What to wear when going on an Antarctic cruise

Michael Harrington | 

Antarctica, that great white mass of ice and rock beaten by violent katabatic winds, punishingly low temperatures and 6 months of darkness come the austral summer. It’s also one of the driest places on the planet and all surrounded by the Southern Ocean: one of the richest marine grounds in the world as well as the most violent stretches of water on Earth.

After all that, you could argue there are plenty of reasons not go! But Antarctica is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world, where nature is boss and has sculpted incredible mountain peaks and valley all draped in some cases hundreds of metres of thick ice. Man takes second place here. So for those looking to visit and also take in the incredible variety of marine life (penguins, whales, leopard seals, albatross etc.) you need to consider the correct gear.

The first important thing to consider is which part of the continent you are visiting. For the vast majority this means a cruise to the Antarctica Peninsula and not the South Pole where precipitation is rare and average temperatures are more like -25 in Dec. Along the Peninsula temperatures in December hover around 0-2C (November and March averages around -3C). It’s the winds and highly changeable conditions that can make these modest temperatures feel more like -13C where you can have strong sunshine and heavy snow flurries in no time at all.

So, from the bottom up here’s what we recommend (layering is key):

  1. Waterproof socks by SealSkinz. Wear regular socks, topped with ankle sports socks then the SealSkinz.
  2. Gore-tex hiking boots. Most ships however will provide high grade wellington boots for excursions.
  3. Gloves: ski gloves with draw strings to avoid losing them. Also use glove liners to maneuver camera gear whilst still keeping fingers protected
  4. To start you’ll need thermal leggings, tracksuit bottoms and then Waterproof or ski pants depending on how sensitive you are to the cold.
  5. For your toro its essentially a repeat of point 4 with thermal vest, hiking top, wool sweater and/or down jacket plus outwear gore-text jacket with hood. Scarf optional!
  6. Wool hat covering ears and good sunglasses.

For points 4-5 best to bring along spares of all as you can get quite wet on the zodiacs, as well as flurries of snow, plus most cruises last 10 days!

For more info on Antarctica check out our Cruises section or contact us for a chat.