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“There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” ~ Ranulph Fiennes
To get the most enjoyment out of a once in a lifetime journey to the Polar Regions, thorough preparation is key. It is important to take the right kit for the environment and the activities you plan to do during your trip.
Although we only visit during summer months, weather conditions can change quickly and dramatically in these extreme wildernesses and temperatures can dip well below freezing. Plus, you also need to prepare for life at sea in 24-hour daylight. Here’s our guide to the polar packing list essentials…
Packing List for Freezing Conditions
Photographers in the Arctic
Layers, Layers, Layers!
Merino Wool Base Layers Extra soft, highly insulating, sweat-wicking and armed with antibacterial properties, Merino wool layers will make all the difference when out facing the elements for hours at a time. Usually a little dearer than their synthetic counterparts, but the high-quality performance more than makes the extra layer of investment worthwhile.
Double Gloves Your extremities are always the first parts of the body to suffer the cold, and in the Polar Regions, the low temperatures and bracing wind chill can be punishing on your fingers. If the weather takes a turn for the worst, team up your warm outer gloves with a thin polypropylene pair to trap extra warmth.
Also useful if you want to remove your outer glove to take photos, as they are thin enough to retain dexterity without leaving hands completely exposed.
Thermal Headgear Without the insulting hollow fur of a Polar bear, the heat hugging blubber of a walrus or the warming down of a penguin, it can be tricky to regulate your core temperature in such extreme conditions.
Humans lose the majority of their heat from the head, so it is essential to pack a warm hat, ideally one that covers the ears. You might want to double up with a microfleece balaclava, scarf or neck gaiter for an extra layer of protection.
Waterproofs Don’t leave home without a warm waterproof jacket and over-trousers. Opt for breathable materials to maximise performance and comfort.
Socks Take plenty of socks – more than you think you’ll need! For extra warmth when wearing the rubber boots for zodiac excursions and landings, we recommend layering up with two pairs of thick walking socks. There are laundry facilities on board should you run out, but this service incurs an additional charge.
Fun pulling boots off
Enjoying the View!
Polarised Wraparound Sunglasses When in the Polar Regions, you’re likely to be constantly surrounded by either sea, snow or sea ice – perfect reflectors for the 24-hour daylight.
Plus you’ll be clambering in and out of zodiacs, hiking over tundra and up mountains, walking along shingle beaches and through knee-deep snow – this is no place for delicate Aviators (obviously nobody told product manager Tom Harari before his Spitsbergen trip)! Make sure you pack a tight-fitting, high-quality pair of polarised wraparound sunglasses for all-round optical protection.
Binoculars Equally as important as sunglasses, quality binoculars are another essential on the polar packing list. In these remote and inhospitable frozen lands, you’ll often be searching for signs of life at distance, and although there are usually spotting scopes on board that are free to use, you’ll need portable optics for around the ship, on zodiac excursions and landings.
Whether it’s a Wandering albatross soaring over the Drake Passage, a lone Polar bear padding over the Svalbard sea ice or a Humpback breaching on the horizon – you’ll want the best possible view of the action.
Camera & Storage Device Whether you consider yourself as much of a photographer or not, you’ll be filling memory SD cards in no time, so it’s a good idea to take extra storage to back up your images to during your trip.
It’s heart-breaking to run out of memory partway through the trip and wind up having to make unconsidered deletions to make room. Believe it or not, we’ve seen individual passengers take in excess of 3k photos a day!
Depending on luggage space, take along your laptop, hard drive or plenty of SD cards to make sure you don’t miss a moment of the adventure.
High Factor Sunscreen & Lip Balm It may be well below freezing at the ends of the Earth, but don’t be fooled – the sun’s rays are incredibly powerful. Fair enough, there won’t be much skin on show but make sure your face, ears and lips are well-smothered SPF 30+ before venturing out into the frozen wilds.
Non-slip Shoes It is very important to take a pair of comfortable, non-slip shoes for walking around the ship, both inside and out on deck. Sea and weather conditions can change quickly, from millpond to rolling swell to blizzard, so extra care must always be taken when walking around the ship, especially in corridors, stairwells and on slippery outer decks.
Dry Bag or Rain Cover A dry bag is a must-have accessory for zodiac excursions and wet landings, protecting your camera gear and any other valuables from a damaging saltwater deluge.
Whether you’re packing a 400mm, an iPhone or Canon point and shoot, dry bags are available in a huge variety of sizes, brands and price brackets – you’ll soon find one fit for your polar purpose. Alternatively, you could opt for a rain cover for your daypack but this option is less effective than the all-round protection of a dry bag.
Don’t forget – Exodus customers get a 15% discount with our partner Cotswold Outdoor – where you can get everything you’ll need for your Polar Expedition! Simply ask us for your discount code at the time of booking.
Take a look at our Polar adventures below and plan your trip.