Travelling to the 7th continent is an extraordinary experience. Antarctica is not a common destination for travellers, probably because it’s not the easiest place to get to. If you have booked your trip of a lifetime, you may be curious about what your Antarctic clothing list should look like for your shore excursions.
Weather in Antarctica
Expedition cruises departing from Ushuaia to Antarctica travel in the summer months. It might be surprising to find out that the weather is probably milder than what you anticipated. It’s still cold, don’t underestimate that, but not as cold as you are expecting.
As Antarctica is located in the southern hemisphere, summer is during the northern hemisphere’s winter. This means that summer runs from December to February and the cruise season is November to March.
The weather in Antarctica can be unpredictable and can change rapidly. Luckily there is a team of experts who understand the conditions and act accordingly. This does mean that you may not be able to complete all your shore landings or zodiac cruises. Safety is the highest priority.
Daytime temperatures in summer will be anywhere from -2°C to 10°C. It’s better to prepare for the coldest temperatures and you won’t go wrong.
What to pack?
When deciding on how many sets of clothes you want to take to Antarctica, it’s important to take a few things into consideration. Firstly, you will be taking an internal flight to get to Ushuaia and may have to restrict your luggage weight. Secondly, if you are spending a few days in Buenos Aires before or after your cruise, you will also need some summer clothes. Dressing for both hot and cold areas can fill your suitcase up quickly!
Depending on the length of your cruise, this may also dictate the number of items you pack. Bearing in mind that you can wash clothes and hang them up to dry in your room.
Layering your clothes for shore excursions
Your Antarctic packing list should consist of clothes that can be easily layered. Layering helps you get warmer or cooler by adding and removing layers as required. The following layers will be required for your shore excursions.
The base layer should be relatively snug so as to keep your body temperature regulated. There are two different materials that the base layer can be made out of, Merino wool blend or polypropylene. While polypro is cheaper, so more accessible for all budgets, I find that I sweat when I wear it, so my personal preference for the base thermal layer is the wool blend.
For your base layer, you will need a set of long thermal wear, which is a long-sleeved thermal top and long thermal pants. While the thought of buying wool may make you automatically start scratching yourself, the technology today means that the wool items aren’t itchy, they are actually very soft and comfortable.
Meriwool Women's Base Layer Thermal Top
This Meriwool base layer is 100% Merino wool but without the itch! Not only does this top breathe, but it also has moisture-wicking properties. Wool is also odour resistant, so you can wear this for multiple days without forming a strong odour. It's the perfect base layer. For 4-6 days in the Antarctic region, you'll only need one.
Meriwool Women's Base Layer Thermal PantsCheck Price
Additional base layer
The additional base layer is essentially a shirt that you wear over your thermal base layer. It should be slightly loose to keep warm air trapped in. Hiking shirts are a great choice. Alternatively, you could choose a polyester t-shirt. Cotton should generally be avoided as it retains sweat.
Columbia Women's Long Sleeve Shirt
Made from 100% polyester wicking fabric, this shirt is breathable and comfortable. It has been treated with antimicrobial elements to protect against bacterial growth. This is the perfect shirt for your Antarctic adventure.
Mid insulation layer
The insulation layer is designed to keep you warm when you’re onshore. Polar fleece is an excellent material for this layer as it stops the wind from passing through the fabric. It’s a great insulator, but you do need to be wary of temperature control. While onshore you may get too warm and need to strip off this layer. However, when you are on the zodiac cruises, you will be thankful that you have this additional layer.
Columbia Women's Soft Fleece JacketCheck Price
Jackets for Antarctica need to be waterproof. The perfect jacket for this job is a ski jacket. They are designed for the type of conditions that you are travelling to. Some tour companies may provide a jacket, mine didn’t though, but check to make sure. While a jacket like this is bulky and heavy in your suitcase, it is necessary. You do not want to end up cold and miserable on your trip.
Snow pants are ideal for your outer layer in Antarctica. They are waterproof and insulated, making sure you keep warm and dry. You could take other types of waterproof pants, such as rain pants, but they don’t have the insulating effect. And when you are zooming around in the zodiacs, you want to be warm.
Arctix Women's Snow Pants
ThermaTech Insulation will keep you warm and dry in these pants. You will be required to do wet shore landings, so you definitely need waterproof pants. The pants have inbuilt boot gaiters to reduce the likelihood of water getting into your boots and making you uncomfortable. You will be even more comfortable as these pants feature an adjustable waist for the perfect fit.
You might find it odd that I am dedicating a whole section of this guide to socks, but do not underestimate their importance! When your feet are warm, you will feel warmer. I’m sure this a scientific fact (if I looked hard enough for a reference).
Wool blend long hiking socks are my recommendation. The reason I chose these over ski socks is that they are thicker and have more padding. You will be given rubber gumboots to wear on your shore landings and you want to make sure your feet are protected against rubbing as well as being warm. If you are prone to cold feet, you could also wear a sock liner for added warmth.
Darn Tough Women's Cushion Sock
Made from Merino wool, these socks are perfect for traipsing around Antarctica. They are well-fitting to reduce blisters. Being wool, the socks are breathable and they also pull moisture away from the skin. They have natural antimicrobial properties which reduce bacteria and odour.
Gloves are a must on the zodiac cruises because you are required to hold on as you speed across the water, so your hands are exposed. Warm ones will make the experience more comfortable. You will probably want two pairs of gloves, the first is an inner glove and the second pair are waterproof ski gloves. The inner gloves are less bulky so it’s easier to use your camera with them on.
When working out your size for the snow gloves, it’s important to go slightly bigger so you are able to wear both pairs of gloves. Alternatively, it’s a quick and easy switch depending on your activity. Be careful not to drop your gloves and lose them though. There were a few pairs of random gloves lost on the shore excursions!
UniGear Touch Screen Glove Liners
These gloves will keep your hands warm by utilising moisture-wicking technology. They are touchscreen-friendly so you are able to easily use your phone and devices without having to remove your gloves. They also have anti-slip sections so you don't have to worry about dropping your camera or phone.
Velazzio Waterproof Snow Gloves
Utilising 3M Thinsulate insulation, your hands will be kept warm as your body heat is trapped inside the glove. These waterproof gloves also offer a small zippered pocket to carry your valuables. Protect your hands while on the zodiac cruises with these perfect gloves.
Heat is lost through the head, so make sure you have a warm beanie. A beanie that is fleece-lined will also help to keep the warmth in.
A buff is recommended instead of a scarf and the reason for this is a scarf can blow away. When cruising on the zodiacs, you are going pretty fast, so it’s easy for a scarf to come loose. While only thin, the buff will keep you surprisingly warm.
C.C. Fleece Lined Beanie
One size fits most for the Buff. Made of acrylic, it is designed to stop the wind from blowing through the fabric. Can be utilised to pull up over your mouth and cheeks to keep you warm when zodiac cruising.
I’m only adding this section in to complete the Antarctic clothing list to tell you that boots should be supplied by the ship. Check with the cruise operator you have booked through, but the boots are generally included and you will not need to take your own. Which is great news for packing!
Washing your clothes
If you are going on a shorter cruise and you are only spending 4-6 days doing shore excursions, I wouldn’t worry about washing your clothes. There’s no point lugging multiple layers around when you only need them for the shore excursions or when you are outside on the ship. The ship itself is very comfortable temperature-wise.
However, if you need some socks or undies washed, I learnt a bit of a trick from my roommate when I was on the Antarctic cruise. If you already know about it, awesome! If not, hopefully, this little trick will come in handy!
After you have washed your clothes and you have wrung out all the excess water, you need to get your towel.
- Lie the towel out on the floor or bed.
- Lay out your clothes on top of the towel.
- Roll the towel up, along the length of the towel, so you now have a large towel sausage.
- Get your roommate to hold one end of the towel sausage and then start to twist the towel. Twist until you can’t twist it any further.
- Open the towel and you should find that even more moisture has been removed from the clothes which makes them now quicker to dry.
I hope this little trick works for you! I wish I knew about it much earlier in my travels. It would have saved a lot of angst trying to get clothes to dry!
Your Antarctic clothing checklist
An Antarctic cruise attracts adventurous travellers who are generally more well-travelled than most. Keeping this in mind, it’s not a requirement to bring formal clothes. Your adventure wardrobe will be perfect for an expedition cruise. You will be changing a few times during the day, as such warm, comfortable clothing is ideal.
In addition to your general cruise-wear, this is what is required for your shore landings and zodiac cruises. Of course, you can take more, but it’s not necessary. And who really wants to lug around more than they need to before and after the cruise?!
- Base thermal layer top x 1
- Base thermal layer pants x 1
- Shirt layer x 2
- Mid fleece layer x 1
- Outer waterproof layer jacket x 1
- Outer waterproof layer pants x 1
- Long socks x 2
- Inner gloves x 1
- Outer waterproof gloves x 1
- Beanie x 1
- Buff x 1
In addition to your shore landings, you will be on the boat for an additional 5 days (2 half days and 4 full days). You will need to take additional clothes for lounging around the boat. Most travellers wore simple clothes like hiking pants or jeans coupled with sweaters or pullovers. A light down jacket is also a great inclusion to your packing list as it is warm, but is light and can pack down small. Unless you go on the outer decks, you will be warm enough in a simple outfit of long pants and a sweater.