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An Antarctica Packing List

Christina Beckmann Shares 5 Things You Should Have in Your Suitcase

An Antarctica Packing List

Photo by Dani Plumb

This spring, on behalf of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, I joined the 2018 ClimateForce Expedition with The Explorer’s Passage to Antarctica. The packing list I received from Jeff Bonaldi at the Explorer’s Passage was extremely comprehensive. Regardless of who you travel with to Antarctica, it seems likely they will tell you to bring layers. Believe them. I wore six layers at times and didn’t feel a bit overdressed. They’ll also advise waterproof gloves and pants, and you should believe them on that, too. But this packing list is not about the obvious, it is about the things I wished I had with me but I didn’t.

A Volume of Poetry

If you’re on an expedition cruise it is likely the ship will have a library with interesting books about polar explorers and the environment. But what I really found myself missing was a couple of my favorite books of poetry. Even if you’re not a fan of poetry, bring some with you anyway. Antarctica will leave you grasping for words and looking for help in capturing the incredible assault on your senses and feelings. And, helping people make sense of feelings is the poet’s specialty. My recommendation: Mary Oliver’s Devotions (Random House, 2017).


Photo by Nim Deswardt

Crazy Sunglasses Everyone with the desire and ability to pull off a trip to Antarctica has some spunk in their heart, one can assume. This is a place that is far from everywhere, challenging to reach, expensive, and often uncomfortable. You will be advised to bring ski goggles for the times your face is receiving full frontal wind and rain, and my encouragement here to bring crazy sunglasses should not displace the much-needed goggles. But for the rare times when the wind calms and the sun shines, as it did for us when we rounded Cape Horn on our way back from the Antarctic peninsula to Ushuaia, your silly self will delight in donning a pair of crazy sunglasses.


Photo by Trent Branson

Excellent Moisturizer Antarctica may be home to 90 percent of the earth’s freshwater, and you may be based on board a ship surrounded by the Southern Ocean for two weeks, but your skin will absolutely shrivel out there if you’re not constantly moisturizing and drinking water. I watched in dismay as new wrinkles creased my brow and eyes daily.

Reusable Water Bottle

Plastic pollution from around the world finds its way to the Arctic and Antarctica every year. The ocean suffers, animals suffer, we all suffer from the choking globs of plastic surrounding us. Make a vow to never buy another single-use plastic bottle in your life and bring your own reusable water bottle to Antarctica with you. Worried about fresh water and concerned it might not be clean unless it comes out of a plastic bottle? Try a Grayl bottle with its own internal filter. Learn more about ocean clean up and the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s efforts to curb the use of single-use plastic in travel companies.


Photo by Trent Branson

Proper Headgear If you have managed to acquire a really great parka it will probably have a big enough hood, one that juts a bit out over your browline when you have it pulled on. This hood will be indispensable. But in addition to that, you’ll love it if you have a smaller, snug beanie on underneath and a snug tube scarf as well. The beanie-hood-scarf combo is a winner when it is windy and wet. Imagine being on a Zodiac, moving at speed over light chop, with wind and water coming at you. The hood is great, but without the beanie the wind will inflate that hood and it’ll be luffing about your ears like a balloon.