What to Wear to Antarctica
When traveling to glacial destinations, deciding what to wear becomes less about fashion and more about function. Each piece of clothing you pack will need to serve a purpose.
This is especially true when visiting Antarctica. The earth’s most southern continent, this icy landmass is filled with beautiful snow-capped peaks, glittering glaciers, perfectly-sculpted icebergs, and unique wildlife. To fully enjoy Antarctica’s raw, natural beauty, you need to be prepared for all types of weather. Cruise ships voyage to Antarctica during the summer months (December to March — the opposite of most other areas of the world), when temperatures are mild, but highs only reach about 10° Celsius or 50° Fahrenheit.
If the notorious Katabatic winds start blowing, the windchill can make it feel even colder, so it’s extremely important to know what to wear in Antarctica.
Tourists, scientists, and other adventurous souls who decide to take a voyage to the Antarctic can save themselves a ton of trouble by planning their apparel in advance.
Thus, in today’s blog post, we’ll be discussing some of the most highly-advised clothing items, gear, and dressing techniques for traveling to this polar wonder of the world.
Layering: An Essential Strategy
When selecting Antarctic gear and apparel, the ability to layer is of great significance. Essentially, your clothes will support your body in regulating its temperature. When there is more exposure to sunlight, or when you are engaging in physical activity, your body will be warmer and thus you will be able to remove layers. But at night, or when you are sitting or standing outside for long periods of time without moving, you’ll want to wear a waterproof parka, several layers of light, loose clothing, and other gear to help your body compensate.
For this reason, including thick wool long underwear and long-sleeve undershirts on your list of Antarctica gear to buy is a must. These items will function as your base layer, protecting your skin and helping your body retain heat.
You’ll also want to invest in a zip-up fleece sweater. These are easy to remove or put on, which is always a bonus when you’re in a frosty, wintry climate. This will be part of your mid-layer, along with fleece pants. Fabrics like moleskin or heavy polyester blends are also recommended, as they stop icy blasts of wind from reaching your skin.
Lastly, you’ll need an impenetrable outer layer. This will consist of a weatherproof parka, waterproof pants, extreme cold weather mittens, a balaclava, and insulated, waterproof boots that are rated to withstand -50° Celsius or below.
Our Individual Packing List
Knee-high, waterproof rubber boots
Warm wool sweater and/or fleece jacket for layering
Waterproof gloves or mittens
Warm hat or cap that covers your ears
Scarf or neck gaiter
Warm, thermal socks
Thermal long underwear (top and bottom)
Sturdy, non-skid walking or hiking shoes
Clothing for onboard the ship; shirts and pants
Deck-type, rubber-soled shoes for onboard
Clothing for captain’s welcome and farewell dinners
Swimsuit (for possible polar plunge and hotel pool/spa)
Sunblock and lip balm with SPF
Waterproof backpack/daypack for excursions
Personal first-aid kit
Waterproof or “dry” bags for binoculars/
Travel alarm clock
Camera, batteries, memory cards & thumb drive/USB
Electrical converter and adapter
Notebook and pen
Sewing kit (checked luggage only)
Plastic or Ziploc bags
Trekking poles/walking stick (recommended)
Passport/airline E-ticket receipts/itinerary
Photocopies of documents/tickets
Two extra passport photos
Change of clothing
Physician’s summary (if applicable)
Spare pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses
Any other valuable items you may want to carry
with you, such as your camera
Most Essential Items
We’ve compiled a list of the most essential Antarctica clothing items below.
Yes, even your skivvies need to be carefully considered when deciding what to wear in Antarctica. Thermal undergarments act as insulation, keeping the cold air out and locking in valuable warmth. Long johns and base layers made from merino-wool are recommended, as this type of wool naturally repels odor and reduces chafing.
Knee-High Waterproof Boots
When most people think of Antarctica, they envision an endless snowy tundra. And while this is accurate in many circumstances, it isn’t always. Depending on the time of year, and the specific area of the continent you visit, you could encounter rock, sand, mud, dirt, or water. Thus, it’s imperative to have a pair of boots that can withstand anything thrown their way. Knee-high boots are a great way to ensure water doesn’t make its way into your footwear. They are often elastic at the mouth, hugging the leg to prevent rain or other types of moisture from getting inside.
The extremities are often the first parts of the body to succumb to frostbite. Thus, investing in a pair of insulating and moisture-wicking socks is always a smart decision. Always look for designs that extend up the calf and are proven to withstand temperatures of -40° Celsius, at minimum.
High Quality is Non-Negotiable
Antarctica is the last place on earth you want to have regrets about what you’ve packed. Choosing a cheap, low-grade clothing option could easily ruin your trip.
Thus, at Zegrahm, we always advise that our guests purchase the recommended gear and clothing included in our Packing Suggestions. Or, speak to Zegrahm’s gear outfitter about all the items you’ll need for your expedition.
We offer several excursions to this frosty, far-away land with our Antarctica cruises. Upon booking, one of our Expedition Advisors would be happy to answer any questions you might have about what to wear in Antarctica.
For more cruise destinations you can check out our small ship cruise expeditions here.