What to wear

While average temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula during the Austral summer hover around zero degrees, packing the right kit can make the difference between you being comfortable or not when down there. As the old adage goes - 'Any fool can be uncomfortable!'.

Being correctly prepared and having the right kit makes all the difference, particularly on a trip like this - it’s never too early to start reviewing your kit. The good news is that between the clothing items provided and what you already own, it shouldn't cost you a lot to fill in the gaps for your Polar wardrobe.

Clothing

The best way to approach your clothing is to think of it in 2 broad groups:

1. Under Layers

Base layers are going to be key to staying warm when you're in Antarctica, both top and bottoms, as they trap air close to your body and can be added and subtracted until you hit a happy medium. As we like to say, 'dress like an onion'.

We recommend you don’t wear any cotton, but instead choose merino wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers, as they retain body heat far better.

On top of one or two base layers, you can then add a jumper or fleece layer, before your outer weatherproof jacket.

2. Outer Layers

AM_3_AM_ALL_Barrie & Penguin Cuverville

You will definitely need a weatherproof outer 'shell' comprising both a jacket and waterproof trousers.

A decent gore-tex or skiing jacket is ideal, which you may well already have. Similarly for the waterproof trousers, skiing trousers/pants work really well.

If you would prefer to avoid investing in outdoor clothing which you may not have much use for back home, or if you simply don’t want to travel with these bulky items, there are clothing hire shops in Ushuaia and rental isn't very expensive. Quality, however, can be variable.

Gloves & Socks

Hands and feet are typically the first things that get cold when you are out on Zodiac excursions, so a combination of both thin and thick socks and gloves is a great idea.

Also key to warm hands and feet is keeping them dry. Your boots will keep your feet dry, but splashing from the Zodiac as you cruise through the icy water may get your gloves wet, so make sure your gloves are either waterproof or bring a pair of rubber gloves to protect them whilst you are cruising around. Fisherman have been doing this for decades.

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Other Important Items

Also, don't forget to pack:

  • A woolly hat
  • UV protective sunglasses (the sun is very strong)
  • High factor suncream
  • Lip balm
  • A buff or neck gaiter
  • Your swimwear - for the Polar Plunge!
  • A rucksack
  • A dry bag, to keep your camera dry if your rucksack isn’t waterproof

A telescopic walking pole (or poles) with a snow basket on the end, so it doesn't sink into the snow, can also be a really useful extra point of balance on the ice. They don’t take up much space in your luggage and are light.

Those keen on wildlife might also appreciate packing a decent pair of binoculars. We strongly suggest bringing your own binoculars, however each ship will have a limited number available for guest use if you don’t have your own.

What kit will be provided?

All Antarctic ships provide rubber insulated boots on loan to guests for the duration of the voyage, while quite a few also offer complimentary parka jackets. These are really decent bits of kit, often with a high neck to keep out the wind, and a zip in fleece inner layer.

When choosing your parka jacket sizing, given the added underlayers you’ll be wearing, we suggest choosing one size larger than you would normally. The same goes for your rubber boots, to take into account the thick socks. Try on your jacket and boots straight away - if an item isn’t quite right there will always be a stock of other sizes, so don’t fret about getting the sizes 100% correct.

The details of what clothing will be provided on your own voyage can be found in your original confirmation email which you will have received by email shortly after booking. If in any doubt, please get in touch.

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Clothing: FAQs

  • Will I need to bring a winter jacket if a parka is provided?

    This depends on whether you’re spending any time in Patagonia pre or post Antarctica. If you’re simply flying into Ushuaia with just one night there before embarking, then you should be OK with just a fleece or light jacket.

    But if you are spending more than this - or plan to head out into the nearby national park - then a waterproof jacket to protect you from Patagonia’s highly changeable weather would be a good idea.

  • What is the typical dress code on board the ship?

    It's casual and leans very much towards the casual and comfortable, rather than needing to feel that you’re on parade.

    Unless you’re on one of the more luxury ships (Silversea, Ponant, Hebridean Sky), you can leave your cocktail dress, blazer and tie at home.

    People typically dress in a mixture of outdoor/walking attire or whatever they tend to wear at home. Bring what you will be comfortable in, it really isn’t a fashion show and the expedition ships are very ‘dress down’ in approach.

    In the evening, some people may put on a collared shirt or make a bit of an effort, but there’s certainly no whipping line.

    When packing it's worth also bearing in mind:

    • All of the ships are kept very warm inside, to the point you could actually wear shorts and a T-shirt if you really wanted. So you don’t need to pack lots of layers while on board
    • The laundry service on all ships is typically very efficient and inexpensive, so again you don’t need to bring an excess of clothing
  • Where would you recommend to buy polar clothing?

    Your best bet is to visit a reputable, local outward bound store where you’ll have access to good free advice and can try items on before purchasing.

  • Is it worth taking trekking poles?

    Yes, definitely, the collapsible poles are ideal and don't take up much space.

    Even having just one pole can be really useful as a third point of balance - in Antarctica particularly.

  • Is it worth taking walking boots?

    For just Antarctica they are not necessary, as you're not walking far enough and after a visit to a penguin rookery rubber boots are much better as the detritus can be scrubbed straight off with a yard brush.

    But if you're going to South Georgia as well, where the possibilities for longer walks are far greater, particularly the Stromness walk which is the tail of Shackleton's route, we would recommend taking them.

  • What sort of footwear do we need for the boat?

    Flat rubber soled shoes are best, particularly for the icy outer decks, so trainers are perfect.

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