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What to pack for an Antarctica expedition trip

You may already have a standard vacation packing list ready, but a voyage to Antarctica is far from your typical destination. The last place on the planet that feels untouched by human hands, the seventh continent, is vast and filled with such beauty you’ll want to see it for yourself.  

One should pack a bag similarly to if you’re going on a ski holiday but with some nuances. A vital tip to consider when travelling to Antarctica is the specific restrictions on your luggage. Typically, while on an expedition, you’ll be limited to one suitcase and a carry-on style bag, and the ship might have weight limits on what you bring.   

If you’re one of the lucky few who will be able to boast about visiting this distant, ice-covered continent, make sure you are prepared and packed ahead of time. Here is an essential packing guide for Antarctica. 

Waterproof jacket

In Antarctic summers, the mild temperatures linger around 0°C, so you’ll still need warm layers when spending time outside. You’ll be in a vast frozen landscape with the ocean as far as the eye can see, where the wind can make it very chilly! Rough Antarctic Ocean waves threaten to splash up over the ship’s sides, so bring a warm, waterproof coat with a hood. Some ships provide a waterproof jacket (that you can keep) included in the price, so check before packing. 

Waterproof gloves

During daily excursions, you may be outside for multiple hours at a time, and you’ll often be taking a zodiac boat from the ship to the shore. The zodiacs fit about 10 to 12 passengers and are close to the water’s surface, meaning your hands may get wet. You will be cruising the Antarctic Ocean, so bringing items that can help keep you warm and dry is crucial. 

Snow or rain pants

Whether you prefer to bring ski pants or rain pants, waterproof pants are a must for an adventure to Antarctica. External waterproof pants are an extra layer against cold winds, surprise weather and ocean waves. Picture yourself exiting a zodiac boat at the shoreline as cool waves hit your legs. Waterproof external layers help keep you as warm and dry as possible.   

Thermal layers

Stay warm with thermal layers whether you’re on the ship’s deck admiring the view, cruising on a Zodiac, or out for a multi-hour excursion. Ensure your packing list includes a sweatshirt, long sleeve shirts and ski socks. Thermal underwear is also a great idea, and you’ll especially need them if you have rain pants instead of ski pants. Materials like wool, silk and synthetic fabrics will keep you cozy, but try avoiding cotton as it quickly loses heat. 

Warm hat

As with any winter vacation, pack a toque to keep your head and ears warm from cold winds and potential snow. A buff or neck warmer should also be in your suitcase. 

Comfortable outfits

An Antarctic expedition is not a fashion show, and unlike a typical cruise, you don’t need to dress up for dinner. The onboard dress code focuses on casual comfort, so think about what you typically wear when you are active and lounging at home. Focus on practical pieces. The ship is warm inside, but you’ll want a sweater or outer layer in case of wildlife spotting. For example, you never know when whales could surface, so you’ll want to be ready to run outside on deck to watch them.   


Shield your eyes while exploring the Antarctic continent with UV-protective sunglasses. Bring polarized shades to combat the bright reflection from the snow, water and ice. Ski goggles are a great addition to your packing list if the weather is stormy. 

Sunscreen and lip balm

Your skin will need protection against the sun, wind and other elements. Pack sunscreen for your face and SPF lip balm for your trip.   

Waterproof backpack

A backpack for your journey through Antarctica will be convenient during travel and excursions. It’s ideal for the bag to be waterproof since you’ll be taking splashy Zodiac rides to and from the ship on multiple occasions, and the forecast could include rain or snow. A waterproof phone case and camera case are also great items to have handy.    


Polar plunge Antarctica
Megan Johnson via Francisco Gomez | Antarctica 21

A swimsuit doesn’t take up a lot of space, so even if you’re unsure whether you will brave a polar plunge, it’s wise to have it just in case. Select Antarctic ships also have amenities such as saunas and hot tubs, which would be a fabulous way to warm up after a day full of outdoor excursions, and you’ll need a swimsuit for that. 

Rubber soled shoes

Most Antarctica voyages provide insulated rubber boots on loan for your excursions to the continent. You’ll pick up the shoes before you reach the ship, so you only need to think about packing footwear for stops before Antarctica and to wear while on the boat itself. Rubber-soled, warm and comfortable shoes are ideal for moving ships and slippery decks. 

Water bottle

Travelling with a reusable water bottle is a good idea no matter what the adventure and you’ll be incredibly thankful to have one on board an Antarctic vessel. As with any ship, you won’t want to drink tap water, so bring a reusable bottle to refill at water stations. 

Chargers and adaptors

Once aboard your ship through Antarctica, you won’t have access to stores for any last-minute purchases, so don’t forget any necessary chargers and electronics. Batteries can die faster in the cold, plus there will be so many breathtaking sights that your phone or camera will be snapping away. Have a battery pack charger on hand so you don’t miss capturing a moment. Don’t forget a universal adaptor since many ships to Antarctica use European outlets.    

Book and games

Book Antarctica

WiFi packages on the ship are typically expensive and unreliable, so enjoy some time offline. Bring books to read, card games, and pre-downloaded music or podcasts to listen to during your downtime on the ship during excursions, meals, and educational sessions. 


There will be countless photo opportunities during your visit to Antarctica, and if you have a professional camera, this is not the trip to forget it. The seventh continent is a pure, untouched place where the wildlife is not accustomed to having humans around. Protect the wildlife by keeping your distance and use a camera with a zoom lens to capture the awe-inspiring surroundings. Binoculars are also great if you have them for a closer look at faraway icebergs and animals.   

Medicine for motion sickness

Whether your preferred sea sickness remedy is Gravol, ginger chews, Pepto-Bismol, an anti-nausea wristband or something else, you’ll want to have that ready. The Antarctic seas can be particularly rough, especially if your voyage passes through the Drake Passage.   

The Drake Passage is home to some of the world’s strongest currents and is known for its mighty turbulence. If you’ve ever seen videos of a vessel passing through these powerful waves, you’ll likely have seen guests sliding from one side of the ship to the other. Anti-nausea medication and remedies are necessary because even if your expedition skips the Drake Passage, the nearby channels can also be rocky.   

Your exploration of the seventh continent awaits

Start planning your Antarctic journey and make an appointment with a CAA Travel Consultant to reserve your trip with CAA Member Choice Vacations (MCV). MCV’s tour – Journey of Antarctica – is a 13-day exhibition which features wildlife viewing, crossing over the Drake Passage, daily excursions, onboard educational sessions and your meals. Ask an agent about the details and how to book today. 

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