While travelling to the Antarctic peninsula on the Antarctic Explorer trip with Quark Expeditions I was one of 30 passengers to spend a night camping on the ice.
Tip 1: Make sure you pick a trip where camping is offered
Some companies do not offer camping on the ice as an option and, if the company you are travelling with does do camping options, those options may not be offered on every trip. So make sure you do your research before selecting the trip you go on.
Tip 2: If you want to camp on the ice book ahead
We had 110 passengers on the Sea Spirit and a maximum of 30 were allowed to camp for a night. On the departure I was on there were a few more passengers who wanted to camp but were unable to do so.
Tip 3: Know what you want to get out of the experience
We were given a choice of sleeping in a tent or in a bivvy sac. For me, sleeping in a bivvy sac felt like I would be getting the maximum out of the experience. The majority used bivvy sacs on our trip with one tent being used amongst the passengers and another tent was used by the three expedition staff. The two options are seen in the photo below with the bivvy sac in front. One reason I was keen to camp on the ice was to experience some different photographic opportunities from those available during the day time excursions. Camping on the ice was the one time my tripod came out in Antarctica. Unfortunately things didn’t quite go as planned as the sky was overcast on the appointed evening.
Tip 4: The bivvy sac was easy to lay out
We received all the gear during the afternoon before camping. This included a bivvy sac, sleeping bag, sleeping bag sheet and two sleeping mats (one went inside the bivvy sac and one lay between the ice and the bivvy sac). I put my yellow jacket Quark provides to all passengers on top of the bivvy sac and the boots Quark loans for the trip provided the structural basis for my pillow. Before leaving the Sea Spirit the whole bundle was rolled up so it was just a matter of rolling out the bundle and bed was ready once hitting the ice.
Tip 5: Camping experiences are different from day excursions When we walked into the area mapped out for camping we noticed a seal and a number of penguins. This was something to ponder given the stories we had heard about seals being found at the feet of passengers in the morning. However, nothing of this nature was experienced in our group. After walking around for a while and taking photos we all settled into bed. Before I fell asleep, one of the things I noticed was the sounds from ice movement and animal life (especially birds). The absence of other human background noise undoubtedly enhanced this experience.
For the record