How to Pack for a Polar Bear Adventure

Peter Davis Krahenbuhl March 9, 2017 0

Well, I actually mean how to pack to go on one of the world’s most amazing adventures: to see wild polar bears up close and personal.

Here are five essential items to pack for your polar bear adventure in Churchill, Manitoba!

The first country I ever visited was Canada. I went there to see Churchill’s polar bears. ©Eric Rock

© Eric Rock

1. Winter is Coming! Parka & Boots

While the chill subarctic air feels invigorating, there will indeed be a big chill. Your polar bear tour operator should provide a down winter parka and a pair of snow boots for you to use while you’re up there, as fall in Churchill can be cold, so you should be prepared for the possibility of frigid temperatures!

Should you wish to bring your own polar adventure gear, the insulated parka should be warm and roomy enough to accommodate several layers underneath. Your boots should be warm, water-repellent or waterproof (remember, you may be walking in cold, snowy, or rainy conditions), and have slip-resistant tread.

2. Photo Finish

Do we really have to say pack your best camera? What perhaps may not be that obvious to consider is that the frigid temperatures can rip through a battery’s storage life, so a backup camera battery is essential for a tundra adventure. Your smartphone should be sufficient as a back up camera (though it can also be highly susceptible to extreme cold).

3. Appropriate Luggage

Bring sturdy, soft-sided luggage, which is easier to stow throughout your adventure and to carry in vehicles during transfers. Carry any necessities, including travel documents, money, medications and other vital supplies, in your carry-on bag and not in your checked luggage. In fact, is a good idea to also pack a change of clothing and any essentials (including toiletries) in a carry-on bag in the unlikely event your luggage is delayed or lost by the airlines.

Brad Josephs

© Brad Josephs

4. Layers are the Key to Staying Warm!

Loose, comfortable layers are far better than single, bulky garments, as each layer you add traps warm air close to your body. Wear a base layer (silk, polypropylene, etc.) closest to the skin, a second layer (warm sweater or fleece), and an outer layer that is water and wind repellent. This will keep you toasty if outside temperatures are cold, and you can always shed layers if you grow too warm. Wool and silk are superior to cotton because they trap warm air and wick moisture to keep you dry. Many synthetic fabrics—polar fleece in particular—are also good for keeping you comfortable throughout your adventures on the tundra. It is important to note that rain is a possibility in the Canadian towns of Winnipeg and Churchill, especially in October.

5. Gloves, Hat & Scarf/Neck Gaiter

In addition to the above, remember that body heat is most likely to be lost from the hands and feet. For maximum warmth, we recommend packing two pairs of gloves to protect your hands: thin glove liners and warm outer gloves/mittens (mittens are often warmer than gloves). Glove liners are great as you can take your heavy gloves/mittens off to take pictures, but still protect your hands from the cold. It may not be necessary, but you may want to pack a second set of gloves or mittens in case the first pair gets wet. Also pack warm protection for your head, face and neck. Be sure your hat covers your ears and that you can protect your face sufficiently if there is a cold wind blowing.

Eric Rock

© Eric Rock

Finally, be sure to check the current weather just before you leave for your polar bear adventure so that you can be prepared for any unseasonable weather in the Churchill region.

As you can see, it’s best to be prepared well in advance so that you can comfortably spend your northern expedition watching wild polar bears in their tundra habitat! Now that you know how to properly pack, book yourself a spot on one of the world’s most amazing polar bear adventures.

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