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7 tips for your first polar expedition

Getting ready for your first trip to Antarctica or the Arctic is unlike preparing for any other trip. Here are seven top tips to help you get the most from your first polar adventure.


1. Get kitted up

Of course you’ll need plenty of warm clothing for a trip to the polar regions. The key is to pack layers as outdoor temperatures vary and you can get quite warm when walking on the landings and cold while sitting in the Zodiacs. Thermal underwear and base layers are needed when you’re spending time outside and micro-fleeces are ideal to layer up. On your trip you’ll likely be provided with a thick coat so you won’t need to bring your own – check the trip notes to find out.

Pack more than one pair of gloves in case you lose one or they get wet. Silk liner gloves underneath waterproof gloves work well and fingerless gloves as an under layer are particularly useful when operating a camera. Take sun glasses and sun cream for sun protection. Finally, in the high season it’s light for most of the day so an eye shade is useful to get to sleep, though most cabins have black-out blinds.

2. Get travel insurance

It’s vital that you get good travel insurance as you’re probably going to some of the most remote areas in the world. If you’re going on a trip that includes activities like sea kayaking, make sure that your policy covers this. Also, ensure that the full cost of your holiday is covered as many policies are capped, so you may need to extend your policy to cover the full value of your trip.

3. Take a dry bag

Unsurprisingly, it can get quite wet in polar environments due to all the ice! Take a dry bag with you to protect important items like memory cards, small digital cameras and phones from getting wet and damaged. Not only will it be useful when you're out on Zodiac trips, it will be invaluable if you take part in sea kayaking. A large dry bag can also be used to store your larger camera equipment.

4. Ensure you’ve got all the camera equipment you need

Taking photos in polar environments is different to any other place in the world. You’ll likely need different settings, due to the brightness of the white landscape, so do your research and don’t forget a polarising filter. When it comes to kit, the cold conditions demand extra preparation. Batteries run down much faster in cold temperatures so you’ll need lots of spares (keep them warm in your jacket pocket or inside socks). You’ll also need lots of large-size memory cards, as you’ll be taking a lot of photographs and you won’t want to be taking your gloves off to replace memory cards when you’re out on the ice.

We recommend taking a telephoto lens, or hiring one. It can double up as binoculars and will be invaluable when you see wildlife from the ship, like whales or polar bears. Don’t forget a lens cloth to keep your lens clean and free from saltwater, which can leave marks and affect your photos.

5. Take some entertainment

Polar expeditions involve lots of long journeys at sea so you’ll need things to keep entertained, like books and mobile devices. On-board all our ships, presentations will be run by the expedition crew during the days at sea. It’s useful to bring along a journal too so that you can keep track of your wildlife sightings and document your amazing experience.

6. Pack seasickness remedies

At some point of your journey you’ll probably need some seasickness tablets, especially if you’re crossing the Drake Passage, which infamously has the choppiest waters in the world. Motion sickness may not be fun, but trust us, it will be worth it for your once-in-a-lifetime experience in the polar wilderness.

7. Keep active

You don’t need to be super-fit for a polar tour as walks on the landing sites are fairly easy-going. However, you do need to be mobile enough to lift yourself in and out of Zodiacs and to walk around on the ice. We’d recommend upping your exercise before your trip to reach a decent fitness level for your holiday.


Ready to book your first polar adventure?

Discover our range of once-in-a-lifetime polar tours, from polar bear watching in the Arctic, to walking through penguin rookeries 100,000 deep in South Georgia, and discovering Antarctica in depth.