What to Pack for Antarctica

Gary Arndt November 19, 2012 6
The G Adventures MS Expedition cruising in the Antarctic

The G Adventures MS Expedition cruising in the Antarctic, photo by Gary A.

In January 2011 I had the pleasure to achieve a life long goal by visiting Antarctica on the MS Expedition. I have long dreamed of visiting Antarctica after pouring over the images I saw in my father’s National Geographic Magazines. Having been traveling non-stop for over 5 years, Antarctica was one of the few remaining places left on my to do list.

Antarctica was my 7th and final continent, so the anticipation I had prior to the trip was high. Not only would I be able to finally visit Antarctica, but I would be able to also visit two places I knew little about: The Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island.

On board, in Antarctica

On board, in Antarctica

The trip which I was booked on, The Spirit of Shackleton, is the longest and most adventurous Antarctica trip which G Adventures offers. The staff and crew on the ship said they were more excited about this trip than any other of the season because it was the only time they were able to visit South Georgia.

Preparing for Antarctica was not as much of problem as you might think. While Antarctica as a whole is quite cold, there are several things which mitigate the severity of the temperature you experience on an Antarctica trip.

  • The Palmer Peninsula, where the vast majority of Antarctica trips visit, is the northern most point of Antarctica. This means is it also the warmest point in the continent. Most trips will not actually cross the Antarctic circle because most of the landing points are above 66° S.
  • The fact that you are on a ship and the location of the landing sites means that you are always close to water. The ocean tends to moderate temperatures so you never see the extreme cold you might see at the South Pole.
  • The cruise season to Antarctica takes place in the Southern Hemisphere summer.

These three factors mean that the temperatures seldom drop below freezing. If you come from a colder climate in such as in Canada, northern US or Europe, it will probably be warmer in Antarctica during the trip than it will be back home. During our voyage I never saw the temperature drop below freezing.

As such, you don’t need to dress for extreme cold temperatures. The biggest things you have to dress for are wind and water. Here are some suggestions on what to pack for your Antarctica trip:

  • Have waterproof outer layers. You should have a water resistant jacket and a pair of water resistant over pants. You might encounter rain and you certainly will encounter water during your landings. This is probably the most important clothing you can pack for an Antarctica trip.
  • Dress in layers. Whenever visiting any cold weather location, you should dress in layers. Antarctica is no different. Because you are traveling in the summer, you might experience conditions which are surprisingly warm (10C). You will also be walking a fair amount which will generate heat. Dressing in layers will allow you to take off layers to avoid over heating.
  • Bring good, thick socks. Rubber boots are provided on the MS Expedition. I wore them on all of my landings and never bothered to change my shoes, save for one hike on South Georgia Island. It is entirely possible to wear nothing but the provided rubber boots during all of your landings. Thick socks will be all you need to wear along with the boots. You might consider bringing server pair incase they get wet.
  • Bring sunglasses. When the sun is out, it can be very bright especially with light reflecting off the ice.

Check out all of G Adventures’ cruises aboard the MS Expedition.


  1. Bobbi Lee Hitchon November 19, 2012 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    Very helpful tips. Antarctica is on my dream destination list as well. One day…

  2. Jibba January 28, 2013 at 5:18 am - Reply

    Going on the Quest for antarctic circle tour on 25 feb 2013.Any one else out there?

  3. Canadianwalleyes June 6, 2013 at 12:03 am - Reply

    This view is breathtaking. I am totally surprised to visit and see this awesome blog.

  4. Cynthia June 10, 2013 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    A pair of rubber soled slippers for the ship and a good moisturizer are also helpful.

  5. colleen barns October 24, 2014 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    Thaks for the hints. We are off to Antartica in Feb 2015. Your hints on what to take are very helpful.

  6. Helen December 26, 2014 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    YAY! Liked your comments, and THANK YOU for providing one answer that I desperately needed, that was not clear anywhere else, about the boots.

    I had been confused by what seemed to be a contradiction in the assurance that Wellington boots are needed for zodiac landings (and are provided on loan while on the tour) and the packing list which says to bring hiking shoes!
    In my (limited) experience, Wellington boots have hardy, grippy soles for rough terrain – so I was guessing (and hoping) that the ones provided by the ship would, indeed, be intended for, and suitable for, continuous wear while on shore.

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