What did I bring???
Luggage and bags: I chose a medium sized (65L) two wheeled bag. I would have used a smaller (55L) one but was confronted with the problem of carting the large bulky expedition jacket which was provided 'free' by G Adventures, plus winter gear on a post cruise expedition around a very summery Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay & Brazil. The bag and contents was comfortably under the 23kg Economy baggage limit (my total was just under 20 kg). There may have been an issue with lower (15 kg) limits on some domestic flights, but for us, not an issue.
Additionally I took a camera bag, plus a small daypack as carry-on for flights.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Good news: The supplied jacket was great - windproof, plenty of pockets, carabiner clips to attach cameras, other stuff one should not drop. It has a liner which can be removed, but I did not need to do so. Beneath the jacket, a light fleece, and thermal was sufficient. I brought 3 sets of thermals and socks, but needed only one. For waterproof pants, I used my ski pants - thermal plus waterproofs was more than adequate. Two pairs of gloves, plus silk liners. The supplied boots are fine, comfortable to wear and keep the tootsies warm enough even on extended zodiac cruises.
For indoor wear, the ship is warm - shirtsleeve weather. I could have worn sandals indoors! However the need to dash out on deck at a moments notice meant non-slip soled sneakers were advised. I have a light rain jacket, which provided some short term protection for wind and cold.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: The ship will dispense sea sickness medication, but it is best to bring your own. I used mine (Scopoderm TTs Transderm patches 1.5mg/patch). Note to Australians - not available here (ordered mine on-line).
I did experience a little dizziness a couple of hours after applying, but nothing like the bad reactions that can be found on the internet.
Even given the relatively benign weather we experienced, a good cohort of our group were absent during Drake Passage crossings. So come prepared, and use your medication - regardless of conditions.
Definition of dumb - bringing Motion Sickness medication and not using it because you think you'll be OK!!!
Photo Equipment: Photo gear as follows:
Panasonic Lumix G3 with kit 14-42mm and 42-15mm lenses
Panasonic Lumix FT5 waterproof (for use on the zodiacs, or in poor weather)
Aldi brand (Maginon) HD action video camera (paid $65, now available for $40 OK quality)
I also brought a cheap waterproof bag for the G3, but it was useless - hazed images too much. A better choice would be to pack many lens cloths and cover the lens with that. The Aldi action camera was surprisingly useful, though I wish I'd used it more for penguins!
And bring a few spare lens caps, in case yours sproings into the ocean! Fortunately, I had the useless bag, so I cut the barrel part of it off to make an improvised cover.
I took a dry bag just big enough for all the G3 on the zodiacs. The compact cameras went into pockets of the jacket.
Each day I'd take the images off the cameras and store them on a laptop.Related to:
- Adventure Travel
Luggage and bags: As you will be on board a ship you will not be having to lug bags around on a daily basis. You unpack all your gear and stow the bags. The only limitations will be airline restrictions.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Most expedition ships supply the outer layer 'wet skins' and gumboots. Under these you need many light warm layers. Merino wool next to your skin helps draw moisture away from your body and believe me, even though it is freezing outside you will perspire! I wore a merino base layer t-shirt and long-johns then another light thermal layer followed by a fleece layer plus another thermal layer on my top half.
Feet are the same - merino socks and then thick woolen socks. Wear layers on your head too - fleece beanie under a woolen one - and keep you ears warm. Gloves can also be layered but can be trickier depending on what you need to do with your hands - it's difficult to operate camera equipment in thick gloves.
You need regular clothes for on board - T-shirt and trousers are fine - with a down jacket and headwear for out on deck. No-one dresses for dinner. Possibly include one nice dress/shirt/top for the captain's dinner.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: The bathrooms on board the Akademik Ioffe had their own shower gel, shampoo and conditioner - all environmently safe. You will need to bring the rest of your toiletries.
Be prepared for sea sickness. Even the best sailors can be struck down by the infamous Drake Passage. There is a doctor on board and a reasonable stocked clinic but only for minor ailments. You need to bring all regular medications - there are no pharmacies/drug stores in the Antarctic!
Photo Equipment: The opportunities for photography are incredible in the Antarctic. It is a very good idea to bring two camera bodies one with a 'universal' zoom lens (I have an 18-250mm) and the other with a more powerful zoom (150-500mm). This saves having to change lenses - difficult in gloves and not good for your camera in the cold (see my tip on condensation). I also took a wide angle (10-20mm) and my Macro.
Because you will be shooting in bright snow you may get benefit from some neutral density filters - plain and graduated.
A tripod is a must as is a good quality gear bag - mine is a backpack style.
Miscellaneous: If you wear prescription glasses you must have a spare pair - there are no optometrists down here!Related to:
- Adventure Travel
A few essential items for Antarctica
Luggage and bags: First, this tip is for people who travel with USAP, the United States Antarctic Program. In Christchurch (New Zealand), they give you a lot of ECW gear (Extreme Cold Weather) so you do not need to bring too much stuff of your own (see photos). You may want your own warm underwear and underliner socks and gloves, and your own balaclava.
For luggage, they give you 2 large orange bags to put your clothes in.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: You need good walking shoes for around McMurdo, with soles with traction. A good pair of tennis shoes will probably do.
For the field, you are given "bunny boots", large double sheeted plastic boots.
I enjoyed having mitts which top comes off so that you can use your fingers when you need to write or manipulate something (with underliner gloves).
A full face mask is very useful in the field for wind protection, some paintball masks work wonders!
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Sun protection is essential (think sun + snow + ice!!). So a good sun cream with high UV protection. I found the stick type of sun protection practical because you do not need to take off your gloves to put it on your face. You do not need a huge amount because it is only for your face. Finally, good sun glasses are extremely important.
For the field (camping), I used a lot of baby wipes, as you cannot take showers.
Photo Equipment: See my tip about what camera to take.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: All camping gear was provided to us.
I enjoyed having an eye shade to sleep with because it is always bright out as the sun never sets in the summer.
Down (feather) booties are wonderful to wear in the tent and around camp.
Miscellaneous: Bring a towel because you are not provided one at McMurdo.
Bring books and a kindle for the field as you may get stuck in your tent for days by bad weather. A pack of cards is also good.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Adventure Travel
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Dont forget to bring gloves to Antarctica !!! My best ones were really cheap gloves, ment for sports like Nordic Walking, they were thin and they were getting dry rather fast, I could wear them also while making my photos and even in heavy rain- or snowfall they kept my fingers warm, although they had been totally wet.
Also for the rides in the Zodiak gloves are essential, because the speed and the wind will otherwise make you feel terrible without any protection for your fingers.Related to:
- Sailing and Boating
- Adventure Travel
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Riding a Zodiak is a lot of fun in sunny weather. In Antarctica there will be rough seas and in each ride you might get totally wet, when you dont have a really good weather-gear ! Forget about Goretex and similar things that might be recommended in your shop at home, these people have no idea about getting wet in the Antarctic and what it feels like to walk in such clothings, while a really icy antarctical wind is blowing...Related to:
- Adventure Travel
- Sailing and Boating
Wellies / Wellingtons / Gummistiefel
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Wellies are the best solution for using the Zodiak. The beaches will never be totally flat and in 95% of all landing-places you will not find a pier, but you rather have to step into the water and that is best when wearing wellies, AND make sure they are as high as possible, mine were around 50 cm high, that was sufficient.
Unfortunately Wellies will have an important disadvantage : you will feel cold all the time, even with 3 pairs of socks.
Some of the most expensive ships will provide all passengers with complimentary wellies,but on the Bark Europa we had to bring our own.
Renting the Wellies in Ushuaia is possible for 40 ARG.$ (=10 euros for 22 days), while bying them in another shop is just a bit more expensive like 60 ARG.$ (=15 euros) that I had to pay for mine - see my shopping-tips.Related to:
- Sailing and Boating
Warmer than I expected
Luggage and bags: Small day pack or fanny pack. You can't take a lot of stuff ashore with you, so you don't need a huge backpack. I just carried my camera, extra batteries, tiny notebook and pen.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: I brought clothing for extreme weather, and didn't use all of it. We were ashore for an hour at a time; it would be different if you were outside all day. I didn't need the long underwear or the expensive bulky gloves. (I wore the knit gloves I had expected to use as liners for the other ones.)
What you do need:
Waterproof pants, cap, gloves, heavy socks, sweaters and/or fleece jacket with windbreaker over it (or just a windproof warm jacket), knee high rubber boots, sunglasses.
Check with your tour company, because some of them provide the boots. Mine also provided an expedition jacket (lined windbreaker.)
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Hand cream! (The air is amazingly dry)
Seasick remedy of choice
Adequate supply of any meds you use regularly
I always toss in a small first aid kit --neosporin, aspirin, ace bandage, etc.
Photo Equipment: Take more memory cards or film than you think you'll need.Related to:
- Adventure Travel
antarctic packing essentials
Luggage and bags: one suitcase and water resistant backpack. pack light since you will be charged by the airline if overweight. we kept our cases under the bed and there was lots of room in the cabin-closet/hooks.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: dress in layers, it's not as cold as you might think! down parka with pockets.
thin fleeces, long underwear, wool socks, couple t shirts long/short, a few sweaters (light warm cashmere or wool).
comfortable shoes for the ship. i wore uggs since they were light, quick to pull on and toasty! (not much traction on a wet deck though)
tight hat, scarf, two pairs gloves, and possibly a larger thin wp mitt to put over for wet zodiac rides.
select a ship which provides wellington boots;you have to go through a foot bath coming and going and regular hiking boots will not be up to it. you will also be getting in/out of a zodiac so will need higher boots. toward the end of the trip there will be a distinctive penguin smell...
have waterproof pants. ski pants ok but not really necessary.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: select a good anti-nausea if vulnerable to seasickness;some ships provide medication-take it!
Photo Equipment: the trip was 19 days and i took about 1200 photos and edited as i was going. i used a canon rebel digital srl mostly on auto and had a telephoto lense. i also had a small canon elph which was good to whip out quickly. take some ziploc bags to protect your camera and an extra battery in case of freezing. you can usually recharge in your room. i also had a tiny video camera which was new to me and came in handy to record some animal behavior and a touching speech at shackelton's grave.Related to:
- Adventure Travel
Camera gear: part 2
Photo Equipment: I didn't see a need to bring a tripod, and was perfectly fine lugging around 2-3 heavy lenses without using one to take photos. I did see a guy using a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS using it though (understandly so!). But out of 114 people, only 2 brought a tripod, and another a monopod. So if you want to pack light, a tripod is not necessary.Add to your Trip Planner
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: The UV rays are VERY strong in Antarctica because of the thin ozone layer. So please bring sunblock (SPF 45 recommended) and sunglasses. I had a friend who actually got a headache after standing out in the sun for a while.Add to your Trip Planner
Luggage and bags: Waterproof camera bag will be important as the weather changes quickly and it could rain. Also, you could get wet in the zodiacs.
Photo Equipment: For those who plan to bring an SLR (that is, not a small point and shoot consumer camera) I recommend two lenses. The Sigma 10-20mm is unbelievable when it comes to taking wide angle shots. I can't imagine my photos without that. Also, my Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS L was great for the nature shots. You could bring a faster lens like the f/2.8 version, but I never had trouble shooting in the summer conditions with the f/4 (plus, it's much lighter!) Zoom is so important because the birds, whales, glaciers and sometimes even penguins are far away. I brought the Canon 1.4x extender, which was quite good too. For a sample of what these lens can do, visit my Antarctica galleries: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2156262&l=dcfb6&id=202900103
You can rent these lenses online for a small fraction of their retail price.Add to your Trip Planner
How to keep warm and dry
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: I went to Antarctica from Jan 5-15. Honestly, aside from the strong winds in the Drake Passage, it was never that cold. Temperatures were about zero degrees celsius. Here's what you will find useful: Double layered hat/beanie, a turtleneck or a neck gator, a good waterproof jacket (or just buy a can of waterproofing spray from a drug store), waterproof pants, and a pair of gloves (ordinary ones are fine). For the more adventurous, pack swim suit for the polar plunge. Boots are not necessary as the cruise provides you with it (at least Quark does).Add to your Trip Planner
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: The Drake Passage is the terrible part about travelling to Antarctica. I have never been seasick but I lost to the Drake Passage with its terrible waves. (Also, ship didn't have a stabilizer) Remember: BRING SEASICK PILLS/EAR PATCHES!Add to your Trip Planner
Antarctica- many items/services provided by ship
Luggage and bags: Pack an additional soft duffel to take all the extra items home with you. You will probably receive a parka and other goodies as part of the excursion, leave room. Many of our travel mates had to purchase additional luggage, which is not cheap in Ushuaia.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Slippers and town walking shoes will suffice. Shore boots (check with your company) are provided on the ship. Even if you have your own boots it is best to wear the provided shore boots, because you scrub them every time you enter the ship, thus not transporting stuff (microbes, feces, etc.) from site to site.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: All toiletries, except toothpaste was provided.
Photo Equipment: The photo gear aboard the ship was unreal. Everyone had the latest and greatest. I bought my wife a 500mm lenses for Safari's, which was nice to have and took some excellent shots, but everyone else had big cannon's as well. Shot composition is most important, having a great all around lens, will be easier to carry and allow freedom to concentrate on short range composition. Everyone, shared photos in the end, and there were outstanding shots taken by the other 80 "professional" photographers.
There were one or two people that rented lenses. This also seemed like a good idea.
Bring a polarizer, the sun is brutal.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Don't bring lots of cold weather gear; you won't be going out if it’s cold, unless you’re camping.
Miscellaneous: The ship is rough on the way down. Bring your drugs, good ones!
There was more room under the bed and in the closests (2) than we could ever carry.
Laundry service was available.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
Luggage and bags: Many Icebreakers lack storage space so you may want to bring luggage that can be folded up when it is empty.
Once on the boat you will be leaving your outerwear (parka, boots...) in the ships changing room. This is good news since it will get wet and stinky quickly. It just takes one visit to a penguin colony to leave your clothing smelling like penguin poop.. Don't worry the smells sweet and not bad BUT you wouldn't want your room to smell like it!
Most ships have nice closets and you’ll be hanging up the rest of your other clothing to dry, so your luggage will be put away.
I was traveling before and after the arctic so I used those giant zip lock-like packing bags. You put your clothing inside and take the air out and them so they shrink down to a smaller size. They work great with polar fleece, which shrinks to nothing once the air is removed!
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Bring clothing that can be layered. For cold climates multiple thin layers are superior to one or two thick layers since the thin layers trap insulating air in between.
I averaged 5 layers of clothing on the landing. The most important layer, the one closest to your body, should be be made of a Wicking Fabric to keep the moisture off your skin.
Make sure that the layers closest to your skin are something you can wear around the boat. On my boat we did 2 to 3 landings a day and it was great not to have to go back to my room to change every time.
Also be sure to try on five layers of clothing at the same time BEFORE the trip to ensure the top layers fit over the bottom layers.
Cotton clothing is not recommended. Cotton retains moisture which takes the heat away from your body.
Polar Fleece is a miracle fabric for the arctic! I would recommend buying Polar Fleece, pants, shirts, jackets, socks, gloves, hats...its softer and warmer than wool and helps to block the wind too.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Bring 45 + sunscreen, wear it and reapply frequently. There is a hole in the ozone here and with all the snow the reflection is killer. I wore 45 and still got sun poisoning. My entire face was swollen and peeling and I had to wear a full face mask whenever I was outside the rest of my trip!
Antarctica is the windiest place on earth. The wind is cold and dry and can have disastrous affects on your skin. Bring lots of the best lotion you can find.
Polarized sunglasses are also a MUST due to the sun - my roommate wore regular sunglasses one day and got polar blindness!
Bring all of your medicine and supplies with you. You cannot run to the corner drug store here!
Photo Equipment: For this trip I brought two weatherproof Instamatic cameras instead of my professional camera and was grateful I made that choice. The conditions can be pretty harsh for a professional camera and they may get wet. The smaller Instamatic cameras can be easily tucked inside your parka to keep them dry and from freezing.
With two cameras when one freezes (and they do freeze) you can whip out the one warm one and snap away. I found that by the time I was out of film with one camera the other was normally warm enough to be operational.
I had a tape camcorder and found that the tape kept on breaking due to the cold so I gave up trying to use it.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Since you will be hiking to the wildlife be sure to buy a parka with vents that can be opened when you get warm.
You'll need rain boots for the Landings. They are $15 @ Walmart. Try them on with 2 - 4 pairs of thick socks AND a Insert.
MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE! Buy shoe inserts made for cold weather. My biggest problem was cold feet since on many landings I was standing on ice the entire time.
Several of us brought specially made boots and were told not to wear them, save yourself and buy the cheap rain boots.
They also have chemical heat packs to put in your boots and gloves. Bring lots of them.They saved my life! These can be found online or at a sporting goods stores.
For your hands bring silk sock and glove liners, mittens (they are better than gloves for warmth so bring a pair to wear over your gloves) & gloves. I wore inexpensive fleece gloves under my mittens. This worked well since I seemed to need to take my mittens of fairly often to change film.
Miscellaneous: Bring a hat with a bill - its real bright out and the hats with a bill made a big difference. A fellow traveler had a great fleece had with a bill that had flaps that went over her ears...If I went again I'd get one of those
Bring TONS of Film or tons and/or memory cards for camera - most people on the boat took 20 -40 rolls of film a WEEK. A friend of mine went to Antarctica recently and they brought their laptop which allowed them to clear and download their cards on a daily basis. The day they got back they uploaded 100's pictures to snapfish to send to friends...they had named the files and organized them on the boat. Not a bad idea.
The picture is our polar swim inside the Deception Island Volcano (the water by the shore is warmer here due to the geothermal activity) the air is about 0 though - I am in the front in the white and black bathing suitAdd to your Trip Planner
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