Clothing in Sub Antarctica is different but similar to clothing worn on the Antarctic continent.
The main difference is that in sub Antarctica it rains and it can be a cold, wet and windy climate. Most of the sub Antarctic areas of interest that Antarctic cruises and voyages visit and have stations or bases are islands or are on the Antarctic peninsula.
Most of the sub Antarctic islands and peninsula are subject to wet, drizzly and sleety conditions as the climate is kept above freezing point by the surrounding southern ocean.
This poses a challenge for the clothing as it needs to be waterproof, windproof and warm but it also requires to breathe allowing the perspiration and excess body heat to escape.
One of the most popular clothing materials which have all these properties is Gore-Tex. This is usually worn as the outer shell in a series of layers for clothing in sub Antarctica. Other windproof and waterproof materials are also used for Antarctica clothing, with venting panels and zippers to allow moisture and excess heat to escape
What to expect in sub Antarctica
While living and working for a year on a sub Antarctic island – Macquarie Island, it was of utmost importance to have the right gear and clothing so as not to risk exposure and hypothermia.
Ironically the most popular modes of transport are by foot or by IRB (Inflatable Rubber Boat), both are open to the elements, however by foot or walking has the extra problem of creating body heat and thus perspiration. If this excess body heat and perspiration is not expelled from your clothing you run the risk of hypothermia and exposure as the perspiration soaks your clothing and becomes cold or freezes.
On the IRB's the opposition was a risk as you sit in an open boat as you are traveling, increasing the wind chill factor. You had to keep dry from the outside and warm on the inside as your body does not generate much heat while sitting still.
So, as is the case with clothing on the Antarctic continent, the correct clothing layering is the trick.
Clothing in sub Antarctica: layering
- Layer 1 – Polyester thermal underwear to wick away moisture from skin.
- Layer 2 A warm insulating second layer such as wool or polar fleece jumper. Sleeveless turtle neck polar fleece vests are great if you will be walking or will be active as the arms are not restricted and they keep your torso core warm.
- Layer 2; bottom – Shorts, preferably of light low water absorption synthetic material.
- Layer 3 – Outer Gore-Tex or similar hooded jacket and long pants (waterproof and windproof outer shell)
- Footwear – Synthetic low water absorption socks and Gore-Tex or similar hiking boots.
For most tourists visiting sub Antarctica the above list would be the most practical and suitable. Thick bulky ski type jackets are not a good idea for sub Antarctic regions as they will soak up the moisture and not allow the excess body heat and moisture to escape.
The idea behind the layering system is to be able too peel off or layer back on clothing layers, as necessary, in order to keep at the right temperature. The outer shell layer can be peeled off (pants and or jacket) as required if the weather warms up or the sun is out, then the second layer can be peeled off if necessary and so on.
Summary and tips:
- Rely on the middle layer – Polar fleece or wool type jumper or vest for warmth.
- The shorts are a good idea for that little bit extra warmth and wind-proofing for that most vulnerable part of your body. It also allows you to take off the outer shell pants if necessary but still have some protection and an insulating layer on top of the thermal underwear in that area.
- The polyester thermal underwear will also keep you warm and wick away moisture from your skin