Polar Essentials Guide

Prepare for your expedition to the polar regions

Here we answer your questions about travelling to the polar regions, and provide you with detailed information on what to expect from your upcoming expedition. We recommend you read it carefully to prepare yourself for your voyage.

Polar Essentials Guide

 Download our Polar Voyage Essentials Guide to learn more about what to pack, ship information, environmental guidelines, health & medical information and frequently asked questions

What to pack

Dressing in the Polar Regions

Your choice of clothing during the voyage will largely depend on your tolerance to cold climates.

Polar temperatures in summer are similar to most ski fields in winter. If you are a skier, your ski clothing will be perfectly adequate; as long as it is thoroughly waterproof. Under your waterproof layer, you will need between two to four insulation layers depending on the day. For example, thermal underwear, jumper, polar fleece and waterproof jacket and/or AE Expeditions waterproof 3-in-1 jacket provided.

Onboard Attire

Our vessels are air-conditioned and the temperature on board is generally between 15°C (59°F) and 25°C (77°F). When on board, dress is informal. Normal clothing usually consists of jeans or casual trousers, and light long-sleeve T-shirts or jumpers. Lightweight walking shoes with good grip are ideal to wear on board the ship and on the outer decks.

Complimentary Polar Expedition Jacket

Each passenger will receive their very own AE Expeditions’ waterproof polar jacket to use during your voyage.

The 3-in-1 jacket is designed to be worn over your essential base layers and provides a versatile layering system suitable for the conditions to be encountered on our polar expeditions.

Both pieces offer sophisticated expedition styling and have been customised exclusively for AE Expeditions, complete with an included ‘drop seat’ design on the back of the jacket, allowing for additional comfort when sitting in Zodiacs.

Your jacket will be ready and waiting for you in your stateroom when you board for your expedition.

Please note: Jackets are unisex and are designed to be an oversized fit to allow for easy movement and layering underneath.

Polar expedition jacket

The Layer Principle

The layer principle has been proven to demonstrate that wearing several light layers of clothing is recommended over wearing one heavy layer. Between each layer there is trapped air which when heated by your body acts as an excellent insulator. See information below.

Polar Packing Checklist

You will receive a complimentary AE Expeditions polar expedition jacket at the start of your expedition. However, you are welcome to bring and wear your own jacket if you wish. We offer complimentary loan of Muck boots during the voyage. We recommend that if you have difficult sizing requirements to please speak with our expedition experts prior to your voyage to ensure we can accommodate your needs.

Waterproof Trousers: A light pair of waterproof nylon trousers is critical for keeping you warm in wind, and dry on the Zodiac.

Polar Fleece Jacket: A 200-300 weight fleece is ideal, or another warm jumper would be suitable.

Warm Trousers: Ski, tracksuit or polar fleece pants are suitable to wear under your waterproof trousers. Jeans are not suitable to wear as an under layer.

Thermal Underwear: Medium to thick thermal underwear, leggings, long-sleeve shirt, and socks are essential. Polypropylene fibres are warmer when wet than silk or wool. ‘Sportwool’ – wool sprayed with synthetic is also ideal. We recommend singlets, three tops and two bottoms minimum.

Woollen Jumper: Ideal to wear as an added layer over your polypropylene thermals.

Socks: Bring a mixture of thick and thin socks to test for the best combination to keep your feet warm.

Gloves & Mittens: A pair of polypropylene or woollen gloves covered with a waterproof glove such as ski gloves or industrial fleece-lined rubber gloves. We recommend you take two pairs.

Headwear: Please bring your preferred choice of headwear to keep your head warm. We recommend a beanie or a cap with earflaps. A neck warmer or scarf is also essential for protecting your neck and face.

Sunglasses/Ski Goggles: Are essential to protect your eyes from the UV rays. We recommend you take two pairs of sunglasses in case of breakage or if a pair is misplaced, and attach sunglass strings to keep them secure. Ski goggles are useful if you have them but are not essential.

Footwear: Warm comfortable shoes for onboard the ship. Make sure they have good grip for the outside decks. Slip on shoes or moccasins are ideal for indoors. For health and safety reasons, please wear enclosed shoes in public areas while onboard the ship.

Fly/Sail & Fly/Fly Voyages: If your voyage commences with a charter flight from Punta Arenas to Antarctica, it is important that you have a waterproof/windproof jacket to get to the ship after disembarking the flight in King George Island.

Other recomended items:

  • Waterproof daypack for landings
  • Dry bag or plastic bag for camera
  • Binoculars: to get the most out of the incredible wildlife-viewing opportunities during the voyage. Please bring your own binoculars. You are welcome to use AE Expeditions’ supply of binoculars on board the ship, but they are limited to use on the Observation Deck
  • Camera and accessories
  • Spare batteries and memory cards for camera
  • We suggest you bring a laptop for image processing; there are limited public computers to use 
  • External hard drive for storing downloaded images and other data
  • USB stick to share photos with fellow passengers
  • Collapsible hiking poles, depending on individual needs
  • Sunscreen and chap stick
  • Moisturiser for wind and / or sunburn
  • Glasses cord for prescription glasses and sunglasses
  • Extra prescription glasses or contact lenses
  • Ear plugs (especially if you are sharing a stateroom)
  • Sleep eye mask (great for plane travel and for ice camping)
  • Watch – to keep track of landing return times
  • Swimsuit (for sauna, jacuzzis/plunge pools and Polar Plunge)
  • Double-adapter for multi-charging
  • Personal toiletries (Bodywash, shampoo, conditioner, and handsoap is provided in each stateroom and refilled throughout the voyage)
  • Sea sickness medication
  • Personal medication – we recommend carrying this in your hand luggage at all times 
  • Personal first aid kit. An onboard medical clinic is available whenever you need it
  • Small flashlight
  • Pocket-sized notebook and pen
  • Pack of playing cards or other travel games

Health & Medical Information

All voyages operated by AE Expeditions are staffed by a doctor experienced in remote and expedition medicine. Our onboard medical clinic is well equipped to handle most medical illnesses or injuries that may occur.

Medical appointments with our onboard doctor are available free of charge for the initial consult. You will then be advised if costs are applicable for subsequent appointments. Any consultations related to those exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 will be prioritised and onboard medical treatment will be free of charge.

As supplies are limited it is important you bring your own personal medical requirements (e.g. medication, dressing, etc) with you. We suggest you pack all medications in hand luggage and carry a duplicate supply in the checked luggage. If you wear prescription glasses or contacts, bring an extra pair.

Motion and sea-sickness

Not everyone feels the affects of sea sickness. Some people are very lucky and don’t feel a thing. Others can feel ill for a day or so, but a select few are more prone to the effects of not being on dry land. The good news is that seasickness can often be avoided if managed early, and it usually doesn’t last more than a day or so.

A few simple remedies can help:

  • Keep your eyes on the horizon
  • Facing in the direction of the travel helps some
  • Try not to change direction too often
  • Keep eating – small amounts, regularly, is best
  • Try to remain hydrated by drinking plenty of water or perhaps soft drinks if you prefer, and pease avoid alcohol while you’re experiencing sea-sickness
  • Try to stay active and, if possible, get outside in the fresh air
  • Do not read if you are feeling unwell
  • If all else fails, lie down with your eyes closed, and have dry crackers, or biscuits, a bottle of water, and whatever else you fancy, beside your bed

What medication to bring

The use of medication can help prevent or treat seasickness. Common medications include:

  • Promethazine (Phenergan, Avomine)
  • Hyoscine (Kwells, Travelcalm, scop patches)
  • Meclizine (Antivert)
  • Cinnarazine (Stugeron)
  • Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine)

Most medications can cause sedation and dry mouth. However, at low doses, this effect is often minimal. Please note: Prochlorperazine (Stemetil) or Metoclopramide (Maxolon) are not effective for managing motion sickness.

Alternative therapies

With years of trial and error, our passengers and staff have found that alternative therapies such as ginger tablets, pressure point or acupuncture bands are not effective on their own, particularly if the seas happen to be rough. We recommend you bring a supply of medication as a back up.

When to take the medication

Generally, we recommend using some form of motion or sea-sickness medication for the first 24 to 36 hours, and then see how you feel. Most people usually get their ‘sea legs’ after this time. The tablets should be taken early rather than waiting until you feel very unwell, as by this stage, they are no longer well absorbed by the stomach. With the morning dose, take medication while still in your bed, and allow it to work (e.g. wait half an hour) before getting up.

Sun protection

The sun in the polar regions is very strong and sun protection is essential. The glare from the snow and ice can be intense, even on overcast days. Regular application of sunscreen and lipscreen (minimum SPF50+) to exposed parts is essential to avoid sunburn. A dab around the nostrils is also a great idea as burnt nostrils, from reflected UV radiation, are very painful! Sunglasses with a good UV protection rating are also essential to prevent eye irritation or snowblindness. Remember to attach a cord to your glasses to prevent loss – we recommend carrying a spare pair of glasses in your luggage, just in case.

Dehydration and ‘Polar Hands’

The atmosphere in the polar regions can be very dry, with low humidity, so it is important to drink enough water. Also, the skin on your hands in particular can get very dry and develop small cracks around the fingertips. We recommend bringing a small (35 g) tube of moisturiser to use when required.


All travellers should be up-to-date on routine immunisations, including:

  • Tetanus/diptheria vaccine (ADT). You can now have a ‘Boostrix’ that also includes a whooping cough vaccination for adults.
  • Influenza vaccine. This is available yearly and could help to prevent spoiling your holiday of a lifetime with a flu infection.

Please consult your General Practitioner for further information. If you are travelling to South America either before or after your Antarctic voyage, please check the advised immunisations for those countries.

Environmental Guidelines - Respect and Protect

Our main objective is to ensure that our expeditions are carried out with the utmost consideration for the fragile ecosystems, local cultures and cultural remains; while ensuring safe operations at sea and on land.

  • Our expedition team have expertise and extensive experience in the destinations we visit. Please listen to and obey the instructions of our expedition team to ensure the safety of yourself, your fellow passengers, and the environment around you. 
  • • Make note of Zodiac return times, to ensure others are not waiting for you.
  • Life jackets are to be worn when you are on the Zodiac at ALL times.
  • Wash your Muck boots before and after every landing to avoid spreading diseases. Please ensure your clothing is clear of any foreign seeds and soil before you board.
  • AE Expeditions strictly enforce guidelines set by IAATO and AECO, requiring all passengers to keep a minimum of five metres away from all wildlife, including birds. This rule also applies when photographing animals. If an animal approaches you, you are required to retreat. Special care is needed when animals are breeding or moulting.
  • In the Arctic, polar bears are potentially dangerous animals. It is of utmost importance that you follow our expedition team’s instruction. Please do not stray from your group. • Do not feed, touch or handle any of the wildlife. If you find an injured animal please advise an expedition team member.
  • Please keep noise to a minimum to avoid disturbing and frightening the wildlife. This also makes for a more pleasant experience for fellow passengers.
  • During our landings, please be aware of plant life. Look before walking and hiking, and avoid stepping on any vegetation, including moss beds or lichen-covered slopes. Do not pick any flowers or other plants. Even Antarctica has precious flora that is important to the region’s ecosystem.
  • Do not touch or remove any items on shore including rocks, bones, eggs, fossils, driftwood, artefacts and parts or contents of buildings.
  • Do not walk onto glaciers or large snowfields without proper equipment and experience; there is a real danger of falling into hidden crevasses.
  • NO food on shore (to avoid the spread of disease).
  • Do not leave ANYTHING ashore – take all your litter with you. Be careful when using tissues as these can easily fall out of pockets and spread foreign disease amongst the wildlife.
  • Please refrain from spitting ashore as this can also spread foreign diseases amongst wildlife. • Use handkerchiefs or tissues to blow your nose and make sure you don’t leave anything ashore.
  • AE Expeditions has a strict no drones policy on board our expeditions. In remote wilderness areas visited on our voyages, the use of drones has a negative impact on local wildlife. Drones that malfunction can crash and pollute the pristine environment, injure wildlife, may not be retrieved and could possibly be consumed by and harm or injure wildlife. Please do not bring drones with you on an AE Expeditions voyage.
  • Please be respectful of historic and cultural sites and monuments, or any artefacts associated with them. In some areas a zone of 100 metres around the remains is also considered a protected zone – our expedition team will advise you of any restrictions.
  • Some areas may have ongoing scientific programs; these areas are strictly out of bounds. Do not interfere with or remove scientific equipment or marker posts, and do not disturb experimental study sites, field camps or supplies that we may come across.
  • When on board do NOT throw anything overboard, including cigarette butts. Please use garbage bins provided.
  • If your voyage is visiting any local communities, please remember that you are a guest. Respect the local people and their culture. Please ask before photographing any local people. AE Expeditions make every effort to ensure our visits are positive for these local communities by offering food, educational and general supplies.
  • And remember – ‘Take only pictures. Leave only footprints.’

We can’t wait to have you join us!

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