While average temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula during the Austral summer hover around zero degrees, the weather can be highly variable. In this article, we’ll be showing you what to wear to Antarctica to make your visit comfortable.
Temperature in Antarctica
If the sun is shining, there is no wind, and you are hiking uphill, you may become overheated and need to remove layers. This, however, can all change in an instant, and a gust of wind can have you shivering in seconds.
Because of the lack of body movement, zodiac cruising can be particularly chilly, so dress warmly if you’re going out for an hour or two on the water.
Being properly prepared and equipped makes all the difference, especially on a trip like this, so it’s never too early to review your gear.
General Rules For What To Wear in Antarctica
When deciding what to wear in Antarctica, layers, layers, and more layers are essential! The weather in Antarctica can change on a dime.
Hence, get ready for anything. Wool, silk, and fleece are highly encouraged, whereas cotton is discouraged. I only had one pair of synthetic long underwear and the rest of my clothing was cotton, so I had to layer up.
But I made the best of the situation. It’s also a good idea to bring extra of everything. While we encourage the repetition of outfits (and, frankly, required), you should have one full backup of clothing.
Dress Code For What To Wear in Antarctica
They pleasantly surprised me to learn that, unlike previous Caribbean cruises I’d taken, Antarctic Cruises are very relaxed. There was no dress code on our Quark Expedition’s ship, even for sit-down dinners.
This is fantastic because trying to pack minimally while also being fancy is a tall order! A few people dressed up for the captain’s cocktail party and a few other nights, but we were all in expedition gear 24/7.
What Should I Wear in Antarctica?
Below are things you should wear while visiting Antarctica:
1. Under Layers
Base layers, top, and bottom are essential for staying warm in Antarctica. This is because they trap air close they can add or subtract to your body until you reach a comfortable temperature.
Dress like an onion, as we like to say. We recommend you avoid wearing cotton and instead opt for merino wool, silk, or polyester, which keeps body heat far better.
After one or two base layers, add a fleece layer before your outer weatherproof jacket. We recommend bringing a variety of warm layers, such as fleeces of varying thicknesses or down-style lightweight liner jackets.
Because zodiac rides to and from the ship can be wet, you’ll need a weatherproof outer shell that includes both a jacket and waterproof trousers.
Many ships provide a complimentary outer jacket, which will wait for you in your cabin and will make an excellent souvenir.
Some are 3-in-1 jackets with a removable inner quilted jacket, while others are just outer shells. If you are unsure whether your ship includes a jacket, please contact us.
If your ship does not provide a jacket, a good Gore-tex or skiing jacket, which you may already have, is ideal. It has to be completely waterproof and windproof.
More Information On Outer Layers
Similarly, skiing trousers/pants work well as waterproof trousers and can be layered with thermal leggings underneath. However, make certain that they are completely waterproof, not just snowproof.
They must fit over the top of your provided rubber boots (not tucked in, as this directs water run-off directly onto your socks), so a loose ankle is required.
If you’d rather not invest in outdoor clothing that you might not use back home, or if you simply don’t want to travel with these bulky items, there are clothing rental shops in Ushuaia, and rental isn’t very expensive.
3. Gloves & socks
When you’re out on a zodiac trip, your hands and feet are the first to get cold because you’re not moving around, generating heat and aiding blood circulation.
Nowadays, there are some excellent “tog-rated” thick thermal socks available – get them in a ski boot length and your feet will be toasty.
A pair of waterproof ski-style gloves is a must for your hands, and ski mittens are even better for keeping your fingers warm.
Be Careful When Using a Phone Or Camera
Of course, these aren’t ideal for taking photos, so we recommend wearing a thin pair of liner gloves underneath; silk or those with a touch-sensitive finger pad will make it easier to take photos with your phone.
Zodiac rides can be bumpy and jolting, causing you to lose your grip. You may also need to keep your hands free to grasp the rib. Keeping your hands and feet dry is also important for keeping them warm.
Although your boots will keep your feet dry, splashing from the zodiac as you cruise through the icy water may get your gloves wet.
What To Wear in Antarctica On The Ship
Life on the ship is pretty laid-back. The key to being comfortable on board the ship is to simply relax.
It’s still important to dress in layers because the temperature on the ship can fluctuate, and it’s a good idea to bring a jacket with you when you go out on deck. The only dress code on our ship was no open-toed shoes.
I spent most of my time on the ship wearing leggings, hiking boots (because that’s all I had), and a long or short sleeve t-shirt, with a jacket wrapped around my waist.
The Most Essential Items to Pack For Antarctica
Check that you have these items among the many things to pack for your Antarctic adventure.
1. Waterproof Boots, Pants, and Jackets
If you travel to Antarctica with One Ocean Expeditions, they will supply you with top-of-the-line waterproof pants, jackets, and boots for free
As a result, when considering what to pack for Antarctica, you do not need to include any of these items.
If your company does not provide these items, it is worth asking if they can at least rent them out, as these items can be very expensive to purchase.
2. Thermal Underwear
Layering your clothing is essential in any cold climate, including Antarctica. The first thing to think about when deciding what to wear in Antarctica is a good pair of thermal underwear as your base layer.
You can purchase synthetic materials. However, based on our own personal experiences working through ski seasons in Canada, we recommend merino wool leggings and a top.
Kathmandu is the go-to brand for merino wool thermal underwear, followed by these guys.
3. Comfortable Trousers Or Jeans
While you’ll be wearing technical clothing as an outer layer during the zodiac and land excursions, the dress code on the ship is casual. Bring a pair of comfortable pants.
A pair of jeans and a pair of lightweight hiking pants are our personal recommendations.
The jeans can be worn for dinner and at the bar in the evenings, and they can wear hiking pants in between excursions and for breakfast in the mornings.
The boots you’re wearing are waterproof and insulated, but it’s also important to layer your feet properly. A pair of thin thermal socks that act as a base layer is one of the best things you can buy.
5. Merino Wool Socks x 3
Above the base layer thermal socks, you’ll need a pair of warm socks that properly hug your feet to prevent blisters.
Merino wool socks are ideal for this, as they will provide additional insulation over the top of your thermal socks.
Merino wool is also quick drying and does not retain odor, so you can wear them two or three times before washing them.
We recommend wearing one pair one day and hanging the other up overnight to air out. Wear a new pair the next day and repeat the process.
6. T-shirts x 4
You’ll wear your thermal top every day, and depending on the weather outside, you might be able to get away with just one t-shirt before adding your outer layer.
When you’re not on land or in the zodiacs, you’ll be wearing your t-shirts onboard, so choose some that are both fashionable and functional. We recommend merino wool once more.
7. Long-Sleeve Shirt x 1
When a t-shirt isn’t enough, pack a merino wool long-sleeve shirt that can be worn over your base layers or on its own around the ship. A long sleeve shirt is a great compromise between having to add a layer and wearing a t-shirt.
8. Hooded Jumper x 1
When packing for Antarctica, get yourself a lightweight, fleece jumper with a hood. On cold days, they can wear this over your base layers and under your outer shell, or they can wear it around the ship.
9. Down Jacket x 1
The days of a down jacket taking up half your backpack and making you look like the Stay Puff Marshmellow Man are long gone.
Kathmandu, for example, is now producing warm, wind-resistant down jackets that pack into their own pockets and weigh less than half a kilo.
Bring a down jacket with you for extra warmth in cold weather.
10. Wind/Rain Jacket x 1
Even though you will be provided with a waterproof, insulated jacket for the duration of your voyage, it is a good idea to bring a wind/rain jacket with you.
This is especially true if you plan on visiting Ushuaia or Punta Arenas before or after your trip. In fact, there was a massive storm the day we set sail from Ushuaia.
And, despite being picked up in town and dropped off at the port, we still had to walk through the rain to board the ship. We highly recommended that you always travel with one of these.
11. Ski Gloves x 1 Pair
Good ski gloves continue to reign supreme when it comes to selecting the best gloves for Antarctica.
You can wear mittens or fingered gloves, but we recommend fingered gloves for extra mobility when getting on and off the zodiacs and working your equipment.
12. Buff Bandana/Neck Gaiter x 2
In Antarctica, the sun shines brightly and the wind bites, so you must protect your fact from the elements.
Even if you wear sunscreen, it’s all too easy to get sunburned, and the wind can dry out your face, causing it to peel and crack.
Purchase two neck gaiters to wear around your neck and pull up over your face when out in the elements.
13. Sunglasses x 1
Even if you don’t normally wear sunglasses at home, you’ll need them in a place as white and bright as Antarctica.
That being said, ditch your flashy, expensive Ray-Bans in favor of something more durable. If your sunglasses are flimsy, you will most likely bend, scratch, and possibly break them.