Visiting Antarctica is often described as a surreal, life-changing experience – one that might leave you feeling you've stepped off this planet and onto another one. Even as you're having this other-worldly experience, it's good to have a few of the comforts of this world along.
Some of these items are going to make your Antarctic expedition and trekking a lot more comfortable, while others will simply bring a bit of comfort on-board, as you enjoy the ship or hang out in your berth.
Either way, don't leave home for Antarctica without these 10 things:
That's right, you're going to one of the coldest and least hospitable climates on the planet, and you're going to need sunscreen! Quark Expeditions take place during the Antarctic summer months and while it's not sunbathing weather, it's sunny most of the time and the UV rays can be quite strong. Ice, snow and water reflect the sun from every direction and it is possible to get a sunburn. Bring at least SPF 45 with you and make sure it's water and sweat-proof.
Antarctic is the driest and sunniest continent on earth and the sun, wind and salt-tinged mist can all wreak havoc on your lips. Bring enough chapstick to use it liberally throughout the trip. Staying hydrated will also help prevent chapped or cracking lips in harsh Antarctic conditions, should they occur.
3. Waterproof pants
We spend a lot of time in Antarctica near the water and on the ice and snow. Waterproof pants are a must! You'll find them useful if you're doing adventure activities like cross-country skiing, but also for every day trekking around, getting in and out of the Zodiacs, etc. Choose a pair with a moisture-wicking liner to stay warm and dry as we disembark and head inland over the snow on day excursions.
4. A good piece of chocolate or your favorite snack
Some people find it easier to be away from home for extended periods of time than others. Falcon Scott, one of our resident experts and a frequent special guest on Quark expeditions, recommends that passengers bring along a piece of good chocolate or several helpings of their favorite snack. The food service on-board is fantastic, he says, yet it's nice to have that bit of something familiar from home when you're away on an expedition.
5. Good gloves and head protection – x2
Remember how your grandmother always told you that you lose most of your body heat through your head? Well, she was right. Proper head gear and gloves are important in Antarctica. Depending on the conditions, you could experience rapid changes in temperature and wind conditions – but you may also sweat, depending on your level of physical exertion. Many people are surprised by how much warmer than expected Antarctica can be in the summer time! Bring at least one extra pair of gloves and an extra hat, toque or other head gear. You probably won't need thick, heavy gloves or head gear.
6. Waterproof boots with good tread
Keep your feet warm and dry with a pair of good, waterproof boots. You'll need traction on the ice and snow, but they should still be lightweight enough for you to walk comfortably over the bare ground. When you travel with Quark Expeditions we provide your boots for you so you'll stay warm and dry on your voyage!
7. A good book
Jonathan Shackleton, another of our resident experts and the relative of a famed Antarctic explorer, recommends that passengers bring a good book with them. Some people have trouble falling asleep, whether it's the excitement of it all, the adjustment to new sleeping quarters or just a natural trait. There may also be times you just want to relax alone for a few minutes. Remember, there's no cable TV, so bring a good book to keep you company! Need some inspiration? Here's a list of recommended reading for the passionate polar traveler! Our ships also feature polar libraries stocked with a fantastic selection of reading materials.
8. Sunglasses with a strap
Wraparound sports sunglasses are best for keeping the bright sun out of your eyes. Make sure the lenses offer UV protection and bring an extra pair just in case. Bring a strap so the sunglasses can be easily removed to hang around your neck (so you don't need to remove your gloves or fumble around with parka pockets).
9. A daypack
Large backpacks are great for long treks, but on our day excursions you really only need a small daypack. You can store extra layers of clothing, sunscreen, water and more without feeling like you're carrying half of your cabin around with you. You can purchase one before your trip in our Polar Gear Shop.
10. Merino wool underclothes
Merino wool really is a magical thing. If you're dreading the thought of wearing wool underclothes while you trek around, don't worry – this isn't the itchy, heavy wool of yesteryear. Merino wool is a fantastic underlayer that draws moisture away from the skin and actually generates heat when it's wet. Unlike other types of wool products, it has natural odor-destroying properties and will keep you feeling and smelling "fresh" longer on the seventh continent.
There you have it – 10 things you shouldn't leave home without when you're Antarctic bound! Do you have a travel tip or packing recommendation for other passengers? Share it in the comments below.