for Antarctica
You’re going to want to pack some good layered options that way you can add or subtract clothes as needed to get to the perfect temperature. The name of the game for the outer layer is definitely focused on waterproof.
- Jacket (0 or 1)
- Light jacket (1)
- Pants (1)
- Hat (1)
- Gaiter (1)
- Gloves/mittens (1)
Depending on the company you choose to go to Antarctica with, the main Antarctica coat (parka!) you need should be provided. The jackets have an outer shell that’s windproof and an inner liner for the cold. Most jackets can actually be separated and worn independently of each other. My G Parka has a lovely black down jacket inside, and my Atlas Parka has a lovely black down vest inside 😀
A light jacket would be a smaller jacket to wear. Sometimes I would wear it under my larger parka, but on sunny days I usually didn’t. It was my main jacket for around the ship and quick jaunts outside. I like having hoods, but sometimes it did get caught up in the hood of the parka, so just keep that in mind.
For pants, you’re going to want some waterproof ones. You can also use ski/snowboard pants super easily. I would prob get slightly larger than you think you need. On really cold days, I’d wear long underwear, then jeggings, THEN these pants. Most days that was too hot, and I’d actually end up just wearing thermals OR jeggings under the pants. They come in lots of different colors! You might want to also think about what color your parka will be to choose.
It’s important to have them as a separate layer because I usually left my outer layer of parka and pants in the mudroom to dry and then wore other clothes back to the room.
Of course, you’re going to need a hat! I’d recommend one that covers your ears as well. I have both the cute little ski hat with the furry bauble on top and also the one with the ear mufflers. I really like the ear muffler one because it made me feel more adventurous, it could fold the flaps up or not, and it has a blu tooth to listen to music 😀
A gaiter or scarf is good to cover your throat. The reason I’d lean towards a gaiter over a scarf is that it can easily cover the throat but can also cover your chin, mouth, nose, and cheeks if needed. I liked having it because it was a real quick up or down motion depending on the weather. Shoot for wool!
Your hands need some sort of covering whether that be gloves or mittens. I ended up wearing glove liners (in next section) as my “under” layer, and my outer layer was mittens. I chose the mittens because mittens keep your hands warmer because the fingers are together. If I needed full dexterity, I could remove them. There is also a pocket for hand warmers in the ones I got although I didn’t use that feature a lot. I do like these because they have that hand warmeL pocket and attachments to your wrists, so you won’t lose them.
I recommend gloves or mittens that have some sort of dangly thing that would let you connect it to your jacket or wrists because I did see someone’s mitten get blown away when she took it off.
Base Layer Clothes for Antarctica
The base layers are going to be your inner layers, and as such you’re going to focus on sweat-wicking capabilities. Prioritize wool (merino wool!) and avoid cotton.
- Thermal leggings (1-2)
- Thermal shirt (1-2)
- Underlayer gloves (1)
- Thin/thick wool socks (5)
Thermals are the new long underwear. I remember how awful long underwear was when I was younger. I feel like it was scratchy and with sort of a waffle pattern? Nowadays thermals can be cooooooooozy. I found a nice pair that is furry on the inside and kept me super warm. I recommend tops and bottoms as separates.
For under your gloves or mittens, I recommend a glove liner. Specifically, with the tips that allow you to still use your phone and camera. If you’re going kayaking, I also recommend a separate or the same pair that’s waterproof. These I highly recommend!
Wool socks are a must! I had some thinner ones that I used, but also some thicker ones. If you’re the type for feet to get cold, then you could use a thin and thick pair! Make sure they’re wool! They have plain ones, but also have fun ones like the cat ones I got!
On the Ship
So these are going to be the clothes for Antarctica you’d bring that aren’t basically just for the cold, almost like a middle layer. So the amount of how many to bring is up to you! But this is what you’d be wearing around the ship and possibly over your base layer and under your outer layer.
- Bathing suit
- Closed toed shoes
For shirts and pants, this is really up to you how many to bring. But these will be your main layer of clothes that you’ll wear on top of your base layer of thermals. I actually brought a shirt like below (almost another thermal), and I ended up being constantly hot with it and never wore it and the thermal at the same time, so honestly I feel like any tops are fine.
You should bring at least 1 outfit to “dress up” but it’s not necessary and also might depend on which company you’re going with. But it doesn’t hurt to have at least one outfit that is a little more put together than the rest of your clothes. Full disclosure I did wear a cute black dress… with my furry slip on boots haha. So do think about footwear. I did see some men with nice dress shoes and women with high heels, but that would be a personal preference.
Pajamas are obviously for sleeping 🙂
A bathing suit even if you’re not going to do the polar plunge! (You should). Some ships have a hot tub and/or sauna on board, so bring a suit to take advantage of that!
Closed toes shoes are for your safety while on board. You’ll be using the provided boots (all companies that I know of provide boots) while on shore, but you’ll need some shoes for walking around on board the ship as well. I opted for some slip-on boots (also waterproof but not necessary), so I was able to run outside quickly when they announced wildlife! One of my roommates said she was jealous of how quickly I popped my shoes on to run out of the room while she was still lacing up her hiking boots.
Most ships have a gym or some sort of exercise area, so if you wanted you could bring some athletic gear to work out!
These are things I recommend bringing that aren’t related to clothes.
- Sunglasses (UV or even polarized)
- Lip balm
- Waterproof bag
- Hair/Wash if not provided
- Motion sickness tabs or patch
- Power adaptors
- Jump drive USB card reader
- Ear plugs/eye mask
The sun is going to bounce off the snow and ice, so it can get quite bright! Definitely going to need some eye gear like sunglasses, although I’ve also seen some people go as far as having ski goggles!
Also because of the sun and temperature, I would recommend sunscreen and lip balm/chapstick!
A waterproof dry bag is important to bring your stuff with you onto land. Sometimes there are some splashes from the outside water into the zodiac. It depends on what you need to put in there as to what size you want. I needed one big enough for my camera gear!
Some companies provide shampoo/conditioner/lotion, but if not, you’ll need to bring!
Even if you get the Lake, you might want to pack as if you’re going to get the Drake Shake. There are a few ways you can get motion sickness assistance, but you need to do at least one! You can get pills, patches, or bands!
You’ll need something to connect your home electronics on the ship. You might need to clarify what your ship will have, but if you get a universal adaptor, you’ll be set for whatever! I do recommend getting the strip one because then you can power up multiple things at once. I particularly like this one because it has space for even charging a large camera battery and several USB ports.
Gotta keep those extremities warm, so I do recommend hand and foot warmers. I ended up bringing more than I needed, but it was so nice to have in my boots when walking if it was really cold but ESPECIALLY during camping.
You won’t have a lot of downtime, but not a bad idea to bring a book or computer. I actually wrote two blog posts when I was on board, but I just wrote offline and waited until I was on land to connect to wifi. Some ships have free or paid wifi.
I also recommend having a USB memory card reader and/or a jump drive. You’re going to meet some people on board and maybe you want to exchange pics! I ended up having to buy one on board, and it was much more expensive. Might as well get one before you go! Like this little fella!
If you’re sleeping in a room with strangers, you might want eye mask or ear plugs to help you sleep. Don’t forget that the sun is going to be up most of the night, so you might want an eye mask. I feel like rooms have curtains though on almost all the ships I book for, so don’t think it’s going to be super bright in your room.
Antarctic Gear for Camping
For camping, all the main necessities will be provided, so no worries there. Honestly, you don’t really need anything for camping that wasn’t already listed above with the exception of maybe a travel pillow? That was really the only thing I wish I’d brought.
Antarctic Gear for Kayaking
If you’ve signed up for Kayaking and/or paddle boarding, again all the equipment will be provided, but I do have some suggestions.
My TOP SUGGESTION PLEASE DON’T MISS THIS is to have a floaty for your go-pro. I had my Go-Pro in the mount attached to the kayak, and it fell RIGHT off… the mount included. Go Pros are waterproof, so wherever it is in the bottom of the water, it’s still there, but sadly it sank. So definitely get something to make it float.
I also recommend having waterproof gloves/liners (linked above in base layers section) or a go-pro pole. Sometimes the penguins (or even whales!) would swim under the kayak, so we’d dunk our cameras under as well to see them, but the water is cold! So those gloves or pole will help.
Something else I wish I’d brought was something to wipe the droplets of the lens when you’re done. Even if you don’t put the whole camera in water, some droplets might appear from splashes. Maybe even cut a small piece of a shammy.
Antarctic Gear for Photography
Most people would be fine with their camera phones or a generic point-and-shoot, but for wildlife, I really recommend bringing a DSLR or Mirrorless. My zoom lens was 75-300, and honestly, I would’ve loved a little more zoom as well. This is the bundle I have, although I am upgrading soon to mirrorless, so just do with this information as you will.
Did you know you can rent a camera lens? Just search your city and “lens rental” to see!
Antarctic Gear Optional Extras
- Your country’s flag
- Photo props
- Decorations for water bottle
These are definitely not mandatory, but they could make it a little silly and fun! I’ve seen a few people bring their country’s flag (of varying sizes) for a fun picture.
I also made a sign for my trip. This one was perfect because it rolls up to be very small about the size of a pen! You can customize it to say whatever. One of my students made me a sign for me with my logo!
Again for silly photos, just some fun props. This is absolutely not mandatory, but maybe you’re a goofy person like me lol.
This one is a little more utilitarian, but all the water bottles on board are going to look the same! You could bring a label, or some fun stickers to bedazzle!
Things You Don’t Need to Pack!
- Landing boots
- Water bottle (Atlas and G at least)
These are all provided by all the companies that I book for provide! So no worries about bringing them, but if you’re not booking with me, do confirm if they are provided.
Well, I certainly hope this helps! Have an amazing time!