What to wear in Antarctica

The first rule of dressing for a cruise in Antarctica? Be thorough. Remember, you can’t pop out to the local shops to buy anything while you’re there so you know your packing has to be on point.

The second? Be prepared. The wind, the aridity, and – of course – the cold all conspire to give the Antarctic Circle one of the most specific dress codes on the planet. You’ll fare better the earlier you start tracking items down to add to your suitcase. That being said, there's also a kind of freedom in such practical and tactical packing. The penguins don't care how cute you look, after all. 

When traveling with Intrepid, you may find some expedition gear is provided for you to borrow or keep. Check the Essential Trip Information for the Antarctic adventure you’re interested in for more details.   

The essentials

This is the stuff you simply cannot do without:

  1. Layers
    While it’s tempting to wear lots of bulky sweaters and overcoats, what you really need to wear is a solid combo of short and long-sleeved tops – some thermal, some not. Your ship will be pretty toasty, so having layers to peel off when on board (and put back on when heading out on deck) is smart.
  2. More socks
    When in doubt, the more socks you're wearing, the better. Packing both thick, thermal socks and thinner, everyday socks is wise. Your thicker socks are great for shore visits, so having a few to rotate is a good move. Your thinner socks are perfect for when you’re shipbound. You’ll be warm and sheltered when eating in the dining room, listening to lectures, and reading in your cabin, so thermal, woolen socks may be overkill when you’re not outside but if you want to wear the double sock then go for it. 

  3. Waterproof pants
    Make sure you've got waterproof, insulated snow pants to wear for shore excursions and kicking about on deck while looking for humpback whales. The best kind are those you can pull on over the top of your inner layers.

  4. Waterproof jacket
    For excursions on land, it’s essential that you're wearing a serious waterproof parka. Some expeditions will include a supplied jacket, so be sure to check if your trip does before you pack one (and take up all that room in your suitcase). 

  5. A tight, warm hat
    Loose hats are a disaster in Antarctica – the wind is so ferocious it can rip hats off unsuspecting heads in seconds (so don't wear one). Show the wind exactly who’s boss and wear one that fits really snugly on your head.

  6. Sun protection
    Yep, the sun shines in Antarctica (shocking, we know). From December to January, in fact, it shines more than it sets. Because of the way light works on white surfaces, you can get a nasty sunburn in this part of the world. Make sure you're putting on your sunglasses (with UV protection), broad spectrum sunscreen, and lip balm.

  7. Gloves
    Wearing gloves during your outings is extremely advisable. In fact, we recommend packing two pairs of gloves, just in case one pair goes missing or gets wet. One waterproof pair for shore visits is a must. And a thinner, non-waterproof pair for when you’re taking photos, or to wear as an inner layer, can be handy too.

  8. Moisturiser
    Windy and dry conditions mean you'll start to resemble a lizard if you don’t moisturize, so slather it on every day while you’re away.

Nice to have

Look, you'll survive without wearing this stuff. But there's no need to leave behind all your creature comforts in order to have a real adventure.  

  1. Noise-cancelling headphones
    In storms and high seas, icebreaking ships can be noisy places. If you want to be able to hear the music and podcasts you diligently downloaded, invest in some decent headphones.
  2. Wet bags and waterproof cases
    Because the only thing worse than forgetting your good camera is remembering it and then having it break – all because you got too close to the splashback of a breaching whale.

  3. Earplugs
    Light sleepers should bring earplugs to counteract snoring cabin mates and the noises ships make when breaking through high sea or ice.

Still want to learn about Antarctica? Return to Antarctica FAQs

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