What To Pack When Visiting Polar Regions

By Stewart_Campbell / 02 August 2017

What To Pack When Visiting Polar Regions

If you are planning to travel to the polar regions, then preparation is central to a successful trip. You’ll be dealing with snow, sea ice and glacial ice all year round, and Arctic temperatures of anywhere between −50 °C (−40°F) to +10 °C (50 °F) depending on when you visit. The Antarctic is even more extreme, with the lowest ground level temperature ever recorded on Earth set here at -89.2°C (-128.6°F).

Having traveled to the Arctic and Antarctic on a regular basis, we’re experts on how to prepare. So, here are our recommendations on what to pack when visiting the polar regions:

Layer up, and down. 

If you’re preparing for a polar cruise for example, regardless of the time of year, you will need to pack your layers. Dressing in layers means that you can deal with the extreme temperatures in winter, the year-round wind chill and also with the changeable weather that summer brings. With layers, you can layer up and layer down, depending on what that day or season brings. Usually, one would wear two base layers, with a fleece and then waterproof jacket on top. And keep a spare layer or two in your backpack during the day in case you need it (summer and winter). 

Bring the right base layers. 

When it comes to layers, and specifically base layers, natural merino wool, and polypropylene are the best options. They are known for their efficiency in trapping a layer of warm air next to your skin. Base layers should fit snugly against your body and they should also be able to pull moisture away from your skin  - which is known as wicking. Cotton is not a great option as it soaks up the moisture and doesn’t dry. So the best approach is to team snug fitting merino or polypropylene base layers with fleece and woolen sweater on top. 


Base layers will trap a layer of warm air and draw moisture away from your skin.

Hats and gloves

Always bring at least two hats and two pairs of gloves on any Arctic or Antarctic cruise. It’s important to have a spare to hand, just in case. Use layered gloves – a waterproof outer layer with a snug polypropylene inner layer. This means you will stay dry but you can take off the outer layer when you need to – for instance when you’re taking pictures, etc. You’ll be more comfortable if your hat is of the variety that covers your ears and a neck gaiter is useful for the colder months too. 


Bring layered gloves to keep warm and dry, and a hat that covers your ears!

Rubber boots

Rubber boots are a must when visiting the polar regions. We recommend mid-calf length versions as there may be times when you will need to step into the water – for example when you are disembarking a zodiac vessel on a shore landing. You can use them for walking, but if you have space, bring your hiking boots too!  

Hand and foot warmers

Hand and foot warmers are a little bit of luxury on a chilly morning or afternoon on an Antarctica Arctic cruise. Sometimes one’s extremities can feel the chill, particularly after an outing on the zodiacs, so these are useful things to pack. They are not bulky and will instantly warm you up.  


You’ll obviously bring socks when visiting the polar regions, but you can benefit from bringing the right types. For instance, bring snug polypropylene socks to wear under long wool socks. Bring plenty of pairs – you can never have too many on a polar cruise. 

Waterproof jacket and trousers

To be dry and warm when you’re traveling in the polar regions, you need a warm pair of utility trousers worn under a good pair of waterproof trousers. In terms of jackets – a waterproof outer layer is essential, backed up with a warm fleece to wear underneath it. The outer layer needs to be windproof, insulated and seam-sealed as well as waterproof. If you are traveling in winter, think about bringing a parka type jacket that offers a little extra protection against the elements. 


A waterproof backpack is another must have. It will keep your hands free and your camera etc. safe when boarding zodiacs for shore excursions.


The backpack - a must have! This will keep your hands free for activities. 

Non-slip shoes

A pair of non-slip shoes is also a good idea if you are traveling to the polar regions on board an Arctic or Antarctic cruise.  


Visit expeditionsonline.com for information on cruises to the Polar Regions. We specialize in Polar cruises and expeditions on small ships to some of the planet’s most amazing travel destinations. We’ve visited all of these destinations we offer and our advice on visiting the Polar Regions is independent and expert. 

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