Packing for Antarctica. What worked. What didn’t.

I did a lot of research on what to pack for this trip since you can’t really run out to the nearest store to pick up something you left at home.  Here are just a few of the links that I found helpful in preparing for the trip. (The most detailed list I found)

They go over the basics like bring layers, a warm hat, extra batteries, etc.  All good advice which we followed and were very comfortable for our trip.  I won’t go duplicate the good work they did but I will go over a couple of items that we found indispensable.

One of our favorite pieces of gear were our muck boots.  This advice was courtesy of the The Traveling Richters blog.  The Arctic Sport Hi-cut by Muck Boots are the ones I would recommend.  They are very warm, comfortable and are great for hiking around antarctica.  They are pretty big and are difficult to pack but it’s worth finding a way.

Another must have items is a nice pair of clothes.  I had one pair of ice climbing gloves that were supposed to be made to handle cold and wet environments.  They didn’t work well at all and were stuffed back in the bag after the first day.  The best gloves (especially for photographers) are the OR Meteor Mitts.  They come with a removeable fleece liner with flaps that can be pulled down so you fingers are free to work a camera.

Next most important thing is to keep your head and face warm.  The Loki Liner Hat did the trick for us.  The big red parka is the other piece of gear that we grew fond of.  It is supplied by Lindblad is one of the warmest winter jackets we’ve ever worn.  We will be keeping them for quite some time.

Onto the camera gear.  Apologies for bad iphone photo but all my other cameras were all laid out trying to find their way into one camera bag.

Gear list:

  • Canon 5D mark II
  • Canon 7D
  • Canon 30D (converted to infrared)
  • Canon G11
  • 24-105 F4
  • 70-200 F4
  • TS-E (tilt shift) 24mm
  • 100-400mm
  • Sigma 10-22
  • 1.4x extender
  • 580 EXII flash with ST-E2 transmitter
  • Remote camera triggers
  • Gitzo 2524 tripod
  • Really Right Stuff ballhead
  • Nikon MONARCH X 10.5×45 Binoculars
  • Nikon MONARCH 10×56 Binoculars
  • Hyperdrive Colorspace UDMA backup drives X2
  • Blower, battery charges, cleaning cloths, misc camera stuff
  • All packed into a Gura Gear Kiboko backpack (best camera bag ever)
  • Large Cabela’s Boundary Waters dry bag backpack.  I bought this based on a recommendation from because he used this bag in Antarctica to put his Kiboko in when doing landings on the Zodiac. From my experience, the dry bag is not necessary.  The Kiboko can easily repel whatever little amount of water may get splashed over the side.  The Cabela is a nice bag but its overkill for this trip.

Yes, it all fit… barely.  The Kiboko can really hold a lot of gear.

If I were to go back to Antarctica I would only do a few things different from a camera gear perspective.

1) I would bring a laptop.  Normally, I don’t travel with a laptop because I’d rather enjoy the destination rather than spending time at a computer editing photos.  However, for a trip like this it’s worth it because you can get critics from the photo experts on board.  They also had a photo gallery at the end of the trip were you could show off your work.  Basically, everyone just setup their laptop in the lounge and put their photos in slideshow mode for people to look at.

2) I would bring a Canon 500mm F4 lens.  The 100-400mm lens I brought is a fantastic lens but there were times when the light was low and the wildlife was far off.  The extra 100mm and 1 more stop of light would have helped me a get a few shots I couldn’t have got otherwise.  The 500mm is massive lens but it wouldn’t be to much of a hassle because it would be most useful when shooting from the ship.

3) I would have used my tripod more often for creating panoramas.  I did many hand held panorama shots and a lot of them turned out well but I would have got more keepers if I took the time to setup on a tripod and do a proper pano.

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2 Responses to “Packing for Antarctica. What worked. What didn’t.”

  1. Mark Baumwell says:

    Did the Canon G11 do well in the cold? I am agonizing over whether to get one for a trip in January 2012 (well by this time, I’d get a G12). I would get a waterproof housing for the G12, since I would use it as a SCUBA camera afterwards.

    Reviews of the Canon 60D imply that they aren’t weatherproofed enough to handle cold/wet/rain/salt. But, I have to decide on a 60D vs. a Nikon 5100 which also may not do well in the cold (both would be Costco buys, so would be returnable if I didn’t like them).

    I am a very amateur photographer, but Antarctica is a one time trip most likely, and expensive, so I don’t want to mess up by bringing the wrong gear!

    Any help would be appreciated, even a short paragraph.


  2. nathan says:

    The G11 (and the G12) are great cameras and I’ve used the G11 all over the world and they are still holding up fine. I’m actually in Antarctica again right now so I can give you my current experience. Travel to Antarctica can be brutal on gear but the issue is more with moisture, rain, salt water than cold. Several cameras from other guests got wet from the rain and splashes from salt water and died but this was usually due to negligence.
    A waterproof housing for the G12 would be good if its raining and you might be able to get some half in/out of water shots on zodiac cruises but getting a simple rain cover for an SLR would also be ok. Most of the pro/semi-pro guests all had some type of covering for there camera. The ones that didn’t take these precautions had camera problems. Some had a simple $10 plastic bag from B&H or the $100 variety from Kata or other top camera bag companies. So, my advice (if you can afford it) is to get both the G12 and an SLR but get a simple rain cover for both. A shower cap could even work in a pinch. The G12 is great to have in your pocket ready to go and bring the SLR out with a rain cover when you need. It’s also good to have a backup just in case one of your cameras die. If you can only afford one then I’d go for the SLR and just take care especially during zodiac landings and during the rain. If you take these simple precautions you shouldn’t need to worry. Just enjoy your trip and shoot lots of photos. You will enjoy…

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