So, you've decided to embark on the adventure of a lifetime – an Arctic expedition. Your mind is filled with images of polar bears, pristine landscapes, frosted mountain peaks and… frostbite.
Unless you grew up in Russian Siberia or Alaska, you’re probably a little nervous about the weather you'll experience in the Arctic. But while packing for a polar expedition can be intimidating (and you might have to splash out on some new gear), we like to think preparing for your trip is the first part of the adventure.
The good news is, unlike the explorers of old, you'll have a vessel that's warm and toasty throughout the voyage. So, while you’ll have to pack some serious gear for land excursions and time spent on deck, you can get away with regular clothes for the ship’s interior.
The most challenging thing about packing for a trip to the Arctic Circle is also a big part of what makes it such an appealing destination – the remoteness! While 4 million people live spread across the Arctic, many of the regions you’ll be visiting on an expedition cruise will have little to no human habitation, which means no chance of nipping out to pick up an extra pair of underwear or a toothbrush.
A basic packing list for the Arctic
Pack as many short and long-sleeved tops that are suited to layering as you can; both the thermal and regular kind. If you’re exploring on foot, you can heat up surprisingly quickly. Being able to peel off a few layers (and put them on again quickly in the shade) is essential.
When you get cold, your body sends blood to your organs so you can, you know, survive. Unfortunately, this means your feet (and also your hands, see below) are more susceptible to the elements. Pack the thick, woolen kind for exploring and the regular kind for getting around your hotel or ship.
Pack at least two pairs of gloves. That way, if one pair gets soaking wet when a whale breaches next to your Zodiac, you won’t have to ask around to see who else brought a pair you can borrow for the rest of the trip.
On certain Intrepid expeditions, you will be provided with a waterproof jacket or jumpsuit. Check the packing list for the trip you’re interested in to see if that’s the case. If not, it's recommended to pack an insulated parka or down jacket.
Waterproof, insulated snow pants are essential no matter where you are in the Arctic.
Yes, you can get sunburnt in the Arctic. Be sure to pack a heavy sunscreen – preferably one that also provides moisture – plus sunglasses with UV protection and some lip balm.
The Arctic is a super cold desert, and deserts are dry! Packing a thick moisturizer to slather on before bed won’t just make your skin look better, it will also minimize any discomfort from dryness or windburn.
If you suffer from any medical conditions that require you to have access to medication, ensure you’ve got an ample supply (plus backups) before you leave. Please consult your doctor about any concerns you have related to your health and wellbeing in the Arctic.
You can find a comprehensive guide to packing for the Arctic here. On Intrepid expeditions, check the packing section of the Essential Trip Information for individual voyage details.
Our tours in the Arctic