My biggest fear with my Arctic expedition was the kit list and clothing. I wanted to make sure I got it right to give me the best chance of staying warm. It’s worth getting your head around gear early on so you have plenty of time to get yourself organised…
You might also be interested in reading my other Arctic advice guides:
– How to go to the toilet in the Arctic…and other useful advice
– Top tips on how to manage the cold on Arctic and Polar expeditions
– Preparing and training for pulling a pulk
Arctic expedition packing list
Like with all expeditions, the less you take, the more comfortable your journey will be. On our expedition, we experience temperatures as low as -32 and 40mph winds so the kit was really put through its paces.
Some of the personal technical gear I hired directly from the expedition company I was with, Turgleder. That included:
- Ski poles
- Ski goggles
They also provided some of the sleeping gear:
- Expedition 3 man tents (we slept 2 to a tent)
- Inflatable Mountain Equipment 4 season roll mat in addition to a foam roll mat
- 5 season Marmut sleeping bag
As well as all the group kit we would need such as ice drills, shovels, Thermos and Primus cooking stoves.
Accessories & luxuries
- Sleeping bag silk liner
- Dry bags; Exped Dry Bags
- Head torch: Petzl Tikka & spare batteries
- Cup and spork
- Nalgene 1 Litre (acted as a hot water bottle at night and a drinking bottle in the day)
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Baby wipes (split into batches of 10 in sandwich bags so they can be easily defrosted)
- Olympus Tough Camera & spare batteries
- iPod shuffle
- Battery pack
Note for the ladies: I took a Shewee but never used it. While some people in the team used pee bottles for the night, my preference was to just go outside.
Electrical items work but the batteries go quickly so anything you take you will want to keep close to your body heat.
Arctic clothing guide
I learnt quickly that having lots of layers on doesn’t automatically make you warm. It’s more to do with clever layering and ensuring you have air in your layering system so it has the space to work efficiently.
Let’s start with base layers and underwear. I used Armadillo Clothing Merino wool for my base layers and they were comfortable and very warm. I didn’t bother with a bra but the others in the team brought sports bra (1 for the entire trip). This is what I took:
- 2 x men’s Armadillo Boxer shorts
- 2 xArmadillo Jillies
- 1 x liner gloves
- 2 x liner socks
- 2 x Armadillo Artemis top
- 1 x Kojak Liner Hat
- Buff; Armadillo Giraffe Long Neck
For the mid layers:
- fleece leggings; Rab Power Stretch Pants (I changed into these for camp and sleeping)
- pullover fleece; North Face Cornice Fleece (I didn’t take this off once as I also slept in it)
- A thin down gilet; Men’s Altus Vest (this was a bit of a luxury item but I found it surprisingly warm and comforting in the evenings)
- 3 x Armadillo Heavy boot sock
- Fleece buff (for evening and night)
For the outer gear, I used a hire company called UK Expedition Kit Hire. The gear that they provided was good but it’s worth noting that I found the company and staff here very unhelpful (not least because I got dumped with a bill for a repair that wasn’t my fault). From them I hired:
- Salopettes (make sure you get a pair with a bum flap to make going to the toilet so much easier!)
- Waterproof jacket
- Down trousers (which I didn’t use once!)
- Expedition gloves
- Wooly hat with ear flaps
What to wear in the Arctic and how to wear it
On a 2 week expedition, I took just 2 sets of underwear and base layers which I changed 7 days in. Some people prefer to have a set of base layers that they wear in the day and then a dry pair they put on in camp. I just kept the same set on, only switching them for a new set at the end of the first week (that was a nice moment!)
When I was skiing on the move I would wear my base layers, a fleece jumper, salopettes and waterproof jacket. My thick gloves and liner hat would usually be on all the time and I would regulate my temperature by taking my big hat on and off, my buff on and off my face and also using the chest zip on my jacket. I was never cold on the move, even at -30. In fact, the biggest worry is getting too hot as you can sweat which will cause you to get cold.
Every time we stopped for a break or as soon as we reached camp, I would grab my down jacket and put it on over my waterproof jacket (make sure it is big enough to fit over all your layers).
Once the tent was up and I was unpacked, I would take off my salopettes and waterproof jacket and would put my fleece trousers and down gilet on for the evening and night. I really liked having a fleece buff for use at camp and I’d put this over my face at night as my nose was always cold.
On the first night, I wore all my layers (even my down jacket) to bed. When I stripped off to just my base and fleece layers the following night I was noticeably warmer. If you need the extra warmth at night, wrap your down jacket loosely around you in the sleeping bag…this is especially good for women to do in the hip area where they are more likely to get cold.
Want to find out more?
The plan for our Norway Arctic expedition was to cross-country ski the length of the Finnmark Plateau. It didn’t go to plan…find out why. You might also want to check out 5 ways the Arctic changed me. You can also see more photos from this expedition on my Instagram page.