If you’ve already bought your ticket to Antarctica, you know at least one thing: Antarctica is already expensive! We wrote this post so that you won’t make it any more expensive by going out and purchasing the most expensive gear you can find. That’s especially important if, like us, you may never use most of it again.
If you live in colder climates, you most likely already have most of what you need anyway. In this post, we’re including our entire list for what to pack for Antarctica in March – a popular time to go to the continent.
If you’re going to Antarctica, you are in for a special treat. It will be the trip of a lifetime! It’s also one of the most expensive things you’ve ever spent money on. But we don’t blame you. Antarctica is expensive to get to, but it’s amazing.
How do we know? We were there.
Not only were we there, but we also decided to ignore some of the seemingly good advice we got from other bloggers and web sites that told us all about the expensive clothing we’d need to buy.
Yes, we bought a few things we did not need on our trip, and that ended up costing us a couple of hundred dollars more than we needed to spend. The important thing to know before you pack for your trip to Antarctica is not just what you have to buy, but also what you don’t.
So this post is both about what TO pack for Antarctica and what NOT to pack for Antarctica.
Don’t be cheap – but don’t go overboard either
Don’t get cheap here. That’s not to say you need to get high-end Antarctica clothing. You absolutely do not. You just can’t afford to say things like, “Meh! I don’t need long johns. I’ll be fine.”
Because what you’re actually saying is, “I just paid at least $10,000 to travel to Argentina or Chile, fly to Ushuaia, and get on a boat to Antarctica. But now I think I have to stay on budget and avoid the $20 for 2 pairs of thermal underwear.”
Spending a couple of hundred extra dollars is insurance. Sometimes, it’s nice in Antarctica – just around freezing. But other times, it can get so cold it’s unbelievable. Do not take that chance.
Even if you’re frugal and don’t think you need a pair of ski pants because you think you’ll be fine, buy them anyway.
Even if you think you can ride a zodiac from the ship to the shore and somehow not get wet, buy those waterproof pants if they’re not provided by your boat (which they probably are).
Keep them in your suitcase with the tags left on them. Go out on the first day without them. If you need them, wear them next time. If you can get through your trip without them, return them in new condition.
But don’t avoid buying them. Most likely, you’ll regret it.
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What to wear in Antarctica in March
When you go to Antarctica in February or March, it’s important that you check with the boat you’re going on to see what clothing, if any, they provide to passengers. You may end up saving a lot of money, or you may find out that the cheaper tickets you bought mean there’s a lot they don’t provide.
It’s over $1,000 worth of polar equipment that you must have for the trip, but that you don’t need to buy.
One Ocean Expeditions provides the following:
- A jacket that is waterproof, comfortable, but not quite insulated
- Ski pants that are waterproof, but not insulated
- Rubber boots that are also quite comfortable, but not insulated
- Drysuits for those who will go kayaking
- Hiking poles
- Dry bags for camera gear and other stuff
With One Ocean Expeditions, everything else you need in Antarctica is your responsibility. So it’s what you wear under all this, along with a few other things, that you’ll need to buy yourself.
How cold is Antarctica in March?
We visited Antarctica during the middle two weeks of March – basically, the end of the Antarctica summer.
For most, March is the cheapest time to travel to Antarctica. It’s when the continent has the least snow cover and the days start to get shorter. So it wasn’t exactly the freezing cold, dead of winter continent you saw in March of the Penguins.
Daytime temperatures in Antarctica average from -10 to -14°C (14 -7°F). For us, the temperatures averaged much higher than this.
(By the way, you should totally watch March of the Penguins because it’s probably the only time you’ll see Emperor Penguins anyway. They don’t seem to be around much in March. Don’t worry though, you’ll see plenty of Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins. We even saw a Macaroni penguin.)
Our trip was unexpectedly warm. Halef participated in the Antarctica Marathon while he was there and the temperature was actually a couple of degrees above freezing on King George Island.
Runners who prepared by wearing layers shed them far more quickly than they thought they would – with a few even wearing shorts and t-shirts at the end.
When you venture further South, the temperatures definitely get several degrees colder, but we never experienced super high winds, raging blizzards, or unbearable cold. There were times I’d wear the full kit out on the deck of the Akademik Ioffe. Other times, I just wore my fleece jacket and a pair of track pants.
Clothing Rule #1: No Cotton
Before we get into the things you need to buy, forget wearing cotton when you’re on an excursion. If you have anything cotton packed (besides in your toiletry kit) leave it home.
Cotton absorbs and holds water. That’s a recipe for hypothermia. If you’re on an excursion and fall in the water wearing cotton or another super-absorbent material, your chances of hypothermia go up very quickly.
In Antarctica, layer your clothing
Here’s how we did our layers:
- 1: Underwear and non-cotton socks
- 2: Thermal underwear (long johns and long-sleeve top)
- 3: Fleece pullover and comfortable track pants
- 4: Rarely needed, a thin puffy jacket
- 5: Waterproof jacket and ski pants that were provided to us
Then I’d put a pair of wool socks on over my regular socks, put on my rubber boots and waterproof gloves, and I was ready to go.
Here’s what to buy for your trip to Antarctica to make this happen:
We live in Atlanta, GA, USA. That’s the southern USA, where it’s quite rare for temperatures to get to freezing. Thermal underwear is not really in our vocabulary.
And we didn’t want to buy something super expensive because we know we’d probably never use it again anyway.
We recommend ordering one size larger than you think you need. These fit a bit too tightly at your normal size.
Wool socks for Antarctica
You don’t want to forget a good pair of wool socks. You’ll be doing excursions every day in Antarctica, and wool socks keep your feet warm and comfortable in the rubber boots.
I’ve seen people recommend really expensive merino wool. And if you want to pay over $75 for three pairs of what are probably amazing socks, then go here and buy them.
But I would never pay that much for socks – especially since I’ll probably never use them again more than once or twice. We recommend these Time May Tell socks. They were totally effective. $20 for four pairs. All merino wool, too!
Bring two pairs of gloves
My biggest mistake in Antarctica was that I only brought one pair of gloves. It didn’t make a huge difference in the trip, but it would have been better if I brought two.
After a long day out on the ice, your hands will get sweaty or your gloves may just get wet from the water or snow. It’s a really good idea to alternate gloves every day. Not only that but if you go kayaking, your gloves will definitely get wet. Absolutely soaked. 100% chance. So bring two pairs.
The best gloves for Antarctica are water-resistant ski gloves. Because gloves are such a personal choice, recommending one pair probably won’t help you much.
Here is Amazon’s selection of waterproof ski gloves. Just be sure they’re as water resistant as possible. For added comfort, I recommend Ski glove liners, like these. If you use these, you can probably ditch the second pair of gloves.
I bought this pair. Were they the best gloves for Antarctica? Maybe not if you’re going to wear them all day every day. But they were warm, comfortable, and $13.
Buy a pair of rubber gloves
This was one suggestion that I thought was quite silly when it was brought up. But bringing rubber gloves to Antarctica is actually a terrific idea. Halef used them often to put his hand in the water while filming with the GoPro.
And while you’re kayaking, you’ll thank me for recommending rubber gloves for Antarctica. The drysuit you’ll wear has rubber seals around the wrist. Tuck your rubber gloves under them and your hands will stay dry and warm!
If you have small hands buy an extra-large pair of kitchen rubber gloves at the grocery store and wear them over your normal gloves. If you have large hands, consider buying a pair of these heavy-duty rubber gloves to take with you.
Earmuffs and caps for Antarctica
I don’t think there’s one best cap for Antarctica. A nice wool beanie with a liner is enough. You probably already have one. If not, just pick one that suits you!
Although I wore a beanie on colder days, I prefer earmuffs. And I personally like the cuff style ones that wrap around the back of your head, like these ones.
Antarctica can be super cold, but it can also be a bit too warm for a full-on wool hat, at least for me. It all comes down to personal preference.
Neck and face gaiter
Ever see people who look like they have socks pulled up over their faces? Those are neck and face gaiters and they’re common things people wear, especially when working in the sun.
They’re also a very common thing to wear in Antarctica. While I didn’t personally buy one, the independent tour company we went with gave us each one and it was fantastic to have it!
I recommend a neck and face gaiter in Antarctica. They’re cheap!
Best jacket for Antarctica
I have two puffy jackets at home. One is huge and the other is fairly light. The first one is meant for temperatures that are far below freezing when it’s all you have to wear. I bought it for a trip to Canada during a time I knew it would be freezing!
The other one is meant for a place like Atlanta – where it’s rarely below freezing, but it can get cold. I chose to take this one with me to Antarctica and I definitely don’t regret that.
It was perfect. Thermal underwear, regular t-shirt, small puffy coat, and the boat-provided waterproof jacket were all I needed. Even if the temperature went down significantly, I would have been fine.
I have one similar to the Columbia Men’s Crested Butte II Omni-Heat Jacket. The Columbia Women’s Voodoo Falls 590 TurboDown Hooded Jacket, Thermal Puffer is perfect for women.
Best Boots for Antarctica
Finally, let’s talk about the best boots to wear in Antarctica.
On board the ship, you can wear whatever you like, of course. But when you’re on an Antarctica excursion, you might be up to your shins in freezing cold water as you enter and exit the zodiac.
The two most important considerations for Antarctica boots are comfort and waterproofing. For both, we highly recommend a pair of good, old-fashioned insulated rubber boots.
But check with your travel company first. Insulated rubber boots can cost well over $100 a pair, and most likely, your ship will provide them. Hiking boots are not acceptable for Antarctica.
Dry Bag/Day Pack for Antarctica
If your ship doesn’t provide one as ours did, then a waterproof day pack is an absolute must. When you’re on a zodiac, zipping through sometimes rough water, you especially don’t want your camera getting wet with salt water.
My favorite is the Gecko dry bag above. It’s inexpensive (about $20). But more importantly, it rolls up to almost nothing, meaning you can put it in your suitcase without taking up any room!
Best Swimwear for Antarctica
You think we’re joking, but a lot of ships, including the Akademik Ioffe and Akademic Sergey Vavilov, allow you to do a polar plunge.
Even on a trip to the bottom of the world, you don’t need to leave your swimwear at home! Because in all liklihood, you’ll get a chance to do a polar dip in Antarctica while you’re there.
Check with your ship to see if it’s something they offer. And do it!
Also, there’s probably no best swimwear for Antarctica. Just bring what you would normally wear for a plunge into frigid waters!
Antarctica and Sunscreen
We know, it sounds counter-intuitive. But the sun does shine in Antarctica. And that sun bounces right back in your face from the snow and ice.
You’ll need to wear sunscreen just about every day. And even if it’s not sunny, it’s a great moisturizer.
Pack sunscreen. Trust us!
Other things to pack for Antarctica
You’re about to go on a trip of a lifetime where you’ll see so much amazing wildlife. And you want to be sure you take a proper camera to capture the best Antarctica photos and videos.
Pin this for later
If you’re going to Antarctica, take a look at this post: Antarctica Facts That You May Not Have Known!
We were surprised by a few things we learned!
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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert. Michael has traveled to over 50 countries learning how to experience more for less as he travels.