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How to pack for a polar expedition

shipPolar exploration is often considered “unique” and “one of a kind” as it draws people towards the ends of the Earth.

Weather is the biggest factor that affects voyages; most Arctic expeditions are conducted between June and August and most Antarctic expeditions between November and January when the ice has receded or melted to make exploration possible.


During the summer months in the Arctic, temperatures fluctuate between 3C and 12C and during the austral summer months in the Antarctic, temperatures fluctuate between 0C and 5C. However, temperatures can seem colder with the wind and the cold water and ice. 

One of the most frequently asked questions about these expeditions is: “What do you pack for a polar expedition? Clothing essentials include a parka, waterproof boots, waterproof pants, base layers (tops and bottoms), warm socks, a warm windproof hat, waterproof gloves or mittens with liners, a scarf and some everyday clothes to wear on the ship. Additional items include sunscreen, sunglasses, camera, binoculars, backpack, waterproof camera bag, some reading material for the days that you are sailing and if you’re prone to seasickness then some motion sickness medications.

northern lightsLayering is the key to dressing properly and staying warm and dry. Base layers should be: soft, comfortable and close fitting to the body as well as have the ability to wick moisture away from the body. Mid layers should be insulated and allow for ventilation if necessary. Wool is a traditional material for insulation, but new materials include polypropylene fleece or lightweight down. The outer layer should be windproof and even waterproof.

As an alternative, travellers can often rent parkas and waterproof boots from the cruise expedition. The rental option prevents having to buy outer layers that may never be worn again and it saves having to pack and carry such large items.


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