How to Pack for an Antarctica Cruise

May 23, 2024   12 Comments »

How to Pack for an Antarctica Cruise

March 14, 2017 12 Comments »

If you are going to the bottom of the world, one would think you are simply packing the warmest stuff you can find – but there’s much more to an Antarctica packing list than warm clothes!

I’ve been to Antarctica twice now, and each time I was surprised to find out the weather wasn’t as cold as I expected it would be. In fact, most days it was warmer in Antarctica than it was in South Dakota in the winter!

You do need to be prepared for the cold storms, but a mix of layers is the key.

Most cruises to Antarctica go as far as the Antarctic Peninsula (the northernmost part of mainland Antarctica), which experiences milder temperatures than coastal or inland Antarctica.

However, I’ve also been to Eastern Antarctica and that had a bit of a different environment. It’s much more exposed. The temperatures in and around Antarctica vary. The peninsula ranges between 20 to 40 degrees F, while Eastern Antarctica is more like 0 to 32 degrees F.

But it’s not just about the cold — it’s also wet, windy, bright, and unpredictable. And when the wind blows, those average temperatures are meaningless!

Here are the most essential pieces on my Antarctica packing list.

Antarctica Packing List Essentials

Photo of antarctic icebergs - it's important to pack the right clothes for this!
Be prepared for the wet and cold!

Cold Weather Gear & Clothing

You will definitely need warm weather gear, but pack with layers in mind, since half of the time you’ll be lounging around on the ship.

The rest of your time is spent out on the zodiacs or hiking around on the continent.

Of course, there are a few obvious things you’ll want to take with you:

But there are often things that you might not consider when you think about your Antarctica packing list.

Here’s what I recommend for a typical Antarctica cruise that you might not have thought about:

Waterproof boots or Wellies – Make sure you check to see what your boat supplies first. Some cruises, like mine, supplied us with Wellies which made packing much easier. The boots must be completely waterproof as often times when you are getting out of a zodiac raft and onto shore you will have to step in water that can be ankle-deep.

Womens Original Tall Snow Winter Wellington Waterproof Rain Boots
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Wool Socks – Layers of wool socks are best for drying quickly and keeping you warm. I suggest a liner sock and then bulky wool socks to keep warm in the boots. Our Wellies were not insulated and the wool socks were my main insulation – I used tall ski smartwool socks under my Wellies. Take multiple pairs in case they don’t have time to dry out between zodiac outings.

Check out my packing list for extreme temperatures

Point6 Essential Crew Sock

The cozy merino wool cushioning next to the skin insulates the foot from hot spots. Now featuring 37.5 Technology to keep you dry in the office or on the mountain.

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what to wear in antarctica
Stay warm and dress in layers!

Waterproof pants and jacket – Waterproof pants are absolutely necessary for getting in and out of the zodiac in deeper water. In addition, if you are in a zodiac when it starts to rain or snow you’ll be happy you have them! A waterproof jacket comes in handy as wind protection and if like me you are doing other Subantarctic or other island stops that get more rain than snow.

Marmot EVODry Torreys Jacket

Great for a wind and rain barrier as a top layer for your adventures. EVODry Torreys Jacket offers the weather protection you need for unpredictable days and the lightweight breathability you want in a high-performance shell. I always have it with me in my pack.

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Marmot Eclipse EVODry Pants

These pants are great for rainy hikes. They have lots of pockets and soft breathable EVOdry fabric.

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Comfortable clothes & shoes for lounging around in the boat – You’ll spend a lot of time lounging around the boat so bring comfortable clothes and shoes. I packed yoga pants, long-sleeved t-shirts, and fleece pullovers. Most of my suitcase was full of travel clothes from Exofficio, as they are all quick drying and made specifically for travel and comfort. Many people had UGG boots or slippers for lounging around the ship.

Smart Phone Gloves – If you plan on taking your smartphone with you for photos or videos on the zodiac or simply outdoor pics from the ship then be sure you have the right gloves with fingertips made for touch screens. You don’t want to take off your gloves to take photos! However these are simply lightweight gloves, you’ll definitely want something warmer too for those windy days.

The North Face Women's Denali Etip Gloves with Touchscreen Capability
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03/06/2024 09:47 pm GMT

Swimsuit – yes, you read that right. Many of the expedition ships have a sauna or hot tub you might want to use. But the main reason to take a swimsuit is to take a polar plunge! Are you brave enough?

Medications to Pack for Antarctica

seasickness meds should be on your antarctica packing list
 Choices, choices…bring multiple!

Most expedition ships come with highly qualified medical staff and supplies since you’re traveling around remote destinations.

However, the most frequent medical issue is seasickness. Crossing through the Drake Passage or Southern Ocean is rough, and both left me feeling pretty queasy and sometimes just awful.

Be sure to do your research before you go and take seasickness meds or patches – different things work for different people, so my advice is to take more than one. Most ships also provide this too if you forget yours.

I started off using the Scopolamine Patch (prescription necessary from the US), then switched to Stugeron/Cinnarizine (only found in the UK over the counter), and that seemed to do better for me.

People also had motion sickness wristbands, ginger tablets, and Dramamine

Sea-Band Anti-Nausea Acupressure Wristband for Motion or Morning Sickness
$8.51 ($4.26 / Count)
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03/07/2024 06:02 pm GMT
Certified Organic Ginger GRAVOL
$12.69 ($0.63 / Count)

(20 Tablets) Antinauseant for NAUSEA, VOMITING & MOTION SICKNESS Ages 6 And Up

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03/05/2024 09:02 pm GMT
Dramamine Tablets Less Drowsy Formula
$17.49 ($0.73 / Count)
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03/24/2024 11:47 am GMT

Photography/Video Equipment

For most people, this may be the most important gear, since you will be sharing your amazing experience when you return home.

Make sure you have tested out all of your equipment before you go and know how to use it.

And don’t forget extra batteries for all your gear, as they will deplete quickly in the cold temperatures.  I used a Sony Mirrorless camera and lenses and they worked great for my trip.

Don’t have a telephoto lens for those penguin and whale close-ups? Then consider renting a lens before you go! Places like allow you to rent by the week.

What Photo Equipment Should You Bring for Antarctica?

See my complete list of My Favorite Travel Photography Gear

Non-Cloud Backup

Take some way to backup your photos while you go (laptop, iPad, or notebook). You don’t want to risk losing them!

You will not have any ‘cloud’ storage/backup availability as the internet access is only available via satellite from the expedition ships and it’s VERY expensive to use.

I store my photos on WD Elements 2TB external drives.

WD 2TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive - USB 3.0
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05/02/2024 10:17 pm GMT

Rain/Snow Gear for Your Camera

travel photography gear and tips - Lenscovers protecting my lens from Antarctic weather
Lens covers protect my lens from sea spray and the elements.

Just like you are waterproofing your clothes, you’ll want to protect your camera too.

I use a simple DSLR raincoat from LensCoat which is great for this type of outdoor shooting when the weather quickly changes.

Plus you can also get lens covers that will protect your lenses from all light weather.

If you plan to do underwater shooting, bring a smartphone waterproof case, a GoPro & underwater case or equivalent, or a DSLR waterproof case.

LensCoat RainCoat Camera Rain/Snow Cover

Don't let the weather stop your photography! This innovative cover provides protection for your camera and lens from the elements like rain, snow, salt spray, dirt, sand and dust while allowing you easy access to the camera and lens controls.

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Sunglasses and/or Ski Goggles

The combination of water, snow, and sun creates deadly glare so be sure to pack sunglasses and heavy-duty sunscreen!

Or consider going the ultimate route, ski goggles which are really super for the windy days of which there are many in Eastern Antarctica. They provide more face protection too and that’s always a bonus!

Smith Winter Snow Goggle

I don't ski - but goggles are also great for snow shoeing or snow mobiling in cold weather! Airflow lens technology provides active ventilation to reduce fog in even the worst conditions, making the Drift the solid choice for a reliable medium-fit goggle.

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03/07/2024 08:47 am GMT

Bird/Wildlife Watching Reference

The ships normally have this type of reference material, but if you want to take notes or have complete access to the guide all the time, then bring your own!

Birds of Southern South America and Antarctica
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03/06/2024 09:32 pm GMT


I didn’t have any and I wish I did. I normally just used my telephoto lens as my way to get a closer view, but a good pair of binoculars would have been a real help.

View small, yet powerful binoculars

Hand/Feet Warmers

Grab a multi-pack of these as they can be a great way to keep warm when you are on shore.

I had them in my wellie boots and I had hand warmers in my coat pockets so I could easily warm my hands up between photographs where I often can’t use bulky gloves.

HotHands Hand & Toe Warmers
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03/06/2024 02:32 pm GMT

Dry Bags

I used these for everything. To keep my smartphone protected while on the zodiac or in my backpack I also brought a drybag that was big enough to hold my cameras and I could sling over me as a backpack. It was just great to not have to worry about important things getting wet.

Sea to Summit Event Compression Dry Sack
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03/06/2024 01:02 pm GMT
hiking with a dry bag to protect my equipment
Hiking with my dry bag…a lifesaver for the unpredictable downpours and zodiac rides in the Subantarctic Islands!

Dishwashing/Cleaning Gloves

Dish gloves are cheap and a perfect way to keep your other gloves dry while on the zodiacs. Just grab a pair of these and put them on over your other liner gloves for water protection.

Clothes Line and Pins

Each ship is different – but it is nice to be able to string up a clothesline in your cabin and let clothes dry from your landings or from any handwashing you do in the sink.

On my month-long Eastern Antarctica expedition, I had to hand wash things all the time in my room, so it was great to be able to dry them easily as well. Don’t forget a little bag of laundry powder too if you are planning to do sink washing!

clothes on my clothesline in my antarctica cruise ship room
Our clothesline was a lifesaver! Especially when you have quick-dry travel clothes!

Eye Cover for Sleeping

Remember you’ll be in the land of midnight sun and that means it’s hard to sleep since the sun never really sets. Bring along a good eye cover for sleeping

Travel Coffee/Tea Mug

It’s just nice to have one of these along so you can have hot beverages in your room when you want them. Or take it out on deck and enjoy the view with a cup of joe.

Compression socks for travel: what, why, and how

Water Bottle

For shore excursions, it’s great to have a water bottle. It was especially important for my Eastern Antarctica trip since we were often on land for 3 to 4 hours at a time thanks to our small ship numbers and the lack of other tourist boats there.

Hiking Poles

Hiking poles really do help with uneven surfaces. Many of our landings included hikes on pretty rocky/boulder-covered ground. It was nice to have a little extra balance.

rocky terrain while hiking
Hiking poles are great for these rocky environments!

Hiking packing list – essential hiking gear for any hike

Entertainment (Digital and Non-Digital)

You will have a fair bit of free time on the ship as you make the journey, so bring things to do.

Books, videos, movies, and podcasts are great for entertainment.

But don’t forget it’s also nice to unplug and have some other hobbies too, such as knitting, painting, writing, etc.

Some of my favorite Antarctica Books:

Check out some great Ross Sea reads before your trip!

The Longest Winter book coverEndurance book coverThe Lost Men book coverRace to the Pole book cover

Emergency Evacuation Insurance

Most Antarctica expeditions require proof of Emergency Medical/Evacuation Insurance. This is pretty much the norm on these types of remote trips. Getting proof of coverage was easy for me to do. I just called my insurance provider and made sure I was covered and then had them send me the paperwork that provided my proof of coverage. If you don’t have emergency evacuation insurance under your normal medical insurance, then you’ll need to look into travel insurance plans that cover you separately.  I used Allianz Travel Insurance to determine my choices and choose a plan that worked for Antarctica.


Extra Passport Pages

Make sure you have empty passport pages. Most of the research stations the ships stop at will stamp your passport with a special Antarctica stamp.


Yes, you can shop in Antarctica! The ships normally stop at various simple research stations along the peninsula and most of the stations sell Antarctica memorabilia. You’ll find hats, postcards, patches, wine, mittens, and even vodka!

You’re all set to visit this magical remote land! Stay warm and Bon Voyage!

More About Antarctica Travel:


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