What to pack for an Antarctica cruise

What’s the biggest talking point on board the ship? No, it’s not the cute penguins – it's what gear people brought, and what they left at home...

6 mins

This packing list includes all the absolute essentials you’ll need to stay snug on an expedition ship. It’s the wind that will really get you, so ensuring that outer clothes are windproof and that you have no awkward gaps anywhere is top priority.

Inside, the ship will be toasty, but it’s worth always having some warm layers to hand so you can whizz out on deck at a moment’s notice when the wildlife appears. And funnily enough, if the sun is out, there is no wind and you are in a sheltered spot, you may even find yourself stripping down for a spot of sunbathing!


Needs to be windproof, waterproof and roomy enough for layers underneath. Lengthwise, it should cover your lower back. Bright colours, such as red, look better in photos. Note nearly all expedition cruise operators provide this for you as part of your trip package – so check with them first before buying. They tend to like you to wear their one so they can spot you easily!

Traveller's guide to insulated jackets | Reviews

Waterproof overtrousers

Wear over jogging pants/leggings or other walking trousers (lined if possible to keep you warm). These should be made from waterproof but breathable fabric (i.e. Gore-Tex, eVent or similar), the more you pay the more breathable and therefore comfortable you will be. Taped-seam waterproof ski pants are another option. 

Waterproof boots

During wet landings you may have to step into water up to 30cm deep. Most ships will supply Muck boots as they are easy to clean and won’t degrade by the rigorous cleaning needed between landings to stop contamination. You may consider taking walking boots with you if you intend to do hiking offered but these will need to be cleaned thoroughly both before your trip and after each landing.

Traveller's guide to walking boots | Reviews

Other footwear

You won’t want to be clumping around in boots on the ship, so take some more casual comfy footwear for this i.e. trainers/multi-activity shoes.

Fleece and/or warm jumpers

Taking a combination of thicker and thinner mid-layers will give you more options for different weather conditions. Fleece is best as it offers excellent warmth-to-weight ratio and is cheap to buy.


Forget cotton, you want a fabric close to your skin that will wick sweat away from your body when you get hot (from activity) but also keep you warm when you’re cold. You’ll also want something quick drying so you can wash it onboard, and ideally fabric that won’t get to smelly after multiple use. Merino wool is a great option for this.


Take technical underwear to really treat yourself as, like a baselayer, they move sweat away from the skin and keep you warm and dry. Also take long johns to wear under your trousers on colder days.

Traveller's guide to technical underwear | Reviews


Take at least two pairs that can be worn together, such as thick waterproof mitts over thinner gloves that you can handle your camera with. Try Terra Nova’s Extremities range.

Warm hat

Take one that covers your ears and that you can secure when on speeding zodiacs. A hat with a visor can also be a good idea.


A snug-fitting scarf such as Nomad Travel’s Polar Buff will keep out draughts without restricting your movement.


Take warm socks – Smartwool’s Merino wool socks have excellent cushioning – great worn inside muck boots.

Also take:

  • Polaroid sunglasses
  • High-factor sunscreen
  • Daypack for shore landings (plus drybags for your camera lenses)
  • Seasickness tablets
  • Good binoculars i.e. Swarovski Optik
  • Camera equipment, three times as many memory cards as you expect to use (you can buy on ships but they are very expensive) and extra batteries – they run down quickly in the cold.
  • Casual clothing to wear onboard the ship (it will be warm indoors)

    Main image: Men in a boat, Antarctica (Shutterstock)

Related Articles