The priority when packing for an expedition to a cold-weather destination is to load up on outerwear. Waterproof jackets and pants aren’t enough; the key to staying warm enough in a cold weather destination is in the accessories.
Here are my picks for the top items to pack for an Arctic expedition—to keep warm and keep you and your electronics properly functioning:
1. Boots. The No. 1 question we often hear from travelers heading to the Arctic: Do I really need to bring rubber boots? Emphatically and without question, yes! If you forget to bring everything else with you, rubber boots that go at least mid-calf are the single-most important item to pack.
When you leave the ship and go ashore via Zodiac landing craft, you will have to step into icy-cold water at the shoreline. Sometimes the water level is higher than your ankle, so you’ll want taller boots. And oftentimes I hiked in those same boots—some travelers opted to change into their hiking shoes, but I didn’t want to tote the extra items—so make sure yours are comfortable.
Still not convinced? Then just imagine the fun I would have had in short shoes after inadvertently stepping in a rather deep pile of bull walrus dung at Poolepynten on Svalbard!
2. Extra gloves. I brought two extra pair. Even waterproof gloves seem to get wet, and no matter how hard you try to keep them dry, they’ll likely get wet during the Zodiac rides.
3. Sunglasses straps. If you’re prone to lose sunglasses (as I am—I always bring an extra pair), attach a strap to them. I remember one afternoon when we were on deck in Alaska’s Inside Passage, a few whales were spotted offshore. I whipped off my sunglasses to look through my binoculars, not even giving a second thought as to where the glasses went. I figured it out quickly—when something under my boot crunched (yes, making me 0 for 2 for stepping in or on things I shouldn’t have).
4. Hand and foot warmers. After an hour-long hike on the soft tundra, followed by some time waiting on the rocky shoreline for our Zodiac commutes back to the ship, my extremities started to feel icy. I tore open a few eco-friendly hand warmers and popped them into my boots and gloves. They made the late-afternoon chill much more bearable.
5. Energy bars. Shivering burns calories. So, if you’re a light eater, you could find yourself a little hungry in between meals. Stashing an energy bar or some trail mix in a pocket is a good tide-over snack.
6. Always-charged camera batteries. Make sure to recharge batteries each evening before bed, or bring extra batteries that will last for the duration of your trip. Some batteries lose juice quicker in cold environments.