What to Bring / What to Leave at Home

This was one of the areas that I felt the most confused as a first timer. There is basic information on what items you will need for the duration of your stay in the NSF participants guide, and there’s a lot of information on what items are illegal to traffic through New Zealand. Given that huge amount of information there isn’t really any useful information on items you might want to have with you. Hopefully this section answer some questions for you:


Sheets – USAP provides sheets and a single pillowcase to you. The sheets are standard low quality white sheets. A lot of people like to purchase nicer sheets and particularly a second pillowcase since they give you two pillows. Keep in mind the beds are twin extra long, similar to those found in most colleges. Standard twin sheets don’t quite fit, so get the right stuff. Also, there are plenty of used sheets purchased by people in years past available for free. Sometimes you can find some great stuff in there and save the expense of buying / mailing down sheets.

Pillows – The sheets you’ll be given are bad, but the pillows are worse. Consider buying your own pillow and mailing it down. That way you know you’re the only one that’s drooled on it and you can get that perfect fit.
Hard Alcohol – This one might seem a bit odd, but alcohol here on station is like a carton of cigarettes in prison. Starting summer season 2008, hard alcohol can no longer be purchased in the station store, so you have to go to the bar to get your fix. This hasn’t gone over very well for a lot of drinkers. You can’t mail alcohol to yourself. If you do the New Zealand customs will take it, but you can carry hard alcohol down with you. Buy a bottle in Christchurch and bring it on your flight to the ice.

Room Decorations – This may seem like a crazy one, but you’re really going to want items to decorate your room with. The most popular items seem to be Christmas lights, tapestries, and fake plants. Fake plants might seem really cheesy, but you’re going to miss seeing green things here. It’s not a bad idea.

DVD Player or Laptop – USAP provides you with a small TV (tiny) with a built in VCR, but you’re definitely going to want something that can play DVDs. Bring a laptop, or if you don’t have a laptop bring a DVD player with you. It’s a solid investment for entertaining yourself during the down time.

Soap / Shampoo – If you’re at all picky about the soap and shampoo you use then make sure to mail yourself a hefty supply. You can buy both shampoo and soap on station, but

Multivitamins – Living in Antarctica isn’t the kindest thing to do to your body. The majority of people here have a vitamin C deficiency due to the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. They also have a vitamin D deficiency since we don’t all get outside during the day without sunblock and a hood on. Speaking from personal experience you will feel the effects of vitamin deficiency. Do yourself a favor and get a big bottle for the trip.



DVDs – There is a very large collection of DVDs on station available for rent, at no cost. Don’t waste room in your luggage bringing DVDs down. There’s a good chance that the station already has them. Check the list of DVDs on station as of Summer 2008 below:
Summer 2008 Station DVDs

Laundry Bag – A bag to put your laundry in so you can haul it to the laundry room seems like a logical item, but it’s definitely not needed. In Christchurch you will be issued one to three orange duffle bags to carry your ECW gear in. These make for perfect laundry bags and save you a pound of weight on the flight down.

Laundry Detergent – There is free laundry detergent available in all the laundry rooms and there’s also laundry detergent for sale in the station store, for those who have a preference for a particular smell.

Iron – There are plenty of irons available in the dorms so don’t bother wasting that much weight on bringing down your own

Sunscreen– The participants guide specifically mentions that you should bring sunscreen with you, but there are large jugs of high quality sun block available at the exits of the Galley. Save yourself a few bucks and some weight and use what they give out for free.


  1. Daren C

    Hi- I’m sure you get a million questions but here’s another. I’m doing research on what it will take to get to Antarctica. I have a Bachelor’s in Teaching English, but a work history full of manual labor, mostly agriculture actually. I am looking for entry-level ANYTHING in Antarctica. I have almost no food service experience and almost no janitorial work but I have a resume showing that I’m intelligent and have learned a lot of different things. I am not trying to get there next year, this is more a 2 to 4 year trajectory so what do you know about what it takes to get those entry level positions? Should I get a job specifically to get *some* of that under my belt or do you think general solid work history is good enough? I’m seriously considering quitting my current job to get some food service or janitorial experience.
    Also, do you know if they want to see any experience related to other extreme environments, or experience/qualifications in hiking, snow and ice navigation, et cetera? As I said I’m on a 2-4 year trajectory so I’m looking to possibly get some time under my belt in winter trips to Iceland and Finland (I do WWOOFing where you volunteer at farms or similar locations for room and board).
    Also, I am very interested in Mars exploration/colonization and I’d love to work as a general assistant if there are any scientific missions related to that. I have a lot of experience in agriculture and I’m interested in the research being done in regards to growing crops on Mars. I’m determined to get any job I can but I’d love to be a part of something related to my particular passions.

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