Question for all the polar explorers (arctic or Antarctic) on the forum. We are doing the ultimate bucket list trip (at least it is for us) to Antarctica in late November. I want to start gearing up now so I am not rushed at the last minute and making bad decisions. I am pretty confident about what to get for the hat, glove/ mitten, thermal underwear, buff, goggles and mid layer. We will be getting parkas from the cruise line and boots are being provided. One thing I am not sure about is the bottom outer layer. We want waterproof obviously. I have read that rain pants would work with two under layers (wool thermals and some type of fleece pant). I have rain pants but I think they would be too thin to wear in an arctic environment even with two or three other layers. Would waterproof snow pants be better? Do you have a brand that you tried and could recommend. If you have been to Antarctica, I would love to know your suggestions for this. Being warm and dry is top on my list for this trip. It won’t be enjoyable if we are freezing cold. Thanks for your help.
We went in January of this year, so weather was perhaps a little different than in November. We wore ski pants, but I did see someone in rain pants. You want something that you are able to move easily in as you will be climbing in and out of zodiacs (this is also when can get wet) and maybe you will be snow shoeing, hiking, etc. We also had lightweight thermal leggings and long sleeve shirts. My husband found them to be too hot, but I enjoyed them. Layering is the way to go. Never needed goggles, but definitely wanted sunglasses. I learned a lot on the TripAdvisor forum and there are also Facebook groups dedicated to Antarctica cruising which are very helpful. Don't know who you are going with, but you might find one specific to your ship. Antarctica 2021/2022 season with Hurtigruten helped me a lot. Some of the info is relevant to the ship, but lots is relevant to expeditions in general. And you can take a look at what people posted in November. Definitely a bucket list item.
Thanks, Traveller. What brand of ski pants did you have and were they waterproof? I will check out the TripAdvisor forum for Antarctica cruising.
Shopping for all the gear was part of the fun of Antarctica for us. We went in January 2019. We were way over prepared for freezing weather. I should have followed my friends’ advice to dress like you’re in Tahoe. I ended up just wearing smart wool leggings and thin rain pants and it was plenty warm for our trip. Three other tips - my hat had flaps that snapped under my chin to secure it for zodiac rides. I took a waterproof pouch for my iPhone that kept it dry but I could take photos through it (on drizzly stops, I didn’t want my bigger camera to get wet). And after tons of research, my ski gloves were a mistake. I needed to remove them to take photos and then in the damp, couldn’t easily get them back on. Mittens were much more useful. Enjoy!
Thanks, Susan. By smart wool leggings, do you just mean the base layer leggings and the rain pants? November is a bit chillier than January which is midsummer so I am thinking I may need an additional layer besides those two. We are getting waterproof mittens and glove liners with the finger pads that can manipulate camera dials.
Yes, I meant to mention glove liners. They were all I needed on land for warmth. Covered by the waterproof mittens for the zodiac rides. Yes, the smart wool base layer. I also had some thin silk leggings and thin Uniqlo leggings I could put under the base layer, but didn’t need either that January.
Thanks, everyone. I just dug our Marmot rain pants out of the drawer and tried them on over my sweatpants and they will work fine with a wool base layer and a fleece layer. I have plenty of maneuverability in them so I know I’ll be able to get in and out of the zodiac without a problem. I’ve done many zodiacs in my travels. I looked at the Quark gear website and it looks like their outer pant layer is just a pair of rain pants as well. I think we’ll be fine with these. They have zippers at the bottom of the legs and no velcro.
My rain pants worked perfectly in January. Crew wanted us to tuck our pants into our boots for landings and those wearing snow pants were unable to. You have to step into the water to go ashore.
Although I brought mittens, I never used them. Instead, my rubber kitchen gloves were the envy of everyone else on my small ship expedition - I was the only one who brought them. Wore them over DeFeet liner gloves on zodiac rides and stowed them once ashore for better dexterity while photographing. I agree with the suggestion to put your phone in a waterproof cover that you can take photos through - mine came on a lanyard that I hung around my neck (and tucked inside my parka), which works great when bouncing through waves and you have to hold onto the zodiac ropes to keep from falling out.
If you’re taking nice camera gear, I highly recommend bringing a dry bag large enough to hold it for zodiac rides. I put a string pack inside the dry bag, along with camera gear, then once on land transferred the dry bag and extra gear (camera batteries, extra mittens, etc.) to the string pack, which I wore on my back over my parka and life jacket. (We had to keep our life jackets on while ashore.).
You might not need buffs if your parkas have a wide flap that fastens under the chin. It’s an epic trip - enjoy!
Mary, I wore the equivalent of LandsEnd leggings under Gortex waterproof pants (regular weight). My husband wore some sort of men's equivalent of leggings (but maybe underall or something like that...light weight) also under Gortex pants.
if your expedition is like ours (we went with National Geographic/Lindblad) when you come back on board, you will leave your outerwear in what is called "the mudroom" in your personal lockers. So, you want to have something under any outer pants you wear ashore (or in Zodiacs).
For under the ship-issued parkas (ours were two layer jackets...one zipped out of the other one), I wore just a plain ole LandsEnd turtleneck (cotton).
You will want waterproof gloves...ours were the insulated type....maybe even two pair....I did slip and ended up with one of my hands in penguin poo (I wiped off the glove, and it was okay the next day).
We purchased something (I believe they were called berkas) from REI. Things that slip over your head...fits like a knit cap on top and behind your head, but with an opening for your eyes/nose/mouth, but you can pull it up over your nose when you might experience cold wind on a Zodiac....they were great.
Any way you could switch your trip to January? We have not been in November, but typically the ice is firmer (not yet really melting...although with global warming, maybe it is now). But in mid-January, the penguins had begun to hatch, some were still building nests (made of rocks), but the penguins had not yet begun to leave the nests.
Do have really good polarized sun glasses.........very important. At the time, I borrowed some from my sister that fit over my regular glasses. For my husband, we purchased some magnetic ones that fit on top of his regular glasses.....Bass Pro Shop...not inexpensive, but it worked.
Definitely have a strap on your camera. If you are lucky, as we were, and were RIGHT (as in 5 feet from) a humpback whale, you will want to quickly cover your camera lens (your guide will likely remind you), because when they exhale, the oil from krill (sp?) can get all over your lens.
Have the time of your life!!! Of all of our many trips, Antarctica stands out as the most amazing ever!!!!
Hope the Drake is calm for your crossing!!!! (we were lucky ..... and actually experienced rougher waters at the tip of New Zealand on a different trip and then off Greenland.). But, when we were arriving in Ushuia (sp?) to begin our journey, we saw another ship that had its windows blown out from a monster wave the week prior, I believe I recall coming back from South Georgia Island or such. . Our ship had its bridge up high and no balconies (where a lot of damage was done on the ship of another tour brand).
Definitely take part in the "polar plunge" if your ship offers that. My husband has done that in both the Artic Circle and Antarctia..........me....I just took photos of him (and the others)
Oh, and a couple of days in mid-January (it was about 10 years ago), the weather was actually warmer there than the same days in Nashville, TN. We actually unzipped our parkas because we got "hot" on a hike on land.
Thanks @iaswr and @maggie. Our dates for Antarctica are set. We will be in Antarctica for 21 days on the Scenic Eclipse going to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica (Nov. 21 to Dec. 10). We have traveled with Scenic before and they are a stellar company which is why we chose them for this cruise. This is a six star cruise on a very modern ship. We have traveled with Lindblad before and looked at Quark and found there accommodations wanting. I wanted something a bit more luxurious. This trip was postponed from last January and Nov/Dec was what was available to us. As you know these cruises get booked up 12 to 18 months in advance and at our age we can no longer afford to wait. We have to be fit enough to do this trip. I have read that the ice and snow will be pristine at that time of year and we will witness the mating behavior of the penguins and seals. I am hoping to see the male elephant seals duking it out for some good action shots. As a photographer, the ice is as important as the wildlife. Every cruise month in Antarctica has something to offer. We have dry bags as we have been on two NatGeo Lindblad cruises already and have done the wet landings. We have already purchased the waterproof mittens (2 each). I expect it will be a bit chillier in Nov/Dec than in January. We have an option to do a flight seeing excursion as the ship has two helicopters on board. There is also a submersible so that may be an option as well. I hate cold water so the polar plunge is a maybe for me. All of the cabins on board are suites with balconies so I am hoping there won’t be any mishaps. I am curious what cruise ship had the accident. That must have been terrifying. The bridge is up high and the cabins are as well. I am already a bit nervous about the motion sickness and covid so let’s hope we don’t have any disasters. We now have most of the gear that we need now with the exception of the goggles, maybe hand and foot warmers.
Mary, oh my gosh, this is exciting and would be bucket list for us too, but first is our Africa trip, we leave tomorrow. I think I want to go to South Georgia even more than Antartica. Please, please come back to the forum to tell us all about it! Sorry, I can’t help with your question.
Tammy, you will absolutely love Africa! I am so excited for you. You will see the big five, of course, but the birds will totally blow you away as well. What amazing sights you will see. Africa is addicting and I am sure this will not be your only trip there. Take lots of memory cards and photos. And share the photos with all of us. I will do a report when we get back from Antarctica. The cruise ship is the Scenic Eclipse. Have a wonderful and safe trip to Africa!
Mary, I am soooo excited for you. I had read about the Scenic back when it was 'just' being announced, and I remember thinking "oh, how very high end." The helicopter and underwater options also sounded so neat.
And, you are soooo very lucky to get to take the really long itinerary. We did the basic trip when we went with National Geographic.
The neat thing about that time of year, is that you "should" be able to walk from the ship out on the ice itself ( maybe, if global warming has not taken too much of a toll).
But, what an incredible journey you will have!!! Please tell us all about it when you return (prompt me with a PM, please, as I do not always check the Forum regularly, since we are not traveling right now).
You sure have been traveling a lot lately, and that is a very, very good thing. We went intensely "at it" for about 10 years, and we look back now, commenting to each other frequently, how glad we are we did that...we will always have those memories.
(Oh, and the ship that had the big wave issue was the expedition ship (do not recall its name) Silversea had. Seems I recall hearing it had a bunch of French students on it. The bridge was said to have some damage, but I do not think anyone was seriously injured...at least not that I recall. Perhaps Google might bring something up, but it has been about a decade ago now. We had considered that ship, but settled on National Geo because of their ship's ice-cutting capabilities and its strong safety record and fabulous naturalists/photographers on board. We were not disappointed at all...exceeded our expectations, and I am sure your wonderful journey will be even more spectacular. We did not get to see Emperor Penguins...you will :)
Maybe you all and we can do our "dream trip" together.....when you get back, PM me, and I can share the grand finale I would like to do (when we feel more covid preventive vaccines/treatments become commonplace). We are waitlisted for some dates next year, but I have a feeling it may wind up being 2 years (or more) out, as I do not think covid will be slowing down, and I sure do hope I am wrong.
Godspeed to you!!! Create joy and create memories!!!!
Mary, I went ahead and Googled, seeing if my memory was serving me correctly. It was NOT French students (students from Connecticut school), and, yes, there were some injuries (captain and three crew). The visual for the ship does seem different from what I saw in port...seems I recall balconies were more apparent....but it has been a long time, and we were not up close...just mostly noticed the plywood type covering and asked: Huh, what happened to them? Our captain explained the bridge is much higher on the National Geo/Lindblad ship.
But, that was a rare happening, so I would not worry.
Cannot wait to hear all about your spectacular trip.
Maggie, thanks for the info on the ship. There was also one cruise in Antarctica in fairly recent years that struck an iceberg and sank. Luckily all aboard were rescued. NatGeo does a good job and we will probably be doing the inside passage in Alaska next year with them and their Panama/Costa Rica trip looks good as well so maybe in February 2023. I have no complaints about Lindblad NatGeo. They treat their customers really well. I doubt very much that we will see the emperor penguins unless the helicopter gets us there as they are really way south of where we will be on the ship. They are not as pretty as the king penguins just bigger. Regarding the whale, I would imagine that not only the camera would have been contaminated with krill but all of you aboard the zodiac. How would you clean up after that? These trips to far flung places are always an adventure. On one trip to Africa an elephant came up to our vehicle and pressed its head against the hood. None of us in the vehicle dared to breathe until the elephant backed off. We laughed all the way back to the lodge afterwards. I think the rough seas of the Drake would be an exciting adventure although I will probably be in the bathroom with my head over the toilet.
@ aMann I will keep a journal. This trip will be (I hope) epic. And yes, Africa is amazing. You must go.
Mary, do not worry about krill oil getting all over you, if you come very close to a whale. We were literally right there...could have touched the whale (but, naturalists remind not to). We were not covered in oil....far from it..... but the camera lens, even if a little mist of it (mixed with water) got on it, it could cause clouding or something on the photos...and trying to clean a lens on a zodiac....well, you get it...... Thus, their warning to cover the lens (simply putting your hand over your camera for that very short time....not a big issue).
It is so cool, though, to be that close....you get in sync with the breathing of the whale (with coaching from the naturalist), and you "know" when it will exhale. Watching them roll over in the water is also neat. As the naturalist told us (and we were extra lucky to have one of the on-board whale experts, who was there for research reasons, be the guide for our zodiac)...the whale are just as curious about us as we are about them. And, of course, in some locations, penguins will quickly glide by the zodiac.
National Geo sent naturalists (in coordination with whale watcher boats in the area) to "find" whale, then one group of zodiacs visits and the scout zodiac stayed, while the groups of zodiacs changed for the next group to come see the whales. Very organized...and soooo appreciated by us to enjoy once-in-a-lifetime experiences so easily.
You just "have to" do a helicopter trip over Antarctica "for me." Last week we were just looking at photos of a helicopter trip we took over the Napoli (sp?) coast in Hawaii, then the waterfalls a bit in-land. Then another over the volcano. We NEVER would have had those views from land, I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to have the views over and along the coast of Antarctica. Of course, if you had to choose that OR zodiacs, that would be a tough choice. Hopefully you can do BOTH.
Mary, I am just truly soooo excited for you!!!!
Reading the exchange re: Africa keeps that on our bucket list. Our visit to the continent was just Morocco (as a few days after Spain)...technically been to Africa, but not really in most people's eyes, since have not yet done the stereotypical Africa trip....safari, etc. Maybe someday................
It is so much fun to read about everyone's travels and plans on this Forum. Great group of travelers, and some really seasoned ones at that. Thank you all.
@Maggie What a wonderful encounter for you! Those serendipitous moments with a wild creature are truly so memorable. It is the reason we go to these far flung places. In planning for our remaining travel years, these will be the trips that we will take. We flew in a helicopter over the Napali (sp) coast and the Grand Canyon in Kauai many years ago and it was absolutely breathtaking. We will always remember it. I agree with your previous comment that it is those memories of our past travels that have sustained us through the isolation of the pandemic.