Visiting Antarctica is often described as a surreal, life-changing experience – one that might leave you feeling you've stepped off this planet and onto another that's completely unfamiliar to you. Even as you're having this other-worldly experience, it's good to have a few of the comforts of this world along, but many first-time travelers are unsure of what to bring to Antarctica.
Some of these items are going to make your Antarctic expedition and trekking a lot more comfortable, while others will simply bring a bit of comfort on-board as you enjoy the ship or hang out in your berth.
Either way, don't leave home for Antarctica without these 10 things.
What to Bring to Antarctica
That's right, you're going to one of the coldest and least hospitable climates on the planet, and you're going to need sunscreen!
Quark Expeditions take place during the Antarctic summer months and while it's not sunbathing weather, it's sunny most of the time and the UV rays can be quite strong.
Ice, snow, and water reflect the sun from every direction and it is possible to get a sunburn. Bring at least SPF 45 with you and make sure it's water and sweat-proof.
Antarctica is the driest and sunniest continent on Earth and the sun, wind, and salt-tinged mist can all wreak havoc on your lips. Bring enough chapstick or lip balm to use it liberally throughout the trip. Staying hydrated will also help prevent chapped or cracking lips in harsh Antarctic conditions, should they occur.
3. Waterproof Pants
We spend a lot of time in Antarctica near the water and on the ice and snow. Waterproof pants are a must! You'll find them useful if you're doing adventure activities like cross-country skiing, but also for every day trekking around and zodiac rides.
Choose a pair with a moisture-wicking liner to stay warm and dry as we disembark and head inland over the snow on day excursions. For an extra layer of warmth, consider pairing them with a pair of thermal leggings underneath. Warm layers are key, whether you're traveling to the Falkland Islands or Snow Hill Island.
4. A good piece of chocolate or your favorite snack
Food and snacks are plentiful on Quark Expeditions' voyages. While guests are discouraged from bringing food on shore excursions (one ever drops crumbs, wrapping paper, or any food product when visiting polar landscapes), you may wish to have your favourite snack. But rest assured, there are plenty of sweets available at meal times and often in between.
The food service on-board is fantastic, he says, yet it's nice to have that bit of something familiar from home when you're away on an expedition.
5. Good gloves and head protection – two pairs
Remember how your grandmother always told you that you lose most of your body heat through your head? Well, she was right. Proper head gear and warm gloves are important in Antarctica.
Depending on the conditions, you could experience rapid changes in temperature and wind conditions – but you may also sweat, depending on your level of physical exertion.
Many people are surprised by how much warmer than expected Antarctica can be in the summer time! Bring at least one extra pair of waterproof gloves and an extra hat, toque, or other head gear. You probably won't need thick, heavy gloves or head gear. Rather, focus on warm layers like glove liners and a neck gaiter.
6. Waterproof boots with good tread
You'll want to your feet warm and dry with high-quality hiking socks. However, you needn't pack boots as Quark Expeditions will loan you a complimentary pair of insulated waterproof muck boots to wear on shore excursions.
The last thing you want are cold wet feet and toes!
When you travel with Quark Expeditions we provide your boots for you so you'll stay warm and dry on your voyage, but don't forget the extra pair of warm socks!
7. A good book
Some people have trouble falling asleep on an Antarctica cruise, whether it's the excitement of it all, the adjustment to new sleeping quarters, or just a natural trait. There may also be times you just want to relax alone for a few minutes. Remember, there's no cable TV, so bring a good book to keep you company!
Need some inspiration? Here's a list of recommended reading for the passionate polar traveler!
Our ships also feature polar libraries stocked with a fantastic selection of reading materials.
8. Sunglasses with a strap
Wraparound sports sunglasses are best for keeping the bright sun out of your eyes. Make sure the lenses offer UV protection and bring an extra pair just in case.
Bring a strap so the sunglasses can be easily removed to hang around your neck (so you don't need to remove your gloves or fumble around with parka pockets).
9. A daypack
Large backpacks are great for long treks, but on our day excursions you really only need a small daypack. You can store extra layers of clothing, sunscreen, water and more without feeling like you're carrying half of your cabin around with you.
A waterproof bag is a must on any Antarctica packing list. It can carry everything from snacks to camera gear and spare batteries to extra outer layers.
10. Merino wool underclothes
Merino wool really is a magical thing. If you're dreading the thought of wearing wool underclothes while you trek around, don't worry – this isn't the itchy, heavy wool of yesteryear. Warm, lightweight base layers are essential on any Antarctic adventure.
Merino wool is a fantastic base layer that draws moisture away from the skin and actually generates heat when it's wet. Unlike other types of wool products, it has natural odor-destroying properties and will keep you feeling and smelling "fresh" longer on the seventh continent. You're definitely going to want a warm layer to wear under your outer layer and expedition parka.
There you have it – 10 things you shouldn't leave home without when you're Antarctic bound!
Do you have a travel tip or packing recommendation for other passengers? What would you wear in Antarctica? Share it in the comments below.