Packing For Antarctica

In Antarctica, GEAR, Travel by David40 Comments

If there’s an upside to jetlag, it’s productivity. I was up all night so I packed early. Nothing to do now but sit on my thumbs and wait. On Sunday, Nov. 25, I fly to Toronto, then Buenos Aires via Santiago, then on to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, the far southern tip of South America. I’ve got a couple days there to acclimate, do some exploring with a friend, and meet our team of 5 before embarking for the Drake Passage and Antarctic waters. Can hardly wait. For the curious, here’s what I’m taking in my one carry-on and one checked piece:

Carry On, in GuraGear Bataflae 32L

1x Nikon D3s body, batteries, charger
1x Nikon D800 body, batteries, charger
CF / SD cards, cardreader
24mm T/S
Filters and filter holders
11″ MacBook Air
1 x SSD Drive
Microfibre lenscloths (lots of them)
Sensor cleaning kit, Blower
Notebook, pens
Passports (2)
iPhone, charger, spare battery
, Bose in-ear headphones

Kindle, with a couple books about Antarctic exploration
Medical Insurance up to date
MedJet Assist Evacuation Insurance up to date

Checked, in Rimowa Aluminum.

Gitzo Ocean Traveler Tripod
Cable release
2x Patagonia long underwear bottoms
2x Patagonia long underwear tops
4x Icebreaker merino underwear
2x Icebreaker merino T-shirts
2x Filson Long sleeve shirts
2x Icebreaker merino Sweaters
1x Patagonia Rain Jacket
1x Patagonia Rain pants
1x Patagonia guide pants
1x Patagonia Down Vest
2x Jeans
1 x Outdoor Research Balaclava
1x Icebreaker merino tuque (wool hat)
2x sockliners
4x Icebreaker merino wool socks, medium weight
2x Patagonia wool socks, heavy weight for rubber boots
2x thin glove liners
1x Patagonia ice climbing gloves
1x Black diamond fingerless mitts
1x LaSportiva approach shoes
Black Diamond trekking poles
Sm. Med Kit
Spare glasses and sunglasses
6-outlet power-strip

Last year I told everyone I wouldn’t be posting from the ship and then found out I could buy satellite access and managed to stay in touch with some regularity with postcards. In the end I think I posted more from that trip than many others. Shackleton would be baffled. I’ll do my best to do the same this year. See you there!


    1. Author

      Yes, it will. I love my D3s bodies and reluctantly bought the D800. Different layout, different batteries, and files that are bigger than I want, but what I really want is a 24 megapixel pro-body (D3x) from Nikon that doesn’t cost $10K, and that’s not going to happen soon… So the D800 it is. I want larger files for my fine art prints, but this is a bit of a monster. I don’t think I mentionned it on the blog. That stuff seems less and less relevant, especially as I’ve no real reaction to it yet.

      1. Robert

        People keep saying that, about the high MP count and the file size. In reality, the storage is so cheap these days that I don’t consider the file size as a valid argument. The processing is another story. I think a lot of older machines will bite the dirt when trying to crunch that much data. How does your MacBook Air handle them? Intel’s i5 is a nice processor, but I’m curious how the “lightweight” platform performs as a whole. I doubt you can do much of serious processing, even ignoring the screen size. Good for backups and random previews, I’d imagine.

        The visual technology are moving in the direction of detail and high megapixels. It appears that the still cameras sensors have stalled in the teens for a while and 20+ MP is the new standard. In the meantime, motion picture technologies have reached out all the way to 33 MP already, with the 8K UHD standard. I can’t tell how (un)common that extreme standard is, but guess what? The D800 doesn’t have enough horizontal lines to fill the frame, in case someone dreamed up an 8K timelapse video. Just the geek side of me is saying so, to put things in other perspectives.

      2. Robert

        Have you tested your body for AF problems? Many early bodies had back focusing issues affecting the left side AF points due to faulty calibration data. You might want to keep that in mind, if you haven’t checked for it.

    1. Author

      Thanks Doug. You’ll find the Like button at the bottom of the post. It’s there. :-)

    1. Author

      My inner Paul Nicklen wishes I had a dry suit and a chance to get in the water. But then my outer David duChemin is glad he doesn’t. :-)

  1. Sandy Silva

    There’s that great camera bag…I put it on my Xmas list let’s see if Santa brings it…..I do BELIEVE…..:)

    Safe travels my friend, can’t wait to see the magic you find….



  2. Byron Will

    All the best with your upcoming adventure. I’m guessing that your 16-35 f/4 has been with you for some time and is working fine, but I came across an unusual problem with my new one with long exposures at high ISO.

    If you have time, I posted a report about my travails and you can read about it here:

    It’s easy to test. Hate to see red streaks/bands in your low light, high ISO long exposures! I went through 3 more at my local camera store before finding a good one. Glad they were very helpful, and had them in stock.

    Have a wonderful trip!

  3. Michelle Wilson

    I leave for my Antarctic trip on the 5th with a sailing date of the 8th. Perhaps I will see you in passing on the docks. I look forward to your posts. Safe travels……

  4. Steven Denfeld

    YOU BOUGHT A D800???!!!!!

    Actually, yeah, you’re right, David… who cares! :)

    It is fascinating to me that you are traveling to flippin’ Antarctica, arguably the last truly wild place left on the planet, with only two pieces of luggage. Shackleton would be baffled, indeed!

  5. Radoslaw Komuda

    11″ MacBook Air, right? :)

    And, David, you’re spoiling me with yet another packing post! Have a grat time there and be sure to send all of us, readers, a postcard!

      1. Radoslaw Komuda

        Inspired by you, I wanted to get a Pro. The Air now, huh? Things may still change before I get myself a proper camera so… keep us posted with next packing lists, David! 😉

  6. Yves

    Hi David!

    Can you tell me how much your two bags weigh? On my next trip to Antartica, I have a weight limit to 20 kg because of a small plane flight. Thanks!

    Et BON VOYAGE!!!


    1. Author

      Yves – More than 20Kg, but I’ve not got a scale here. I imagine I could get it down more if I removed the tripod and a pair of shoes, a couple pieces of clothes. I’d have less if I didn’t plan to do some exploring in Ushuaia, but 20Kg is no much weight! Bon chance! :-)

      1. Yves

        I know 20 kg is to much. We will have to choose between Annie’s second pair of shoes and my tripod. I hope she will not get mad at me for going barefoot…

        Looking forward to reading your postcards from the far south.


  7. Pingback: Packing For Antarctica | Steve Troletti Photography and Environmental News

  8. Deb Scally

    I truly enjoy your posts, David, and wish you bon chance on this truly unique adventure. Embrace your inner Shackleton (but keep the sat phone handy!) Looking forward to your images!

  9. Marke Blue

    Well, David, I am certainly impressed with your packing! I have no trouble filling my old volvo station wagon with all the possible necessities for a day out in the local hills. Maybe it’s the Kindle, instead of milk crates full of books from the second-hand shops… and only ONE notebook? How do you maintain such discipline?! Continue to teach us, O Master, and have a great trip!


  10. PenelopeLawry

    Just come across your inspiring work recently. Looking forward to seeing photos from this trip. Always wanted to go to Patagonia. Great to see you using Icebreaker clothing, the best, and great gear, good people. Did some work with them when they were just starting out. Have a great trip.

  11. Keith Mallett

    Have a great trip David – keep warm!

    For other Antarctica aficionados may I point toward the work of an Australian photographer I admire, David Neilson. He has traveled many times to the Antarctic – including on a Humanities program position with the Australian Antarctic Division – a sort of ‘photographer in residence’ I suppose. He has recently released a new book ‘Southern Light’. – some of the pics. etc. can be seen here ….

  12. lisa Bayne

    Hello David,
    I’ve recently discovered you and and your work. Very inspiring! (and not just the work)
    I look forward to seeing breath taking images. I’ll be curious to hear what your impressions are of the D800.
    Have a fantastic trip!

  13. Michal

    David, have a nice and – moreover – SAFE trip! Enjoy, stay warm and keep sendin your grat postcards:)
    Take care!:)

  14. Marion McCristall

    Travel safely, enjoy every moment, and send us lots of images so we can share in your adventures vicariously. All the best on what will be a fabulous adventure.

  15. basp Uant

    you mention you want a 24mp body, why not the d600? qualityof the build holdin you back.
    what about boots? you wearing them on the flight or are they not necessary for that time of the year?
    btw Ibex makes great merino geat, and as opposed to icebreaker it is not super tight (i need to get icebreaker xl to feel comfy in the as opposed to L for Ibex or patagonia)

  16. Dave Hoggan

    Just back form there and understand the ‘need’ to go back. It’s such a pristine and timeless place, though less so now the penguin rockeries are becoming well-established :-)

    Wish you and the others all the best on one of life’s grand voyages.


    How do you shoot in the cold and still keep your hands warm? I’ve been to NYC recently and was struggling to handle my camera while using fleece gloves and linings.

    I hope you have a great time!

  18. Colin Mitchell

    Great! I’ve been waiting for the first Antarctica photos using the D800 – yours will probably be among the first. Good luck and please post feedback and what worked and what didn’t. I traveled there in 2006 (see my website for photos) and I hope you have an experience as truly memorable as mine. Safe travels.

  19. Cody

    Hey man,

    Looks like the trip produced some great results!

    What filters and holders have you found to work best for you? I am looking to get some graduated ND filters and would love your experience. Lee?

    Merry Christmas

Leave a Comment