Call me crazy, but traveling to the poles of this planet of ours is on my bucket list. I don't care how cold it would be, or how stinky penguins are — how epic would it be to sail to Antarctica, or kayak in the Arctic Circle?
I haven't been to Antarctica, but I HAVE been very close to the Arctic Circle. Last March, I headed up to Churchill on the Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada, for a few days of dogsledding, snowshoeing, and Northern Lights chasing.
I would image that my packing list for Antarctica would be very similar, so here's a look at what I took with me:
Packing for the Ends of the Earth
When you know temperatures can dip well below zero, you definitely want to pack for it. When I was in Manitoba and out photographing the Northern Lights at night, it was -40 degrees with windchill. MINUS 40!!! I had up to 6 layers of clothing on top, and at least 3 on the bottom for these outings.
Here's a look at what I packed for my trip to the tundra:
A base layer
My base layer consisted of silk thermal leggings and a thermal, moisture-wicking long-sleeved shirt. Sometimes I would also throw a tank top or t-shirt under this layer if I was really going to be spending a lot of time outside. The silk leggings might sound useless, but silk is actually a great insulating material. It's also thin enough to fit under any mid-layer pair of pants you might pack.
I took a pair of jeans (for meals and other indoor activities) and a pair of cargo pants for my mid-layer bottoms. Up top, I wore a warm fleece zip-up.
An outer layer
I actually brought more than one outer layer with me for this trip! I had a thinner Marmot jacket on first, and then my heavy-duty Columbia ski jacket over top of that for most of my outdoor outings in Churchill. My Columbia jacket has been in my arsenal for years, and it never fails to keep me toasty. On the bottom, I bought a pair of insulated Columbia ski pants, which helped keep my legs both warm AND dry.
Good boots and socks
When faced with ridiculously cold weather, warm footwear is also a must. I invested in a pair of cold-temperature, waterproof boots by Merrell, and multiple pairs of thick skiing/snowboarding socks. Even with all this gear, my toes STILL felt frozen when I was out watching the Northern Lights.
Warm gloves and liners
I invested in insulated down gloves before this trip — and I am SO glad I did. My normal winter gloves would not have cut it. I also bought some nice glove liners, because when you're trying to fiddle with camera settings in the dark, you often have to pull your gloves off. And, exposing your bare fingers to -40 degrees can bring on frostbite REALLY fast. I would also highly recommend picking up a stock of “hotties” for your hands and feet.
Scarves and hats and more scarves
I took two scarves on this trip — one made from alpaca hair and one made from musk ox qiviut — ear muffs, and a wool hat. I always had BOTH my coat hoods pulled up when outside, too. I ended up buying a neck gaiter in Churchill before our second night of Northern Lights watching, because 2 scarves just weren't enough to combat the biting tundra wind.
The good news? Antarctica isn't nearly this cold when most tourists visit. 😉
Now that I've been to the Arctic tundra, I need to see some penguins in Antarctica!
Is either Antarctica or the Arctic on YOUR bucket list?