What to wear in Antarctica and what to pack for Antarctica took me the most time to work out when it came to getting organised for my 10-day Antarctica cruise. In the end though, my Antarctica packing list and the clothes for Antarctica I took were perfect so I wanted to share this with you to help you save time!
Scroll to the bottom for a FREE Antarctica Packing List PDF you can save and print!
Your packing list for Antarctica needs to factor in quite a few elements from clothing for Antarctica on the excursions like the correct Antarctica gear and layering for Antarctica to keep protected from the cold and wind, which is what you are probably thinking about most,
But also, what to wear on the cruise ship to Antarctica when you won’t be outside much and you need to consider packing for before and after the cruise which will most likely be spent in Argentina in much warmer temperatures!
Here are my top things to do in Ushuaia Argentina aka the end of the world for when you get there!
What to Wear in Antarctica
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Layering for Antarctica
Layers are key for Antarctica, on the excursions, but also for on the ship as some areas of the ship will be warmer than others and even on sailing days, you’ll be in and out off the ship to spot whales, seabirds and icebergs from the deck and you won’t want to be going to your room to change multiple times of day and you need to be ready to run out on the deck!
Antarctica Cruise Packing Lists
Before we start, I’m sure my Antarctica cruise packing list isn’t the only list you’ll read so what I do want to stress is to ensure you read an Antarctica cruise packing list that fits the cruise you are going on!
I went on an 11-day Antarctic Peninsular Expedition Cruise with Chimu Adventures although one day was spent in Ushuaia so really, it was like packing for a 10 day Antarctica cruise.
On our 10-day cruise we spent 3-4 days doing off-ship excursions, the rest of the days were sailing days.
A 21-day Antarctica cruise stopping at other places like South Georgia and the Falkland Islands will have many more off ship excursion days which will require more items for Antarctica than I took and mention in this post.
Similarly, if you are going on an Antarctica cruise ship where you don’t get off because of the size of the ship, you will need different clothes for Antarctica than I mention in this Antarctica packing post!
This is a great post to follow if you are looking for an Antarctica packing list for a 11 or 10-day Antarctica cruise!
Clothes for Antarctica
Let’s first focus on the clothing you will wear out on your Antarctica excursions from the feet up!
Remember that this is only for 3-4 days out of your whole 10-day trip, you will not need this type of Antarctica gear for the whole cruise and trip!
1. Boots for Antarctica
– Likely not needed
This is something you will most likely not need to worry about as the expedition company will provide you with boots.
Double check with your company but if you go with Intrepid / Chimu Adventures, they provide you with them which is great as they will be appropriate for the conditions and will save you money and space in your bag!
Of course, you do need to take shoes on your Antarctica cruise. On my trip, we all lived in trainers. I’ve detailed more about the extras you need below.
– 6-8 Pairs
I wore 3 pairs of socks under my boots which worked well for me.
You want a mix of thermal socks, wool and hiking-type socks which offer insulation but are not too thick. You don’t want to have a huge-layers of socks on your feet as it will be harder to walk and put your boots on.
It’s likely your socks won’t get wet on the excursions because of the great boots but taking plenty of socks is the best idea so you can wear multiple pairs a day and not worry about them getting wet or smelly.
Socks I purchased for Antarctica:
3. Baselayer Leggings / Underwear
– 2 Pairs
Baselayers are key in Antarctica. Out on my excursions I wore 3 layers of trousers starting with base layer leggings or underwear as some may call them.
I took a merino pair of baselayer leggings like this from an outdoor shop and a thermal pair of leggings like this from Marks & Spencers and both worked great.
If you were really tight on packing space, or on a budget and didn’t want to buy 2 new pairs. I’d say with these, you could get away with 1 pair, although I’m glad I took 2.
Baselayer Leggings I recommend:
4. Ski Trousers
– 1 Pair
For your main trousers when getting off the ship, you don’t need to think about the material and type too much because plain and simply, you need ski trousers to keep you warm and protected.
1 pair is enough really which is good because they do take up room in a case.
The Ski Pants I have and wore:
5. Waterproof Trousers
– 1 Pair
Some people didn’t seem to have these. You really need waterproof trousers because there can be splash when on the zodiacs and you don’t want freezing water to seep through to your skin.
Some people may have outer ski trousers they are confident are waterproof. I wasn’t so confident in my ski trousers being waterproof so I got a pair of waterproof GoreTex outer trousers and I’m so glad I did!
They added an extra layer of warmth, they were light and I got a size up so they fitted well over my ski trousers and when it was snowing a lot I was so thankful for them keeping me totally dry!
You have to remember when thinking about what to wear to Antarctica that you will do 2 excursions a day, in the morning and afternoon and you don’t want to get cold and get your clothing wet in the morning incase it doesn’t fully dry your afternoon excursion.
The Waterproof Trousers I wore and recommend:
6. Baselayer Vest
– 2 Items
Layers are key on your top half too! I took 2 thermal vests as my very bottom baselayer.
I ended up wearing this once in Ushuaia when it was cold and on our return journey back through the Drake Passage when the ship still felt a bit cold so I’m glad I took them and know I’ll re-wear them a lot at home in winter.
7. Baselayer Long Sleeved Tops
– 3 Items 2 Types
On top of my vest I wore a long sleeved roundneck baselayer. I took one like this which was merino wool, and another thermagen one like this from Marks & Spencers and I wore these at different times on different days.
Merino wool is really good for not getting too sweaty and smelly and I’d say if you were tight on space for packing for Antarctica or don’t want to buy extra things, one good merino top could do you for all the days of excursions rather than two.
Recommended Merino Wool Baselayer Tops:
On top of this, as my third layer, I wore a slightly thicker baselayer with a higher neck like this which was a great insulator of the 2 previous layers and it was nice to have a higher neck one to help keep the base of my neck warm.
I just took 1 of these which was enough as I took it off after every excursion so only wore it on the excursions.
Recommended Thicker Baselayer with High Neck:
8. Fleece Jacket
– 1 item
I wore my fleece jacket a lot on this whole trip so I’m so glad I took it.
People describe layering for Antartica as being like an onion, you need lots of layers and if you get too hot, then you can peel one off.
When layering, we found it is good to have jackets with a full zip and no hood, because if you do need to take it off when you are offshore, especially when it gets warmer in the day like in December and January, you can take it off easier than needing to take it over your head.
A fleece was my 4th layer on top. My fleece is fairly fitted which is also a good tip for clothing for Antartica too because although you want layers, you don’t want extra thick or big layers then impede your movement. They need to be sleek and clever and close to your body.
9. Puffer Jacket
– 1 item / Not needed to take
We were provided with a Kathmandu insulated puffer jacket that was ours to keep on arrival on the ship which was really fantastic because it was a great quality jacket and I literally wore it every day of the cruise, as did most others.
I took my own down jacket as I wasn’t sure if I’d need it too. I did wear it once in Ushuaia before the cruise started but I didn’t wear it at all after that so I wish I hadn’t of taken it as it took up a lot of unnecessary room in the end.
I wore this as my 5th layer on the excursions and I’d say this layer is definitely needed for seadays outside on the ship and as an underlayer on the excursions, but many expedition companies seem to provide you with one so double check.
As an extra note, if you take your own, my down jacket I took has a hood whereas the ones we were given did not, and with all the layers on on the excursions, not having a hood is more practical.
Recommended Jacket if needed:
10. Coat for Antarctica
– Not needed to take
Of course, triple check this with your booking and expedition company but all that I’ve seen, give you an outer coat to either keep or borrow.
We were provided one to borrow which was perfect as most of us didn’t have space to take it back.
I much prefer this way of being given a coat as you know it will be 100% appropriate and coats like this to buy are expensive. It also keeps all guests wearing the same colour and therefore recognisable.
11. Buffs / Neck Warmers
– 1 or 2 items
You need to keep your neck warm and face warm when out on the excursions but a woolly scarf isn’t the best thing for this because it will get caught in all the zips and likely won’t stay put over your face in windy conditions.
Instead a buff / neck gaiter like this one, is best because its not chunky and fits inside the top of your jacket well and you can pull it up over your face to keep your face warm too.
There are many options on Amazon here for a range of prices!
– 1 or 2 items
On the many packing lists for Antarctica I read. I saw polarised sunglasses recommended which I took.
I usually don’t like polarised sunglasses because its hard to look at screens in them which isn’t helpful when taking a lot of photos on a phone or camera. But the white glare of Antartica is definitely reduced with polarised glasses.
I’d say if you don’t have any, they are not a must, but a decent pair of sunglasses over a cheaper pair is a must as you don’t want to be squinting because of the brightness of Antartica even when you are wearing sunglasses.
– 1 or 2 items
Most people had a woolly hat of somekind on when on the ship which was really helpful in keeping us warm.
I did buy a specific thermal woolly hat rather than a normal one I already had but to be honest, although it was a bit thicker, I don’t think it was any different to others I had from mainstream shops.
Also, when thinking about a hat and what to pack for Antarctica, hats with a bobble on the top are ok but when I found it wasn’t good when I wanted to put my coat hood up and the hood fitted and looked a lot better with a hat without the bobble on top!
– 3 Pairs
I took 3 pairs of different types of gloves and wore them all interchangeably.
I took a bigger outer pair which were general Ski Gloves like this and acted as my waterproof glover layer.
I didn’t wear these much because they were too big and bulky to use my phone or camera with, but I did take them in my bag on the zodiac every time so when I had my camera and phone away I put them on to give extra warmth.
I took a thinner pair like this which had some grip on the fingertips. I could use my camera with these on but not really my phone as I had hoped so I did take them on and off a lot on excursions. They will also be great for hiking at home other times of the year.
I saw glove inners recommended a lot on packing lists for Antarctica too. I got these fairly cheap ones, which I did benefit from in terms of extra warmth, especially under the thinner pair of gloves.
What to Pack for Antarctica
On top of the clothing for excursions in Antarctica, you need extra items like bags and technology and I’m going to go into the extras I took and wish I had taken which really benefitted me.
Finally you of course need clothing for on the ship at the end of the excursion days and for those full days at sea which I’ll go into too below.
At the very bottom of this post is my full bullet point packing list for Antartica and FREE PDF download!
You will need a waterproof bag to take onto the excursions with you and it needs to be waterproof because the bottom of the zodiacs get wet and sometimes water can pour in over the sides.
However, if you are going on this trip without much technology, no camera and just a phone. There were people in our group who didn’t take a bag because they didn’t have much to put into it. Therefore if you are tight on packing space, or don’t want to pay for extra Antarctica gear, you can just put your phone in your pocket along with an extra pair of gloves and a waterproof bag isn’t needed, or you can get a thin and small dry bag like this.
For tech, taking a waterproof bag and dry bag is a good idea. I took this Waterproof Backpack off Amazon which also acted as my carry on bag on my flights. It was waterproof and did the job although it did feel big at times.
Others had smaller dry bags like this with some structure which gave extra protection for camera and was smaller to carry.
I am not a photography pro so looking at a what camera equipment to take to Antarctica post like this is better to read if you want an in-depth insight.
I took my Canon M50 which is a great all round camera. I took the standard lens (15-45 mm) but before I went to Antarctica I got this Canon EF-M 55-200mm zoom lens which I was sooo thankful for and hugely benefited from.
A zoom lens is really needed in Antarctica! Even though you get close to the wildlife, you still don’t get super close and in the end, all my favourite photos I took of wildlife were using my zoom lens and I’m glad I got one going up to 200mm!
A GoPro is a great option for Antarctica photography kit too because it’s waterproof and shockproof.
Batteries do die quicker in the cold so think about what batteries you take. I found my GoPro with 1 battery was dead at the end of every excursion but that was ok because I charged it after I had finished and it was ready for the next one. You’ll know your camera and you may need 2 batteries.
I did buy extra camera batteries as I read in packing lists for Antartica that they go dead quickly in the cold which I knew too, however I wish I hadn’t purchased the extra ones because an excursion lasts for 1-2 hours generally but then you go back on ship, have lunch and can get everything recharged in that time ready for the next one.
So unless you are a professional photographer and you know you need multiple batteries, 2 should be enough for 1 excursion.
We did have a lot of snow on our Antarctica expedition, mainly because we went in November. The people with big and expensive cameras and lenses did benefit from camera and lens cover like this because of the snow.
I didn’t take a specific bag with me but I did take some sandwich bags from home which I just put my camera in inside my waterproof bag for extra protection.
On this note, I saw packing lists mention taking sandwich bags and to keep camera equipment in them so they didn’t fog up when back on ship. Our ship wasn’t crazily warm so our cameras didn’t go through a huge temperature change from the cold outside to a really warm inside. I even brought this up in our photography lecture and the photographer said this generally isn’t a issue he’s seen so I wouldn’t take a huge about of extra plastic bags as I did for this purpose.
Microfibre Clean Cloths
When Salt sea water sprays onto your camera and phone on the zodiacs you’ll want something to clean the lens so a few small mircofibre clothes either specifically for cameras or the ones you get with sunglasses are handy.
On the note of bags and pockets and phones and tech. I do wish I hadn’t taken some lanyards to put more around my neck when out on the Zodiac. A phone case with a neck strap like this is a really good ideas as getting my phone in and out of my pocket all the time felt quite worrying.
I had my sunglasses on and off, I tucked them into my lifejacket most of the time but again, I was worried they would fall and something around my neck to keep them on would have been better.
Also ensure you have a neck strap for your camera and a neck or wrist strap for your GoPro.
When the zodiacs are going fast and they hit a wave you can really get lifted out the air and you want all your technology and belongings attached to you so they don’t go flying off!
Because of the weather skin can get very dry when you spend a long time out on excursions with the sun and cold and perhaps snow, so packing good hand moisturiser, face moisturiser and lip balm will help, especially if you have dry skin already.
Another well recommended thing on lists for what to bring to Antarctica is SPF because the ozone layer is thinner down here and it is so bright from the sun and all the snow. We didn’t experience much sun because of going in November but in December and January SPF is really needed.
I took specific face SPF as that’s the only part of me that was exposed to the sun.
On this list of gear needed for Antarctica, sea sickness meditation has to be thought about.
From my experience, there are 2 options – Tablets or Patches. (And you can’t use them together)
We actually got the ‘Drake Shake’ on the way back and it was very shaky but not many people I knew of on the ship got seasick so I’d say the patches worked well.
You’ll likely have a talk about seasickness as part of your briefing when you get on the ship and there will be a doctor on ship to help if you suffer from it badly so take the appropriate medication and start it when you set sail but don’t worry about it too much.
There is an doctor on board but if you suffer from any other regular issues, it’s good to take extra medication just incase. I took Panadol, cold and flu tablets and throat lozenges just incase I got a bit of a cold.
Hand & Foot Warmers
I took a few sets of these hand warmers and they were so great for putting in my pocket on excursions and when my hands got super cold (after mostly not having gloves on because I was using my camera and phone) I could put my hands in my pocket or put the warmers inside my gloves.
I didn’t take feet warmers but my roommate gave me some on our last day and they really helped. My feet did get cold, especially on the days we were just doing Zodiac cruising and not getting onto land so I’d really recommend them.
Plus, they last about 10 hours so you only need 1 pair a day really.
Glasses / Contact Lens
I usually wear contact lenses daily, thankfully I took some extra pairs as my contact lenses went really dry and I ended up going through way more pairs than I usually do, literally 2 sets in one day when out on excursions so this was strange but I’m glad I packed extra and packed my glasses which I ended up wearing on the ship more than I’d usually do because my contact lenses were such a pain!
Packing for Sea Days
As well as all of the above, you’ll need clothing and shoes for the 2-3 sea days each way along the Drake Passage and for in-between your excursions.
Thankfully, most Antarctica Expedition Cruises do not require fancy clothing like other cruises do. There is no captains dinner or drinks where guests dress up extra nice, and if there is, guests just dress normally so this really helps when packing light for Antarctica.
Now, I read that many of the ships people went on were very hot inside and t-shirts were the norm to wear inside. Our ship (the Ocean Endeavour with Intrepid / Chimu) was not that hot and all of the light layers I took were fairly wasted.
I did like that our ship wasn’t really hot though because when we went out onto the deck it meant we didn’t have to fully layer up and there wasn’t a huge temperature difference in our days to cause sickness.
The clothes I took for ship days were the same type of clothes I wore and needed in Ushuaia which were the following:
- Gym leggings x 2 pairs
- Long sleeved tops
- The fleece I wore on excursions
- Swimwear for the pool & polar plunge
On the note of footwear, I also saw on other packing posts for Antarctica that sandals were recommended for on the ship, but we were told on the very first day that we were NOT allowed to wear sandals and open toe shoes because of safety.
And to be honest, our ship wasn’t warm enough for sandals most of the time, plus, if you had sandals on your feet will be cold if you run out on deck to see Whales or something on sea days, AND with rough seas and movement I did feel like my feet were much more protected in trainers.
Like we were told, if someone breaks anything, even a toe and needs medical attention, the whole ship has to cancel the trip and go back to South America!
Packing for Before & After Antarctica
I do recommend spending 2-3 days in Ushuaia before your Antarctica cruise because its such a great city and there are many things to do in Ushuaia before Antarctica!
As we always go to Antarctica in Summer, it will be Summer in the rest of Argentina and Summer in Buenos Aires is HOT so be sure to pack summer stuff for your stay here.
Ushuaia never gets that hot but the day times can warm up, especially in the middle of Summer so pack accordingly for this and anywhere else you travel before or after.
Packing List for Antarctica
I know this has been a big and detailed list on packing for Antarctica and what to wear in Antarctica, so here is a simple bullet point list and underneath is the same list on a PDF which you can save on your phone or computer for later and your final packing list for Antartica!
- Fleece Jacket
- 2-3 x base layer tops
- 2 x thermal vests
- 1-2 x baselayer leggings
- 1 x Ski Trousers
- 1 x Waterproof trousers
- 6-8 x Wool / Thermal Socks
- 6 x Normal socks
- 1-2 x Buff / Neck Gaitor
- 1-2 x Woolley Hat
- 1 x Outer Ski Gloves
- 1 x Thinner Gloves
- 1 x Glove Inners
- 2-3 x Gym Leggings / Joggers for Ship
- 3 – 4 Extra Tops for Ship
- 1 Trainers
- 1 Swimwear
- 1 PJ’s
- Hand & Feet Warmers
- Bank Card
- Extra Contact Lens
- 1 x Normal Sunglasses
- 1 x Polarised Sunglasses
- Face SPF
- Lip SPF
- Normal Toiletries
- Hand Moisturier
- Face Moisturiser
- Seasickness Medication
- Paracetamol and additional personal medication
- Dry Bag
- Charging Leads
- Phone Case with Neck Strap
- Camera & Lens
- Memory card
- Extra Batteries
- Microfibre Clean Cloths
- Battery Charging Pack
- 2 x Zip Lock Bags
I hope you find this packing list for Antartica useful!
- More posts of mine you might like to read to help you plan your trip:
- 18 TOP Things To Do In Ushuaia Before An Antarctica Trip!
- Visiting Antarctica in November! Best Time To Visit Antarctica?