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Aim, Focus, Shoot - The HyPyC blog
What to Wear on an Antarctic Cruise – Part 1 – Base Layer

What to Wear on an Antarctic Cruise – Part 1 – Base Layer

Clothing is an extremely important consideration when travelling to Antarctica – The white continent experiences extreme weather conditions and some of the coldest temperatures in the world. Not wearing the appropriate clothing could mean you do not make the most of your trip as you may not be able to endure prolonged periods of time exposed to the elements. Furthermore you may be at risk to frostbite if your skin is not properly covered, or just general discomfort.

Temperatures in the summer months (When cruises take place) will be around 0 Degrees

The base layer is the layer next to your skin and should be soft, comfortable but still give your skin room to breath. This is obviously a rough guide and you should adjust things as you see fit, but these are the items I bought and they served me well - The brands I bought may not be available in all countries, but you should gain a good idea of what items of clothing you need, below is a brief summary:

  • Thermal Socks x2
  • Normal Socks x5
  • Thermal Leggings x1
  • Thermal top x1
  • Woolen gloves x1
  • Polartec Powerstretch hat x1

Feet - Thermal Socks with normal socks underneath

Base Layer - Socks

For footwear I packed 5 pairs of normal everyday socks to wear underneath and bought two pairs of Thermal Socks from a Tog 24 shop in my local town. The socks were made of Merino wool which is great for temperature control, and cost £6.95 per pair. I preferred to wear normal socks underneath together with the Thermal socks as I have fairly small feel so the additional layer gave me some extra padding as well as warmth - You may find you may not need to do so. As my actual time on the Antarctic Peninsula was 6 days I didn't feel more than two pairs of thermal socks were needed - If you were doing a longer cruise then maybe so. I found that keeping my feet warm was really important - We were provided with good quality rubber Wellington boots so the dual layer of socks gave a soft cushioning layer.

Legs - Thermal Leggings

Base Layer - Leggings

To warm my chicken legs I opted for the "Toast" thickness of thermal leggings from Tog 24's TCZ 100 range - There was a thinner option but I preferred to play it safe and go for the thicker pair for that little extra warmth - A pair of these were £29.95, which I thought was reasonable for the quality. The leggings worked really well underneath my waterproof trousers and were comfortable at the same time. Some people buy thermal underwear and I did consider this, but after some research and reading other peoples advice, I decided it wasn't really necessary. Some of my friends on the trip wore jeans in-between their thermal layer and their waterproof layer - I found that the thermal leggings and waterproof trousers were more than enough and kept my legs really warm and dry against the cold Antarctic winds.

Torso/Upper Body - Thermal Top

Base Layer - Thermal Top

For my rippling torso (lolz!) I used a matching top to the Tog 24 TCZ 100 leggings, again in the "Toast" thickness which is just that little bit warmer and thicker. A single top was £14.95 and I still can't figure out why the top was so much cheaper than the leggings, any ideas? I wore the thermal top ontop of one of my thin white T-Shirts, and underneath one of my checkered shirts and expedition Parka (The Parka was provided by G Adventures). As with my other items of clothing, I could have potentially brought 2 tops but I didn't feel the need for it, I didn't get all hot and sweaty so the top stayed relatively clean and fresh. On a couple of occasions I just wore my thermal top and the Parka - I found that when the sun was out, Antarctica became quite pleasant, and when we were hiking, the extra t-shirt and checkered shirt made me hot. I would advise to always wear a thermal top, and add or remove other layers depending on the landing conditions.

Hands - Thin Woolen Gloves

Base Layer - Gloves

A base layer for gloves really comes down to the individual and the conditions at the time. I bought two pairs of thin woolen gloves from my local indoor market for £1 each – I have always used these kinds of glove; they are cheap, but still decent quality and quite thin so you still have flexibility and movement in your fingers. Depending on the temperature and what you are doing, you may or may not want to wear a pair of gloves such as these underneath your outer layer gloves. If you are planning on doing a great deal of photography, then you may want more flexibility and just wear your outer layer gloves. As it turns out I only wore my outer layer gloves - wearing a base layer glove would have been overkill and I would not have been able to use my camera at all.

Head - Polartech liner hat

The head is one of the areas that loose heat the quickest therefore it is really important to cover up properly. In the past I have often caught colds due to not covering my head properly - My vain side would push through and I would resent wearing a hat in order to not mess my hair up! Luckily I am older and wiser now so bought a Polartec Powerstretch hat for £12.95 to properly cover up my noggin. This hat worked wonderful underneath my trusty Windstopper hat and also felt comfortable on my ears; the winds really battered my head so keeping the hats pulled down over my forehead and ears helped greatly.

Base Layer - Hat

Layers are the key

So, how much did I spend on my base layer clothing? The items came to £73.83 in total – I don't think that is too bad considering the relative quality of the items and how comfortable and warm I was – You can't put a price on your own comfort especially when travelling to an extreme landscape such as Antarctica. Please don't go on a trip like this without a base layer - A layering method of clothing is proven to be beneficial and I have not read any articles that suggest otherwise.

  • Thermal Socks - Heavyweight Merino - £6.95 x2
  • Thermal Leggings - TCZ 100 Toast - £29.99 x1
  • Thermal Top - TCZ 100 Toast - £14.99 x1
  • Thin Woolen Gloves - £1.00 x2
  • Polartec Powerstretch Hat - £12.95 x1

I hope people will find this guide beneficial – When I started looking for what clothes to buy for my trip I found it a daunting task – What did I need? Is that too much? Will I be warm enough? Will it all fit in my suitcase? Hopefully this list gives a good outline of the base layer items required for a trip to Antarctica – As I have stated, just use this as a guideline, what you may actually need to wear could vary depending on the temperatures and weather conditions you encounter when on the white continent.

Sat on a viewpoint in my thermals at Neko Harbour

After experiencing the Antarctic weather I can honestly say that a base layer is a 100% must - The conditions can change so quickly that if you go out on a landing with not enough clothing on, you could be in a world of pain. Literally one minute it can be calm with no wind, and the sun can be out; that can suddenly change to pounding winds, poor visibility and heavy snowfall. A solid base layer will put you in good stead for any condition!

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