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Title image - BAI takes you to: Mt. Vinson

Vinson Climb Gear List

Antarctica is a clean, vast and pure expanse of our earth. Conditions are extreme, but simple and not so demanding if you have quality clothing and equipment. It is always light during the austral summer when we are on the ice, and temperatures do not vary much. On a typical day we will move carrying heavy loads in clear sunny conditions, with temperatures between – 15°F/-26°C and – 5°F/-20°C. Your clothing will absorb much solar radiation however, and it can be surprisingly warm, even though the snow cannot melt and get you wet. When the wind blows it can be seriously cold, but in the dry climate of Antarctica you will feel comfortable and will not change clothing or adjust layers as often as you do on most mountains. When the sun moves behind the ridges of the Ellsworth Mountains there is an immediate absence of heat that is impressive, expect -30°F/-34°C to -40° F/-40°C. We will be in our tents, but you should plan to have a very warm sleeping bag and a steel thermos bottle.

Top quality mountaineering clothing and equipment is an investment that will see you through years of adventures. It is wise to choose carefully, and not to skimp on quality. The companies and products you see listed below can serve as starting points of reference for you. Take this list to your local outdoor specialty shop.

Feel free to use this list as a reference as you prepare for your trip, but note that not all brands and models are current.


Climbing boots: Warm, “8000” meter type with integral gaiter. (Millet “Everest”, Scarpa “Phantom 8000”, La Sportiva “Olympus Mans”)

Down or synthetic camp booties: Any brand with thick foam soles

Overboots to wear over camp booties: Outdoor research “Modular Mukluks” are ideal

Lightweight socks: Two to three pairs synthetic/wool blend (Bridgedale, Patagonia, Smartwool)

Midweight or heavy socks: Two to three pairs synthetic/wool blend (Bridgedale, Patagonia, Smartwool)


Down insulated jacket: Expedition weight with hood (Marmot, North Face, Mountain Hardwear)

Down pants or bibs: Expedition quality (North Face, Mountain Hardwear)

Alternate to down jacket and pant is a down suit: (North Face, Mountain Hardwear)

The Expedition Weight Jacket and Pants are more versatile, the one piece suit offers more comfort and freedom of movement. Either option will work well in Antarctica. Temperature fluctuations are not great, so wearing down at virtually all times is possible.

Gore-Tex jacket & pants: Jacket must have hood, pants must have full-length side zips. (ArcTeryx, Marmot, Mountain Equipment Co-op)

Prima loft jacket: (North Face, Mountain Hardwear or Outdoor Research) Fleece Polartec 100 or 200 jacket is another alternative for this layer, but it is bulkier and heavier.

Insulated synthetic pants with full separating side zippers: such as Primaloft, Mountain Hardwear Compressor paint.

Lightweight long underwear top and bottom: Two pairs (Patagonia Capilene, REI, Mountain Equipment Co-op)

Midweight long underwear tops: Zip T-neck design is good (Patagonia Capilene, North Face, Mountain Hardwear)

Midweight underwear bottoms: (Patagonia Capilene, REI, Mountain Equipment Co-op)

Heavyweight long underwear: Expedition weight capilene

Briefs: Three pairs synthetic or cotton

Head & Hand Gear

Liner gloves: Lightweight synthetic (Patagonia Capilene or any brand of PowerStretch)

Windstopper fleece gloves: (Any brand of Windstopper fleece)

Gore-Tex mittens with pile liners: Expedition weight, (Outdoor Research) 2 pairs, OR “Alti Mitts are the best. Second pair might be lighter.

Bandanna: Two or three traditional cotton style

Sun hat: Any lightweight hat with a good brim or visor.

Wool or fleece hat: Any brand of warm hat that can go over ears.

Balaclava: At least one, but some people layer a very thin Capilene Balaclava under a thicker fleece one.

Face mask/balaclava: ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava by Talus Outdoor Technologies

Hand warmers and toe warmers: 12 sets of each; toe warmers are formulated to work in low oxygen conditions (such as inside the boot); burns out faster though.


Sunglasses: One pair High quality 100% UV 100%IR, for travel and lower elevations

Glacier glasses: One pair High quality 100% UV 100%IR min 80% light reduction, side shields are optional, but size and shape of lens should offer maximum protection from bright light on snow

Ski goggles: (Julbo, Bolle, Smith)

Nose guard for glacier glasses

Climbing Equipment

Ski poles: One pair of adjustable or “telescopic” two or three section. (Leiki, Black Diomond)

Ice axe: General mountaineering axe. 70 cm length is good for most people. Shaft should be straight, not curved. Lightweight is good (Grivel or Black Diamond). You will need a leash to attach the axe to your harness as well as a “wrist loop”. Bring a commercial leash designed for glacier travel or 6 ft of 9 / 16 inch webbing and your guide will help you construct one.

Crampons: 12 point step-in suitable for glacial travel. There are many crampons that have very aggressive points and are intended for waterfall ice-climbing; these are not the type of crampons you should be looking for. Secondly there should be a metal toe and heal bail on the crampon and if there is a strap it should be very long to go around a large expedition double boot. (Grivel or Black Diamond “Sabor Tooth” are best)

Harness: Alpine style, you should not have to step through leg loops to put it on and off and it should be lightweight, fully adjustable. (Black Diamond Alpine Bod is a good standard), 2 regular pear-shaped locking carabiners and 5 standard ovals.

Carabiners: Two large locking “pear” shaped, 6 regular mountaineering carabiners (avoid small gate specialized sport climbing ’biners)

Ascender: one right or one left

Perlon cord: 20 feet of 6mm perlon

Rappel device: Figure 8, ATC or Trango Pyramid

Camping Gear

Backpack: At least 6000 cubic inches (80L), internal frame. Top opening mountaineer’s rucksack style is best. Avoid large zipper openings and excessive outside pockets. Larger packs are better than smaller, because they are easier to pack with cold hands and they distribute loads more effectively. (Gregory, Wildthings, Dana, The North Face, Mountain Hardwear)

Small day pack: Optional, should be small and simple, can double as stuff sack or organizer, useful for airline carry on and for while touring in cities. (Lowe Alpine, Outdoor Research, The North Face)

Sleeping bag: Expedition quality rated to at least -30°F/-35°C. (Marmot, Mountain Hardwear)

Sleeping pad: Inflating, full-length. (Therm-a-rest – make sure to bring a repair kit)

Foam pad: (Ridgerest)

Water bottles: Two or three 1-liter, leak-proof wide-mouth. (Nalgene Poly or Lexan bottles)

Lightweight steel thermal bottle: One liter size. (Nissan, Outdoor Research)

Pee bottle: One 1-liter, leak-proof wide-mouth. (Nalgene Poly or Lexan bottles)

Pee gunnel for eomen: (Freshette)

Swiss srmy knife: Remember not to leave in carry on bags for any international or domestic flight.

Large mug: Insulated mug should be large such as Nalgene “Fair Share” mug.

Plastic bowl: Deep plastic with 3 cup capacity with lid

Fork and dpoon: Tough plastic such as lexan

Medical & Personal

Sunscreen: SPF 40 or higher, non-oily (Dermatone or Terrapin - bring 2 small containers)

Lipscreen: SPF 30 or higher ( bring at least 2)

Toiletry kit: Toothbrush, toothpaste, skin lotion, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, soap, comb/brush, shave kit, (bring travel size bottles to keep your kit small).

First-aid kit: Ibuprofen/Aspirin, assorted band-aids, moleskin, Neosporin-type suave, small gauze pad, roll of adhesive tape, tweezers, safety pins. Include any prescription travel meds that might be prescribed by your doctor (antibiotics, Diamox, sleep aids).

Zip-loc bags: always useful, large 2 gallon sizes are especially good

Baby wipes

Ear plugs: Very useful in airplanes or for tent mates who snore. Available in most hardware stores and drug stores.

Trash compactor bags: made from heavier plastic; excellent to stuff sacks and pack

Travel Items

Expedition duffel bag: 8000+ cubic inches (130L). Light colors are better for labeling with your name. Buy something well built with large, strong zippers (North Face, Patagonia “Black Hole”, Wild Things “Burro Bag”)

Travel bags: Most soft sided “carry on” type bags work well (Camp Trails “Packable”, Wild Things “Carry On”). You might also use extra large stuff sacks. You will be storing things in Punta Arenas at your hotel, and perhaps at Union Glacier Base in Antarctica.

Nylon stuff sacks: Several different sizes, light colors preferable for labeling.

Travel clothes: Casual, two or three changes. Weather in Punta Arenas is pleasant but can be windy. Light wind jackets and long sleeves are nice.

Passport belt/pouch



Camera / video camera with extra batteries: From the penguin colonies outside Punta, to the flight to the interior of Antarctica, to the wilds of the Ellsworth Mountains - this is a photogenic trip! Any camera will work, but a manual backup for the climb is a good idea. Also bring plenty of good non-rechargeable batteries (i.e. lithium). Cold temperatures will affect battery life. For those bringing digital cameras make sure to bring extra memory cards and lots of batteries.

Film: Bring plenty. Be sure to keep in your carry on luggage, in clear zip-lock bags so that it can be inspected at airports.