What to wear in Antartica?
Antarctica, otherwise known as the Great White Continent, is home to breathtakingly beautiful icebergs, stunning glaciers, majestic mountains, and a host of rare wildlife. As one of the most untouched areas on earth, it’s not hard to see why the mystery of Antarctica is so alluring to many. Ever dreamed of seeing Antarctica for yourself? Have we cold you the dream? If you’re planning on visiting this bucket list destination or have already booked, you need to start thinking about what to take with you.
Antarctica is not only the world’s southernmost continent but also the driest, windiest, highest and coldest continent in the world. Thick ice covers almost 98% percent of Antarctica - meaning that the cold weather can be extreme and variable. Unlike other parts of the world, this snowy continent has two seasons (summer and winter) - this is due to the tilt of the Earth's axis in relation to the sun, resulting in Antarctica only having six months of daylight.
Visitors usually conclude that, when it comes to what to wear in Antarctica, they should only bring clothes for extreme cold conditions, such as expedition wear and snow shoes. We advise that the best way to stay warm in this snowy destination is to lean into layers.
Need some help packing your Antarctic wardrobe? We’re here to help. Let’s get this snow on the road…
Drake once said, ‘started from the bottom, now we're’ here’ - and starting from the bottom is exactly what we’re going to do. That’s right, we’re talking underwear. Forget lace sets or designer boxers, the best underwear to take with you to Antarctica is sports underwear, such as sports bras. They are practical for physically taxing hikes and voyages, and they’re also extremely comfortable and diverse.
As the icy stretch of Antarctica is hardly a runway, we’d also recommend thermal underwear, especially ones made from merino wool. Not only does merino wool dry super quickly, but odours, such as sweat, don’t cling to it, making it ideal for a trek-heavy trip to Antarctica. Steer clear of cotton if possible - being a breathable fabric, which is a good thing in hot climates, cotton doesn’t insulate heat very well.
It’s common knowledge that you can quickly heat up the rest of your body and protect yourself from cold weather by keeping your feet warm. Out on excursions in Antarctica, our feet are one of the first things to succumb to the cold, so keeping them as warm as possible is essential if you want to be comfortable on your trip. Enter: socks.
Socks are one of the most important parts of your wardrobe for Antarctica, so be sure to buy the right ones (and lots of them). Why not go for thick thermal socks that don’t get lost in your boots? If you buy ski boot-length socks, you should be all set. If thermals are still not toasty enough, you can always wear more than one pair and layer up with woollen socks. However, if you wear too many pairs, your feet might struggle to stay warm, as too many sock layers actually block insulation and result in chilly toes.
It’s time to make like an onion, channel your inner Shrek and get wrapped up in layers. Layers are a great way to prepare for the extreme weather while away in Antarctica whilst also giving you some control over your body temperature. Be sure to follow this three-step layer guide when packing for your trip.
In Antarctica, the key is to stay warm - and base layers are the best place to start. On both the bottom half of your body and the top, we recommend having a base layer to trap air as close to your body as possible to insulate your body heat. As mentioned above, merino wool is the best material to use for heat insulation and materials like polyester, cotton, and silk should be avoided.
Once you’ve got your base layers sorted from vests to leggings, you can add them to your outfit with a fleece or jumper layer. Whether you opt for a lightweight jacket or a chunky fleece, it’s important to take several different options (some thick and some thin) so that you can layer up to whatever degree you feel comfortable. The nights can get bitterly cold in Antarctica, so we recommend selecting warm layers so you’re never caught out in the cold.
The purpose of this layer is to lock in any heat that might’ve escaped from your base layer and keep it close to your body. This can be anything from a parka jacket, a thick long sleeve top or a mid-weight jumper. As the sandwich filling to your base layer and outer layer bread, the protection layer is crucial to the three-step layer process - without it you may find yourself vulnerable to the cold winds of Antarctica. Take a good selection of jumpers and thick warm leggings. Come on, you don’t want to hear us “we cold you so”, now do you…
In a land where there’s ice as far as the eye can see, one thing is for certain: you’re going to need some waterproofs. Otherwise known as the outer layer, your shell layer is the final step in protecting you from the elements. Getting wet in the extreme winds and cold temperatures of Antarctica can quickly send your body temperature far below what it should be. A waterproof and windproof coat, along with some waterproof trousers, is advised - being snowproof isn’t enough, especially if you’re planning on doing any boat trips during your stay.
Investing in high-quality pieces will pay off in the long run. We recommend trying brands like Arc'teryx - they specialise in waterproof, windproof and breathable textiles, designed to protect you from extreme environments. Once you’ve kitted yourself out with waterproofs, be sure to keep your waterproof trousers over the top of your boots, and not tucked into your socks, otherwise, your feet will get soaked - remember to free those ankles!
Don’t you want to keep your noggin nice and warm? A lot of heat is lost from the top of your head, so it’s important to prevent this while you’re away in Antarctica. To keep your ears toasty too, we recommend taking a hat that covers them up as the base layer - we’re thinking a beanie or balaclava - and then wear a wind-proof hat on top of that.
Similar to our feet, our hands are also one of the first things to get cold - so it’s important to keep them covered up so as to avoid any nasty frostbite or poor circulation. Sure, ski gloves are a good option, but for Antarctica, we’d recommend beginning with a glove liner, and then layer up with woollen and a waterproof pair. Though it may be hard to take holiday selfies, we’re sure that your frostbite-free fingers will thank you!
If uncovered, your neck will be exposed to a lot of bitingly-cold wind, so please be sure to cover it up when you can. By investing in a snood or a scarf, you’ll warm up your body whilst protecting your skin from too much sun exposure.
What to pack…
We’re almost there! Now that you know exactly what garments and materials to kit your Antarctic wardrobe out with, it’s time to get your packing list of essentials penned down. Here’s a list of everything you’ll need to make your experience in Antarctica one to remember:
- An insulating long sleeve swimsuit
- Neck Warmer
- Socks (and lots of them)
- A waterproof backpack
- Several base layer hats (beanies)
- Leggings or joggers
- Comfy closed-toe boots
- Workout attire (gym leggings, sports bra)
- Fleece, jumper, other warm insulating layers
- Waterproof phone case
What to wear in Antarctica - a summary…
Antarctica is something from a fairytale, snowy and stunning from every angle. There’s no shortage of amazing sights to see and activities to enjoy, from zodiac excursions to sea kayaking and cross-country skiing. When it comes to what to wear, all we have to say is one word: layers. If you layer up properly, nothing can stop you from having the most ice-tastic adventure you could ever dream of. So what are you waiting for?