Base layers are key to staying warm when you're in the Arctic, both top and bottoms, as they trap air close to your body. As we like to say, 'dress like an onion', and add and subtract until you strike a happy medium.
We recommend you don’t wear cotton, but instead choose merino wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers, as they retain body heat far better.
On top of one or two base layers, add a jumper or fleece layer, before your outer weatherproof jacket.
Bring a weatherproof outer 'shell' comprising both a jacket and waterproof trousers. A decent gore-tex or skiing jacket is ideal, and for the waterproof trousers, skiing pants work really well.
The vast majority of boats will provide you with a jacket and some will also provide waterproof trousers. Check in advance what you will need to bring yourself.
Gloves & socks
Hands and feet are the first things that get cold when out on Zodiac excursions, so a combination of both thin and thick socks and gloves is a great idea.
Key to warm hands and feet is keeping them dry. Waterproof boots are provided by the boat, but make sure your gloves are either waterproof or bring a pair of rubber gloves to protect them from splashes, as fishermen have been doing for decades.
Bring a second pair of gloves just in case - there's nothing worse than putting on wet gloves for an afternoon excursion!
What kit will be provided?
Most ships provide rubber insulated boots to guests for the duration of the voyage, and a few also offer complimentary parka jackets. These are decent bits of kit, often with a high neck to keep out the wind, and a zip in fleece inner layer. Please check the 'Prepare For Your Voyage' documents or your original confirmation email to see what’s provided on your vessel.
When choosing your parka jacket sizing we suggest choosing one size larger than you would normally. The same goes for your rubber boots. Try on your jacket and boots straight away - if an item isn’t quite right you can always swap it.
Pack some clothes in your hand luggage in case your luggage gets lost, then you can still enjoy your expedition. Pop them into a vacuum pack style bag, squeeze the air out and place it in your carry-on. We recommend a waterproof jacket & fleece (if your ship isn't providing them), waterproof trousers, gloves (thick + liner), a hat, a couple of pairs of socks and underwear and a set of base thermals, as well as your photography equipment and binoculars.
What our customers think of What to wear in the Arctic
Have some comfy shoes for walking round the ship. Prepare to want to go back! Read the full review
Travelled: June 2022
Helen Starkie Camejo - UK
We always suggest that you still take a warm coat with you, either a micro down jacket or a good softshell. This will be a useful extra layer when you are on board and perfect for anytime on land before or after your cruise.
Relaxed, leaning towards casual and comfortable. People typically dress in a mixture of outdoor/walking attire or whatever they tend to wear at home. Bring what you will be comfortable in, and dress so that you are ready to dash outside at any moment to spot wildlife swimming past.
In the evening, especially on the more luxurious ships, some people may put on a collared shirt or make a bit of an effort, but there’s certainly no whipping line. You do need to have closed toe footwear on board. Open toed sandals or flip-flops are not allowed for safety reasons.
All ships are very warm inside; you could wear shorts and a t-shirt if you wanted. The laundry service on all ships is typically efficient and inexpensive, so you won’t need to bring an excess of clothing.
Visit a reputable, local outward bound store where you’ll have access to good free advice and can try items on before purchasing.
Yes, definitely - the collapsible poles are ideal and don't take up much space. Even having just one pole can be really useful as a third point of balance.
If you are on a land-based expedition then you will definitely need walking boots and it is essential that you have taken time to wear them in before the trip.
On a ship-based expedition, in our experience people with walking boots use them for the first landing and then forget they have them in favour of the rubber boots provided by the ship. If you intend to do lots of walking, then it may be worthwhile, but you should ensure that they are waterproof and well insulated.
Flat rubber-soled shoes are best, particularly for the icy outer decks, so trainers are perfect.
A backpack will allow you to take off and store layers if you start overheating during landings.
We strongly recommend using a fully waterproof dry bag-style backpack (with shoulder straps) for splashy zodiac rides as your bag will be on the zodiac's floor and also keep your hands free while walking on land.