Packing redux

A post about how my packing worked out.

I always have a hard time packing for weather that I’m not in right at that very moment, and this was the ultimate “hard to imagine what I’ll feel like wearing” trip. It was mainly a case of making sure I had the right layers.


Here’s the post where I first detailed my packing list, if you want to look back: Layers, layers, layers

So how did it all work out? Did I pack the right things?

Nano puff jacket. (Patagonia Nano Puff) Never really needed this. I brought this onto shore on all our landings just in case, so it was nice to have something that packed down small. Jeff wore his as his outer layer a few times on the deck of the ship instead of the big yellow parka.

Ski pants. (NorthFace insulated ski pants) Perfect. Kept me warm and dry, no complaints.

Fuzzy warm fleece jacket. (Patagonia Los Gatos fleece jacket) I didn’t really need this. It just wasn’t that cold.

Hiking pants.  (Prana Halle pant) These are what I wore on the ship between landings and on sea days. I’d just switch out of the ski pants into these, over a pair of long underwear.

Gloves. (Freehands photo gloves—these ran really small so I needed a large.) My photo gloves were perfect. Kept my hands warm and I loved being able to just let my index finger and thumb peek out to work the camera controls. I had a backup pair of waterproof gloves with me but never needed to use them. I also packed some Smartwool liners, thinking these might be good for working the camera and still protecting me from the cold a little, but I never wore these.

Long underwear bottoms. (Patagonia capilene) Two pair of Patagonia capilene, one cap 4 (expedition-weight) and one cap 3 (medium-weight). Two pairs was plenty. I washed them out in the sink a couple of times. They did a great job of keeping me warm and dry. I definitely worked up a sweat on some of the hikes, and the long underwear never even felt damp.

Long underwear tops. Two Patagonia tops, one cap 3 and one cap 2. Same as with the bottoms. Great performance, dried fairly quickly when I washed them out in the sink, too. Two tops were enough.

Fleece. (Basic fleece from the Gap that I’ve had for years, so no link.) I wore this as my top layer onboard the ship, and then wore the yellow parka (which also has a fleece lining) over it when I was outside. Plenty warm outside in these layers.


The three of us hanging out on the bridge of the ship.

Fleece-lined wool hat. Worked great. Sometimes was hot when I was hiking, so I’d take it off and put it in a pocket.

Polar buff. (Fleece buff) Could be used in lots of ways, but I never used mine even once. Jeff wore his as a hat/face covering as you can see above.

Sports bra. (Under Armour sports bra) So glad I had this. Like I said, I broke a sweat on several hikes, so it was nice to have wicking material next to my skin.

Smartwool ski and hiking socks, plus liners. (Smartwool) Never needed the liners. The smartwool socks were plenty warm on their own.

Underwear. I packed enough for a new pair everyday without needing to wash any on the trip.

Swimsuit. For the polar plunge!

Sunglasses, two pairs. In case I lost one.

Hiking shoes. These are the only shoes I brought. They worked well for hiking in Tierra del Fuego NP in Ushuaia and had good traction for wearing on the ship’s deck.

I also packed a pair of jeans and a couple regular long-sleeved shirts for wearing before & after the trip. If I’d really needed the space, I could’ve skipped these, but there was no reason to, as I had plenty of space in my pack.

So that’s it for my clothes. We packed everything in soft-sided luggage (backpacking packs) because we weren’t sure what space in our cabin would be like. As it turned out, there was space under the beds, so we could’ve stored hard-sided suitcases there with no problem.

Other things I packed:

Hothands hand warmers. Never used these.

Vicks. I’d read that penguin poop really stank, so I brought this to put under my nose to kill the smell. But I never really noticed a bad smell other than on one landing (Neko Harbour), and even then it wasn’t bad enough that I felt like I needed Vicks.

Sunscreen. Besides that the snow is reflecting the UV rays, there’s a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica. The good thing is, you’re so covered up in clothes that really the only exposed skin is your face, so you don’t need a ton of sunscreen.

Phenergan, SeaBands, Dramamine. I was determined to be prepared for whatever the Drake threw at us. In the end, only the phenergan helped me at all. I was so glad to have this!

Woolite travel laundry soap. These are what I used to wash out my long underwear in the sink.

I think that’s everything. In a real pinch you could probably buy everything you really needed from the ship’s gift shop, although you wouldn’t have many choices. But they did seem to stock all of the essentials, so if you forgot something, you wouldn’t be completely out of luck.

Final preparations

We leave in just a few days.

I’ve been making the final preparations. I’ve paid Argentina’s reciprocity fee. $160 fee per person (for U.S. citizens), paid before you leave, because we charge Argentinians $160 to enter the U.S. So we have to show the receipt at customs when we enter, and then it’s good for entry for 10 years.

I’ve booked airport transfers coming and going. We have to change airports in Buenos Aires from the international to the domestic airport.

We’ve practiced packing to make sure we have everything we think we do.

We are meeting my uncle, who we are traveling with, at the hotel in Ushuaia.

Layers, layers, layers

Final documents from Quark include a “pre-expedition briefing” in PDF form, which opens with a list of six things to remember, like that you must have a passport valid for at least six months after the trip, you must confirm whether you need a visa to enter Argentina, you must book your own flights to/from Ushuaia, and you must bring waterproof pants for wearing in the zodiacs. LOL. Passport, visa, flights, waterproof pants. Check.

Let’s talk about layers. It seems the general advice for clothing in Antarctica is 3 layers on bottom, 4 layers on top. Plus stuff for your extremities. The average daily temperatures are reported to be between 25 and 35F, but it can be very windy. It can also snow/blizzard at any time, and there are the zodiac rides to contend with (splashes as you cruise to/from land). The water there is 28 degrees F, btw. (Did I mention that they offer a polar plunge?)

Staying dry and warm are the two main issues. I want to have as many options for layering as possible. So here’s what I’m bringing. I did buy a lot of new stuff for this trip. I basically used it as an excuse to upgrade all my ski stuff, which was all old and bought with no research (it was before the internet!).

To start with, Quark gives us the jackets. We will all get these big bright yellow jackets, which have a zip-out fleece liner. So the outermost layer is taken care of. They also loan us the waterproof boots for wearing on landings, so we don’t have to worry about that.

clothes for antarcticaLeft to right, top to bottom.

Patagonia nano puff jacket hoody. This was my biggest debate—hood or no? I settled on hood b/c even though it looks goofy (elastic around the face) it’ll go over my hair even if it’s twisted up, something a hat cannot do. And I wear my hair twisted up a lot. This jacket is SO thin and it packs up into its own pocket, yet it is SO WARM. It’s also prima-loft, which is synthetic, so it still keeps you warm even if it gets wet, unlike down. So this can be an outer layer or an insulating layer.

Insulated ski pants, waterproof. I went back and forth about whether to do insulated waterproof pants, or rain pants + fleece pants (plus long underwear with either). In the end, vanity won out, b/c I like the look of the ski pants a lot more than the rain pants that I was willing to pay for. (Note: there were some $450 rain pants—no joke—that were more stylish but hello they cost $450 so no.)

Warm fleece. Crazy soft and makes you want to keep touching yourself. And I mean that in the most wholesome way possible. Also very very warm. Most likely too warm to wear as a layer on land with everything else, but will be nice for hanging out on the ship.

Water-resistant hiking pants. For hanging out on the ship.

Gloves—two pairs of waterproof ski gloves (one of which are photo gloves where you can pull back the index and thumb tips so your fingers can work the camera controls) and a pair of smartwool liners.

Long underwear bottoms, Patagonia capilene. I debated between synthetic and wool when researching, but when I went to the Patagonia store it was an easy decision. The merino wool versions cost twice what the capilene versions cost. These come in 4 different weights, 1 being the lightest, silk-weight, and 4 being expedition-weight. I went with one cap 4 and one cap 3.

Long underwear tops, Patagonia capilene. I originally bought two capilene 3 tops, but after wearing one up at Keystone in single digits and being *plenty* warm, I decided to switch out the second one for a cap 2 weight, to have more options.

Fleece-lined wool hat. I bought this in Iceland the first day there when I was freezing. It’s toasty.

Polar buff. Like they wear on Survivor! Except this is a polar version, which has a fleece part at the neck. This can be worn in lots of configurations as a scarf, hat, balaclava, etc.

UnderArmour sports bra. Hot pink b/c it was the cheapest color on Amazon. Seems comfy, has wicking ability, gives me giant uniboob. But with so many other layers, I don’t even think it will be noticeable.

Fleece. Your basic fleece. Not much else to say about this one.

I just realized I left out the socks…will be bringing one pair of smartwool ski socks, two pairs of smartwool hiking socks, and a pair of sock liners. I’ll also bring a few pairs of regular socks.

I will also bring a couple of long sleeve shirts, a pair of jeans. Pair of sneakers for wearing on the ship. Two pairs of sunglasses.

After we get back, I will post an update about how well this worked out and what I’d do differently.

Getting closer

Patagonia Store on Pearl Street, Boulder, CO

The Patagonia store in Boulder, where I did a bunch of shopping over Christmas

So with T minus 17 days until we depart for points south, I feel simultaneously like I’ve got things under control (we have the stuff we need) and like I’m racing against the clock to prepare (making sure everything fits, making sure everything does what we think it will do, yada yada yada). I can’t believe this trip is happening so soon. That it’s happening at all. That in less than a month I am going to be in Antarctica, with icebergs and penguins and seals and whales.

About to do our trial run-through of packing to make sure we’ve really got everything we think we have. Temperature-wise, it doesn’t sound that bad. Temps mostly in the 30s and 40s on average. But windiest place on earth. I’m packing a lot of things I don’t usually wear. I’m going to do a packing post soon detailing exactly what I am bringing.

I’ve got a few photography-related things still to organize. My plan is to download cards at least once a day to two drives. I will shoot on dual cards in each camera but may have to reuse cards. I have a total of 352gb of cards–4 x 64gb, 2 x 32gb, and 2 x 16gb. I’m hoping to leave every image on at least one card until we get back, even if I have to reuse one of the cards in a pair.

I don’t plan to process much of anything while we’re there. Won’t be time for that. But I’ll probably pick a handful of photos to process for sharing on FB if I can manage to get an internet connection and to share with the passenger slideshow that I have heard about.

How we’re getting there

To get to the southernmost city in the world, we are taking two flights. I chose the route that was the most direct as well as the fastest. I wanted to have the fewest chances for things to go wrong, flights to be delayed or canceled, luggage to get lost, etc. We’ll be flying from Houston to Buenos Aires (10 1/2 hour flight), then from BA to Ushuaia (3 1/2 hour flight).

We’re flying in two days before we are supposed to be there. I’m hoping that gives us plenty of time for dealing with airline delays that may crop up or for lost luggage to catch up with us.

Best case, we’ll get a couple of days for sightseeing in Ushuaia before we head south.

Two months until we leave!