Packing for Antarctica: What to expect...

(Things to include in your bags for your Antarctic Segment)

Visitor on the left is overloaded, with a day-pack too large, and 'back-up' gloves on the belt, and supplies in coat pockets.

Visitor on the right has a smaller day-pack, high coat collar to protect face. (A good Day-pack does not affect posture.)

Both have sunglasses, layers, head protection and good gloves.

It Won't Be Like You Expect!

There will not be much snow.

There will be hard ice everywhere.

It won't be a blustering blizzard.

You will not go hungry.

You will not likely be cold.
(Except your face on a ski-doo ride)

It will be very sunny.

You will be moving around a great deal.

You will not be exerting yourself heavily much.

You will be bending a lot moving in and out of things.

If you drop something, it will fall in snow & ice.
(and you won't want to bend to pick it up.)

Your bed will be comfortable

You'll either sleep like a baby or not at all.

You will meet lots of new friends.

  • Don't: Overload your pack. - If you are afraid something will go wrong, and 'pack for back-up', then that excessive volume of equipment may cause more problems than it heals.
  • Avoid: One solid snowsuit or piece of winter clothing. This prevents your ability to layer when it warms-up.
  • Don't: Hang things from your body that can drop or fall when you move around, bend over or climb in and out of vehicles.
  • Don't: Borrow boots for the expedition. If you need help finding boots your size, we can assist when you are in Cape Town.
      • Do: Include a smaller day-pack that you can carry along lightly with only a few items - even if you pack it empty.
      • Do: Get a coat with a tall collar or with face protection. Most heat loss is through the head, neck or face.
      • Do: Trust that ALCI and our operators will be prepared in the event of emergency.
      • Do: Team-up with other guests so people can share extra supplies.

        You will need:

        A heavy winter coat. Typical US standard winter coats are fine.


        Waterproof Winter Boots (Arctic boots are not necessary) The better the traction on ice the better. Consider golf cleats (crampons are not allowed in most buildings) soft rubber or studded soles.

        Wrap-around sunglasses - bring a back-up pair. Without sunglasses, you shouldn't go outside. Also get a neck-band to hold them around your neck when indoors.

        Head/Ear /Face protection - a facemask is ideal. Polar fleece is good. Snowski Ear-bands are great. Don't forget your face. If you ride the snowmobile, the wind will sting unprotected skin.

        Gloves - Keep these thinner and more flexible, so you are more likely to keep them on. The temperatures are not so extreme to need big, bulky nylon gloves. Look for thinsulate driving gloves that breathe so your hands don't sweat in them.

        A flexible, comfortable pair of clothes - Jeans or sweats, a t-shirt under a sweatshirt or sweater work very well. Long underwear is optional, and may make you too warm. Remember to keep flexible! You will need to climb into and out of airplanes, straddle snowmobile seat and reach down to tie your boots. Don't layer-up too heavily.

        Two pair of socks is suggested.

        Sunscreen, lotion, chap-stick - you will get dry hands, face and lips in the bright sun and dry air.

        Very basic toiletries - (such as you might take on a long airplane flight) toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, daily prescriptions, deodorant, electric razor. Also a small mirror and hand towel are a good idea.

        Camera and 3-10 rolls of film - ASA 200-400 is most appropriate. Outdoor exposures on ASA 400 were F/16 1/500 to 1/1000 sec, and indoor exposures were F/4 1/60 sec. Wide angle to zoom lens. (Try to minimize the number of lenses. You will be occasionally carrying all of your gear.

        European 2-prong adapter (FOR RECESSED OUTLET HOLES)

        Your passport for exit and re-entry into South Africa, and to be stamped in Antarctica

        Warm Temps During WalkYou may want:

        GPS and compass

        Extra Batteries for your gear.

        Journal sized notebook for keeping notes, a journal, to share contact information or to communicate

        A book for the airplane or on the base.

        A pillow

        Swiss Army or Leatherman-knife combination tool

        Sharpee type markers and a pen.

        Favorite brand of instant cappuccino

        Camera charger for digital camera and spare batteries.

        A photo vest with pockets. (You will spend a lot of time away from your bags and will need to travel light)

        Lightweight personal snacks - such as jerky, fruit snacks and candy bars.

        Electrical outlet splitter and extension chord.

        * And don't forget the Duct Tape!

        You will NOT need:

        Any camping gear whatsoever - All of your needs will be attended to.

        Extra-thick gloves

        High-speed film.

        A change of clothes or pajamas - Although you may wish to bring a sweat-suit to sleep in. Most guests ultimately do not change in our short time here, as it requires removal of their warm clothes and changing into new cold ones.

        Money - there is nothing to buy, so leave it at home, locked in the hotel safe. (Airport transfers are provided as well)

        Notes about equipment and temperature:

        Our tests on photographic equipment show that the environment is NOT more extreme than wintertime in the Northern hemisphere. To the contrary, the summer conditions at Novo were very mild in comparison. Daytime temperatures reach 30-35 deg F.

        You will be in environments that are quite temperate and mild. The walk from Novo to Maitri is quite pleasant, and if you are in full snow gear, you will overheat! Jeans and sweaters are more appropriate for this walk (with sunglasses) The ability to dress in layers is paramount. If you sweat inside snow gear, the moisture caught inside will later become cold and present a chill danger.

        Special notes: For most of the duration, cameras are not exposed to outside temperatures for very long periods of time; spending most time either inside buildings or transport vehicles, or in clothing or camera cases. Malfunction due to the cold is not likely in duration of exposure to environment. On rare occasion, if equipment is exposed to high steam-like humidity, return to outdoor temperatures can cause action to become sticky until moved a few times.

        Directional orientation is a perpetual challenge with very few visible landmarks, and the lack of normal solar movement. Time orientation is also affected, with a severe disorienting affect by perpetual daylight.

        [ Antarctica 2003 Novo Homepage ] [ What to Pack ] [ Fly 2 Novo ] [Creature Comfort ] [ Barrier Flight ] [ Wildlife ] [ Eclipse Viewing Site Inspection Adventure] [ Road 2 Maitri ] [ Glacier Walk ] [ Time at Novolazarevskaya ] [ Final Farewell ] [ Meet your Vehicles ]