Camping in Antarctica

March, 2020 | Excursions

Everything You Need to Know About Sleeping on the Snow 

Imagine spending a night under the clearest sky you’ve ever seen. Sure, the air outside is a bit cold, but you’re nice and cozy in your high-tech camping gear while the sounds of whales blowing in the distance and the crackling of glaciers is lulling you to sleep. This is camping in Antarctica, one of the most unique experiences you can do when you travel with us.

Of course, if you’ve never camped on the frozen continent before you’re bound to have questions about how it works! Below you can find a variety of answers to the questions we’re asked most about this exceptional excursion.

High-end camping gear keeps you warm and cozy

Which voyages offer camping?

Due to time and weather constraints, we are able to offer camping on our Celebrating Antarctica, Holidays in Antarctica, and Crossing the Circle itineraries. Camping is NOT available on Falklands, S Georgia voyages, or on voyages that depart later than February 25th.

What kind of terrain do we camp on?

We camp on snow. This is due to bio-security rules and regulations set down by IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators).

How many people camp?

Starting with the 2020-2021 season we will take 40 campers with 4 to 5 staff.

It is warm enough?

Temperature affects people differently, therefore some people will feel warm while they sleep, and others will feel the cold. As long as you bring extra layers, have a good meal prior to camping and limit your alcohol consumption you will likely have a comfortable sleep.

What kind of gear do you provide?

We provide top quality and high-performance camping equipment which includes an inflatable mat, a sleeping bag, sleeping liner, pillow with pillowcase and a waterproof stuff sack to put all these items in. We will provide you with your choice of tent or bivy sack.

What is a bivy sack?

A bivy sack (or bivouac sack) is a personal-sized waterproof shelter. Originally used by climbers on multi-day excursions, it is a very small and lightweight alternative to carrying a tent. It is like a cocoon which your mat and sleeping bag goes into, and there is an opening with a zip for your head so you can gaze up at the stars.

How big are the tents? Do we share tents even if we are a single?

Our tents are two-person tents. If you are a single and would like to sleep in a tent, we encourage you to partner up with your cabin mate or another passenger typically of the same gender. This is preferred for warmth, safety and general logistics.

What should we wear when we go ashore and what do we wear when sleeping?

We suggest you go ashore with your normal excursion layers since the temperature will likely be colder than during the day. Some people like to bring a form-fitting thermal top and bottom to change into when sleeping. When you go ashore, you can work up a sweat while helping set up your tent or when flattening the snow for your camping platform.

Where do you store your boots when you’re sleeping?

Boots are stored with one leg stuffed in the other and left outside or in the vestibule of your tent (a porch-like entrance way which is protected from the elements).

Will I have help setting up my tent?

There will be a group of staff assigned to the task of helping you set up your tents and bivy sacks. During the camping briefing which takes place prior to the camping activity, you will be shown how to erect our particular tents.

How does the tent get secured in the snow?

We use snow anchors rather than pegs to secure the tents in the snow. These are like mini parachutes that get buried in the snow and the lines are attached to the base of your tent. Antarctica can get very windy, so it is important that these anchors are used.

How many times do we camp?

Our aim is to camp once. The ship has to move in the night to different locations in order to show our passengers a variety of scenery and give everyone the best experience Antarctica has to offer.

Should we bring any special items or supplies camping?

We suggest that you bring a headlamp or flashlight and ear plugs in case the penguin calls keep you awake.

How long are we on shore for?

IAATO regulations allow us to only stay a shore for a certain number of hours. Typically we go ashore between 8pm and 9pm and return before breakfast between 6am and 7am.

Are there toilet facilities?

We bring two portable RV style toilets which are set up in two locations to give everyone easy access. We have a tall, stand up tent that encloses around the toilet to give everyone privacy. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer is supplied.

Are we able to bring food, drink or snacks ashore?

IAATO regulations limit what we can bring on shore with regards to food and beverages. We are only allowed to bring hot or cold water with us; however, staff bring emergency equipment and food rations on every excursion, including camping.

Is it quiet onshore at night?

The majority of the birds (penguins) quiet down at night. They do call out on occasion and wake up fairly early to begin their day of foraging. The loudest but most impressive sound we often hear is the calving of glaciers. This ends up being one of the highlights for those that chose to camp in Antarctica.

What chances do I have camping if I am on the waitlist?

All those signed up for camping and those on the waitlist are expected to show up to the briefing. Once the details of the camping activity have been shared, some people decide it is not for them. Also, others may arrive to the ship slightly under the weather and choose not to come. Due to these situations, individuals on the waitlist often get a chance to camp.

Sign Up Early!

If you’re interested in camping in Antarctica on your voyage, be sure to sign up early! More questions? Reach out to our team any time!