Antarctic Expedition Gear
The below gear is a polar expedition gear list of what Aaron ended up using during the expedition. Unsure of what to expect in Antarctica, he brought more than he needed to. As an Antarctic rookie, Aaron did not want to be caught short handed. That being said, he knew that one of the reasons people failed in polar explorations was carrying too much gear.
There is a fine line between having enough to make it through any situation and carrying too much. This to the point of being unable to succeed at the expedition at all.
At the end of this polar expedition gear list is a discussion of what was brought but not needed. It was found to be useless during the expedition. Aaron realized, at Union Glacier, that some pieces were not going to work in the field in Antarctica.
For as many times as he had backpacked through the California Sierras and trekked through Yellowstone National Park in the winter, Antarctica posed its own particular challenges that he was unable to test for. Neither the California forest nor Yellowstone has any significant wind. Both provide plenty of cover during the night.
Unless there is a storm blowing, there is comparatively little weather to deal with. There were extreme freezing nights in Yellowstone, at which Aaron enjoyed sleeping -45º temperatures in a −20º F rated sleeping. He did experience a few days of 25 knot winds blowing directly in his face.
Protection from the wind
There were no trees for protection in Antarctica. Even the biggest 3m high sastrugi provides no shelter. The ice is sculpted to a perfect aerodynamic shape. Hiding behind a piece of tall ice only meant the wind blew from a slightly different direction.
The only way he was able to take shelter during the day was to hide on the leeward side of his sleds. But that meant he was laying on the ice.
Laying on the ice was only made slightly comfortable by the use of the ski poggies as a makeshift mat. Getting out of the 40+ knot winds for a few minutes was well worth resting on the the mile thick sheet of ice. Eventually his mind became toughened to the psychological effects of the wind. All Aaron had to bear was the physical and psychological wear. The polar expedition gear list gives you an idea of what it takes.
|Skis with 3-pin binding||2700||1|
|Ski repair/maintenance (screws, glue)||120||2|
|Ski glide wax||98||2|
|Skin glob stopper||46||1|
|Paris expedition sled||2240||2|
|Bamboo poles & flags||220||4|
|Tow rope (7mm x 5m)||241||1|
|Skis for sleds||2200||2|
|Ski to sled mounting brackets||400||1|
|Tent + poles||2650||1|
|Compression sack for sleeping bag||187||1|
|Air mattress (down filled)||1031||1|
|Down jacket large||982||1|
|Wind shell jacket||532||1|
|Wool long underwear||290||3|
|Wool short underwear||81||4|
|Polar Thigh Guard||500||1|
|Full length wool socks||150||3|
|Nylon stockings (boot liner cover)||26||3|
|Windproof watch cap||46||1|
|Windproof head band||24||1|
|Heavy fleece sleeping hat||97||1|
Polar expedition list cooking
|Titanium pot (2L)||200||1|
|Cup (snow scoop)||50||1|
|Cup with lid||90||1|
|Water bottle 1.0L||144||5|
|Water bottle insulation||61||5|
|Nylon gear & stuff bags||55||5|
|Urine bottle 0.5L||90||1|
|Duct tape 1/2 roll|
|Swiss army knife|
|Hand brush for snow||1|
Polar expedition list electronics
|Electronics / Navigation|
|Satellite phone charging adapter||2|
|Solar panel to car lighter adapters||2|
|Solar panel wire harness||2|
|Satellite beacon cold weather kit||1|
|Lithium AA batteries||16|
|Camera charging cable||2|
|SD cards (32GB)||12|
|Miniature tripod with strap||1|
|Lighter adapter to USB adapater||2|
Polar expedition list toiletries
|Toiletries, First Aid|
|Toothpaste travel tubes||41||3|
|Towel – microfibre||26||1|
Polar expedition list repair supplies
|Spares & repairs|
|Spare tow rope 7mm x 5m||241||1|
|Ski pole spare||226||1|
|Spare sled hardware (bolts, washers, nuts)||200||1|
|Spare tent poles||215||2|
|Stove repair kit||118||1|
|Spare fuel bottle||146||1|
|Extra harness buckle||1|
|Spare tent stakes||5|
One thing he knew from previous trips was not to bring a plastic or Lexan spoon. Alexandre Gamme had mentioned regretting bring a plastic spoon in his blog. Over the years, Aaron had two plastic spoons break on him in the field. Although metal spoons are slightly heavier, they’ll never break under normal use. And, in a pinch, they can be used as an improvised tool. Or even a weakly effective pry bar in the lateral direction.
Sewing and repairing gear | Polar Expedition Gear List
The needles he brought were really troublesome. They were a great concept. At the outset, that is. They didn’t require threading the eye of the needle. All Aaron had to do is slide the thread across the eye and it would nearly fall and hook into the needle’s eye.
That was all good but as soon as he started sewing, the notch in the needle eye constantly caught in the nylon fabric and the fleece. For the little time they saved him threading the needle, they cost lots of time fighting with the needle snagging. The fine fabric base of the polar thigh guards also tore from those needles. Old-school, regular needles are the only way to go.
Utility of plastic bowls
The bowl he brought for cereal as well snow scooping ended up being quite worthless. In North America, snow is relatively soft. An open bowl is very handy to use as a scoop for snow. He enjoyed the versatility of the bowl. But in Antarctica, the snow is very hard packed. It first has to be broken into manageable chunks with a shovel. Then it can be melted to water.
Even though the snow was broken to fist or size chunks, they were still too hard for a plastic bowl. Aaron quickly learned to use the Lexan camp cup, as it was much sturdier. I also reduced the risk of splashing water. That would cut weight down on a polar expedition list.
Aaron brought a standard Lexan camp cup for scooping snow and drinking. It was great for a snow scoop to make water with but was unsafe in the tent to use for either tea or breakfast. The risk of spilling food was a constant danger and he had to be ever vigilant.
Even though he had lids for both the large drinking cup and food thermos, he came close to spilling each when he was especially fatigued or the wind was shaking the tent like an army of mad zombies. In retrospect, Aaron could have easily done without the regular camp cup. He could have used the cup with a lid for scooping. Even though the little camp cup weighed a scant 59 (TK) grams, that extra weight was always there, slowing him down. Again, weight is everything on a polar expedition list.
Keeping the tent secure | Polar expedition list
It was a good thing he brought spare tent stakes. There was more than one spot where the ice was hard to jam the stakes into. The design of the stakes Aaron brought was very good for softer snow. They’re also good for making dead man placements.
But in very hard snow or ice, there is the chance the stakes would bend at the drill holes. And, no surprise, they did. Two were severely bent and another two ended up partially bent. He did my best to avoid digging into his spare supplies until absolutely necessary. He wanted them to last as long as possible.
In the first cache, ALE delivered their version of tent stakes, aluminum tent poles with small rope loops drilled through them. Aaron learned these were far superior to the quarter-round cut tube stakes he brought. The tent poles punched through any hard snow, so they never bent them. This is what ALE used to secure their tents at Union Glacier the whole season. After killing some of his stakes, the tent pole value became obvious.