I have traveled to over 50 countries on seven continents, more than half of which were visited solo. I love traveling, being outdoors, and hiking. I hope to inspire others to travel and explore further, even if that means going alone.
Hey, I'm Ashley!
Determining what to pack for Antarctica can be a challenge due to the harsh and unpredictable weather conditions in this remote region. Your body will get cold, especially when just sitting on the zodiac boat for a few hours. No active movement and wind from the boat moving will not be fun if you’re not prepared.
After visiting Antarctica, here are some important items to ensure you pack when preparing for your journey to Antarctica.
It is essential to stay warm in Antarctica, where temperatures can drop below freezing even in the summer months. Quark Expeditions provides a yellow parka that you will get to keep after the trip which I found to be very warm. Quark also provides boots to wear on shore excursions, but you will have to return these before you head back home. Check with your tour operator to see what they provide on your trip.
Additionally, make sure the clothes you bring are very clean. Your expedition company will check your clothes before your first time on land to ensure you don’t bring anything foreign onto the continent.
Other than a parka and boots, below are items that you will need to ensure you pack for Antarctica.
Bring two to three sets of top and bottom base layers for a 10-12 day excursion. You likely won’t sweat too much on this trip so you won’t even notice you’ve been wearing the same clothes for a few days.
You won’t actually need these while hiking because the physical activity will make all of these layers warm pretty quick. However, if you are doing any zodiac cruises and simple land excursions, that require less activity, you will want these additional layers to stay warm.
Waterproof pants are required to go off the cruise boat, onto the zodiac boats and on land. Get a black pair of pants because they can get really dirty sitting on the zodiac boat and also when walking through penguin poop.
I’ve found that a pair of silk, sock liners along with a pair of thick merino wool socks does a lot better job than two pairs of wool socks and is a lot more comfortable too.
As someone whose feet get cold super easy, I found these wool boot inserts to be a comfortable way of keeping my feet warm without toe warmers or a ton of pairs of socks. These boot inserts also fit perfectly with the boots provided by Quark.
I wore a beanie, but also found an additional headband to be helpful in keeping my ears extra warm.
A neck gaiter is something you will need to keep your nose warm, especially if you are participating in any hiking excursions where you may be trekking through falling snow. Make sure your gaiter is wool or it won’t do much good for you.
When you pack for Antarctica, make sure the gloves you bring are waterproof. Even better would be to have tech-compatible gloves so you don’t have to take them off to take pictures. If your hands get cold easily like mine, the below gloves have pockets for hand warmers. You could also wear glover liners for an extra level of protection.
I never needed anything as nice as a dress. Jeans and sweaters were fine on Quark, but every boat is different. Check the dress code for your expedition as well as the scheduled events. Some boats have one or more fancier nights on the itinerary.
It can be slippery on the boat, especially when crossing the drake passage. When you pack for Antarctica, bring a pair of sneakers for on board.
Don’t forget to pack for Antarctica a swimsuit for the polar plunge. You won’t be jumping in the water from a high point so you won’t need to worry about your swimsuit falling off. Keep in mind though, that you will be standing outside in the freezing cold for a minute right before you jump in.
You’ll definitely want a camera and other electronic devices, but make sure you protect them from the cold and moisture. These are electronics you may want to ensure you pack for Antarctica.
You’ll want a wide angle lens for the icebergs since you will get up close to them during the zodiac cruises. You will also need a good zoom lens for the seals, whales, and penguins. I had one that went to 220mm and it wasn’t enough to get good shots of the seals and whales. If you can find something that has a wide angle and also a good zoom on the same lens that would be helpful. I hated having to switch lenses on the zodiac boat.
I didn’t bring binoculars and didn’t really care, but binoculars would definitely make it easier to observe animals that are often pretty far away. We spotted Orka whales off the boat, but they were too difficult to really see with the naked eye.
Check what types of plugs you need on your specific boat, many of them are different, even on boats with the same tour operator. Also, ensure you bring an adapter or converter with multiple USB ports because there aren’t that many plugs in the room.
You will get to go back to the boat halfway through the day, but keep in mind that electronics lose battery a lot faster in cold weather. A power bank will ensure you stay charged if you take a lot of pictures and/or videos.
You’ll have a decent amount of downtime between stops, lessons, meetings, and meals. I’d definitely recommend bringing something to keep you busy like Netflix shows and/or books. Quark Expeditions did have some board games to play on the boat as well.
Below are additional items I found to be helpful and would recommend you pack for Antarctica.
You will want to take your camera and possibly additional lenses on shore with you. The zodiac boats aren’t covered so a waterproof bag is highly recommended. You may also need to remove some layers while on shore. Sitting on the zodiac boat is a lot colder than hiking up the mainland.
Quark gives you a water bottle, but it was pretty flimsy and annoying to drink out of. I would recommend bringing your own since the boat can be rocky, especially while going through the drake passage.
I brought ski goggles for mountaineering and some people only used ski goggles. However, I only ever wore my sunglasses which were just fine for mountaineering and all other activities. You’ll definitely want to at least bring sunglasses since the sun reflecting off the white snow can be very bright.
Despite the cold, the sun can still be strong in Antarctica, especially on sunny days. Bring sunscreen and reapply throughout the day.
A good lip balm is essential because it moisturizes and creates a protective barrier between your lips and the frigid winter temps.
I wore these for three days straight and was fine traveling through the drake passage. Put the patches on before the boat starts moving and don’t take them off until you are completely through the drake passage.
You’ll will spend an hour or two just sitting on a zodiac boat twice a day and it can get very cold since you won’t be moving. Even if you think you have enough layers, I would bring a few heat packs with you just in case.
Sharing a room can be a lot cheaper of a way to get to Antarctica, but there’s always a chance you’ll get stuck with a snorer. Bring some ear plugs, just in case!
By taking the time to pack for Antarctica appropriately, you’ll be well-prepared for your journey to this unique destination. You can then focus on enjoying the incredible beauty and wildlife that Antarctica has to offer!
For more inspiration, check out these other adventure-related blog posts.
February 27, 2023