Planning for Antarctica (Part 3): Packing – Clothing

In Part 3 of my Antarctica Planning posts, I continue to count down to my departure date and get ready to pack.

On a long LHR-LAX flight back in July, I was in desperate need of motivation to continue an office job that was making me incredibly frustrated and unhappy.  I found it in the pages of Nat Geo Traveller magazine and before we landed I had decided to turn a dream into reality and head to Antarctica at the end of this year.  I was now working towards a dream instead of simply working.

I’ve now booked my flights, found an expedition tour provider, decided on my itinerary, made the decision to partake in the Polar Plunge and commit myself to this moment of madness with a fundraising initiative for HeartKids SA, and enjoyed learning more about the world’s most southern continent.

As I inch towards my departure date, counting sleeps like a child counts down to Christmas (21 sleeps to go), it’s time to think about packing.

I don’t normally spend a lot of time packing.  Being a frequent traveller has not only taught me how to pack lightly, it has helped me simplify my life back home and live lightly.  In other words, I don’t actually have that much to choose from anymore when it comes to packing for a trip.

But this is Antarctica. 

There are no shops along the way to replace forgotten essentials.  Packing the wrong clothes is not just irritating, it’s potentially dangerous.

So I’ve been thinking about my packing a little earlier and a little more seriously than I normally do and for once I actually have a packing list.  I’ve been gradually collecting the items I don’t already have and I’ve been packing my bag in my head (or rather daydreaming at work) for the past couple of weeks.

I’ve surprised myself with the number of packing decisions I’ve been pondering:

–          Luggage: suitcase v backpack v holdall

–          Electronics: pack for their convenience v therapy of leaving them home

–          Medication: what to pack for the Drake Passage

–          Camera bag: easy to transport backpack v easy to use slingshot/shoulder bag

–          Waterpoof: best waterproof bag option for Zodiac

And the most important (after my photography equipment which deserves its own post)…


I recently shared some of the most common questions I’ve been asked about my upcoming trip, but I omitted one of the most popular:  what type of clothes do I need to take?

I’ll be traveling to the coastal regions of Antarctica during the Southern Hemisphere summer.  Average daily temperatures are between +2 and -4 Celsius but can feel a lot colder with the wind.  When travelling in Iceland I often heard the phrase “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes” and I’ve been warned Antarctic weather can be just as changeable.

I’ll be living on my mobile base camp, the Ocean Diamond, spending time both on the deck and in the temperature controlled indoor rooms.  I’ll be walking outside on islands, beaches and other accessible shore landings, and I’ll be spending time on the ocean in a Zodiac landing craft.  I’ll also be spending the bookends of my trip in Argentina where I’ll experience more traditional summer weather.

So how do I bring the right clothes without over-packing?

It’s all about the layers.

So I think I’m covered (pun intended).  I have my layers ready for packing, the socks, mitts and headgear that are essential to keeping those little extremities warm and camera friendly gloves.  And I also have those items that do not initially come to mind when packing for the coldest continent in the world, but are equally as important – sunglasses, sunscreen and chapstick.


I am sure I am packing something I won’t use but I’m also sure I would rather that scenario than the one where I wish I had it with me.

Have you been to Antarctica?  Do you have any tips on clothing items that should be top of my packing list?



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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


  1. I would recommend a suit of relatively formal clothes since we had a CAPTAIN DINNER when visiting Arctic with Quark this summer:) all expedition team members were dressed up that time

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