Packing for adventures is a personal game. Everyone has their own thing of what works for them, and it constantly evolves as you learn on each trip. There are two different sections to my Antarctica Packing List -- the actual gear you’ll need to survive in Antarctica, and then the miscellaneous packing items that will make your trip much more pleasant.
Whatever company you travel with to Antarctica will provide you with a detailed packing list for your specific trip, which is really helpful and I highly recommend using. I traveled on a cruise to Antarctica with Oceanwide Expeditions, so I’ll be referencing their provided packing list in this post that I personally used. I wanted to note that if you’re backpacking long term, you also have the option of renting gear once you get to Ushuaia!
The polar experts I talked to all recommended to do your own research about what’s needed for your specific trip, and know what you’ll personally need to be comfortable. Ask a lot of questions, and don’t be afraid to contact the company you’re traveling with directly if you have any questions or concerns. I’ve never done a (freezing) cold weather trip like this, so I went to Paragon Sports here in New York City, where they had a department for everything I needed, and I got to pepper everyone with all my gear questions.
These items below may be miscellaneous, but they are critical to your success adventuring in Antarctica. There is nothing available for you to buy once you board the ship -- so think hard about what you’re going need for 10+ days at sea!
I used to judge Teva Sandals... but I wore them every day on my trip (from Antarctica through Argentina) and you can now consider me obsessed. They were awesome to wear around the ship so I wasn’t in boots or sneakers for 10 days straight, but were sturdy enough to wear outside on the decks, even during the Drake Passage. (Bonus: My Darn Tough socks were cute, comfy and warm enough to pair them with my Tevas throughout the entire cruise.)
Most folks (myself included) got sunburnt right away, and some got burnt pretty badly. Bring your favorite high SPF facial sunscreen, and use it!
A tip learned from a passenger who had gotten burnt was to make sure to put the sunscreen layer on your face and neck first, then layer whatever else on top of it after it’s had a chance to soak in.
SPF Chapstick & Vaseline
My lips got fried the first day in the sun. Don’t forget to pack this, or forget to put it in your coat pocket before leaving for basecamp activities!
Once my lips had gotten burnt, I realized I forgot to bring Vaseline (and Blistex), but luckily my BFF Mary did and was kind enough to share with me. I used Vaseline on my lips the entire time to avoid cracking lips and it made a world of a difference.
I didn’t have anything to do with makeup on the cruise, but having a solid moisturizer is key for keeping your skin healthy in all the crazy weather elements. I packed a 2 ounce jar of Skinny + Co Coconut Facial Oil, and ended up sharing it with multiple people during my time in Antarctica; it kept my skin in shape without any break outs, and really aided in healing someone who got a really bad sunburn.
Binoculars -- I did buy a pair of waterproof binoculars specifically for this trip, but my Canon camera has an amazing zoom, so I ended up using that most of the time because I wanted to take photos of whatever we were trying to see anyway. A lot of people on board had binoculars to share as well, so it just depends on your preference.
Thermos Bottle -- I bought one last minute in Ushuaia because it was on the packing list, but I didn’t use it as often as I thought I would since I drank heaps of the free tea and hot chocolate on board!
Hand + Feet Warmers -- My friend Mary brought a pack of these with her, but they got taken at the airport in Buenos Aires so we weren’t able to use them! We survived without them, but they would have been nice when we camped outside in the snow overnight.
The equipment guide I got from Oceanwide Expeditions states it best: “Warm and efficient clothing (and a flexible attitude) are the best means to overcome sometimes harsh circumstances in Antarctica. Exploring remote and wild regions like Antarctica requires a sensible and flexible approach; although there can be bright skies with sunshine, the weather is unpredictable. Katabatic winds, caused by the icecaps and glaciers, can pick up suddenly and are a fierce opponent for polar travellers.” I encourage you to prepare the best that you can, and keep an open and excited mind as you travel.