Packing List Of Essential Gear For Cold Weather

One of the highlights of expedition cruising is exploring nature both from deck, and in zodiacs. That requires dressing for extreme weather conditions. Selecting appropriate gear can feel daunting–thankfully, we have over 30 years of experience in providing quality expedition clothing and equipment for professional and amateur travelers. We’ve put together a curated packing list: to eliminate the guesswork, and to set you up to have the best, safest, and most comfortable experience on your upcoming expedition! Use this packing list as a guide and be sure to check the weather conditions before your departure.


Travel Luggage: The first step in preparing for your trip is selecting the right travel luggage. Choose a travel bag appropriate in size to the amount you’re planning to pack to ensure your luggage doesn’t become bulky and difficult to board.

Expert Tip A soft-top bag is easily compacted and stored during your stay on board.

Backpack: A lightweight backpack can help carry your essentials while keeping your arms free for safe disembarking off the vessel and getting in and out of zodiacs. Choose a backpack that is waterproof to protect your technology – from camera gear to your phone – and keep your layers dry while you have them stored in your backpack.

Expert Tip Choose a backpack with a waist-strap–the extra strap helps distribute the pack’s weight, alleviating pressure off the shoulders, making for a more comfortable experience on a longer adventure.

Our Top Picks for Packs & Travel Bags

Men's | Women's


Long Underwear: A moisture-wicking, insulating, soft base layer is an essential starting point to dressing in layers for maximum warmth. A smart base layer insulates your body while remaining breathable, and increases the effectiveness of each additional layer. The medium-weight long underwear we recommend is made from Capilene, a high-tech fabric designed to retain warmth and dry quickly.

Expert Tip Pack at least two sets. The quick-drying fabric is easily washed in between wears, ensuring you’re able to start fresh every day of your trip.

Our Top Picks for Base Layer

Men's | Women's | Kid's


Expedition Stretch: In cold weather, this layer makes all the difference. Worn over your base layer, our expedition stretch forms an extra barrier against cold without becoming too bulky. We designed and manufactured this layer specifically for expedition use: with soft fleece on the inside, smooth on the outside for easy layering, a tapering leg and fabric designed to slide effortlessly into your knee-high boots.

Expert Tip Not all layers are created equal! Though your favorite jeans are often comfortable, they don’t hold up in cold weather, retaining moisture and will not keep you warm like gear that incorporates the latest technologies in design and materials, and has been repeatedly tested by professionals in the field.

Fleece/Loft Jacket and Vest: This layer is at the center of your expedition gear, consisting of elements that can be worn together or alone, depending on conditions. On an especially cold day, pair a fleece or lofted vest with your Crystal Expedition Cruises complimentary 2-in-1 waterproof shell and removable inner jacket. Remove the inner lofted jacket and wear it on board the ship.

Expert Tip When selecting the right material, keep this in mind: Wool is a wonderful, all-natural option, while fleece is extra light and quick-drying. Lofted vests and jackets retain effectiveness even when wet, and are very light and compact.

Our Top Picks for Insulation Layer

Men's | Women's | Kid's


Crystal Expedition Cruises' Complimentary Hooded Parka!: This 2-in-1 parka is as versatile as it is convenient. The outer shell will protect you from rain and wind, while the removable inner jacket can be worn with the shell for warmth, or on its own on board the ship. Adjustable cuffs, a fleece-lined hood, and convenient unisex sizing for adults ensure that this parka is a great fit for everyone, while adding comfort and warmth to your adventures. Order your complimentary parka here.

Expert Tip Be sure to order your parka in the right size, guaranteeing it will fit comfortably over your other layers. Check the size chart. When in doubt: size up.

Rain Jacket: Your parka will be delivered to your suite on board, which means you may find yourself wanting a waterproof layer between the airport and the ship. To ensure you’re able to stay comfortable and protected every step of your voyage, pack a light-weight rain jacket, preferably with a hood, into your hand luggage for easy access.

Expert Tip Waterproof doesn’t have to mean airtight! Choose a rain jacket made from breathable fabric to allow moisture to escape, and stay comfortable while you keep dry.

Waterproof Pants: It is difficult to overstate the importance of a good waterproof/windproof pant. They will be crucial in navigating almost every single landing, as well as protecting you from spray during zodiac rides. Ideal waterproof pants are lightweight, breathable, and feature a comfortable waistband. Crucially, they should be wide enough to fit over your boots. Our waterproof pants fit easily over boots. It’s important to note that the ideal waterproof pant is not a ski pant. Ski pants often create too much bulk for adventurers compared to layering with our recommended base and insulation layers, and rarely fit comfortably over boots.

Expert Tip Choose a pair of waterproof pants with a zipper at the bottom, making sure you’re able to comfortably take off and put on your boots. And for maximum comfort during zodiac rides, choose a liberal size to ensure you’re able to easily sit in the pants as they cover your other layers.

Our Top Picks for Outer Layer

Men's | Women's | Kid's


Boots: A good-fitting pair of waterproof, knee-high rubber boots with a strong, non-skid sole is essential because you will be stepping into shallow, icy water during each zodiac landing. Boots should be at least mid-calf length (usually between 12-15 inches or 31-18 cm in height), and have great traction since you’ll be navigating ice and rough terrain. Boots will be provided on board for your use. If you prefer to have your own boot for optimal comfort, ownership and future use, we recommend the insulated boots offered on this site because we’ve tested them for warmth and comfort.

Expert Tip It’s essential that your boots are 100% waterproof. In the icy cold water, getting your feet even a little wet can make a big, uncomfortable difference. Boots don’t come in half sizes so, if needed, wear two pairs of socks.

Boots will be provided on board for your use. Please rememeber to order your boots well before you leave for your trip. If you wish to purchase your own boots:

Our Top Picks for Boots

Men's | Women's | Kid's


Hat: No matter how well-layered your adventure gear, a chill along the ears can add real intensity to how you experience the cold. A soft, warm beanie can make all the difference, so whenever possible, opt for robust, insulating headwear. A complimentary beanie will be provided by Crystal Expedition Cruises on board the ship. Since weather can change in an instant, having a second, warm beanie on hand should the first one get wet is advisable.

Expert Tip Add a baseball cap as a base layer to your beanie, transforming your headwear into a sun- and glare-proof combination.

Neck Gaiter: Neck gaiters are the smart improvement on a traditional scarf: Warm, compact, and secure, a gaiter can be worn as an insulating layer around the neck, pulled up over the mouth and nose for wind chills, or worn over your head to add warmth to your head gear. A quick-drying gaiter is easy to wash, versatile, and much easier to pack than a bulky scarf, while providing just as much warmth and insulation.

Expert Tip As with your base layers, we recommend you bring two gaiters to be able to wash them between each wear.

Gloves or Mittens: In extreme weather, cold or wet hands can hamper your ability to engage with your surroundings–a pair of waterproof gloves or mittens quickly becomes essential. We’ve selected gloves capable of handling a wide range of circumstances, while allowing you to focus on more important things: enjoying nature!

Expert Tip Not all gloves are equally effective. When the temperature drops, ensure your hands stay warm with a pair of high-quality, resilient gloves. If you’re prone to cold fingers, opt for a mitten instead of a glove, to accommodate a hand warmer along the fingers easily.

Glove Liners: Adding a simple, warm liner increases the performance of your gloves, adding the assurance that your hands will be kept warm effortlessly. Certain liners are now wind-proof, so that even as the wind is able to penetrate your gloves’ outer layer, your hands will stay protected.

Expert Tip It can be difficult to take pictures with your gloves on, but capturing the journey is so much fun. Having a liner under your gloves can help you stay warm while you memorialize your experience.

Socks: No boot is complete without a great sock. Prepare for the adventure of the day by packing three or four pairs of socks made from wool or a wool blend, cushioning the heel well, and wicking moisture so you’re able to start with a fresh, dry pair of socks each day.

Expert Tip The thickness of the sock is important for more than just warmth: It also makes a significant difference for comfort. A robust, cushioning sock can help your feet not only stay warm, but blister-free.

Our Top Picks for Hats, Gloves & Socks

Men's | Women's | Kid's


Trekking Poles: Trekking Poles provide crucial stability while navigating uneven or slippery terrain. A helpful tool both when ascending and descending, trekking poles help ensure safety, stability, and ease along any expedition. Trekking poles are available onboard for use during your trip, but if you prefer to have a heightened sense of security through optimal sizing, access, and ownership, we have curated a set of trekking poles we consider ideal for expedition travelers.

Expert Tip Collapsible trekking poles are a practical choice. Collapse the poles, pack them into your backpack so your hands are free when you are getting in and out of zodiacs.

Binoculars: Your expedition will undoubtedly offer stunning views and rare peeks at wild aquatic life–moments you won’t want to miss! Compact, high-performance binoculars help ensure you experience every single unique vista along your cruising journey. Binoculars and spotting scopes are available onboard for use during your trip, but if you are considering purchasing your own, we offer a curated selection.

Expert Tip When choosing binoculars, be sure to select a pair with at least 10X power and 25mm objective diameter–this is considered ideal for scenic and wildlife watching.

Sun and Wind Protection: Despite heading into cold weather, the sun will play a significant role in the everyday considerations of your expedition cruise. Stay protected from the sun by bringing sunglasses with UV protection, and a sun lotion suitable for use on your face.

Expert Tip Often forgotten, but no less important: Be sure to bring an SPF-charged lip balm along on your trip.

Protecting your Valuables: Your phone or tablet are important tools for capturing your experience. Ensure they stay dry and safe throughout your journey. Slide your cellphone or tablet into a waterproof floating case for maximum protection on land and sea. You will have full use of your device when it is in the case. Use leak-proof/seal-proof bags to keep other valuables dry in even the most extreme conditions.

Expert Tip If the weather is especially wet, pack a second hat and neck gaiter into a leak-proof bag and carry it in your backpack.

Foot/Hand Warmers: Hands and feet are often the first things to catch a chill, and from there, the cold can easily travel. Putting hand warmers in your gloves and socks can help provide external warmth to the most vulnerable parts of the body, ensuring the cold doesn’t creep in.

Expert Tip Hand and foot warmers are for single use, so make sure to stock up generously.

Our Top Picks for Accessories

Men's | Women's

  • In addition to helping increased comfort when flying, consider wearing compression socks to help prevent sprains and reduce swelling after an active day.