What to Wear to the Arctic
The choice of clothing for cold climates is a very personal matter. It depends on your individual experience with cold conditions and can even depend on whether you feel you are more susceptible to the cold than other people.
The following tips should help you to be comfortable and healthily warm in cold weather. We have found over the years that there can be considerable variation in weather from summer to summer and people often say to us that they didn’t use all their cold weather clothing. But it is certainly better to have more than not enough warm clothing.
Spitsbergen is well north of the Arctic Circle. In summer, the average air temperatures in the areas we visit are between 10°C and -5°C. There is considerable climatic difference between the west and east coasts of Spitsbergen. The west coast is swept by the Gulf Stream so the climate is mild and moist. In summer, the temperature varies between 3°C and 10°C, the skies are often overcast and it is not uncommon for rain to fall. The east coast is a polar desert where the skies are generally clearer and the summer temperature varies between -5°C and 5°C.
Those who complain, ‘It’s not the cold, it’s the wind,’ are right! Wind removes the layer of warm air your body has heated around you to keep itself warm. A mere 6 kph wind can carry away eight times more body heat than still air. The so-called wind-chill factor measures the increased cooling power of moving air, whether it’s wind that is blowing over you, or your movement through the air.
Being wet accelerates the loss of body heat. Air is a very poor conductor of heat, but water is an excellent one. If your skin or clothing gets wet, your body will lose heat much more rapidly. Even at 10°C, you can suffer ill effects of cold if you are wet. In other words, avoid overdressing as this leads to perspiration.
Body heat is most likely to be lost from where we have most surface area in comparison to total mass – namely, the hands and feet. Keep them warm and dry and you will be much more comfortable in a cold climate.
If all the rest of your body is covered, as much as 90% of the heat you lose can come from your head; so be sure to wear a cap, beanie or balaclava.
For anyone out in the cold, it’s far better to wear LAYERS of relatively LIGHT, LOOSE, CLOTHING than one thick, heavy item. Between each layer there is trapped air which, when heated by your body, acts as an excellent insulator. Avoid tight clothing, since it leaves no room for trapped air.
WOOL and SILK are superior to cotton; because they can trap warm air. Synthetic fabrics that spring back into shape after compression are also good (i.e. polypropylene). When damp or wet, polyester is a better insulator than goose or duck down.
The temperature on board the ship is between 17°C and 25°C, so there is a big drop when we venture outside to get into the Zodiacs and travel ashore. The most important layer is the waterproof outer garment.
Each passenger aboard our polar expeditions will receive an expedition jacket when you board the ship. Designed exclusively for Aurora Expeditions, the 3-in-1 jacket offers sophisticated expedition-styling and both the inner and outer jacket include all of the important features for travelling to the polar regions, complete with an included ‘drop seat’ allowing for additional comfort when sitting in Zodiacs.
Your jacket will be ready and waiting for you in your cabin when you board your expedition.
- Waterproof, breathable outer shell (600pu waterproofing, and breathability of 8,000grms)
- Waterproof front zipper with handy storm flap on the inside and an anti-chaffing zipper garage at chin
- Two zippered fleece-lined hand warmer pockets
- Drawcord-adjustable drop-tail hem seals in warmth and cuts out wind
- Articulated sleeves for easy movement, even with multi-layers
- Adjustable, fleece-lined hood with laminated visor for good visibility in poor conditions
- Microfleece-lined back of neck and wind flap for next-to-skin comfort
- Fleece-lined pockets with coated, watertight zippers reduce bulk and are easy to access even when wearing a lifejacket
- Full-reach gusset panels under the arms and articulated sleeve panels make layering easy and comfortable
- Easy-to-use velcro cuff tabs
- Lightweight synthetic fill polyester shell inner jacket provides great warmth-to-weight ratio
- Two zippered hand warmer pockets have clean-finished zipper garages; zippered internal chest pocket
- Wind-resistant for comfortable wear without the companion waterproof shell
Polar Jacket FAQs
I already have a jacket, can I get a refund or order as a gift?
Our jackets are a complimentary gift and therefore you will not be entitled to any refund. If you do not wish to keep the jacket for yourself, you are welcome to order a different size (however please note sizes cannot be changed on board due to change of mind).
What if the jacket doesn’t fit – can I change it on board?
We will have a very limited range of extra sizes on board if your jacket is too small.
What colour are the jackets?
The outer jackets have a blue body and grey arms. The inner jacket is dark grey.
What size should I order?
We suggest ordering a size that you normally wear for jackets. If you are unsure, we suggest you order one size up. Our friendly reservations team are also available to help.
Can I try one on before I order?
We have samples of all sizes at our Sydney office. You are welcome to visit us to try it on for size.
For more information, please contact us.
Underneath that you will need three and in some instances four layers depending on the day – thermal underwear, thick long sleeve shirt, jumper or fibre pile jacket. Your legs are generally not so susceptible to the cold but on most days you would also need thermal long johns.
Arctic Packing Checklist
Using the principles explained above, your wardrobe for an Arctic voyage should consist of the following check list:
- Waterproof Trousers – A pair of light waterproof nylon trousers are critical for keeping you warm in a wind or in the Zodiac where you might get splashed and when it rains.
- Fibre-Pile Jacket – There are many choices of fibre-pile (polar fleece) jackets available these days, but a 200 – 300 weight is ideal. If you do not plan to spend a lot of time in the outdoors after the trip then you may be better advised to bring another warm jumper rather than buy a new fibre-pile jacket.
- Warm Trousers – Ski, tracksuit, or fibre-pile pants are suitable or even woollen army pants.
- Thermal Underwear – You should select medium to thick thermal underwear; long sleeve thermal top, trousers and socks. Polypropylene fibres are warmer when damp or wet, than silk or wool, although the CSIRO has recently developed a fine wool product called Sportwool, which is sprayed with a synthetic, thus combining the value of both fibres.
- Woollen Sweaters – Thin ones are a good layer over your polypropylene underwear and are useful onboard.
- Inner sole for gumboots – They will keep your feet warmer when sitting in the Zodiac for longer periods.
- Socks: Two pairs of socks and your inner soles in your gumboots are more than enough to keep your feet snug. It is advisable to take thick and thin socks, as thick ones are too warm on board and you can work out the best combination for your gumboots, as too many socks can restrict the circulation. It is a good idea to take at least 4 pairs of thick socks in total just in case you get a boot full of water.
- Mittens & Gloves – These are another very important item of clothing, as cold hands make you feel miserable. To keep them warm a pair of polypropylene or woollen gloves covered with a waterproof mitten are fine. A spare pair of gloves should always be carried in case your first pair gets wet. We stress that it is important to have several pairs of gloves. A pair of fingered gloves under the mittens make camera handling easier. Some people find a large pair of rubber washing up gloves very good for keeping hands dry in the Zodiac. Ski gloves are also very good and thick fleecy-lined rubber gloves used in freezers are great.
- Headgear – You will need a woollen cap or beanie that can be pulled down to protect your ears and forehead. These items are also available in a polypropylene or polartec material, so a combination of these fabrics work well. The neck also needs protection with a woollen or synthetic scarf that can be wrapped around the face, when travelling against the wind. A turtleneck is a very good item made from polartec it slips over your head to protect your neck.
- Ship Attire – Note that dress on the ship is informal. You may wish to bring something outrageous for the Captain’s drinks, but leave your formal gear at home. Normal clothing on board is jeans, casual slacks or trousers, light long sleeve shirts or t-shirts and the parka should never be far away in case the call of ‘Walrus or Bear’ comes over the loudspeaker and you have to dash outside. Lightweight walking boots are handy to wear on the ship and some people like to take them ashore on occasions.
- Useful Sundries – A waterproof nylon backpack, rucksack, or similar bag for carrying your camera and other gear during shore excursions. Be sure to choose one with shoulder straps so that your hands are free, when boarding the Zodiac. It is very important that you have some way to keep your camera dry (perhaps a garbage bag), particularly while you are on the Zodiacs.
- Good quality sunglasses – Note that the glare from the water and surrounding snow/ice can be quite penetrating, even when the sky is overcast. These glasses do not have to be glacier glasses, your normal sunglasses will suffice but we find polarized sunglasses to be the most effective. Tinted ski goggles can also be useful especially when the conditions are windy and snow or sleet is blowing in your face.
- A pair of binoculars – There is a supply on board, but it is highly recommended to bring your own pair.
- A standard European two round pin socket – The electrical supply on board our ships is 220 volts, 50 hertz. Please bring a converter if your devices uses 110 volts. International electrical sockets are available in your cabin and throughout the ship. If you have many devices, it is advised you bring a multi power board.
- Earplugs – These may be useful if sharing a cabin with a snorer.
- A stretch clothesline – Very handy for drying wet clothes in your cabin and if you plan to hand wash your smalls.
- Ski pole or walking stick – Definitely useful when walking over snow or ice.