Preparing for a Trip to Antarctica: FAQs (Part 2: Packing)

 Pleneau Bay, Antarctica

The decision to travel to Antarctica is a big one. It requires a commitment of both time and money and involves more planning and preparation than most other trips. But like all great travel adventures, this is part of the overall experience and part of the fun.

Having made the decision to return to Antarctica at the end of this year, I’ve found myself asking the same questions I did the first time round. With the benefit of hindsight, I’ve shared my answers to the most common questions asked about planning, packing, photography and the experience itself.

 

(These answers are my own personal opinions, based on my experience travelling with Quark Expeditions.)

Previously: Preparing for a Trip to Antarctica: FAQs (Part 1: Planning)

Part 2: Packing

What clothes do I need?

Do I need formal clothes?

Do I need seasickness medication?

What luggage is best: suitcase or backpack?

Is there a restriction on the amount of luggage I can bring?

Do I need a daypack?

Electronics: Yes or No?

What else should I pack?

Keep reading for the answers: 

 

FAQs: How and What to Pack for a Trip to Antarctica

What clothes do I need?

Quark simplifies this answer by providing an expedition parka that you can take home with you and waterproof boots for the duration of the expedition. They also emphasise the importance of layers and keeping head, hands and feet warm.

Although it can feel cold outside, the ship’s interior is at a comfortable room temperature, so it’s useful to have a couple of light tops to change into after outdoor excursions. Comfortable walking shoes with good grip are ideal whilst on the ship, whilst sandals and flip flips are not.

Do I need formal clothes?

No. A polar expedition is not like a tradition cruise (thankfully!). The restaurant is very informal and diners dress casually. Having said that, there is usually a final night party and after weeks of wearing the same clothes, I found it refreshing to change into a pair of jeans and nicer top!

Do I need seasickness medication?

Whether or not you get seasick depends on your own predisposition to the swell of the sea and how rough the water is. The Drake Passage is a notorious rite of passage for Antarctic travellers, whilst the seas around South Georgia can also turn your stomach. The ship doctor will carry medication for emergencies, but even if you have never suffered from seasickness before, I’d recommend packing some medication – better to be with it than without it! Of course the problem with most medication is that it knocks you out and I hated the thought of potentially missing out on something (fortunately I didn’t suffer from seasickness so it wasn’t an issue). Patches provide an alternative solution, although they need to be applied before symptoms begin to be effective and can have some side effects. Ginger is also reputed to be helpful for minor cases. Do some research and pack what suits you best – but pack something just in case.

Larson Harbour, South Georgia

What luggage is best: suitcase or backpack?

You don’t need to buy specific luggage for your Antarctica trip. The type of luggage you bring is usually influenced by the travel plans you have before and after the trip. Those heading straight home may prefer a suitcase whilst a backpack may be more suitable for those planning some onward travel through South America. On Embarkment Day you will be asked to tag your luggage and leave it at the hotel for Quark to pick up and transport into your cabin on the ship. The morning you leave the ship, you will leave your luggage in the cabin for it to be transported by Quark to land. The best type of luggage to bring is the one you are most comfortable using before and after the expedition.

Is there a restriction on the amount of luggage I can bring?

It’s tempting to bring more than you need for a destination like Antarctica, knowing there are no shops to call into along the way. Although Quark doesn’t impose any luggage restrictions, airlines do, but you really don’t need to pay for excess luggage on your flight. There is limited space in your cabin, there is a laundry service on board and you will end up wearing the same few items of clothes regularly throughout the trip. Photographers and/or those doing additional travelling to different climates have an additional challenge, but packing layers helps with this.

Do I need a daypack?

Yes, you will want something to carry your camera, spare gloves and other small essentials to land. A backpack is ideal as you need to be hands-free to climb in and out of the zodiacs. The ride to and from land can be a wet one so a dry bag is recommended for carrying valuables in the zodiac. If you are a photographer, a waterproof backpack is essential. Check out my FAQ on Photography for specific tips.

Zodiac Cruising - Petermann Island, Antarctica

 Electronics: Yes or No?

A trip to Antarctica, where there is no cellular or wifi coverage, is a great opportunity for a digital detox. But let’s be honest: the convenience of having our electronic devices with us is hard to resist. I loaded my iPad with movies, my Kindle with books and my iPod with music – and I didn’t use any of them for the 18 days I was on the ship. I was too distracted by my surroundings, the wildlife, conversations with the expedition crew and other passengers, photography opportunities from the deck, editing photos, and even just closing my eyes and soaking up the silence of the region. But am I bringing my iPad and Kindle again this time? Yes! They don’t take up any space and if I need a little downtime, it’s nice to have them with me.

What else should I pack?

Whether an item is “essential” or “nice to have” differs for each traveller. But sunscreen and sunglasses are essential for all, as the Antarctic sun is surprisingly bright and strong. Other items to consider packing are chapstick for your lips, moisturiser, a swimsuit for the polar plunge and ear plugs to combat snoring roommates.

Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia

Have you been to Antarctica?  What packing tips would you add?

 

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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at www.kellienetherwoodphotography.com

Comments

  1. Great tips! I love reading these posts, they’re making me excited for my trip next year.

  2. This is great post as is the series as I would love to do the Quark Antarctica cruise soon – reading your Q&A, I want to book the trip now!

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Preparing for a Trip to Antarctica: FAQs (Part 1: Planning)
Preparing for a Trip to Antarctica: FAQs (Part 3: The Experience)