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HomeSpitsbergen informationArctic traveling – some practical hints → Equipment recommended for expedition

Equipment recommended for expedition style cruises in polar regions

It always depends somewhat on the occasion… (Antarctica!) normal to warm weather conditions …

Hannah Point

… certain state of mental disrepair has to be assumed.

Deception Island

For more, detailed information: the Guidebook Spitsbergen-Svalbard

Guidebook Spitsbergen-Svalbard

If you join a cruise, the company will provide you with detailed informations about the voyage and the equipment you need. Please read these informations carefully – good preparations are the foundation for the success of your journey!

Being frequently asked about the subject, I want to offer my opinion regarding clothing and some basic guidelines:

Clothing is a very personal issue. Under the same conditions one person might feel well in light clothing and the next one freezes despite of a warm jacket his ass off (oops… sorry!). In the end, you have to decide yourselves what works for you and what doesn’t.

  • Usually you will not encounter temperatures way below zero. In Svalbard, for example, average summer temperatures range from +1 to +6°C. But depending on wind, possibly absent sunshine and your (in)activity you may experience the temperatures as colder (wind chill). On a calm and sunny day (not everyday conditions!) you may indeed feel quite hot. Greenland’s protected fjords can be quite warm, Antarctica tends to be a bit colder. South Georgia is often very windy (well, it can be windy anywhere, but there even more so).
  • The layer principle is always good. Weather conditions change quickly, and maybe at first you spend a while in a zodiac (inflatable rubber boat) under rough conditions without moving, then the bright sun comes out and you go and climb a little mountain. Thus you should always be able to adapt quickly. Using several layers enables you to add or remove another sweater which you can then store in a little daypack which you should always have with you.
  • The uppermost layer should always be wind- and waterproof (even in sunny weather – splashwater during zodiac transfer!). Modern outdoor clothing with breathing membranes is good, but for short landings cheaper rainwear will usually do the job.
  • Always have gloves, scarf and a wooly hat with you – at least in your daypack. An old Inuit saying goes like “If you have cold feet, cover your head”. It’s true! A spare set of gloves can be useful in wet conditions. A lighter pair of fingered gloves will still enable you to handle binoculars and camera.
  • Jeans or similar are useless.
  • Protect your camera gear against weather and splash water!
  • Don’t underestimate sun radiation in high latitudes – always use sun cream and good sunglasses!
Rainproof gear is good, sunshine is better

Rainproof gear is good, sunshine is better.

  • Shoes are sometimes an issue. I use always wellingtons (wellingtons, rubber boots – is there any difference…?). But not the cheap ones may you use in your garden – get solid hiking rubber boots with good soles with deep profile. Please – if you spend several thousand € for a trip, don’t try to save a few bucks on crucial equipment! They are much better than most people think, I have used boots like that for my longest day trips (up to 40 kilometers) without getting blisters. Take rubber boots a number larger than you would at home to allow for a thick extra pair of socks.

I personally like to wear something like this during shorter hikes and boat-based trips in the summer (May-September):

  • first a layer of thermal underwear.
  • Solid Gore-Tex-pants are always good.
  • A warm pullover and a Gore-Tex jacket.
  • I always carry a little daypack with scarf, woolly hat, gloves.
  • Sun cream, good sunglasses.
  • Always good, solid hiking rubber boots.


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last modification: 2019-01-31 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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