Antarctica Packing List
I’ve now been to Antarctica twice, first with National Geographic Expeditions with my 8-year-old, and most recently with Adventures By Disney with my 12-year-old. I originally included this packing list in my second blog post, but it makes more sense to make it a separate post so I can expand on a few things.
On the charter flights to/from Ushuaia, each person can have one checked bag no more than 50 pounds (23kg) and one carry-on no more than 17.6 pounds (8kg). We brought two Patagonia rolling duffels with extra space, each of which was around 40 pounds, and two carry-on backpacks. I’m sure my backpack was over 30 pounds, but it was never weighed. It’s hard to bring a laptop and camera gear and be under 18 pounds. If you bring hiking poles, check them out! I saw several people who were sent back to the check-in desks because they were trying to take their steel-tipped polish through security.
It’s generally 30-40F (0-5C) in Antarctica during the summer. I was in short sleeves on the ship and my daughter was typically in a hoodie or sweatshirt, and on shore excursions we usually wanted to shed layers after 20 minutes. We didn’t take anything formal or nice with us. The final night on the ship the captain and crew were dressed up and we all looked like adventurers. Not a big deal.
In general, think waterproof and think layers. You can pack light by bringing base layers for the top and bottom, waterproof pants, and a couple of fleece/wool upper layers for underneath your expedition jacket. I’ve overpacked on both trips. This is what I will pack when I return – no more and no less!
My optimal Antarctica packing list:
- Shorts, a t-shirt and a collared shirt for Buenos Aires (it was in the 90s)
- Two pairs of jeans
- Waterproof pants or waterproof ski pants. Mine were water-resistant and they were soaked after our final Zodiac ride in the pouring rain. If you only have thin waterproof pants, maybe take sweat pants or something else to go under them.
- Warm, waterproof gloves. I also had medium-weight gloves that weren’t waterproof and they were worthless.
- A warm beanie
- A gaiter
- Two long-sleeve merino wool t-shirts (Unbound Merino)
- Long underwear
- A merino wool sweatshirt (Unbound Merino)
- A fleece
- Ten pairs of merino wool socks
- A warm, waterproof jacket (for Tierra del Fuego National Park)
- Pajamas (there were several pajama dress days on our ship)
- A swimsuit
- Walking shoes
- Slippers (they were the only shoes I wore on the ship)
- Hiking polishes
- A dry bag (for my camera on the Zodiacs)
- Sunscreen. Adventures By Disney had sunscreen on board, so this is probably optional if you’re traveling with them.
- Snacks – lots of M&Ms for cabin snacks and granola bars for travel days. We also brought ginger chews.
- Power banks for the travel days especially
- Props. We brought Santa hats. Others had Hawaiian shirts and penguin costumes. Bring something fun for photos!
- Plug adapters. I regularly use both European and Argentinian adapters – in the hotel, on the ship and at the airport. There was almost always a US outlet available as well.
- A camera, although the iPhone can capture a lot of scenes as well as any camera. I took my Canon 6D MII with a 24-105 lens, a 70-200 lens, and a 1.4 extender. My daughter used my long lens on her Canon more often than not and I mainly shot with the 24-105 lens. FYI, I took 3,825 photos in Antarctica. Over 2/3 of them were with my iPhone.
- A laptop and an external hard drive. I used down time on the ship to edit photos.
- Normal toiletries. There’s lotion, shampoo and conditioner on most ships so you don’t need to bring those.
- Medications. We didn’t need to use anything from our medical/antibiotics kit. We went through 24 Dramamine tablets between the two of us, just to prevent nausea when the boat was rocking a little. We have more serious nausea meds in the medical kit if we need them.
My daughter took similar things, but mainly wore leggings under her waterproof pants instead of long underwear. She wore flannel pajama bottoms a lot of the time on board. She brought more sweatshirts, hoodies and sweaters than I did.
Things we took to Antarctica but didn’t need:
- Books – we brought three books and a Kindle and didn’t open any of them
- A Bluetooth speaker – we used it a couple of times but could have gotten by without it, and most cabins came with speakers
- Flip-flops. My slippers were good enough, even for the pool.
- Laundry soap – we live in merino wool, which can easily go 7-10 days without being washed
- A separate day pack – it’s easier to go on shore without a backpack at all
- A sweater – the ship was always warm, and I had other layers for excursions
- A second camera. On my first trip I always took two camera bodies on shore to be able to capture everything. With current phone camera quality, that’s no longer necessary.
- Hiking pants. Not sure what I was thinking.
Antarctica Packing List – Your Turn
Have you been to Antarctica? Is there anything I’m missing on my list that you found worthwhile to pack?