Those who are brave enough to travel to Antarctica are in for the trip of a lifetime! One of the coolest experiences I’ve ever done, is spend a night on the Ice Continent – in a tent! Here’s what you need to know about camping in Antarctica!
If you’re after the ultimate travel bragging rights, then you should add camping in Antarctica to your bucket list. Visiting all seven continents is an achievement in itself, but being able to say that you spent a night on Antarctica is truly awe-inspiring.
Spending a night on the Ice Continent
As soon as the deposit was paid on my Antarctic cruise, I got to researching what I actually wanted to DO in Antarctica. I mean sure, there’s plenty of nature to see, but what is there to actually do? Most cruises have excursions through the ship, and this cruise was similar. The excursions included hiking, kayaking, geology tours, and staying a night on the deck of the ship to see the night. Then I found the coolest thing (both literally and figuratively) – CAMPING! While it’s an additional fee (our was $500 USD), it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. After all, how many people can say they spent a night in Antarctica! Here’s everything you need to know about camping in Antarctica.
A limited amount of people can go camping in Antarctica at a time.
Antarctica is significantly protected from the impact of humans – meaning cruises are limited to 100 people on land at any given time. Our tour company, Hurtigruten, provided everything we needed for camping. While there were only about 300 passengers on the ship, only about 60 were interested in camping. 25 passengers could camp on the ice at any time to limit our impact on the environment. The staff believed there could be two camping expeditions and passengers who were interested entered a raffle. Dad and I were originally not chosen for either night, but people ended up changing their minds. Thankfully, we were able to go camping in Antarctica.
Procedures for Camping in Antarctica
Before heading out on the zodiacs, the staff went over what to expect on land and how to prepare for our time. You are not allowed to take anything with us besides fresh water, clothing, and our camera gear. We only brought one change of clothes since it was only one night. Going to the bathroom is also strictly prohibited (more on this later). If you had to do #2, you’d be brought back to the ship – and not brought back to land.
It’s nothing like camping at home.
There are no fires, no s’mores, no electricity or running water. It’s you, the tent, and mother nature. She won’t disappoint you though- that I can promise you. There’s also no beer by the fire and no just crawling onto the air mattress in the tent.
Setting up the tent is a workout.
I’ve set up tents before, but not in four layers of clothing, on snow. That’s after we found a spot that was flat enough, didn’t have any greenery, and was a safe distance away from the leopard seal sleeping on the ice. We also did a decent hike before setting up camp, so expect to be a little warm.
There aren’t any bathrooms on land!
You read that right. Hurtigruten was kind enough to bring us portable potties for number 1 ONLY. Your choices are to hold it or go back to the ship (and not return). Plan accordingly. A demonstration was given (below) on how these toilets (or as I called them, buckets with lids, worked. Toilet paper went in the bag next to the toilet. Nothing like digging out a bathroom of snow for an experience!
Our staff member Tom showing us the bathroom. They kindly made some privacy walls for us.
Be prepared for sunlight at night.
I knew this, but somehow I didn’t actually realize this (don’t judge me!). You can only travel to Antarctica during the summer (Nov-Mar), so there will be some night – just not a dark night. We had about 3 hours of “night” which there was still some faint light – like the sun was trying to reach us and couldn’t. Most of the time though, it was like a consistent sunset. This may be different the closer you get to winter. Our tent was located at Horseshoe Island just a little bit below the Antarctic Circle.
Getting into the sleeping bag is a process
Hurtigruten provided us the sleeping bag and liner – so all we had to bring was long johns to sleep in and a bottle of water. The sleeping bag is a cozy (read: tight) fit for a grown adult. Taking off the layers and getting into long johns is one thing, then getting into the sleeping bag liner, and then the actual sleeping bag. I don’t even want to think about how long it took me to figure it out. The sleeping bag liner is the most important part- it’s designed to keep your body warmth in. The bags are rated to -15* C comfort, so you’ll be warm enough! The liner is a small, thin version of the sleeping bag. Then it’s time to get into the sleeping bag. I made sure I didn’t have to go to the bathroom before getting into the sleeping bag.
The sun rises early
The sun rose around 4:15 am and we had to leave for the ship by 6 am to continue on our way. So if you didn’t wake by the sun, the staff woke you at 5:00 am. This gave you enough time to take down the tent, pack up, and get on the zodiacs for 6:00 am.