Skip to main content

Polar Adventure: Camping in Antarctica

4 min read

This post is featured on The Weather Channel website written by Matthew Neugeboren and Stephanie Valera. It highlights adventure couple Dave and Deb of ThePlantD as they embark on a memorable camping experience in Antarctica with Quark Expeditions:

With its breathtaking scenery and unique wildlife, many consider Antarctica as one of the most fascinating places on Earth. But it's also a land of extremes, the coldest and driest continent on Earth, and only accessible via ice-strengthened vessels that can brave the rough sea crossings. This makes Antarctica the ultimate destination for camping and outdoors enthusiasts. Couple Dave and Deb of the adventure website ThePlanetD, joined some of those enthusiasts and recently traveled with Quark Expeditions for a camping adventure "at the bottom of the world." In the following pages, they share their photos and tips.

"Camping in Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Dave told "The night we were in Antarctica, there was a full moon and it was spectacular to watch the moon rise over the Antarctic peninsula. We had penguins stop by to check us out and a leopard seal was already sleeping close by when we arrived. All night long we heard his gurgles and burps."

Camping in an unspoiled land such as Antarctica, however, means following several strict rules. "A limited number of people can camp on the continent at one time and there are many rules and regulations," Dave said. "Nothing can be left behind. To ensure that happens, no food or drink is allowed on land except for water and you are not allowed to go to the toilet unless it is an absolute emergency. If it's an absolute emergency you can use the portable potty that they bring from the ship."

Camping in Antarctica Dave and Deb Photo courtesy of ThePlantD

According to Dave, campers trudged through the snow to find the perfect site and stomped out their "bed," enough below the ground to provide shelter from the wind overnight. "You have to be careful not to break out in a sweat or you'll lose all your body heat," said Dave. "So before we get down to sleeping, we're all walking around with no coats on doing our work."

Campers don't sleep in tents in Antarctica. Instead, Dave and Deb put down a foam mattress and slept in "bivouac sacks" (or bivy sacs) that zipped over their heads. "We had thick sleeping bags [inside the bivy sacs] and slept snug as a bug in a rug," said Dave. "We put our coats and boots under our heads so that they wouldn't be freezing when we woke up." According to Dave, the bivy sacs actually provided more warmth than tents, because they trap in the heat. "A tent is a wide open space that lets the cold air in," said Dave. "If you are a bit claustrophobic, like I was, it makes for an uncomfortable night. I had to keep unzipping my sleeping bag whenever I woke up to catch my breath, at times I felt trapped."

To sleep in sub-zero weather of Antarctica means having the appropriate gear. Dave, Deb and other campers wore layers underneath the parkas: a base layer to wick away moisture and an insulating layer to keep warm. The outer layers were waterproof and windproof. They also wore waterproof Gore-Tex pants, warm gloves, a "neck dickie" (Canadian for mock turtleneck) made of fleece, and a very warm hat. On their feet, they wore insulated rubber boots that we wore with a thin sock base layer under a warm wool sock. "Make sure you wear good sunglasses too," said Dave. "The sun in Antarctica is bright."

Antarctica Camping Dave and Deb Photo courtesy of ThePlantD

Venturing into subzero temperatures in a remote land requires preparation. Dave recommends booking with a company that specializes in polar expeditions and ensuring that they have an experienced staff. "The company we went with has a staff with several years of polar experience," said Dave. "They are marine biologists and scientists with a passion for Antarctica and our captain had decades of experience. They know and understand glaciers and weather and we felt in very capable hands."

Dave also recommends doing extensive pre-departure research. "Read your pre-departure guides on what to pack and what to expect and listen to your briefings," said Dave. "The company we went with gave us parkas and rubber boots to wear ensuring that we would be warm and comfortable, but there is a lot that you have to pack as well." And once on the continent? "Don't venture off from the boundaries that your guides set when you go to explore on land and make sure to listen to what your guide tells you when you are on the zodiac," said Dave. "Hold on and pay attention."

Check out more of Dave and Deb's camping experience in Antarctica at Camping in Antarctica on ThePlanetD.

Dave and Deb are a travel couple who live by the motto "adventure is for everyone" Married for 15 years, they've visited over 80 countries on 7 continents. They aim to inspire people to follow their dreams and push their boundaries. Currently they are 2013 American Express Ambassadors, Expedia Viewfinders for and HouseTrip Diplomats. They have appeared on TV as regular travel experts, been featured in such publications as The National Post, BBC Travel and National Geographic and have spoken around the world about pursuing your passion. Follow their journeys on their travelblog

Interested in this experience of a life time? Contact one of our polar travel advisers for more details!

In this article

Related Posts