An Adventure in Antarctica? Sure! But What’s a Girl to Pack?

Packing for Antarctica

Hey guys! Nik here!

We really hope you’ve enjoyed our episode from Antarctica. And thanks so much for following the adventure! It really was a dream come true for us, and Antarctica itself is just a magical place. Unbelievable. And now that it’s over it just seems like it was all one big crazy, wonderful blur. 🙂 We really hope we’ll get the chance to return someday, and we really hope that you’ll be able to visit at least once in your life. Because it’s absolutely, totally worth the long journey.

So we’ve been asked a few times about what we took to Antarctica – what we packed, and what we wore. So I thought I’d share with you guys exactly what went in our bags for the trip, what we did right and what we did wrong. Check it out:

Packing for the Ultimate Adventure:

How do you even begin to pack for a trip to Antarctica? Well I can tell you now after being there, I packed way too much. I’m sure most people do that too, thinking that there are so many things you’ll just have to have when you get down there, which thankfully isn’t the case at all. So if you’re planning a trip of your own, hopefully these tips will keep you from making the same mistakes I did. As mentioned in a previous blog, the weather wasn’t nearly as cold as we thought it would be. The temperature hovered around 34-degrees Fahrenheit and was actually pretty pleasant most of the time unless it was raining. So there’s that.

And when it comes to packing, first thing’s first: it’s important to remember this is an adventure cruise. It’s casual! It’s not the type of cruise where you need to worry about dressing up for dinner (like the black-tie Captain’s dinner they have on a lot of cruise ships). In fact I didn’t bring one single dressy thing for the entire cruise. No need! Which was nice.

The stately Ioffe, looking very much at home in the polar environment.
The stately Ioffe, looking very much at home in the polar environment.

Something else that was super nice: on our trip with Adventure Life and One Ocean Expeditions on the Akademik Ioffe the ship actually provided everybody their own Wetskins, which are the bright red windproof and waterproof outfits you’ve seen us wearing on all the excursions off the ship. They also provide the rubber “gum boots” that we wore on every excursion as well. Which came in super handy, because we didn’t have to worry about packing our heavy winter boots. So the cold weather gear you’ll need is, for the most part, ready and waiting for you in your cabin when you arrive (beyond that it’s all up to you to layer as much or as little as you like underneath). You can also rent binoculars and waterproof bags on the ship as well, which saved room in our bags and was very much appreciated!

So before I tell you specifically what I wore around the ship and out on excursions, let me give you a list of what I feel like I should’ve packed. And don’t get me wrong, I did pack everything I needed, I just packed WAY too much of it! Also keep in mind, for the most part I didn’t go out shopping and spend a bunch of money to buy new things for the trip. I just packed items I already had around the house that I thought would work, and fortunately for the most part they did! So here’s the list:

My (Revised) Packing List for Antarctica:

– (2) Pairs of thermal underwear
– (2) Pants – hiking/trekking type  (I actually zipped the bottoms off of these and wore shorts around the ship some days)
– (1) Pants – yoga type
– (1) Pants – fleece lounge style
– (1) Pants – leggings (You certainly don’t have to bring so many pairs of pants, but keep in mind you’ll probably want to get out of whatever you wore under your wetskins once you get back from an excursion.)
– (5) Undies – I personally wash my own on longer trips or you can pack 12 pair (they do have laundry service on the Ioffe as well)
– (1) Bra
– (2) Sports bras (I also rinse these out myself when/if needed)
– (4) Tops – long sleeved synthetic
– (2) Fleece – mid weight
– (1) Fleece – heavy weight
– (1) Jacket – lightweight workout type
– (1) Jacket – waterproof
– (2) Beanies – cute and slouchy
– (2) Beanies – snug fit and warm (and be sure to buy one in the gift shop. They’re super cute!
– (1) Scarf – cute and lightweight
– (1) Scarf – heavy duty and warm. (Or you can bring a buff or two if you’d rather. I happen to love buffs for many reasons. They’re easier to pack than a bulky scarf, you can wear them on your head or your neck, and you can cover your face right up to your eyeballs if you need to)!
– (2) Glove liners – waterproof
– (1) Gloves – a convertible mitten type without actual fingertips would be great for taking photos!
– (1) Gloves – heavy duty waterproof ski type
– (1) Pair of tennis shoes or boat shoes for wearing around the ship.
– (1) Ugg type boots for wearing around the ship (definitely don’t need this item, I just kinda like to lounge in Uggs)
– (4) Sock liners
– (3) Heavier Socks – trekking type socks
– Sleepwear
– Bathing suit for the hot tub, sauna, or for taking the polar plunge!
– (2) Sunglasses – polarized
– Hand warmers
– Sunscreen
– Lip protection balm
– Whatever you typically take in your overnight/cosmetic bag. Good news though! No need to bring shampoo, conditioner, or soap unless you’re really attached to yours. They have refillable containers in the shower.
– Medicines, including seasickness medication for the Drake. (Just in case).
– A couple of books (although they do have a great library on board). We suggest reading Endurance. Loved. Loved. Loved it! Fascinating!
– Journal – you’ll have a lot of spectacular things you’ll want to write in it!
– Cameras
– Waterproofing for your camera equipment. (You can rent waterproof bags from One Ocean, but we recommend also bringing some sort of plastic covering for your camera in case you want to take photos and it’s raining or snowing.)
– Dry wipes for your lenses – If it’s snowing or raining and you’re trying to take pictures, not having these handy guys can be a nightmare!
– Batteries – We recommend having a battery in your camera for your excursion, an extra one with you, and an extra one fully charged in the room for the afternoon – at the very least!
– Battery Charger – (Keep in mind, on the Akademik Ioffe the cabins have 220V/50Hz European style electrical outlets so you’ll need a converter for charging your electronics.)
– Extra camera cards – You should have a few with you and some ready to go in your room. You’re gonna take a million photos!
– Computer – if you want to transfer your pictures from your cards so you can re-use them.
– Tripod – If you’re hoping to use a longer lens and get some up close and personal shots or if you plan on shooting any video
– Monopod or selfie stick if you’d like to get a picture or video of yourself in the Zodiac, or if you’re hoping to take a great photo with a seal, or penguin, or any of the majestic creatures or landscapes in the Antarctic.
– Passport, trip documents, and trip insurance information.
– US dollars and/or credit card. If you get the chance to mail a postcard from a Ukrainian weather outpost or want to try some of their vodka, be sure to bring a few US dollars for that. Also your bill will be settled the day before you disembark, so if you want to have some drinks in the bar that evening, bring some cash for those final drinks. Otherwise, everything else on the ship can be put on a debit or credit card.
– A bottle of wine to kick the adventure off!
– Another fun thing to bring is some sort of decoration for the door of your cabin. We didn’t bring anything, but wish we would have. Some folks did and we thought it was pretty clever!

Ok. Whew! So now for what I actually wore on day-to-day basis:

A daily sight back on board the Ioffe, as everybody left their Wetskins out to dry.
A daily sight back on board the Ioffe, as everybody left their Wetskins out to dry.

Inside

When you’re hanging out inside on the ship, the temperature is always super comfortable. For presentations, breakfast, lunch, coffee or tea, a drink in the bar, or reading in the library – I typically wore leggings or yoga pants, and a long t-shirt, light fleece, or sweatshirt. For dinner I would wear my nicest fleece or long sleeved t-shirt. Like I said, it’s pretty casual!

Outside
When I was outside on the ship (depending on the day), I usually wore a pair of pants (with thermals underneath if needed) with a waterproof jacket over a fleece, and some warm lightweight boots. I always had a hat and a pair of gloves handy too. The only coat I brought was actually a North Face Resolve jacket which worked great because it’s lightweight, waterproof and it’s got an adjustable hood that can be worn big over a beanie, or snug in windy conditions.

Excursion Days

Ok. So first up – Think Layers.

And don’t go crazy with this part. I suggest a couple of pairs of nice thermals. I have a couple pairs of somewhat inexpensive ones made by Watson’s. They’re 85% micro polyester and 15% spandex. I’m sure there are much better ones out there for a much higher price, but I personally love the ones I’ve got. They dry quickly if you need to rinse them out (which is why I suggest only bringing two pair). They fit great. They’re comfortable. And most importantly they’re super warm.

The next layer? Depends on the conditions that day, really. The good news is that when you go down for breakfast in the morning, you’ll probably hear from your expedition leader what the weather should be like that morning or afternoon, which will give you a good idea of how to layer for the day’s activities.

On the warmer, drier days, I wore a thermal layer on bottom, a light pair of hiking type pants, and my wetskins. And on top I wore a thermal layer a light fleece and my provided parka. Along with a pair of sock liners, a pair of socks, a scarf, a beanie, glove liners, and I always brought my heavy waterproof gloves along just in case (if you have some with a clasp, you can hook them right onto your parka). It turned out I didn’t really need them on these days, but better to be safe than sorry.

On the really cold, windy, wet days – I wore thermals, another layer on bottom (not jeans) – either hiking type pants, or fleece pants. A second long sleeved t-shirt type shirt, (be sure to go for synthetics and not cotton), a heavy fleece, a pair of liner socks and a pair of heavy socks (merino wool), a warm scarf, a warm snug beanie, glove liners, and heavy waterproof gloves. If it gets super cold, you can literally adjust your hood on your Wetskins parka to cover almost your entire face. We only had one day like that, thankfully.

Our bright red Wetskins are SUPER bright and red in the sun. :)
Our bright red Wetskins are SUPER bright and red in the sun. 🙂

Now you’re packed and ready to go!

So there you have it! Overall I felt like what I packed (for me) was great, but like I said I just packed too much of it. Why lug that huge bag (or two) around, when you can carry a much smaller bag and get the same job done? Lesson learned. 🙂

I know everybody’s different, but this is my personal list and I hope to at least help you guys with a starting point for your grand Antarctic adventure (which I really hope you’ll start planning for TODAY). And as always if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you, and we’ll help in any way we can!

Cheers guys! And safe travels!

~ Nik

4 Comments

  1. Marc Denton

    I mIght be asking a question which may have already been asked and answered, but what specific camera equipment did you use on your Antartica expedition?

    • Hi Marc! Sorry for the delayed response. We’re filming in Southeast Asia, and the internet is quite spotty 🙂
      We used two Canon 5D Mark II cameras, two GoPro Hero 3 cameras, along with a Phantom drone. We’ve since upgraded the drone and two GoPro cameras. Happy to answer any other questions you may have 🙂 Cheers!

  2. Very helpful advice and guidance. My wife will appreciate it and I get some guidance – I guess I will give the bras a miss!!

Leave a Reply