Arctic Cruises – What to pack

Arctic cruises do not always require huge amounts of specialist clothing or gear, just a few carefully chosen items can keep you warm and dry.  Temperatures during the summer months range from -15°C to 4° C (5°F to 40° F) so a good mix is essential.

Leave tight clothing at home.  Bring with you wool, silk or synthetic fleece clothing that leave room for your body to breathe and for air to get trapped between the layers, this is what will keep you warm.  Wind chill and wet are what cause you  to loose body heat so if you get hot and the perspiration cant get out you’ll get cold, so don’t overdo the clothing either.

Things that you shouldn’t be without

The essentials that you’ll need to pack to get the most from your Arctic cruise don’t just include clothing.  Just the same as any trip there are things that you shouldn’t be without, leaving out the obvious such as passport, tickets and money, on the list should be:

  • A good pair of sunglasses with U.V filtering.  For those who wear contact lenses also bring a pair of glasses as the wind can cause irritation.
  • High factor sun cream for both your face and lips.  Even when the sun is not shining the glare from the water, ice and snow can cause bad burns.
  • Camera, spare batteries and charger, binoculars, with waterproof cases or sealable plastic bags.  Temperature and moisture affect any electronic items so if you have room a back up camera or a waterproof alternative is a good idea.  Also remember that batteries ‘die’ much quicker in cold weather so keep your camera warm and take it out only when necessary.  Whether you are using film or digital recording media always take more than you think you’ll need and if you’re really travelling light and can afford to take your laptop downloading your images has to be the best idea.
  • Regular medication and seasickness remedies.
  • Waterproof daypack


Informal, practical clothing is all that’s needed, even for a pre or post tour overnight stay in a city hotel.  The essentials are:

  • Thermal underwear – Long silk or polypropylene garments are lightweight and warm.
  • Socks – Firstly a pair of silk or polypropylene under socks with a long pair of wool ones over the top.
  • Polo or Turtlenecks – Good as a base layering item
  • Sweater or Fleece – Medium weight garments, sweaters from wool or polar fleece.
  • Trousers – Jogging bottoms or ski pants are ideal, flexible to go over thermal underwear but light and warm.
  • Woollen or fleece hat – One that offers protection for your ears is a good idea along with a scarf.  A hat is one of the most important items as a lot of body heat can be lost through your head.
  • Gloves – Thin polypropylene gloves underneath a pair of woollen mittens is advised.  Taking photographs in gloves is almost impossible so this enables you to keep your hands warm.
  • Waterproof trousers – Ideally ones made from Gore-Tex or breathable fabric although the nylon coated ones are sufficient.
  • Waterproof jacket – A lightweight wind and waterproof insulated jacket with plenty of room.
  • Boots – Rubber waterproof boots at least of calf height for landings.  They should have a sole with good grip.

Apart for the very outer items such as boots, jacket and trousers it’s best to bring at least two pairs of everything because invariably they will either get wet or need washing and there’s always one sock that goes missing in the wash.

This information is just an overview. Travel to Arctic and Antarctic areas requires careful preparation and appropriate clothing and equipment. Please make sure you obtain relevant information from your tour operator or travel agent, and seek advice to ensure that your gear is fit for purpose in the areas you intend to travel. Good luck.

Related posts:

  1. Greenland Cruises: Exploring the Arctic Seas
  2. Spitsbergen Cruise Holidays – Arctic Adventure
  3. Arctic Cruises – What to Expect

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