Zodiac boat filled with people in red coats coming towards the camera with a snow topped mountain in the background.

10 things to take to Antarctica

Packing for an Antarctica cruise is extremely exciting, but also nerve-wrecking. Buying something on the Antarctic Peninsula is not an option (although most cruise ships have basic supplies to purchase). Besides warm clothes, like waterproof pants, a windproof outer layer, warm socks and a hat, what are the essential 10 things to take to Antarctica to enable you to best experience the seventh continent? 

Having travelled on an Antarctic expedition cruise with Hurtigruten, we found that some items we packed were used more than others. In no particular order, these are the top 10 things I would take on an Antarctica expedition again. 

A woman in a red coat walking on Deception Island in Antarctica.

1. Camera gear

When going on an Antarctic adventure, capturing its breathtaking moments is irresistible – it is literally a photographer’s paradise. Camera gear stands as a crucial companion, but the key isn’t splurging on the latest and greatest. The best camera is the one you know inside out. In Antarctica, speed is vital, and familiarity is your ally. A general rule: opt for the camera that feels like an extension of your hand. Buttons should be second nature; setting changes should be instinctive. You don’t want to miss the fluke of that humpback whale surfacing for just a few seconds or those leopard seals basking in the sun in the distance. 

Dive into our article on Essential Camera Gear for Antarctic Photography. It’s a goldmine of insights into camera body types, lens choices (wide-angle, super zoom lens, telephoto zooms and more) and necessary accessories (like a waterproof backpack and various filters/ polarizers). 

Camera and mug in focus with icebergs in the background.
Antarctica. Mobile phone photo

If a mobile phone (cell phone) is all you have, fret not. Its quick accessibility might save you during unexpected, fleeting moments when your primary camera isn’t at hand. Head to our tips on Using Your Phone Camera in Antarctica

So, pack your trusted gear, anticipate the unexpected, and embrace the raw beauty of Antarctica through your familiar lens.

2. Notebook 

Adding a notebook and pen to your Antarctica packing list might just be the best thing you do. In the midst of workshops and lectures offered by expedition companies, you’ll find yourself immersed in an educational haven. Jotting down insights and fascinating facts becomes a habit, ensuring you retain the wealth of knowledge shared. And you can then bore your family and friends with all the facts when you’re back 🙂 Learn more about what we did on our trip – Highlight of Antarctica: Hurtigruten Antarctica Cruise.

Yet, beyond the structured learning, these serene and remote polar regions offer more than meets the eye. There’s enough time for introspection and self-reflection amidst the awe-inspiring landscapes. A notebook serves as a canvas for your thoughts, a sanctuary for soul-searching amidst the vast expanse of Antarctica.

A snowy mountain top in light clouds in the Lemaire Channel.

In these moments of quiet contemplation, penning down personal reflections becomes a cherished ritual. Documenting the emotions stirred by the icy vistas or the profound impact of wildlife encounters crystallizes these experiences, making them tangible long after you’ve left the polar embrace. So, remember to tuck a notebook and pen into your gear – essential tools not just for learning but for capturing the essence of your journey.

3. Seasickness medicine

Even if you never experienced motion sickness before, our best advice is to pack some seasickness medicine. Truth be told, it is a good idea to take a few different things with you on an Antarctic cruise. What works on ordinary rough seas, may not work on the infamous Drake passage. The wristbands that we typically used on other cruises did absolutely nothing on small ships amidst 10m swells, and we needed something a little stronger than a holistic acupressure approach to ease nausea. 

Unless you are flying to King George Island on a charter flight, you may in interested in reading more about travelling from South America to Antarctica in our article about Crossing the Drake Passage

The bow of the Antarctic expedition ship whilst sailing in the Drake Passage.

4. Sunglasses

When travelling somewhere with cold weather, many may not think to pack sunglasses, which are typically associated with beach holidays. The reality is that Antarctica can be sunny, and with all the snow reflecting the light – it is extremely bright. 

Make sure to get a pair of polarized sunglasses that are specifically designed to block the glare from surfaces, such as water and snow. 

A woman with sunglasss over glasses.

5. Suncream 

Similarly, Antarctica expeditions may not sound like a beach holiday, and you may forget to pack suncream. Sun protection is extremely important on the frozen continent. Even on an overcast day, we got tanned! The ozone layer is thin and you are likely to spend your entire time on shore excursions (a.k.a landings) and on the deck of the expedition ships. So pack lots of SPF 50. 

6. Snood instead of a scarf

Have you ever experienced scarf struggles in strong winds—opt for a neck gaiter (a.k.a snood) instead! The neck gaiter stays snug, shielding you from those gusty Antarctic winds without the hassle. 

A woman in a red windproof jacket with a neck gaiter over her mouth and nose.

7. Merino wool base layer

Investing in merino wool base layers is worth the extra cost for your Antarctic expedition. This high quality thermal underwear isn’t just about comfort; it’s a game-changer for regulating body temperature in extreme conditions. Merino wool wicks moisture away, keeping you dry even when it’s frigid outside. Its natural insulation properties maintain warmth without bulk, a crucial factor when packing light for the trip. Plus, it’s breathable, minimizing sweat and odour—an absolute necessity in such close quarters. Embracing the superior performance of merino wool ensures you stay comfortable and focused on the mesmerizing Antarctic landscapes without worrying about the chill.

​8. Binoculars

Binoculars are an absolute must for an Antarctic adventure! Imagine following the graceful flight of Antarctic seabirds across the endless sky or spotting seals lounging on distant ice floes. And those thrilling moments when whale flukes breach the frigid waters? Binoculars bring these incredible sights closer, painting vivid portraits of the remote and mesmerizing world around you. Don’t miss out on these awe-inspiring spectacles—binoculars unlock a whole new level of exploration and wonder in the vast expanse of Antarctica.

A woman looking out ofa cruise ship window with binoculars.

If you don’t have binoculars, head straight to the reception desk/ guest services of your cruise ship – they may have some to loan!

9. Plenty of moisturiser and lip balm 

In Antarctica’s harsh climate, moisturizer and lip balm become your trusty allies against the elements. Strong winds and cold temperatures can be relentless, sapping moisture from your skin and leaving lips cracked and dry. A generous supply of moisturizer forms a protective barrier, keeping your skin hydrated and resilient against the biting cold. Meanwhile, lip balm becomes a lifeline, preventing chapping and discomfort caused by harsh weather conditions. These simple yet essential items ensure that your skin stays nourished and your lips remain supple, allowing you to fully enjoy the breathtaking landscapes without worrying about the unforgiving Antarctic chill.

Views at port charcot, with icebergs and Ieva standing in a red coat.

10. Bathing suit

Surprised? We were too, but we actually used our bathing suits almost daily. Not only do many luxury ships travelling to Antarctica have a sauna and a hot tub on board for you to enjoy, but some cruise companies offer an Antarctic waters polar plunge experience for the most adventurous. We took a plunge on Deception Island, and it was an extremely invigorating and unforgettable experience. 

A woman in a hottub on a cruise ship.

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Bottom Line

Packing for an Antarctic trip can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. While warm clothing is crucial, essential items like camera gear, a notebook for learning and reflection, seasickness medicine, sunglasses, and sun protection elevate the experience. Binoculars reveal the majesty of Antarctic seabirds and distant seals, while a snood combats winds better than scarves. Merino wool layers and moisturizers shield against the harsh climate. And surprise—a bathing suit may not seem essential, but it unlocks unexpected adventures, like an Antarctic waters plunge. Each item adds depth and comfort to the journey of a lifetime, ensuring you embrace and capture the essence of the extraordinary Antarctic landscapes.

Gentoo penguin colony in the middle of the snow with mountains in the background.

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