A year on Spitsbergen: a packing list in the making

What to expect?

It is somehow difficult to predict what you may need at a remote Arctic base, especially if you have never been there before. I asked around, did an extensive research, consumed a few books on polar expeditions and combined with my previous traveling experiences I put together the list below.

Food supplies and a lot of equipment is provided by the Polish Academy of Sciences. The stuff available at the station includes i.a. tents, sleeping bags, outdoor cooking set with multifuel stove, flares, all sorts of mountaineering equipment, marine suits, snowmobile masks, avalanche beacons, skis, rifles… There is even a football! We also receive proper winter outfit (several layers, boots, heavy socks, goggles, primaloft, waterproof jacket and pants etc.) as a part of our “work equipment”.

So the things we take are for strictly personal needs. Although, if someone has their own gear, it is also recommended to take – things tend to break or get lost (and there are not many shops around). Since we travel by the “Horyzont II” research vessel the only baggage limit is basically a common sense.

Packing List (13 months)


Item Quantity Comment
Billycan 12cm 1 Personal emergency kit: boiling water for tea or lyophilised food.
Candle lantern 1 Personal emergency kit: a cemetery one, used for increasing temperature inside a tent or a snow cave.
Fire starter 1 Personal emergency kit: lighter should be enough, but you never know.
Insulated mug 1 Personal emergency kit: billycan holds 0.7l of water, so it’s enough for a tea and a meal, but you can’t have both in the same container.
Lighter 4 Personal emergency kit
Lyophilized food 125g 4 Personal emergency kit
Mixing spoon 1 Personal emergency kit: needs to be long enough, the lyophilised meals packs are quite big.
Pocket stove 1 Personal emergency kit: for boiling water.
Poncho / tarp 1 Personal emergency kit
Solid fuel 7-14g 40 Personal emergency kit: for boiling water.
Utensils 1 Personal emergency kit
Vacuum flask 1L 1
Water filter 1 A small, personal water filter (LifeStraw)


Item Quantity Comment
Balaclava (Powerstretch) 1
Belt 2
Boots (trekking) 1
Boots (winter) 1
Face mask (windstopper) 1
Flip-flops 1
Gaiters (long) 1
Gloves (liner) 2 Ones that work with touchscreens.
Gloves (polar) 1
Gloves (snow) 2 Well insulated.
Goggles 2
Impregnation spray 1
Laces 2
Mittens 1
Polar fleece jacket 1
Running shoes 1
Sleepwear 2
Slippers 1
Softshell jacket 1
T-shirts 9
Thermal long sleeve shirt 1
Thermal socks 6
Thermal t-shirt 2
Thermal underwear 2
Thermal underwear pants 2
Training suit 1
Trousers 2
Underwear 9
Vest 1
Waterproof jacket 1
Waterproof pants 1
Winter hat 2


Item Quantity Comment
Compression bag 1
Day pack 35L 1
Dry bags 4
Main Pack 75L 1
Neck pouch 1
Plastic barrel 120L 3
Washbag 1


Item Quantity Comment
Credit card 1
Driving license & copy 1
Passport & copy 1
Personal ID & copy 1


Item Quantity Comment
Batteries AAA (rechargeable) 6 For the headlight.
Battery & solar panel 2 Powertraveller (Powermonkey Extreme 12V)
E-book & charger 1
External HDD 1
Headphones 1
Laptop & charger 1
MIDI keyboard 2 An entertainment for the long polar night…
Phone & charger 1
Phone repair kit and spare parts 1
Phone waterproof case 1
USB light 1
Universal USB charger 1


Item Quantity Comment
Chocolate 600g
Elderberry juice 1l
Honey 4000g
Raisins 1200g
Snacks 20
Vitamins 400


Item Quantity Comment
Attachment straps 4
Carabiners 2 These are used for anything else but mountaineering, e.g. attaching extra equipment to my backpack.
Crampons 1
Distress whistle 1
Duct tape 1 Useful for fixing stuff (shoes for instance) and for… Blisters.
Hand watch 1
Headlights 2
Hunting knife 1
Ice axe 1
Multitool 1
Rescue knife 1 Personal emergency kit
Rope 1 Personal emergency kit: used for fixing or attaching stuff, not mountaineering, 10m.
Safety pins 4
Shovel 1 Personal emergency kit
Small compass 1
Sunglasses 2
Sunglasses case 1
Trekking poles 1
Trekking poles tips 6


Item Quantity Comment
Anti-bacterial wipes 250
Antibacterial gel 1
Dental floss 3
Deodorant 8
Electric shaver 1
Greasing cream 1
Large towel 1
Laundry detergent 1.5L 4
Mouthwash 4
Nail clippers 1
Razors 3
Shaving cream 1
Shower gel 6
Soap 26
Sponge 4
Tissues small pack 40
Toothbrush 4
Toothpaste 12
Washcloth 1

Medical kit

Item Quantity Comment
Activated charcoal tablets 20
Adhesive bandage 10 Personal emergency kit
Ankle support sleeve 2
Anti-inflammatory gel 1
Antibiotic cream 1
Antihistamine pills 40
Antiseptic gel 1 Personal emergency kit
Calcium pills 20
Compression bandage 5 Personal emergency kit
Dental kit 1
Diarrhoea sachets 8
Endurance lozenges 20 Personal emergency kit
Eye drops 2
Gauze pads 4 Personal emergency kit
Greasing cream 4
Instant body warmer 2 Personal emergency kit
Instant foot warmers 3 Personal emergency kit
Instant hand warmers 3 Personal emergency kit
Knee support sleeve 2
Lip balm 3
Muscle and joint injuries gel 1
Paracetamol 30
Rehydration salts sachets 6 Personal emergency kit
Strip skin closures 9 Personal emergency kit
Sunscreen SPF 30 4
Thermal blanket 1 Personal emergency kit
Throat drops 20
Tweezers 1
Vaseline 2
Vinyl gloves 100


Item Quantity Comment
Black curtain and pins 1
Books 6
Desk lamp 1
Earplugs 1
Extra bulbs 3
Glue 1 Personal emergency kit
Laundry bag 1
Power strip 1
Sewing kit 1 Personal emergency kit
Thin packing rope 1


Item Quantity Comment
Camera & charger 1
Camera bag 1
Camera battery 3
Card reader 1
Flash light 1
Lavalier microphone 1
Lens cleaning kit 1
Memory cards 4
Memory cards holder 1
Mini tripod 1
NDx8 filter 1
Polarizing filter 1
Tripod 1
UV filter 1