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Ultimate Packing List for Expeditions in Antarctica & South Georgia

Ultimate Packing List for Expeditions in Antarctica & South Georgia

Heading to the stunning Antarctic continent and unsure about what to pack? No worries, we’ve got your back! Before you embark on this incredible adventure to one of the most remote places on Earth, check out our practical packing list and get ready for an unforgettable adventure!

Guests in Antarctica hiking

Rule #1: Pack Early

Antarctica is known for its unpredictable nature, and you won’t find many shopping opportunities once you’re there. Avoid any packing mishaps by starting early. Allow yourself enough time to borrow or purchase any items you might need. Believe us, preparation is key.

Rule #2: Buy from Sustainable Brands

You can still make eco-conscious choices when it comes to your gear. Consider purchasing from brands that prioritize sustainability. For example, Patagonia is a great option, as they donate 1% of all sales towards preserving and restoring the natural environment.

Patagonia 1 % for the planet

Rule #3: Stay dry, wear merino layers and Gore-Tex Pro

Even though it is the driest continent on the globe, everything must be waterproof. Antarctica’s unpredictable weather demands proper protection against moisture. Make sure to dress in merino layers, which provide insulation even when wet, and opt for garments made of Gore-Tex Pro or similar materials that offer superior waterproofing capabilities. Keeping dry is essential for staying comfortable and safe during your Antarctic expedition.

Rule #4: Embrace the IAATO mindset for the trip

The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) has established guidelines and principles to ensure responsible and sustainable tourism in Antarctica. It is crucial to embrace this mindset and adhere to the IAATO regulations throughout your journey. Respect the delicate ecosystem, minimize your impact on wildlife and the environment, and foster a spirit of conservation. By adopting the IAATO mindset, you contribute to the preservation of Antarctica’s unique and fragile ecosystem for future generations to experience and appreciate.

Let’s Talk Packing List

1. Layers, Layers, Layers

Layering is key when it comes to combating the ever-changing Antarctic weather. Dress in loose, roomy layers to trap heated air between them, creating insulation. Start with thermal underwear (silk or polypropylene), multiple pairs of tall, warm socks, and thinner polypropylene or merino wool socks.

For mid-layers, go for turtlenecks, fleece tops and bottoms, wool sweaters, or medium-weight polar fleece jackets. Don’t forget waterproof trousers or ski pants. Finally, top it all off with a fleece neck buff, waterproof mittens with thin polypropylene gloves underneath, a hat, a shell anorak with an attached hood, and sturdy shoes with rubber waffle soles.

Expedition Jacket packing list

Our Special Recommendation: Antarctica Expedition Jacket

Dedicated to crafting high-performance garments for sailors using innovative and sustainable methods, we can highly recommend Sail Racing’s Expedition Jacket.

The polyester and spandex stretch fabric construction, with its water and windproof properties, insulated down and feathers, and adjustable features, means this jacket is built to withstand the harshest Antarctic elements.

2. Footwear That Can Handle It

Standard hiking boots won’t cut it in Antarctica. You’ll need muck boots designed for snow and ice, ensuring warmth and dryness. Secret Atlas voyages provide you with Muck Boots, but it’s good to have a pair of comfortable shoes for onboard relaxation and maybe runners for the ship’s gym.

Rubber Boots in Antarctica

3. Gloves, Neck Gaiters, and Beanies

Take good care of your hands, neck, and head in Antarctica. Layer your gloves with a polyester blend base and a waterproof top layer. It’s always a good idea to pack extra pairs, and consider fingerless gloves or ones with sensor fingertips for photography. Keep your neck cozy with a warm neck gaiter, and make sure your beanie fits snugly to withstand the fierce winds. Pack an extra beanie for added protection.

4. Socks: The Key to Warmth and Comfort

When it comes to socks, it’s best to bring two pairs for different purposes. Start with a thin, poly-blend pair against your skin to wick away moisture, and layer them with thick woolen socks for insulation during outdoor activities. Having multiple pairs of thick socks will allow you to rotate them as they get wet during shore visits, while the thinner socks will keep you cozy and comfortable on the ship.

5. Sun Protection: Shielding Yourself from Antarctic Rays

Contrary to popular belief, the sun shines in Antarctica, and sunburn is a real risk. Don’t forget to pack essential sun protection items such as sunglasses with UV protection, broad-spectrum sunscreen, and SPF lip balm.

Glacier Hike Antarctica

6. Moisturizer: Combatting Dryness in Extreme Conditions

The windy and dry conditions of Antarctica can leave your skin feeling dry. Avoid this by applying moisturiser daily to maintain healthy and hydrated skin.

7. Seasickness Medication: Preparing for the Drake Passage

Seasickness is a common concern during an Antarctic cruise, especially when crossing the infamous Drake Passage. Regardless of your sailing experience, it’s wise to be prepared. Consult your doctor before the journey to discuss seasickness medication options. If you have any existing health conditions or require regular medications, ensure you have an ample supply packed in your luggage.

8. Recommended Extras: Enhancing Your Antarctic Experience

To make the most of your adventure, consider bringing a few additional items. Binoculars will allow you to observe wildlife and appreciate the stunning landscapes up close. Don’t forget your camera, with extra memory cards, a cleaning kit, and an if you have it, an additional camera as a backup. A small weatherproof backpack or dry bag, walking sticks, chargers, extra batteries, reflective vest, and ice cleats (if bringing your own boots) are all practical additions that will enhance your comfort and safety during the expedition. Bear in mind that you will need your hands free for embarking the zodiacs.

Zodiac in front of humpback whale in Antarctica

9. Entertainment: Relaxing Moments Onboard

Pack some entertainment options such as a good book or eReader, a smartphone filled with music, noise-canceling headphones to block out distractions, and a notebook and pen for documenting your journey.

Lounge MV Magellan Explorer

10. Final Reminders: Travel Documents and Essentials

Before you begin packing, ensure you have the necessary travel documents. Check your passport and visa requirements, making sure your passport is valid for at least six months after your trip. Verify that your insurance policy adequately covers Svalbard travel, planned activities, and potential trip delays or cancellations. Finally, keep your carry-on stocked with essential items like prescriptions, toiletries, and your vessel documents for a smooth embarkation.

Antarctica

What is the weather like in Antarctica during summer?

The summer spans from December to February n the Southern Hemisphere, and temperatures typically range from -2°C (28°F) to 8°C (46°F). The weather can vary widely but generally remains cold and unpredictable. Antarctica experiences an extreme polar climate characterised by freezing temperatures, strong winds, and unique weather phenomena.

Conditions can be harsh, and wind chill can make it feel much colder and it’s not uncommon to encounter snowfall, blizzards, and fog during this time.

Hike Polar Circle Air-Cruise Antarctica

South Georgia

What is the weather like on South Georgia during summer?

During the summer months in South Georgia, the weather is generally cool and unpredictable. The island experiences a subpolar oceanic climate due to its southern location and proximity to Antarctica.

Temperatures on South Georgia Island typically range from around 0°C (32°F) to 10°C (50°F). However, it’s important to note that weather conditions can change rapidly, and visitors should be prepared for a wide range of weather patterns, including rain, wind, fog, and occasional snowfall.

Visa Requirements for South Georgia Island: What You Need to Know

When planning a trip to South Georgia Island, it’s important to be aware of the visa requirements. While no visa is required to visit the British Overseas Territory, all visitors must obtain a permit from the South Georgia government. This permit should be applied for before arriving in the island’s waters.

Upon arrival, a valid passport must be presented at the customs office in Grytviken within a specific timeframe. If you’re part of a guided tour, your tour operator will handle these formalities for you, making the process seamless.

During our voyage with Secret Atlas, the expedition leader and ship captain maintain direct contact with the customs officials. Passports are collected in advance, and upon entering the Grytviken harbor, the officials board the ship. Once the passenger manifest and permits are verified and passports stamped, entry is granted into South Georgia.

King Penguin Colony South Georgia cruises

Checklist

Luggage Bags
  • 1 soft bag: a large backpack or soft duffel bag for clothes to check-in. A soft bag is recommended as it is easily stored in your cabin. Hard cases are not recommended as they are difficult to store.
  • 1 day backpack: small and preferably water resistant, to use during shore excursions.
Outer Layers
  • Jacket: wind, waterproof and breathable
  • Trousers: wind, waterproof and breathable
  • Hat: warm and windproof
  • Gloves: water and windproof
Footwear
  • Hiking boots for shore landings (optional). If you prefer you can walk in the rubber boots provided.
  • Regular shoes with rubber soles or grips to wear on board the ship to avoid slipping.
Layers
  • Under layers: fast wicking base layers or t-shirts.
  • Inner gloves: wool, synthetic or silk.
  • Warm underwear: wool or synthetic fibre.
  • Warm trousers: wool or fleece.
  • Warm sweater: wool or fleece.
  • Warm socks: wool or synthetic fibre.
  • Casual Clothes: to wear inside the vessel.
Other Esssentials
  • Sunglasses: these are essential as on sunny days the light reflects off the ice. Consider sunglasses with a good UV rating. Also consider tight fitting sunglasses or a necklace to prevent them from falling into the water.
  • Water bottle: to use during shore landings and prevent the use of single-use plastics. You can refill your bottle on the vessel.
  • Sunscreen: with high sun protection factor for face and lips.
  • Any Medication: please bring enough to cover the duration of your voyage and enough to cover any delays.
Highly Recommended
  • Binoculars: often wildlife will be seen from a distance so binoculars are highly recommended for wildlife viewing.
  • Camera and memory cards.
  • Cleaning kit & cloth: for your camera and lenses.
  • Charger & extra batteries.
  • Plastic bags: to protect your camera from getting wet during rubber boat cruises.
  • Motion sickness medicine: if you are prone to seasickness we recommend seasickness pills, wristbands or patches.
  • Swimwear: in case you get the opportunity to take a polar plunge.
  • Eye mask and Earplugs: if you are a light sleeper these items are highly recommended.
  • Walking sticks: please note that they must be foldable and stored in the checked in luggage.
Fur seal pups in South Georgia

Bon voyage!

For those who dream of true adventure, an Antarctic expedition shouldn’t be off-limits or overly daunting. We will make sure to answer any questions if you’re still feeling unsure, and provide an open line of communication so that you can explore Antarctica worry free!

Useful Information

25 South Georgia Facts to Inspire Your Visit

25 South Georgia facts to inspire your visit to this beautiful remote island located in the Southern Ocean. Read More >>
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Wildlife of Antarctica I Animals You can See on an Antarctic Micro Cruise

Antarctica is home to a stunning variety of wildlife from emperor penguins to seals and birdlife. Check out our Antarctica wildlife guide >>
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Life in South Georgia - Six months on, six months off

Sarah Lurcock has spent a quarter of a century on South Georgia. In this interview, she explains what makes the antarctic island so special.
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Guest Stories

People are at the heart of everything we do here at Secret Atlas, and our guests' experience is top of our list.

We've put together a video for our guests to share their experiences with you, or you can read guests' stories below.