Ever dreamed of setting up camp in one of the most remote places on earth? If you’re an outdoor enthusiast or an adventure go-getter, then camping in Antarctica could be a real adventure for you.

Many people choose to visit Antarctica so they can tick the 7th continent off their bucket list. But it’s not just about stepping foot on the White Continent. There are optional activities that your Antarctica expedition cruise will offer once you get there, such as the polar plunge, sea kayaking and….camping on the snow.

Camping in Antarctica gives visitors the chance to stay overnight and experience the stunning beauty of this icy continent. Imagine sleeping under the star-filled sky (depending on the time of year), surrounded by breathtaking views of impenetrable glaciers and snow-capped mountains. There’s something incredibly humbling about being so close to nature, so far away from the usual hustle and bustle of everyday life.

While the idea of overnight camping in such an extreme climate can be daunting, with the right preparation and a few tips, you could have one heck of an Antarctic adventure!

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Important things to note about camping in Antarctica

The briefing

Your expedition team will provide a mandatory briefing on the risks and safety measures to consider before setting up camp. This is your chance to get familiar with your camping gear, as well as any other necessary equipment you need for overnighting in Antarctica, and to ask any questions you may have.

Weather conditions

In Antarctica, the weather can change drastically within minutes; so always keep in mind that you’ll need to be prepared for all types of weather if you’re planning on camping overnight. You also need to prepared that the camping excursion might be cancelled at the last minute due to changeable weather.

IAATO regulations

Antarctica is a fragile environment. IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators) regulations specify the need to be aware of the Antarctic environment and your impact on it. Always respect wildlife and never approach animals too closely as this can cause them distress. Make sure you stick to designated paths (this is also for your safety), and aim to disturb the environment as little as possible.

This means no campfires, and no leaving litter behind!

Penguin at camp site

What to bring when camping in Antarctica

Other than your camping equipment, there’s not a lot you should be bringing with you. Your camping gear will consist of a:

  • sleeping mat
  • sleeping bag
  • bivy sack or tent

Bivy sacks are used as alternative to tents. They’re sleeping bag shaped and offer a little extra protection from the elements than just a sleeping bag. You’ll also want to bring something you can use as a pillow (such as a travel pillow or soft hoodie).

To keep warm, you should wear one or two merino wool base layers (two if you run cold). A mid layer, insulated jacket and outer waterproof shell jacket. On the bottom, as well as base layers, you should wear a mid layer and waterproof ski pants. A beanie and warm gloves are also a must.

You can bring your camera gear, but if you’re bringing a tripod you’ll need to make sure it goes through the inspection process before you’re allowed to take it on shore.

No matter the time of year, always bring sunscreen and chapstick. The sun reflects off the snow, making it incredibly strong without you realising. And yes, I know it will be night but most likely it’ll still be bright.

Don’t forget a bottle of water but be mindful of the toilet situation before you drink a lot!

Tip: fill your insulated water bottle with hot/warm water to keep you warm throughout the night.

What NOT to bring when camping in Antarctica

The main rule here: no food or drinks, other than water, on land. Antarctica is a food-free zone. This goes for all types of food. In the event of an emergency (getting stuck on land for a longer period of time), the expedition crew have emergency gear with them, as well as radio contact with the boat.

We had heard of a previous group who had to stay on land for over 24 hours because bad weather meant the zodiacs weren’t safe to come and get them. The survival gear was only used on this occasion.

My Antarctica camping experience

My Antarctica camping

We didn’t know exactly what night our camping would be until the last minute. Like every other Antarctica activity, it was weather dependent. The evening before, we were told that it would ‘most likely’ be the following night.

The next day, we were called to the lounge so we could make our ‘sushi rolls’. No, not some snacks we could bring with us! These were in essence our camping mat, sleeping bag and bivy sack, all stuffed into each other and rolled up as tight as possible. This way, once we got to our camping area, we’d just need to unroll and get in!

Tip: Bring luggage straps or something similar to keep your ‘sushi roll’ tied together.

The campers were all called to dinner before everyone else and the restaurant team made a big fuss over us, sending us on our way nice and full for the evening.

After dinner, we headed to the zodiacs to bring us to our camping location – Jougla Bay. One problem… it was raining / snowing (sleeting?). I always knew I was going to do it. I wasn’t going to back out. But, man, I wished it was dry!

I was on the third zodiac out and, can you believe, by the time we reached land it had cleared up. No rain, no snow, just the incredible polar landscape waiting for us.

Antarctica camp site
Our camp site in Antarctica

The expedition team had set out the boundary for our camping spot. For the safety reasons, we weren’t allowed outside these boundary poles. It was a huge area, but most people had situated themselves near the toilet facilities (portable toilets hid behind makeshift snow walls). Luckily I have a bladder of steel so I knew I wouldn’t be needing to get up throughout the night to go. I also didn’t want to be hearing others peeing all night!

Camping in Antarctica briefing by team
Photo by Espen Mills

After a group photo, a quick briefing by the expedition crew and saying goodnight to all, I headed to the far end of the boundary poles with just a few others, unpacked my ‘sushi roll’ and settled into the landscape. We could hear the creaks, groans and squeaks from the penguin colonies nearby, as well as thunderous sounds of snow crashing down nearby glaciers.

Camping in Antarctica group photo
Photo by Espen Mills

Despite these sounds, the Antarctic night was incredibly still and peaceful. It was bright all night all. The sun dipped a little but it was never dark. I knew I wouldn’t sleep that night as I’m a terrible sleeper at the best of times, but it didn’t matter.

After getting into my sushi roll, I just closed my eyes and rested for a few hours. And, get this. I was never cold. The combination of polar sleeping bags, many many layers and hot water in my flask kept me from freezing all night.

From around 4am, I opened my bivy sack and just sat up admiring the view. A few curious penguins waddled their way over to our group, then continued on their way. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the day!

Penguin getting close to a camper in Antarctica
Penguin getting close to a camper in Antarctica

In the morning, we packed up our gear and headed back to the zodiacs. I felt truly humbled and grateful for the incredible experience I had just had. We had time to spare before breakfast so I headed straight for a hot shower.

How much does camping in Antarctica cost

The camping experience varies in price from ship to ship, but ours cost around $400 USD. This includes all the equipment you need for the evening, such as your sleeping bag and mat and a bivy sack.

It’s worth noting that some cruise ships have more luxurious camping experiences with tents provided instead of bivy sacks.

Camping on Antarctica FAQs

Can you camp in Antarctica?

Yes, you can camp in Antarctica. However, it’s important to note that your expedition company will need a permit and you’ll be accompanied by an experienced guide on your camping expedition.

Is it worth camping in Antarctica?

Yes! Camping in Antarctica is an unforgettable experience and one that will stay with you forever. You will be able to witness the beauty of the polar landscape, hear some of its wilder inhabitants, as well as having a unique opportunity to spend time outside of your cruise ship.

Is camping in Antarctica safe?

Yes, camping in Antarctica is safe so long as you are with an experienced guide who knows the area. You will also be provided with all of the necessary camping equipment, including sleeping bags and mats, to ensure your comfort and safety through the night.

What should I bring when camping in Antarctica?

When camping in Antarctica, you will need to bring warm layers to wear, as well as a sleeping bag and mat. You may also want to bring a flask of hot water. Additionally, you should pack sunscreen and sunglasses for the day time, as the sun is very strong in this polar region.

Camping in Antarctica briefing by team

Camping in Antarctica: The Verdict

I’d recommend camping in Antarctica to anyone up for the ultimate adventure and willing to face the elements. As long as you have all the necessary gear, and follow all of the expedition team’s rules, you’re sure to have a truly remarkable experience. Do it while you can!

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